This is the third installment in our series of posts about the top 5 planning mistakes we’ve seen couples make in the past. In case you missed it, check out our first two posts: #5 – Assuming Your Wedding Vendors Communicate, #4 – Ignoring the Setting Sun.
One of the biggest mistakes we see couples make in their planning process is to choose a venue before knowing the size of their guest list, which leads to either overcrowding or heartbreaking guest list cuts to make the crowd fit into the space booked. This mistake is killer! Who to invite and how many can be a tricky enough decision to make. It’s one of the pieces of wedding planning that is high on the list of family stressors, because the number of people you invite is directly related to where your wedding will be held and how much it will cost.
There are two factors that drive this mistake. One is that the maximum capacity at a venue can be affected by a number of details, like table size and style, buffets versus served meals, standing receptions instead of seated guests, and more. If you don’t know all the details before booking the venue, many believe their guests will fit and find out later after changes are made that this just won’t happen. Always make sure that you are booking a venue that has extra space if you need it. For example, if you have 125 guests, find a venue that can hold 150 comfortably, just in case. Also, keep in mind that it behooves a venue to fill a room to the brim for sales reasons. Most venue coordinators are honest and will advise you if your number of guests will be cramped, but if you have an experienced wedding planner on board, they can give you the skinny on the math to see if your number will really work.
The other factor is the highly touted refusal rate statistics. There are a plethora of suggested percentage rates that people will cite on how many guests will be unable to attend your wedding from your invite list. Trusting in any or all of these numbers can lead to a very uncomfortable situation when you realize you’ve overestimated your refusals. We have written two posts on how to create a realistic guest list, so check these out: Where to Start on Your Guest List, Cutting Your Guest List. If you’ve already booked a venue and find yourself in a jam with your guest list acceptances, consider changing the style of your reception to accommodate the larger number of guests, perhaps by offering food stations at a cocktail style reception instead of a seated dinner or a buffet. More people will remain standing, which decreases the number of tables and chairs you need.
Most wedding planners will take the time up front with you to discuss the venue and the guest count thoroughly. An experienced planner can offer their perspective on how many people the venues you are considering can comfortably hold. It will definitely be worth your time to check with your planner or to look into one before you book your venues.
Photo by Jennifer Strain Photography