How to Deal with Unexpected Wedding Guests

What to do when someone misses your RSVP deadline.

Here’s what you need to do when a guest changes their mind after the RSVP deadline.

Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

The guest list is often the most difficult part of wedding planning. You may start with a number that seems reasonable, but as parents get involved and time passes, it always manages to creep up until suddenly you’re approaching the capacity of your venue. Before getting engaged, you likely never imagined hoping that people wouldn’t come to your wedding, but suddenly you find yourself sighing with relief with every RSVP card marked “no” in your mailbox. Even if you’re not relying on prospective attendees not being able to make it, merely determining who will be there can be an arduous task. No matter how much buffer time you give before the caterers need a final head count, there always seems to be a few people who drop out at the last minute – or suddenly realize they’ll be able to attend after all.

how to handle last minute rsvps, unexpected wedding guests

Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

Here’s what to do when a guest changes their mind after the RSVP deadline:

If you have someone who can no longer make it to your wedding, but it is too late to adjust the head count with your venue or caterer, consider offering a single guest a plus one. Naturally, this doesn’t apply if you already offered a plus one to everybody. Given the last-minute nature of the invitation, this gesture is best for those who live locally to the location of your nuptials. Someone who has to make travel arrangements may not have time to request off work and figure out transportation. This is different than what people may call “B-listing” because you are not inviting someone at the last minute who didn’t make the cut, but rather adding to the comfort of an attendee. 

On the other hand, if you have one or more invited guests who said they couldn’t attend, and then a week before the wedding happily inform you they can be there, it can be trickier. It’s understandable if you’re initially frustrated instead of happy that a loved one can make it, since this could be a logistical nightmare. However, there are many circumstances, such as a cancelled or rescheduled work trip, that could lead to this situation without a person trying to be inconsiderate. Try to remember this guest was invited for a reason, and then call your caterer, planner, and venue right away. With the help of your team of professionals, you should be able to squeeze someone in. Adjust your seating chart if need be, so the bonus attendee doesn’t just have a seat, but a seat next to people they know. If you have a seating chart display in lieu of escort cards and it can’t be edited, tell your new guest which table they will be sat at so there is no confusion. Then take a deep breath and repeat: “The more the merrier!”

For more advice, find out how to pick your wedding date, learn more about marriage licenses, and discover what not to do when writing your own vows.