Photo: Pharris Photos + Films
At long last, we are seeing the re-emergence of full-scale weddings and, with it, an increase in guest lists! To nobody’s surprise, people are ready to reunite with their loved ones and get their celebrations on. But, what does that mean for the couple planning the wedding?
Throughout the pandemic, micro-weddings became the norm. But, as vaccination rates grow and mask mandates are relaxed, many engaged couples are eager to expand their guest list and open the party to more loved ones.
We spoke to wedding professionals about what couples need to consider when thinking about upping their headcount. Here’s what they had to share.
Photo: Julia Wade Photography
Pro: You don’t have to leave anyone out.
This is an easy one. A longer guest list means opening your wedding to more people who want to celebrate your day with you! Kimberly Sisti, owner and lead planner of Sisti & Co, elaborates: “One of the most obvious positives of increasing your guest count is being able to invite more of your friends and family. There is a special electricity of sorts that comes with larger celebrations, and some couples prefer it for their wedding day.”
“In addition, less restrictive guest lists make it easier for the hosts to invite as they please,” Sisti adds. “If couples have large families that they do not want to restrict, this is a welcome difference from the restricted micro weddings of the past fifteen months.
Pro: You can worry less about décor.
It might be surprising to consider, but smaller guest lists are typically associated with a bigger décor budget. So instead of filling a space with décor, you can fill it with people!
Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, explains: “Empty rooms can feel cavernous, causing you to spend money on decor to make them feel more full. Conversely, more people will help it to feel full without needing so much decor.”
Photo: Manda Weaver Photography
Pro: You can do it all at once.
The pandemic was a time for many mini-celebrations, as couples sought to include their loved ones without hosting any large gatherings. While more get-togethers might sound like more fun, it also means more planning.
Jen Avey, Vice President of Marketing for Destination Weddings Travel Group, elaborates: “A pro to increasing your wedding headcount would be that you don't have to worry about planning so many micro-celebrations with segmented groups of people. With all of your guests invited to one big celebration, you can make that event your one and only and do away with any smaller celebrations you had planned with separate groups of loved ones.”
Con: You should expect to pay a higher price tag.
This is another easy one — a larger wedding will cost more money. There are no two ways around it. “The higher the guest count, the higher the budget,” asserts Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin. “The count affects almost every aspect of the wedding--- the number of rentals, flowers, linens, catering, etc.”
Sheils continues: “Many couples who had to cut back their lists due to COVID had a major positive---they saved quite a bit of money that they had anticipated spending. So, if you were hoping to cut back on costs, it's going to be much more difficult if you are adding guests.”
Photo: Renee Lemaire Photography
Con: Your already-booked venue might not be able to accommodate it.
If you’ve already booked a venue for a smaller wedding, there’s a possibility that they are unable to accommodate an increase in your headcount. The same goes for other vendors, as they face one of the busiest seasons yet. As a result, availability will be limited, as JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli, confirms: “When making the decision to increase your guest list, first be sure your event venue can handle the increased guest count.”
If they can, “make sure they are well-staffed and can accommodate your guests,” Gregoli says. “If they need to order more tables or chairs, please give them a heads up. With the increase of weddings taking place, we are finding less and less flexibility in obtaining rental items.”
Con: You’ll have to deal with more logistics.
A bigger wedding isn’t just more costly; it also involves more heavy lifting to plan for more people. Avey explains: “Depending on your final headcount; your venue may have to implement certain safety protocols, such as the number of tables at the reception ($$), the number of people on the dance floor at one time, or your reception meal needing to change from buffet-style to plated. Some seasoned couples may say a larger guest list also comes with more stress and that the intimacy and simplicity of an elopement or mini-mony is the better way to go in the long run.”
With an equal number of pros and cons, the decision to increase a guest list stands with each couple. Some will be eager to invest in the wedding of their dreams, whereas others are perfectly content with the small-scale wedding they’ve already planned. There is no right answer!
If you do decide to invite more guests than originally planned, don’t wait until the last minute to make the switch. “Give your guests time, especially those that are coming in from out of town,” Sheils recommends. “Everyone knows that you have been thrown a loop with COVID and are willing to be flexible, but it's difficult to make plans to attend an event without notice. We always recommend invitations are sent at least 8-12 weeks prior to the wedding, and that holds today.”
Photo: Renee Lemaire Photography
And, as you send out invitations, be crystal clear about requirements and expectations for a guest’s attendance. If they need to take a COVID test, wear a mask, or other safety measures, highlight it on your invites and on your website. Maddox reveals: “We have many clients requiring vaccinations to come to their weddings this fall season. This may also make you more comfortable. However, make sure you have a plan in place to enforce this if you're truly going to require it.”
Whatever you choose, make sure that your decision is the one that will give you the perfect wedding day. Don’t let anyone pressure you into one way or another — it’s your day!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. As always, thank you for supporting our sponsors!