In my previous post, I wrote about how to come up with a headcount for your wedding. So hopefully by now, you have a solid headcount (or a narrow range). So in today’s post, we’ll continue the headcount discussion – let’s get started!
>>> BTW, if you’re not sure about the difference between a “headcount” and a “guest list” check out my previous post.
Split the Headcount Fairly
Splitting the headcount can be tricky! After all, it’s a big day for everyone involved – so how do you decide how many guests each of you will get to invite? And what about each set of parents – how many guests will they get to invite, if any?
The rule of thumb is this: the couple gets to invite 50% of the guests, and each set of parents gets to invite 25% of the guests. This rule might be a little outdated because most couples pay for their own weddings these days – and they tend to rely less on their parents. Even though this is an outdated rule, I do think it makes a good starting point.
When deciding how to split the headcount, be fair and equitable. Of course, “fair” is not the same as “equal” – that’s why this can be a tricky decision! It would be easy to split the headcount evenly, and while that makes things equal – it’s not necessarily fair. Here what I mean …
Let’s say a couple agrees to have a 100-guest wedding, and they split the headcount 50/50. Well, if one partner has a very small family, then 50 spots might be enough to invite their immediate family, extended family, friends, and coworkers. And if the other partner has a huge family, 50 spots might only be enough to invite immediate family, some extended family – but no room to invite friends. Not fair…
This is a pretty simplistic example, but it clearly shows that “equal” is not always “fair”.
Therefore, in an effort to split the headcount fairly, you might want to consider how big each of your families are and each of your social circles.
Another thing to consider might be where each of your guests are generally located (because travel can be a big factor in attendance rates). A general sense of attendance rates is also helpful to consider, but at this point, just focus on the big picture to help you split the headcount. You’ll come up with specifics later when you create your actual guest list (i.e. specific names of people that you plan to invite to your wedding). And of course, you can always adjust the split later if you need to.
Splitting the headcount with parents can be a very touchy subject (depending on each of your parents, of course). My advice is to have an open, honest conversation with all parents regarding the headcount – whether you plan to let them invite guests or not. Truly, it’s best to be transparent so that there aren’t any surprises.
I think this conversation is especially important if your parents are paying for the wedding (whether they’re paying for it in full or in part). In some cases, there might be conditions for their financial support (e.g. they’re making a financial contribution on the condition that they get to invite guests).
If you’re not sure if there are any “strings attached” to your parents’ financial support – ask! More specifically: ask before you accept the funds. That way you’ll know what the terms are and whether you’re willing to accept the terms or if there’s room for negotiation.
In the world of event planning, the total headcount includes kids. So if you’re planning to invite kids, you have to count them as part of your total headcount. For example, if your venue’s maximum capacity is 100 – that means you can only host up to a grand total of 100 adults and children combined.
So as you refine your headcount, consider whether you plan to invite kids to your wedding or not. This will help you plan because having kids in attendance will impact your costs, menu, seating, and space. Logistically, you might need to do some extra planning for kids meals, a separate space for kids, a babysitter, entertainment, etc.
Here’s another group to take into consideration when you’re refining your headcount: plus ones!
A liberal plus-one policy will fill up your guest list pretty quickly – so consider carefully who will get a plus-one and who will not. Create a plus-one policy that accommodates your guests’ partners without feeling like you’re sacrificing too much of your guest list to plus-ones that you barely even know.
In general, etiquette says that anyone who is married should get a plus-one for their spouse. Of course, marriage isn’t the only criteria to consider for your plus-one policy. You could extend plus-one invitations to those in long-term relationships, cohabitating partners, etc. In any case, when you’re refining your headcount don’t forget to include plus-ones.
Up Next: Guestlist!
Now that you have a solid headcount, and you’ve considered factors that might impact your guest list – like kids, parent’s guests, and plus ones – you’ll have a much better idea about how to create your guest list!