Should We Overestimate or Underestimate Our Guest Count If We're Still Not Sure Who's Coming?
Spoiler alert: You really don't want to do either.
In the weeks leading up to your wedding, you'll be busy tying up a million loose ends—especially if you're working a full-time job and planning to take any time off for the wedding. It's easy to ignore guests' RSVPs in the process, but we promise this won't do you any favors in the long run. If you simply can't take the time to read through them, pass the task along to a friend or family member you can depend on, as this is one task that shouldn't be ignored. As it turns out, both overestimating and underestimating your final guest count is problematic. When your vendors say they need a final guest count, they mean it.
Who needs your final guest count and when?
Your wedding planner and catering team are going to be relying the heaviest on your final guest count. They'll typically advise, either in their contract or in person, on when they need final numbers, but be sure to clarify this prior to sending out your invitations and setting an RSVP date.
Why you shouldn't guesstimate your final guest count.
Let's say, for example, that you estimate you'll have 160 guests in attendance, but you actually end up with only 148 guests. You will have guaranteed to pay for a dozen extra meals, an additional table with settings, flowers, linens, chairs, and more. It's a total waste. Then, on the other hand, if you underestimate by a dozen, you could end up short on all the aforementioned décor items and short on food. This doesn't serve anyone well.
Planning ahead helps avoid the need to guesstimate your final guest count.
If you know gathering RSVPs is going to be tricky for you, give yourself extra time. You can request guests to get their reply cards back by up to four weeks prior to the wedding. Have a system in place when they arrive. Maybe a spreadsheet works well for you, or maybe you prefer a handwritten list of guests' responses. Either way, be sure to have at least a week between the due date and your vendors' required deadlines so you can follow up with any stragglers.
Follow up, follow up, follow up.
Don't be afraid to follow up with guests who haven't RSVP'd by the deadline. Call, text, email, or do whatever you need to do to get in touch and get a clear response.
Be candid with your vendors.
Especially when it comes to catering, it's good to keep them in the loop on any outstanding RSVPs when you give your final count. They'll be able to advise on whether to include unknown guests in the count, or if their team are comfortable adding a couple at the very last hour.