After the initial excitement from your engagement wanes and you sit down to plan your wedding your first step should be your guest list. The fact is that how many guests you invite has the biggest impact on your wedding budget. When you add up your family and close friends, most couples find they have about a hundred people or so they would like to share their special day with. So how much should you plan to spend for a 100 person wedding?
A 100 person wedding costs between $20,000 – $30,000. This cost can be found by comparing it to the average cost of a wedding in the United States (which is slightly above $30,000 for 125 guests) and by using the Loud Bride Wedding Budget Calculator which estimates the cost to be $20,000 for the basics for 100 people.
If you’d like to calculate the average cost of a wedding per person, check out our post here where we tallied up the typical fixed and variable costs to help you learn what to expect to pay at different guest list sizes. You can use our research to gage how much your wedding will cost at different budget levels.
Keep reading for different scenarios of how to use your money whether you want to spend way less than $20,000 or splurge on an epic once-in-a-lifetime party.
Is 100 guests a small wedding?
The average wedding in the United States has 130 guests, according to The Knot’s survey of real brides in 2019. That means that a wedding with 100 guests is not a small wedding, but closer to the average wedding size.
For some couples with big families or friend networks, narrowing down the guest list to smaller than 250-300 people can be a challenge. Or you may find that you’re in the opposite situation with a small family and a close-knit friend group that would barely fill up a restaurant let alone a banquet hall.
Why do weddings typically have 100 people?
Most couples will find themselves in the 100-ish range and there’s a scientific reason for that. It’s called Dunbar’s Number. Dunbar’s Number (150) refers to the cognitive limit of relationships most people can maintain. In other words, a person can only keep track of knowing and understanding the relationship between 150 people. With a group above 150, you tend to lose track of who is who.
The science suggests that the larger the brain, the larger the social network you can maintain. So for all of those couples out there who are planning large weddings, don’t fret. You’re just smarter than the average couple. 😉
How to plan a cheap 100 person wedding
If you want to plan a wedding for 100 people at a more affordable budget, you can fairly easily plan a $10,000 wedding. We have an entire post dedicated to how plan a wedding under $10,000 and found that at a guest list of 100 people it’s totally doable if you keep an open mind about the venue, music, flowers and some other traditional elements of a wedding.
Here’s how it can be done in a nutshell:
- Spend $7,675 on a venue and catering
- Spend $900 on your day of attire (including alterations)
- Spend $750 on photography
- Spend $200 on hair and makeup
- Spend the remaining $475 on invitations, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and decorations
- Skip flowers, a DJ and any wedding favors
If you’ve got more to spend and want to plan for some money to go towards popular items like bouquets, a DJ, and a destination bachelor / bachelorette party, keep reading for ideas at higher budget levels.
You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.
How to plan an average 100 person wedding
If you’re looking to plan a wedding with a realistic budget and more traditional wedding choices for a venue, catering, photography, etc. you can plan a 100 person wedding and stay between the average budget range of $20-30k.
Here’s how I would do it based on averages in the major categories:
Food & Drinks – $10,000-$15,000
Your catering and venue should be 50% of your budget so around $10,000-15,000. This is easily achieved if you stick to an estimate of $65-70 per person for alcohol and food and an average venue cost of $5,000-$6,000.
The Dress – $2,000 – $4,500
Whether you buy a dress off-the-rack or from a designer, most bridal shops or online retailers will have dresses in this price range. You can save some money and time buying a dress off-the-rack. We did some research in this post about how buying a ready made gown can save you months of time and as much as 50% off your dress. But even if you have your heart set on a designer, made to order gown, some of the most popular designers have collections that start at $1,400.
Photographer – $3,000
The average cost for a photographer in the U.S. for a full day package is $2,400-$3,000. This typically includes an engagement session (so the photographer can get to know you and you can get a sample of how the photos will turn out) and 8-10 hours of coverage on your actual wedding day.
DJ – $1,200
A DJ will typically cost anywhere from $600-$1,200 depending on their experience and length of time you expect them to cover. If you’re looking to book musicians for the ceremony, cocktail hour, or a band for the reception, you’ll need to increase this budget.
Invitations – $250
You can affordably find standard invitations for $2.50 per set at places like Minted, Shutterfly, Walmart, or Zazzle. Minted and Zazzle being the upper range with costs of $2-2.50 for one invitation and envelope. But RSVP cards, foil or other embellishments being extra. And Walmart at the cheaper end with options as low as $0.46 per invitation and envelope set!
You can also print your own for less than that cost but you might want to splurge on a custom design. Hiring a designer on Etsy would still put you at around a budget of $250 in total. If you’re looking for a how to on making your own invitations, read our step-by-step guide.
Hair / Make-up – $300
An average bridal salon package is anywhere from $100-300. So for this budget you can expect to pay for your own hair, full make up, and a manicure / pedicure if you shop around a little. If you would like your wedding party to get their hair or makeup done, you will be expected to pay for it. You may consider that a gift to your wedding party or make it optional and ask them to pay their own way if they’d like to get it done.
Remaining budget – $5,000-$6,000
The remaining $5,000 – 6,000 of the budget can be spent on transportation, a hotel for the night before, bachelor / bachelorette parties, a rehearsal dinner, gifts for the wedding party, a day of coordinator, ceremony site fees, and tips.
How to plan a extravagant 100 person wedding
Of course, you can spend way more than $30,000 on a 100 person wedding. You can book a luxury venue, hire a calligrapher for your invitations and other wedding stationary, have a couture gown made, rent out a villa in Tuscany, and otherwise go nuts planning a wedding fit for a king and queen.
Now that you have a better idea of the costs associated with a typical wedding of 100 people, you will be better equipped to start budgeting and set the date. Looking for more wedding planning tips? Check out our free Facebook group of like-minded brides and grooms at Bold Weddings on a Budget.