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Can we ask people to send "expressions of interest" prior to the actual wedding invites?
October 26, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Can we ask people to indicate an "expression of interest" in attending our wedding before we send out of the official invites? More details inside.

We’re planning a wedding. We have a tentative guest list which has about 70 people on it. We don't actually expect all of these people to attend. We figure that there are about 20 people who probably won't attend (because of travel costs and other reasons). The problem is that booking the venue is going to be tough. We don’t particularly want to book a venue for 70 people if only 50 of them will actually come, but we won’t know who is coming until much closer to the wedding (assuming that everyone actually RSVPs on time).

Can we ask people to send an “expression of interest” when we send out the save-the-date cards? We’re thinking of setting up something on our wedding website that will allow people to submit their expression of interest anonymously. That way, we’ll have an idea of the numbers to expect but there will be no hurt feelings or awkward moments if Uncle Jim sends an expression of interest but then RSVPs “no” when the official invites go out. The understanding would be that the expressions of interest are not official RSVPs, but just a loose idea to help us plan.

Is this something that we can do or would it be too tacky? And, if it is acceptable, what is a nice way of wording the question?

If you need more details, send your question(s) to this throwaway email: weddinginvite.mefi@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can't do this, and even if you could, it wouldn't matter. You think an anonymous "expression of interest" count is going to be accurate? That's worse than a Facebook invite, because on Facebook at least your name is attached, and you know how accurate those are.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Book your venue for the number of people you invite. If you don't want more than 50 people to attend, invite 50 or fewer people.

Inviting people you're counting on not attending is a bit tacky, I think.
posted by xingcat at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you say you don't want to book a venue for 70 if only 50 would show up, are you saying that you don't want to book a space for 70 when you might only get 50? Or do you mean making a commitment for 70 heads? Most all wedding venues understand that your estimate when you book your date will change by the time you're just a couple months out from your wedding date. You'll have to get them firm numbers for food and beverage closer to your wedding date--they won't hold you to some arbitrary number of how many people you think are coming 6-8 months before the wedding.

There's a reason why what you're suggesting isn't done--it's because it isn't necessary. The catering director at whatever venue you choose will guide you through the process.
posted by litnerd at 8:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


As long as you word it politely, I don't think that is tacky at all. Anyone who has planned a wedding should understand your plight.

It may be best to be frank with your guests: "My husband and I need to know how many people will be attending so that we can book a venue, please take this anonymous poll if you are fairly sure that you will attend"

In other words, explain it exactly as you have explained it to us. Weddings are fricking expensive, most people can, at minimum, empathize.
posted by Shouraku at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, this won't work. My best suggestion is to call people and feel them out. "We're getting married in the spring in $Location! We haven't sent out official invites yet, but we'd love it if you could come." Then you'll get the "OMG we're filing bankruptcy this week there's no way in hell" responses out of the way.

Is there really that much of a price difference between the 50 person and the 70 person venue? You realize you only pay for dinners for people who RSVP? We invited about 100 people, 75 of whom RSVP'd. We had to tell the venue by a certain date (30 days out, IIRC) how many people we'd have, and our price was based on that number. We had a surprise!guest show up at the last minute and our cost was adjusted.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tried to do this and it didn't work that well. Not because people were offended but because planning is really hard for people during hard times like these. Very predictably the most enthusiastic "saving the date?" responses wound up cancelling because they realized they couldn't afford it at the last minute.
posted by bleep at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Weddings are such a bizarro world. Isn't the point of getting an RSVP so you can plan accordingly? Why not send out invites and ask for RSVPs in a timely manner? If you don't know the exact venue yet, you can update later.
posted by yarly at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011


To build on Shouraku's comment, why not do a "save the date" card before invites? You can have it set up so it can be sent back and then invites will go that way. Be specific and clear on the pre-invite card saying something like "This is our date and intended location, please let us know if you would like an official invite to our marriage! Venue requests we be absolutely specific" or something of the sort. I think this is absolutely fair and seems rather normal to me. A cousin did the same thing last year without issue.
posted by eatdonuts at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011


If the problem is the size of the venue, I'd look for one that would accommodate both 50 and 70 people without a problem. Make sure they don't have a minimum number of guests required, or that if they do, they can give you upgrades in your menu or appetizers, say, instead of just charging you for the minimum. Your best bet, though, would be to find a venue and a separate caterer, that way guest numbers don't really matter. Unless you can only budget for 50, because in that case you should invite 50, regardless of how many no-shows you think there might be.

