A Guide to Wedding Guest Lists from The Wedding Plate | Nashville - Nashville Bride Guide

A Guide to Wedding Guest Lists from The Wedding Plate | Nashville

Creating your wedding guest is one of the hardest elements of planning a wedding. Categorizing your family and friends into a list of “invited” or “not invited” is not the easiest task! Plus, how do you know how many guests will actually show up at your wedding? Today we have Lisa of The Wedding Plate here to tackle this complicated topic with us! Lisa rents out vintage china for weddings and events in the Nashville, TN area and deals with wedding guest count fluctuations on a regular basis. Needless to say, Lisa is an expert on this topic and is here to share ways to really hone your wedding guest list and RSVPs. Plus, she’s shared an amazing Guest List Spreadsheet Download that will make organizing this element of your wedding a piece of cake! Take it away, Lisa!

After sending out invitations, how many guests will generally attend the wedding?

Lisa: Oh my goodness, this is the magic question, right?!? How many guests will attend my wedding affects so many decisions – the venue, the budget, food choices and more! For budgeting purposes, a general rule of thumb for actual attendance is this… For guests lists of 200 or less invited, approximately 80% will attend. For guests lists of more than 200 invited, approximately 70% will attend. So, it is critical to start with a well thought out guest list, which includes the wedding party, immediate family, officiant, children, etc.

Are there any factors that need to be considered to determine an estimated guest count?

Lisa: Yes, some factors to consider include: 

1) Distance The greater the number of out-of-town guests and the further they have to travel, the greater the number of “no’s” you can expect. 

2) Destination If the wedding is in a “hot” city like Nashville, plan for 85% attendance.

3) Family history How well attended are your family events? Some families have 100% attendance and others, not so much.

4) Time of year Holiday weekends can be difficult for some people to attend your wedding as it may conflict with their own vacation schedules.

5) Day of the week Saturday weddings generally have greater attendance than any other day of the week.

6) Save the date cards It makes sense that more notice of the date will improve your likelihood of guest attendance.

When should a couple make their RSVP deadline?

Lisa: I suggest that your RSVP deadline be approximately one month prior to your wedding, but select a date that’s easy to remember. For example, if your wedding is October 19, set your deadline for September 15. Generally, the first or last day of the month or days that are multiples of 5 makes it easy to remember, such as September 1, 5, 10. 

What is a great way for couples to collect RSVPs?

Lisa: The traditional method for collecting RSVPs is a reply card with enclosed stamped envelope, and they look so pretty in pictures! But, there’s so many more options today for collecting RSVPs, such as a wedding website on The Knot, texting, a phone number with a voice mailbox. Consider giving your guests multiple options to reply, such as a card and online RSVP, especially if your guest list spans several generations. Your grandmother may not want to RSVP online, but your millennial friends would prefer that to mailing in a card. 

What is a great way to follow up with guests when they have not met the RSVP deadline?

Lisa: I suggest that you keep your calendar open to allow time to follow-up with your guests that you have not heard from. You have to expect that you will have to follow up, because it is a given that many people forget!  So, if your RSVP date is September 15, plan that you will spend September 16-18 calling, texting, messaging, tweeting your guests. “Hi John, it’s Stephanie. Blake and I want to make sure that you received your invitation to our October 19 wedding. Our caterer is asking for our guest count – will you be able to join us?” 

Can you recommend any great resources for couples to organize their RSVPs?

Lisa: I suggest that you keep your guest list and RSVPs on a spreadsheet. You can download your own guest list template HERE. We have used something similar for multiple weddings and found it very helpful. Store the spreadsheet in a Dropbox, on a Google drive, or other cloud storage and invite your fiancé, his mom, your mom, your wedding planner or others to have viewing and editing privileges. That way, the MOG can mark on the guest list that Aunt Mary is planning to attend the wedding when she sees her at a family event! 

What else should couples know about their guest counts and RSVPs?

Lisa: Many planners suggest that you plan for 100% of all invited guests to attend for budgeting purposes. For example, if you plan for 220 and yet only 150 attend, you will be happy that your wedding costs less than expected. But, I’ve seen many upset brides who expected 100 guests and were sad and disappointed when only 60 attended. Also, life happens! So, even if I plan to attend your wedding, but my child wakes up with a fever that morning, I will not be able to attend your wedding. We found that our “no shows” were the ones that live in town. Our guests that made flight and hotel plans to attend the wedding showed up! But some of the family members that live just around the corner didn’t come. They had good intentions, but life happened to them and it will also happen to your guests, no matter how much they love you! 

Lisa – wow! This was so incredibly helpful when juggling your guest list! Remember, you can download Lisa’s guest list template HERE! What an awesome resource! You can also check out Lisa’s incredible collection of vintage china and table top items here on The Wedding Plate’s website. And check out the latest over on Instagram


The Wedding Plate/Billie Shaye Style/Seth Chandler


Nashville Bride Guide’s Owner + Editor, Alyssa DiCicco

Since 2016, Alyssa has combined her loves to become the owner and editor of the local wedding blog, Nashville Bride Guide! The online publication showcases weddings, engagement sessions, styled shoots, vendor spotlights and advice posts from all across the Middle Tennessee area. Read more...