Everyone has different ideas of how many guests constitutes a small wedding. For some couples, that’ll be 20 people; for others, they’ve struggled to cut down to 120.
What makes an average-sized wedding is subjective and often culturally specific. For example, a Hitched survey found the average number of guests at a UK wedding is 82 day guests and 103 evening guests. But if you’re looking at the average African or Asian wedding, you can expect 350-500 guests, and up to 1,000 guests for a large wedding.
However, there are general numbers that wedding planners and venues will be talking about when they use the terms small, medium or large wedding. Knowing these can help you work out what kind of ceremony feels right to you and what will fit with your budget.
What is Classed as a Small Wedding?
The first thing to note is that there is a difference between a small wedding and a micro wedding. Yep, we’re throwing in even more terminology – go with us.
A micro wedding is a wedding with less than 20 guests. It’s incredibly intimate and can be as few people as the couple, their officiant and two witnesses. Note that there is a difference between a micro wedding and elopement, as a micro wedding isn’t done in secret and will feature all the components of a ‘normal’ wedding, but on a smaller scale. If this appeals to you, you’ll want to look for a venue that caters specifically for micro weddings, like Treseren in Cornwall, so you can maintain that cosy, intimate atmosphere.
On the other hand, a small wedding will have between 30-60 guests. Again, whether 60 people feels like a small wedding to you will depend on what you’re used to. When venues say that they have a space that’s perfect for a small wedding, they’ll generally be talking about somewhere that can comfortably hold up to 50-60 guests.
READ MORE: 41 Gorgeous Small Wedding Venues in the UK
Just as bad for atmosphere as guests rattling around a massive room is 40 people crammed in an area that would best fit 20 max. You don’t want tables too close together, you don’t want guests to feel packed in, and in summer, you don’t want a sweltering hot room! When you speak to your planner or start the search for venues yourself, be clear about what numbers you mean for a small wedding and find an appropriate space.
Micro weddings and small weddings are the first part of a massive trends for 2021 that sees couples having a “sequel wedding“. This is a small ceremony, followed by a big reception at a later date.
What is Classed as a Medium Wedding?
A medium wedding will have around 60-150 guests. This is quite a large range, but the majority of UK weddings will find themselves falling into this category.
The average number of day guests hasn’t moved much over the years from the 80 to 85 people mark and you’ll find planners, venues, caterers etc, will work within 80-100 people as their benchmark for an “average” wedding. With 60-150 guests, most couples will be able to invite immediate and extended family, as well as all their friends and plus ones.
Bear in mind, of course, that is “average” and “medium” are all subjective and many cultural traditions will see hundreds more people than this invited.
What is Classed as a Large Wedding?
In the UK, a large wedding is a wedding with more than 150 guests. You’ll need to search for venues that are experienced at holding weddings of this size, and often you’ll be looking at big hotels, marquees, stately homes with grand ballrooms or large barns.
Most large UK venues may still only be able to hold up to 250-300 guests and beyond that you’ll need to look for purpose-built venues. Very large weddings of up to 1,000 guests will need to turn to conference and banqueting halls and use suppliers, like caterers and photographers, who have a lot of experience of navigating groups this large.
How Do I Decide What Size Wedding Is Right For Me?
The main factor that comes into play here is budget. Don’t get yourself into mountains of debt for one day of your life. You can find our guide to making a realistic wedding budget here.
One of the first steps is to write down your dream guest list of everyone you’d like on your day. You’ll know roughly what bracket of wedding you’re aiming for then, or roughly how many people you need to cut it down by.
There are lots of ways to reduce your guest list or reduce your costs and you’ll need to decide what’s more important. Would you rather have fewer guests and give them a richer experience (e.g. open bar, spend more money on entertainment and little luxuries) or is it more important to have everyone you want there and sacrifice the sit-down meal for a cheaper buffet and forgo wedding favours?
Next consider whether cutting down your guest list will cause problems. If your immediate family including aunts, uncles and cousins already comes to 50 people, your choice is partly made for you. Inviting some and not others might offend your family, while feeling you need to cut a friend you’d love at your wedding to accommodate cousins you see once a year might not sit well with you.
How Much Do Each of These Weddings Cost?
Again, the cost of each of these is subjective to what your idea is of a small, medium and large wedding. The average cost of a UK wedding is £31,974 for the lower end of a “medium” wedding with around 60-100 guests, and you can expect it to be higher for the 100-150 guest bracket.
One big trend that we’re seeing is guests hosting a micro or small wedding but not reducing their budget accordingly. Instead their investing in their guest experience and willing to spend tens of thousands on an amazing venue, top class photographer, live entertainment and incredible food and drink.
You’ll find that £30,000 is the typical minimum budget for an Asian or African wedding, with plenty of couples spending north of £70,000 – £100,000 on their wedding day. It truly has to be whatever your budget will stretch to.
Not sure where to start with your guest list? Here’s how to put yours together and the five people you should cross off immediately.