It's going to be really hard to pin people down, regardless of whether it's tacky or not, because plans can and do change.
posted by lydhre at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most venues will give you a rough idea of the minimum and maximum number of guests they can accomodate.

Just estimate low. It's infinitely easier to tack another plate on the end of a bill (since the caterers/venue won't object to charging you more money and they usually make extra food anyway) than it is to argue back a percentage of the bill.

We started out with 70 and ended up being 90 by the time the day rolled around. The venue was quite happy to charge us the extra $750.
posted by Talez at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2011


Very predictably the most enthusiastic "saving the date?" responses wound up cancelling because they realized they couldn't afford it at the last minute.

..and I had the opposite problem - quite a few of my family members who didn't think they'd be able to make it when I sent out Save-the-Dates scrounged up the time and money by the time I sent out invitations - I had sent out 90 invitations, expected maybe 50 to show up, and we had 78 RSVPs.
posted by muddgirl at 9:06 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a bit tacky, but not beyond the pale. The problem is it won't work. Even if every guest responds as accurately as humanly possible, things will change in the meantime for a percentage of them, so your pre-pre-count will be off. Hell, you can't even count on people to accurately RSVP for a wedding these days, so asking them to pre-RSVP is pretty pointless.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


You could send out an official invitation with the date and hotel information but without the official venue. That way you could book it later when you (presumably) will have a better idea about who is coming.
posted by Hermes32 at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011


If you're worried about a specific 20 people, call them individually. My step-cousin did this for his recent wedding, and then sent official invites for people who really wanted to go.

But I would suggest not doing it. I work for a caterer, and there are tons of last-minute changes. It's an expected part of booking an event. They ask you to estimate and then give a final count 2 weeks ahead of time. Just make sure your venue will hold both your minimum and maximum expected numbers.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, I wouldn't. Send out save-the-dates with day and city. Wait a few weeks for anyone to tell you -- unprompted -- that they won't be able to make it, then book a venue. Pick a place with a minimum less than the minimum number of people you expect, but could hold everyone you send an invite to.
posted by supercres at 9:25 AM on October 26, 2011


Choose a venue that COULD accommodate all 70, even if you'd be a little packed in. Then breathe a sigh of relief when only 53 RSVP "yes." I believe the standard response rate is to expect 15 - 20% of your invited guests won't be able to make it. But it all depends on how many are coming in from out of town, etc.
posted by egeanin at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That way, we’ll have an idea of the numbers to expect but there will be no hurt feelings or awkward moments if Uncle Jim sends an expression of interest but then RSVPs “no” when the official invites go out. The understanding would be that the expressions of interest are not official RSVPs, but just a loose idea to help us plan.

This is completely contradictory. "Expressions of interest are not official RSVPs" but if the answer changes between EOI and RSVP, there will be "hurt feelings or awkward moments"? If you don't expect peoples answers to change, then the EOI is in fact just an RSVP.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:39 AM on October 26, 2011


Who are these guests? Is it family or close friends? If so, I don't think it's out of line to call people individually and just ask if they think they'll be able to make it, especially if it involves travel. If they have to fly across the country, they might have a better idea of whether they'll be able to come or not.

But really, I agree with everyone that it probably just won't work if you're trying to get an accurate estimate. People change their minds up until the last minute, even after sending in the RSVP. I got married earlier this year, and we had NINE people bail within the last two days or just not show up at all. So I don't think any count you'll get from "expressions of interest" will be accurate if even RSVPs (sent in a few weeks before) can't be counted on.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2011


My friend did a Save the Date Evite that asked for a non-binding rsvp, and then when she sent out her invitations there was a real rsvp card as well.
I didn't mind the evite and rsvping twice at all, and I can be touchy about etiquette.
posted by rmless at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2011


nthing the Save the Date saying "please let us know if you think you will be able to attend"
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on October 26, 2011


I think you'll find as you go through the wedding planning that your biggest headaches are going to come from hoping to have precision about what is happening with your guests. It is like herding cats. Cats who have different levels of what offends them or what is tacky, cats who throw away their save the dates, cats who forget to tell you they are bringing a date, cats who JUST WON'T RSVP. Your friends just might drive you crazy in all of this because they don't realize just how much having some of these details means to you, and trust me that it's just more work than necessary to corrall them into line more times than you have to. That first count you do is NOT goign to be accurate. Don't put yourself through that.

