How to Handle Low Attendance at Your Wedding

Receiving a lot of declines on your RSVPs doesn't mean your day is ruined!

Low attendance is not something you should take personally, as there are a number of factors that can lead to people RSVPing “no.”

Photo: Steve Steinhardt

It’s the worst nightmare of many brides: You spend all this time and money planning the perfect day, and then hardly anyone shows up. Generally the average attendance rate of a wedding is considered to be 70-80%, though it drops to 50-60% for destination celebrations. Low attendance is not something you should take personally, as there are a number of factors that can lead to people RSVPing “no.”

how to deal with low attendance, lots of declines at your wedding
Photo by Collin Pierson Photography; Planning & Design by Michelle Durpetti Events

It’s more common now than in the past for people to have family and friends spread all over the country. Are you having a hometown ceremony, but you went to college out of state, and yet another state for grad school? Even if your nuptials won’t be held at a far-off locale for you and your future spouse, it may still be difficult for many of your guests. Perhaps you thought a wedding on Memorial Day Weekend would make things easier on your loved ones – as people are less likely to need to take time off work – but holiday weekends are often more expensive for traveling and some folks have standing plans.

We understand it’s hard to not have your feelings hurt when your mailbox is full of declines, but here are some suggestions on what you can do to make sure your wedding is still the perfect day.

- Check in. Be sure to follow up with people who did not RSVP. You may be assuming they’re going to decline, but you never know for sure until you ask.
- Splurge on something else. Spend the money you would have spent on a larger guest list on upgrades: better food, more flowers, really nice favors for those who are attending, and even extra days or nicer accommodations on your honeymoon.
- Seat fewer people at each table. It will make the reception space appear less empty and your attendees will appreciate the extra space.
- Embrace the guests you do have. Look at the positive: You’ll be able to actually spend time with your nearest and dearest who are there to see you married. Take moments to focus on the people who were able to make your big day, and appreciate the time and money spent to honor you.
- Focus on what counts. Always remember that the only thing that truly matters at the end of the day is that you get married!

View three tips for dealing with tricky RSVPs and how to handle late responses from your loved ones.