When I was a bride-to-be, I decided my headcount by simply making a list of everyone I wanted to invite. It never occurred to me to limit this number or try to trim it in any way to help accommodate my budget. (Which was VERY small, even for that time period.) While most do not think about headcount as a factor in planning their budget, it really and truly is the number one item that affects how much we will spend. I know it can be difficult to consider trimming your wedding guest list, but if you have a smaller budget, this should be something you at least consider. It is the absolute number one way to trim your overall wedding budget.
Now, I do not mean to say you should not invite grandma because you must have the most beautiful centerpieces. I’m talking about cutting out the “extras” on your guest list. You know, the people you barely know but somehow through societal pressures you feel obligated to invite? Please don’t take this to mean I value flowers over people, I’m just saying think about what you are spending on people you barely know. On average, brides probably spend about $150 per guest. Many spend more than that, but let’s be conservative. So how do we spend this much? Here are some of the things affected by your headcount:
Venue – the larger the venue, the larger the cost. Many venues accommodate 100-150 guests, but if you have a headcount of 200, you need to go to the larger spaces, which usually cost more for rental as well as decorating.
Menu Price – for those who have a budget of $10,000, if they expect 200 guests, they will be looking for a menu that is $15 per person or less. This is very difficult to do and of course the quality of food may suffer.
Decor – for every 8-10 guests, you’ll need another table. This means another tablecloth to be rented, another centerpiece, more candles, more menu cards, napkins, flatware and plates to be rented, etc, etc.
Parking – some venues charge for parking, which means on average, for every two guests, there is an additional charge.
While you may be able to afford the items needed for your headcount, the other question to ask yourself is, are you compromising on anything because of cost? Is that important to you? Some couples want to have spectactular food, but because of guest count, either go over budget or select a much simpler menu than they preferred due to cost. Or maybe you would love to have tons of flowers, but can only afford a few roses and candles on each table because of cost? Of course this can be beautiful, but if it’s not what you truly want, again, you might consider trimming your guest list so you can have the items that are most important to you.
Of course, some take this to the extreme and just elope, or have a fantasy destination wedding. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Just make sure you consider all of your options before signing a contract with any venue or vendor. You might just find you have the money for your dream wedding after all.