The easiest way to stay cool is to look for venues that are at least minorly flexible with their space configurations. A difference between 50 guests and 70 is not large - we're not talking 200 guests vs 120 guests - we are talking an extra two tables! Your venue should be able to handle that and have a hard capacity range they can give you when you first call: at minimum they need X guests to rent out the space, at maximum they can fit Y.
posted by sestaaak at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


the point behind sending out invites is to plan accordingly. Unfortunately over time the invitations have become an elaborate ritual unto themselves (up to now including an extra level of informal invites, "save the dates") which means that they're steeped in their own issues.

Do what people suggested and find a venue that can handle a couple of other emergency tables.
posted by Phalene at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2011


You can do this, and I don't think its that tacky, but I don't think it'll work. The problem is that a lot of people just don't respond to things. We sent out an email save the date, asking people to please fill out a form where they could give us their addresses (so we could send invitations.) we probably got a 30% response rate on that, which wasn't even remotely asking people to make a decision about whether they'd come or not, and a lot of the people who did reply were no brainers (my parents, etc.) In the end, those 30% WERE helpful (that was 30 fewer addresses we had to track down!) but did nothing for us in terms of planning. Lets say you send something out asking all 70 if they're coming. Even if 3/4 of them respond (again, I think that is pretty unlikely unless you're asking them individually and directly, like on the phone) you still have 17 people about whom you have NO information, which is roughly the margin you're worried about. This won't help you with planning. Just book something that can hold 70 in a pinch, but will be very comfortable at 50. Everyone wont come, but that way, you also won't have to agonize over late requests for +1's.
posted by juliapangolin at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2011


Weddings are such a bizarro world. Isn't the point of getting an RSVP so you can plan accordingly?

Because of how far ahead and how completely venues are booked, you pretty much have to have the venue secured before you can tell people to save the date. It's a bit of a conundrum, but the right solution, as mentioned above, is that you have to just buckle down and spend a few evenings phoning people and putting the question to them directly.
posted by mhoye at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2011


I just went through this with my own wedding where we were debating between venues that held vastly different numbers of people. We tried to aid our decision by individually talking to the people on our guest list who we really didn't know if they'd come, but in the end a lot of the people who said OH YES DEFINITELY ended up not coming, and people who never replied to that request (nor to the RSVP, annoyingly) actually did show up. So, it's kind of a crapshoot.

A range between 50-70 is really not too big. Pick a venue that can hold up to 70 people-- those will typically be smaller venues, so it won't look weird and empty if only 50 actually make it. If you do get a lot of regrets from your RSVPs you can always invite more people at the last minute (some might consider this tacky, but I absolutely don't. People love being invited to things and aren't going to overanalyze why you invited them at the last minute, I swear). And, as others have said, you won't need to worry about more precise guest counts for things like seating and meals until you're a month away from the date.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The other way to do this is to go about it backwards and send out two rounds of invites. Select whichever site you like best, invite a first round of guests (mostly family members) a bit early. Then when they RSVP yes or no, use those numbers to send out a second round of invites.

For ours, it was very small with limited seating, so I'd approached a couple of friends who were sort of nearby and asked if they'd be interested in coming if we have some extra spots on fairly short notice. You can do this gracefully.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really impossible to gauge interest without having to invite someone. I think that bookofdragoness' advice is spot on if you're worried about numbers. Otherwise, if you mention it at all, you need to invite that person.
posted by glaucon at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2011


Because my husband and I decided to get married in the city we live rather than the state that our families live, we had a really big out of town contingent for the wedding. Because I knew that most of my family hate to travel, I pulled them all aside at a family gathering before the wedding and said, "Hey, I love you tons, and I would really, really love for you to be there but I know 5 hours is a long way away. We are going to invite you and it would be great if you came, but don't feel obligated." Then I said the really important part. "We don't expect presents, so please don't feel like the invitation is just a way to ask for presents. We're grown ups and have tons of stuff. We just want you to know we love you and would like you to be there."

