We invited 60 people and had 21 total. For us this was the perfect amount as we wanted something small and intimate. Obviously many of our friends and family that we did want to come were not able because of the cost of a week in Aruba, but we were able to celebrate with all when we came home. We had a casual celebration about a month after our wedding with about 80 people. Looking back I would not have not done it any other way! Good luck!
Like everyone has said, the acceptance rate is much lower than if you are having a wedding near your home. I haven't had a destination wedding myself but have been the maid of honor in two and helped plan them.
One wedding had the bride and groom send out invitations and leave the majority of the planning and expenses up to the guests - i.e. flights, hotels, food, etc., and this wedding was very small and had only close family and a couple of friends attend. I think it was kind of the plan. They invited 110 and had about 28 come if I recall correctly. Mostly immediate family. Some of the original bridal party didn't even come due to expense.
The second bride and groom organized the accommodations for those who RSVP'd yes and also planned dinners, outings, etc., for the guests and had a much higher acceptance rate. The guests were responsible for their own flights (which can be the most expensive part) and once they confirmed and RSVP'd yes, we booked full kitchenette units for the guests to stay in at the timeshare resort. That way, the costs were kept down for the guests, the bride and groom really wanted certain people there and knew they wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise, there was a party feel to the whole thing and everyone had a blast! There were a couple of dinners paid for by the bride and groom (rehearsal and one other), and for the rest, everyone kind of just rallied together and went out for some and stayed in and bbq'd or cooked for others. It was nice for those who brought children too. This bride and groom also put "no gifts please" on their invitations and really meant it. They didn't register anywhere. They didn't want people to have to pay for the travel expenses and also give them a gift. Them attending was their gift. However, most still gave some cash gifts which went towards offsetting the costs of the wedding. (Actually, when people asked me as the MOH what the couple "needed" most I indicated that this would be the most helpful gift as per the bride and groom's instructions. Of course I pretended like the bride didn't know I was telling people this.)
They invited 120 and had 85 come. The ones who didn't attend also still gave gifts.
I think it's really hard to predict how many will come and it really depends on so many factors, including how far in advance invitations are sent and what role the couple are playing in the organizing and expenses.
Good luck and hope you have a wonderful beautiful wedding!
baby beach, the amazing rock formations, but pretty much everything else too
amarg - you are the best!
its amazing what a difference that could be in a way you plan it - I really appreciate the insight. I love how the second couple did it and how they made it a party - that is very much what we would love to do too.
Also love the no gifts please - a very nice touch! Thank you so much for sharing!