How to Deal With Fewer Guests Attending Your Wedding

What to do when not as many people as you hoped plan to go to the big day.

Deciding on a guest list can be one of the hardest parts of wedding planning. Find out what to do if you find more people than you thought are declining your invitation.

Photo: Vue Photography

Deciding on a guest list can be one of the hardest parts of wedding planning. You have to keep your budget and potential venue capacity in mind, as well as account for the significant others of your loved ones. Once you come up with a final list and send out the invitations, it’s natural to have a rough idea of whom you expect to attend and who will probably decline. Of course, unless it’s from a person you felt pressured to invite, receiving that first decline on an RSVP card can still hurt. Worse still is if far more people respond with regrets than you anticipated. Generally, 80% is the average rate of attendance for local celebrations, with that dropping to 40-50% for destination weddings. If you are distressed because your guest count is looking to be below that threshold, don’t fret. We understand it may not be what you originally imagined, but you can still have an absolutely beautiful day!

First things first, you need to take care of yourself emotionally before you focus on the event. Try not to take the attendance rate personally. For some people, the cost (of both money and time) is just too much, even if you are an important part of their lives. Plus, not everyone realizes how much planning and finances go into a wedding. If someone backs out after committing, they may not realize the bind this can put you in. Take a deep breath and practice forgiveness. Focus on the fact that the people who are attending really care. And after all, it’s your future spouse who really matters, right?

You could potentially add more people via a B list, but proceed with caution. These guests should be in different social circles from the A list (i.e. your work friends vs. college buddies), so it won’t be obvious that they did not make the cut originally. It’s also important to adjust the RSVP date accordingly – you don’t want it to be earlier than the date they receive the invitation! Please note that this method isn’t really an option for destination weddings, as save the dates are much more important in that case.

There are positives to an unexpectedly smaller guest list. Even if you have catering minimums to meet, you can add more hors d’oeurves and gourmet options to the menu. Upgrade the bar to include top-shelf liquor. Show those who did attend a truly incredible evening! You’ll have more time to spend with each guest, possibly even being able to take pictures with each of them. Unfortunately, depending on how small the final count is, a dance party at the reception may not be realistic, so explore other entertainment options. Lawn or board games and professional performances are just a couple of options to make sure it’s a memorable day in the best of ways.