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Tips to Manage the Guest List & Reception Budget

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Throughout my years of planning weddings, I have yet to come across a couple that said the best part of planning their big day was deciding who to invite. Knowing whom to invite to your wedding can be very tricky and making the decision involves many factors like your budget, your venue location, what’s expected within your social and cultural circles, and most important the relationships with both families.

The first thing to consider is the budget, as it is a major factor. You can and should only invite the number of guests that you are able to pay for. Although some say you can count on a certain percentage of guests on your list not attending, don’t. If your budget is tight, the easiest way to trim your wedding budget is to cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to feeding your guests so if it costs you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

You then need to consider your chosen venue. Hopefully you had an idea of how many guests you intended to have before you selected your reception space. It’s not a good idea to cram 200 people into a space that holds 150. You don’t want to create a fire hazard, and you want your guests to be comfortable and able to move around easily. Think about the comfort level of your guests. If your venue is difficult to access due to stairs or other entry issues, you may want to consider any guests that are elderly or guests that need mobility assistance. If the venue is very historical, filled with antiques or items that are fragile or delicate, you may want to consider having young children as guests.

Next, pare down your guest list by creating a priority list. Place immediate family, the bridal party, and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends you couldn’t imagine not being there. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

When trimming the list, one particular question always arises: should we allow single friends to bring a date or companion? If your numbers are tight, it may be a good idea not to allow single guests to bring a date or companion but try this scenario to help with your decision. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it’s a table of singles that he or she knows pretty well, then you’re all set. If it’s a table of couples (making them the odd one out) or if it’s a table of singles where they won’t know anyone, consider bending the rule of only allowing significant others as a plus one. Otherwise, stick to your rule of not allowing single friends to bring guests with the explanation of size constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list as good reasons for your rule.

Be gracious to your uninvited guests. Before you send out invitations, call or visit anyone you think might be hurt about not being invited, explaining the situation. Most people will understand because they may have or know someone that has been in that same situation. If they truly are offended, it’s probably best that you didn’t invite them. Don’t be defensive; simply apologize, hope that you’ll remain friends and move on.

5 Comments
  1. Great read! The small things that people can do to manage the budget add to the major savings!!