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Couple Planning a Wedding Guest CountSo you’ve just announced your engagement. You’re receiving congratulatory messages from friends and family, and you take a couple of weeks to bask in the moment. When your thoughts turn to your wedding and the planning kicks into full gear, you’ve undoubtedly got numbers on your mind. You may draft a guest list with 100 people, but how many of them will show up? And what about those one or two who never RSVP for anything? With a little information and a few tips, you can get a better sense of your guest count before the first RSVPs roll in.

Understand Your Guests

Wedding Wire’s Kim Forrest explains that many of your guests already know if they’ll be at your wedding before you even send the invitations. Forrest breaks down results from the website’s 2019 survey, detailing when guests usually decide if they’re going to attend:

  • After you announce the engagement: 27%
  • When they get your save-the-date: 20%
  • Between your save-the-date and invitation: 13%
  • Upon receiving your invitation: 25%

The remaining 15% wait until after getting your invitation to make up their minds. This group may also include your stragglers – the friends and family who wait until the last minute to respond or don’t RSVP at all.

Follow a Planning Timeline

From Wedding Wire’s survey responses, you can assume that about 60% of your friends and family will know several months in advance whether they can attend. But how can you use that to your benefit? Whether you’re hosting a local wedding or a destination celebration, you’ll need a timeline to guide your planning. Brides’ Kristi Kellogg, Anna Price Olson, and Jessie Mooney DiGiovanna offer a standard 12-month planning checklist. Here Comes the Guide has its own destination nuptials planning checklist, starting at 12 to 16 months before the wedding.

Whether you’re tying the knot at home or away, you’ll probably break the news to everyone about at least 12 months before the big day. For destination weddings, you’ll need to send out your save-the-dates at about nine to 11 months in advance. You can wait a little longer to send them for local nuptials, but make sure it’s at least four months before your event. As for invitations, mail these six to eight months in advance for a destination wedding and about two months in advance for a local event.

Guestimate Your Guest Count

As The Knot points out, there’s no way to predict your final guest count with 100% certainty. However, you can still get a rough idea and use this estimate when you shop for venues and work with vendors. Typically, you can estimate about 15% to decline your invitation if you’re getting married locally and between 20 and 50% for a destination wedding. The Spruce’s Nina Callaway presents a more sophisticated method of projecting attendance at a locally hosted nuptial. Anticipate 65% of out-of-town invitees and 90% of local guests to attend. Divide up your guest list, use Callaway’s formula, and you should have a reasonable estimate.

Track Your RSVPs

Estimating your final numbers can make planning a little easier. At the same time, make sure you don’t lose track of RSVPs. Brides’ Jaimie Mackey and Elizabeth Mitchell recommend setting your response deadline three to four weeks in advance for a local event and eight weeks before a destination wedding.  If that deadline arrives and some invitees haven’t responded, The Knot’s Maggie Seaver suggests waiting for a day or two to see if they trickle in. After that, you should contact non-responders by phone.

Two things define weddings: love and numbers. If you’re struggling to determine your guest count, ballpark figures are still helpful when you’re hiring services and booking venues. With timely planning and good estimating techniques, you’ll have your numbers well in hand.

Category: Wedding Planning

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