How to Figure How Much Food for a Wedding

Tables decorated at a wedding reception. image by Gina Smith from

Just under half of your total wedding budget will go to paying for your reception, according to And a hefty chunk of that cost will be for the food. Although you don’t want your guests to leave with hungry stomachs, you don't want to spend more than necessary. Because feeding your guests can be expensive, determining an appropriate amount of food to purchase can help to keep reception costs down.

Deciding on the Amount of Food to Buy for the Wedding Reception

Determine how many people you need to feed. While some couples plan to feed everyone on their guest list, you can safely plan on not having 100 percent attendance at your event. As a general rule, 25 to 50 percent of the people you invite will not attend. Therefore, plan on feeding about 75 percent of the people on your guest list. That means if you invite 200 people to the reception plan on feeding 150.

Decide on the type of reception you want. You need to know what type of reception you are planning so you can plan for the type of food that will be served. You could choose a catered sit-down meal, a buffet-style meal, a cake and punch event, or anything in between. The more formal your meal, the more expensive it will be.

Create the menu for your reception. You need to know what you will be serving before you can decide how much to order. If you are having a large assortment of different types of foods, for example, you can purchase less of each. On the other hand, if you are serving only a few items, you may want to order more to ensure each guest gets enough food.

Figure out the amount of food needed. You can use some guidelines to help you figure out the amount of food to purchase. If you are serving sandwiches, purchase enough meat, cheese, and bread for up to two sandwiches per person. If you are serving a meat entrée, figure about 8 oz. per person and about an equal amount of vegetable side dishes for each guest. For the wedding cake, you should count on one piece per guest. Remember to keep the top tier for yourselves.

Make adjustments based on your guests. Once you have a good idea of how much food to order using these guidelines, you can make further adjustments. For example, if your guest list includes children, you can reduce the amount of food for them. Most children will eat only half the amount of food an adult eats. If you have guests who are vegetarians or vegans, you can reduce the amount of meat you order, but you also need to increase the amount of vegetables and side dishes, accordingly.

Remember your vendors. Generally, you are expected to feed your wedding vendors, such as your photographer and DJ. So when calculating the amount of food to purchase, include the vendors.