How Do You Get Invited to the Met Gala?

Anna Wintour attends the 2022 Met Gala celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" Credit - Noam Galai—GC Images

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute benefit, better known as the Met Gala, is widely known as fashion’s biggest night—and one of the most coveted social invites to score.

Held every year on the first Monday in May, the glitzy affair commemorates the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual exhibit, with the party’s theme often taking inspiration from the show.

Though the black-tie event is ostensibly a fundraiser, earning money for the museum’s extensive fashion collection (which consists of over 33,000 dress and accessory objects from the past seven centuries), it’s also become a cultural touchpoint, largely due to the influence of Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who has helmed the event as its chairwoman for nearly three decades, transforming the charity event into a pop culture phenomenon.

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Under Wintour’s exacting leadership, the Met Gala has become a night for celebrities, fashion insiders, art enthusiasts, and society’s most powerful and influential figures to vie for the chance to strut their sartorial stuff on the steps of the Met. And an undeniable part of the allure of the event is its highly exclusive guest list. The Met Gala, which started in 1948 as a charity event for New York’s high society, has become invitation-only with a waiting list during Wintour’s tenure.

According to Amy Odell, the author of Anna: The Biography, Wintour’s transformation of the event into a star-studded soirée is parallel to how she shifted Vogue from a fashion insider’s tome to pop culture source with celebrity covers. The Met Gala’s widely acknowledged reputation as fashion’s ultimate (and most exclusive) fête is a testament to her savvy and the power she wields, especially given the Met’s status as an esteemed cultural institution.

“If you look back at the early days of the event, it was really a society event,” Odell says. “Anna's innovation was to make it a pop culture event, like the Super Bowl of red carpets, which is what it is today. I think it's probably globally the most anticipated red carpet event.”

How do you get invited to the Met Gala?

There’s no guaranteed way to get invited to the Met Gala. Each year, Wintour decides who makes the guest list and who’s relegated to the waitlist. While many philanthropic galas' only barrier to entry is a sizable donation, the criteria for the Met Gala depends on a variety of factors seemingly known only to Wintour, ranging from timely achievements to cultural clout. Odell says that when she was researching her book, she heard from former Met Gala planners that many hopeful would-be attendees have tried to buy their way into the event, to no avail.

“If they were not considered to be in the ‘in’ group, they would not be able to do that,” Odell says. “It created some strife within the society world because it’s not a society event anymore, which is not to say that socialites, in the traditional sense, don't go, but it's not like they can just buy a ticket and show up. I get the sense that within the social world today, there's still some annoyance about that.”

Read more: The History Behind the Met Gala

Past attendees have run the gamut from tennis star Serena Williams to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. An invitation also comes with its own set of expectations; just because you’re invited does not mean that you’re given a plus one (and if you are granted a plus one and bring your spouse, be forewarned that couples are never seated next to one another). The event also has a strict no-phone policy.

According to Odell, scoring an invite isn’t just a chance to attend a fancy party—it can be a valuable opportunity to network, knowing that everyone in attendance has been pre-vetted by Wintour.

“It's really a huge signifier that you are ‘in,’” Odell said. “And that has implications for certain opportunities that they may get, especially for entertainers and models. If you go to the Met Gala, you're gonna be in a room with people who are esteemed within the fashion industry or you might find yourself sitting next to a cosmetics executive and the seating plan is designed so that those kinds of conversations can unfold.”

Who decides the Met Gala guest list?

According to Odell, Wintour has the final say on the guest list; ahead of the event, planners compile lists of hundreds of potential guests, which Wintour reviews before deciding who makes the final cut for the party, which is often capped at a certain number. While the event once hosted 800 guests, this year, the Met will welcome just 400. Post-Covid, the guest list for the event has decreased, with the last couple galas each seeing about 400 guests as well. This has had the added benefit of making the event feel more exclusive and special. Odell also points out that hosting the event at the museum can be tricky with a larger group.

“Staging this event within the Metropolitan Museum is a really big deal,” Odell said. “There are priceless works of art everywhere, which can be tricky to navigate.”

Read more: How Anna Wintour Wields Her Power

In recent years, the attendance of social media influencers like Liza Koshy, Addison Rae and James Charles has sparked criticism, given how exclusive invitations to the gala have been even for more traditional celebrities. But Odell says that the inclusion of influencers is part of how Wintour maintains the success and relevancy of the event: “The Met Gala is content, right? All these events, including fashion shows and premieres really exist to get sprayed across social media.” She likens the influencers’ attendance to Wintour’s decision to put Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover of Vogue in 2014, a controversial choice at the time.

“She needs people with online followings and traditional entertainers are not always those people, so you need to have the influencers there. Anna is savvy…every time there's a TikTok celebrity there or certain influencers, the online peanut gallery has a lot to say and that's all generating conversation and coverage for the gala.”

How much does it cost to attend the Met Gala?

In the event that you are approved by Wintour and extended an invitation to attend, there’s still the cost of entry. This year, an individual ticket costs $75,000 (up 30% from last year’s price of $50,000), while a table, which is often purchased by companies, design houses or brands, starts at $350,000. Those that buy a table, however, do not get to choose who sits with them; all seating arrangements must be approved by Wintour.

Odell stresses that though the cost contributes to the air of exclusivity around the event, Wintour’s focus on fundraising is crucial to the survival of the Costume Institute, which is the only self-funded department at the Met; last year’s gala raised over $22 million, while Wintour has raised over $223.5 million for the department during her time chairing the gala.

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“The money that she raises is important for the Costume Institute because preserving these clothes, these collections is very expensive,” Odell says. “The garments have to be cared for in a really specialized way. The money has done a lot for that department and I'm sure that they'll want to keep it going so they can continue to have the best collection in the world.”

Do celebrities actually buy their tickets?

Celebrities generally do not buy their own tickets to the event; instead they often attend as the guests of brands or designers who have purchased tables. As the guests of a designer, a celebrity is dressed by the brand and often walks the red carpet with the designer themself.

Why aren’t some celebrities invited back to the Met Gala?

Since the guest list is never revealed ahead of the gala, there’s no way to know which celebrities have not been invited back to the Met Gala or have declined to attend. Odell makes the case that it’s often not personal—for instance, an entertainer may not have anything to promote or they may be working on a different project that prevents them from attending.

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She points to one of this year’s co-chairs, Zendaya, as a prime example. Though Zendaya, a noted style icon, made her Met Gala debut in 2015 and attended every year until 2019, she had not returned to the event until this year, when she’ll be co-hosting the night’s festivities.

Who’s been banned from the Met Gala?

While there are many celebrities who are rumored to be barred from attending the Met Gala, there’s only one public figure that Wintour has confirmed that she would never invite to the event again. During a 2017 appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Wintour said she would not invite Donald Trump again to the Met Gala. Trump, who was a frequent attendee of the gala since the ‘80s, even proposing to his wife Melania at the 2004 event, last attended the gala in 2012.

Write to Cady Lang at