Wedding Wednesdays: How to Plan For an Exact Guest Count

Wedding Wednesdays Q&A answered by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events

Q: We’re working on our guest list and we’ve decided that we want 100 people at our destination wedding. This is partially because it’s the number of people we want to celebrate with. But, also because it’s the max guest count the venue we want can hold. But, here’s the question, how do we ensure that we get 100? Do we just assume a certain percentage will decline?

Great question! And this a question I’ve been getting a lot recently from clients, so it’s perfect timing!

So, let’s start with the reality.

There isn’t really a great, easy way to do this.

Because while you can make your best guesses, you really can’t predict how people will RSVP. Things can change within a year or even 6 months. And that affects people situations and their ability to attend.

And of course, your guest count.

But, it can be done. And here’s how you’ll want to do it.

4 Steps to Plan For an Exact Guest Count For Your Wedding

Step #1 – Guest list breakdown

You’ll need start by taking your guest list and creating an A list and a B list.

Creating an A list and B list always makes people naturally uncomfortable. Because you’re essentially ranking your friends and family.

But, this is the only way to ensure you get the guest count you want.

So, think about your relationships with these people and create your lists based on that relationship. The guests you’re closer to will go into the A list.

Now you’ll want to make an A list that is just at or right around your ideal guest count. And don’t forget to put yourselves into that guest count.

Once you have that, then everyone else that you’d like to attend the wedding goes into the B list. Make sure your B list are people you’d be ok with not attending if they can’t be invited.

And side note, I wouldn’t go past a B list because then it gets much trickier.

Now while you’re making your lists, this is also an opportunity for you to cut down on your guest list.

It gives you a chance to look closely at your list and remove those that you really don’t feel close to or don’t really want at the wedding.

Step #2 – Save the dates

Once you have your lists, then comes your save the date. Now this is important, you’ll want to send save the dates ONLY to those on the A list.

Because they’re potentially the only ones getting invited.

Save the date wedding rings and nude wedding shoes for tropical wedding in Hawaii by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Day 7 Photography)

This is definitely one of the drawbacks to planning your guest list this way.

Because you want to ensure you don’t make anyone feel bad. But, your save the date is also your chance to give people a heads up so that they can start planning ahead. Especially for a destination wedding.

Unfortunately, you just can’t send a save the date to those you’re not sure will be invited. Sadly, it is what it is.

So, you’ll want to get your save the date out as soon as you can. And you may end up getting some feedback or responses that you can make note of and use later.

Step #3 – Invitations

Because you’re having a destination wedding and because you have an A list and B list, it’s really important that you send your invitations out early.

You’ll need to send your invites out much earlier than you would normally in order to allow time for the B list of invites if needed. And to give your B list a chance to plan for your wedding if they are coming.

So, here’s a breakdown of timing that I’d suggest:

  • 5.5 months before your wedding – send A list invitations out
  • 4.5 months before your wedding – RSVP date for A list
  • 4 months before your wedding – send B list invitations out
  • 3 months before your wedding – RSVP date for B list

This timing gives you the cushion to get responses back from your A list, order your B list invites and send them out.

It also allows your B list time to plan for the wedding and not feel like they got invited at the last minute. And because you’re having a destination wedding, giving people time to plan is key.

For that B list, you’ll want to send out the exact number of invites for the remaining spots you have left. So, you’ll need to go through your B list and see who you want to invite most and how that works with your numbers.

Now depending on your wedding timeframe this may be easy to do.

But, if you have a short planning timeframe, then I’d suggest you forego the save the date and just send out your invites instead.

Step #4 – Guest count

Once you get back your B list RSVPs, you’ll have your final guest count. It will likely be close to the ideal count you want, but not exact.

That’s ok! Be ok with that.

You don’t want to have more than 2 rounds of invites. And you don’t want people to feel like they’re less worthy.

If you’ve created your guest list right, then you’ll be happy with who you got to invite and who is attending.

Guest cheering at a wedding ceremony at Cornerstone Sonoma by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events
(Photo credit: Arrowood Photography)

One last piece of advice: Try not to talk too much about the wedding to the people who are on your B list. And if you have friends who are split between the lists, let them know not to talk about it either.

Once again, you don’t want to make people feel bad for not getting invited. Or if they do get invited in the B list, to feel like they were an after thought.

Just because this is the way you have to do things to get to your guest count, doesn’t mean people need to be hurt in the process. Be respectful and cognizant of that.

And of course, if you need help figuring out your guest list and your guest count, contact us today! We can help you manage the entire process so that you and your guests are taken care of.

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