Q – how do I plan for guests who didn’t rsvp?

The invitations have been sent and now it’s the struggle for finalizing the guest list.  Unfortunately, we live in a society where formal events and rsvp’s are not the norm.  Your friends and family will “assume” you know that of course THEY are attending.   tell my brides that this will be the “worst” part of the planning but realize that it happens to everyone.

SOLUTION

As you begin calling those who did not respond, you will run into a handful of guests who cannot commit one way or the other (whether they are battling an illness, etc).  When you submit your final guest count to your caterer and reception venue, be honest with the number of guests that are still “tbd’s” as I call them.  Hopefully at the time of contract, you have negotiated a percent of “overage” the venue will prepare for.

If you have assigned seating, I suggest allowing 3-5% over your final guest count.  Open seating is a bit trickier…since people do not like to fill the tables you will need a minimum of 2-3 open tables (for an average wedding of 200 guests).  Communicate with your reception venue where the open seats/tables are for those “surprise” guests.

Note that this affects the number of favors, centerpieces and rented chairs/linens.  A wedding planner will help you prepare for this in advance.

parents/step-parents+ footing the bill

Weddings are a wonderful time.  Or at least they’re suppose to be.  The planning process can bring out the worst in our families; revealing our weakest seams in our extended family blanket.

I have come across many divorced families over the years and honestly, arranging the seating chart is easy-peasy when working with some blended families.  I have seen quite a few tension-filled luncheons to public arguements over the final charges to even as far as one parent storming out of the rehearsal dinner refusing to even show up to the wedding.  Though this article is not the cure for those instances, here are just a few tips I have coming from one wedding planner and divorcée herself:

Establish a budget.  Budget is just the ugly B word that every newly engaged couple must first establish.  I highly recommend consulting a Professional Wedding Planner for a budget review.  This will give everyone the “average” cost of all aspects of planning a wedding as well as guidelines for allocating your funds.  Any sticker shock can be handled through the Professional.
Remember the 5 P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Peaved Parents.  Read each contract carefully to know how to calcuate your inclusive costs.  Inclusive cost will include: labor fees, taxes and service charges / gratutity.  These costs are usually listed in the contract however, I would still ask for a Total Estimated Event Cost based upon your expected number to see your total financial committment.  This will ensure your calcuations are correct. Here in Missouri, the service charge is taxable.  A small fact that can feel like a “hidden” cost at the end.
Expected Number versus Agreed Number. The Expected number of guests refers to the highest number of attendees.  In a perfect world, if everyone you invited were able to come, what is that number?  Make sure your venue can accommodate up to this number but I would negotiate a contract based upon your Agreed Upon number.  Agreed Upon number is generally 30 – 20% less than your Expected.  Some venues have minimums so take that into consideration. 
Keep your spreadsheet up to date with your expected number of guests.  This will also ensure you are staying within your budget with your florals, invitations, etc.  Share this information with all paying parties so that any objections can be handled descreetly within the family prior to the final balances being due.
Being proactive with establishing your budget, consulting with a local professional for a planning roadmap and proper expense record keeping can help alleviate any potential objections.
Happy planning!