Photo: Courtesy of Julie Song Ink
A ballooning guest list is a challenge nearly every couple deals with during the wedding planning process. Some opt to seek out a venue with a larger capacity, while others get serious about who does and doesn't make the cut (buh-bye, plus-ones!). Whatever you choose, making sure your headcount fits in your venue is important for both your guests' comfort and their safety — going over the maximum capacity can be a fire hazard, and at a minimum could get your event shut down by the fire marshall. So what happens if that magical 15-20% wedding guest decline rate is a myth, and nearly all of your wedding guests are planning to attend? Our experts have a few tips.
First things first: As you're making your guest list (before you send out invitations!), begin to guess which guests will and won't attend. You may know most of your college friends will make the trip, but what about your great-uncle? Marking down whether you anticipate a "yes" or "no" reply will help give you an idea of how many guests to expect so you can feel more confident in choosing your venue — or know if you need to move some guests to the B-list.
As RSVPs come in, if you see that "yes" number creeping higher and higher, get in touch with your venue. Can you change your space rental from a half ballroom to a full ballroom, or open up the doors to put some of the dinner tables on the porch? What about having dinner in one room and dancing in another? Figure out if there is a way to be flexible with seating so your guests will all fit. If the space simply doesn't get any bigger, but you're still below the maximum capacity, you could also have all the dinner tables set up and then move or break-down a few tables to create a dance floor later in the evening. Have you blown past your venue's maximum capacity? Unless there's a creative alternative to fit everyone, you're stuck finding a new venue, as most won't try to be flexible — their liability and insurance is at stake!
If your guest list still fits comfortably, but the issue is budget, talk to your vendors about how to stretch things a little further. Would serving a buffet instead of a plated dinner cut the costs? What about offering less-expensive hors d'oeuvres or swapping the open bar for beer and wine only? And when it comes to flowers, ask your florist which blooms will keep your total down, as well as which décor items you can skip or reuse in multiple locations throughout the night. Get creative with ways to stretch your dollar, then smile because so many people want to celebrate with you!