It's really important when you are finding out if someone is not coming, to make it clear that the invitation (even though you're sure they won't come) is not about presents.

Sadly, I do think this is a in person/over the phone kind of question rather than an impersonal message kind of thing. We invited 70 and got barely 50. We told the caterers 65-50 and then confirmed for the smaller number after rsvps were in.
posted by teleri025 at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2011


I think all this advice points to the one single thing I took away from wedding planning: your mantra throughout this whole process is not "eliminate uncertainty." Because that is IMPOSSIBLE and it will MAKE YOUR HAIR FALL OUT. Your mantra is "maximize flexibility." That is the only way you will get through this with a big old beaming smile at the end of the day.
posted by sestaaak at 1:55 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You will go crazy trying to do this and you will end up despising your dear family who won't commit that long out to satisfy your basic need to plan the biggest event of your life.

If you choose the smaller venue you may wish to send out invites in two rounds in such a way that you have an A-list and a B-list. As you get declines in the A group send out invites to the B group. This has problems too, but it manages the problem pretty well.
posted by dgran at 2:03 PM on October 26, 2011


If you do the A group and B group invitations, make sure that no one from the A group is likely to talk to the B group. Otherwise you run into the danger of someone from A saying to someone from B, "Oh, isn't OP's invitation pretty?" or something like that, which could be extremely awkward if B person doesn't get his/her invitation until a month later. Even if the two groups don't talk, it could still be awkward if someone posts on your facebook wall about getting the invitations. (Unless you tactfully just tell the people in the B group that they're in the B group like bookdragoness suggests.)
posted by McPuppington the Third at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2011


I was struggling with the same problem planning my wedding, and here's how I estimated. I created an Excel spreadsheet with:

Column A: Name(s)
Column B: # in party
Column C: Likelihood they'll attend. Format this as a Percentage before you get started (so it will display as 50% but really store .5)

At the bottom, wherever you want the total to show up, use this formula:
=SUMPRODUCT(B2:C200)

Where B2:C200 is the range of cells containing the # in party and likelihood they'll attend.

I put 100% for people who I knew would attend (like parents), 0% for people I was just inviting as a courtesy (like faraway family friends), and guessed for the ones in between (most of our out-of-town friends were a 50%).

The estimate was almost exactly the number who ended up coming! As people RSVPed, I typed the real percentage (0 or 100) into the column to make sure I had an updated count.
posted by beyond_pink at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And if you don't have Excel, use a Google Docs spreadsheet - actually, that's what I did!
posted by beyond_pink at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2011


Having just gotten married last month, I agree that (a) you won't get enough responses to be useful, and (b) the responses you get will turn out to be wrong often enough that the entire exercise is futile.

We spent a lot of time looking at various wedding references that said "assume X percent of the people you invite won't come," where X was anywhere from 10 to 35. It wasn't helpful. What we ended up doing was making a spreadsheet of everyone we were planning to invite, and then went through one-by-one and tried to guess whether they would come, using a column to keep a tally. Our guesses weren't perfect, but they helped a lot. It's a lot easier to rely on your actual judgment than a vague sense of "20ish percent" or whatever. We also got our parents to call distant relatives who were being invited to feel out whether they'd be likely to come, since those were people our parents knew better anyway. With only 70 people on your list, it's probably mostly people you know and like and are in touch with, not dad's-business-partner's-daughter, right? So hopefully you can make some educated guesses.

Good luck! I was still calling friends (married friends! who should know better!) for RSVPs 6 days before the wedding, because the final count for the caterer was due 5 days ahead. You'll get through it!
posted by vytae at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Send a save the date as an evite and ask people to RSVP.
posted by whoaali at 4:50 PM on October 26, 2011


This is totally over-complicated. Instituting an unofficial anonymous pre-invitation RSVP is just confusing. What you're describing is exactly the point of the RSVP.
posted by desuetude at 11:46 PM on October 26, 2011


was struggling with the same problem planning my wedding, and here's how I estimated. I created an Excel spreadsheet with:

Column A: Name(s)
Column B: # in party
Column C: Likelihood they'll attend. Format this as a Percentage before you get started (so it will display as 50% but really store .5)

At the bottom, wherever you want the total to show up, use this formula:
=SUMPRODUCT(B2:C200)

Where B2:C200 is the range of cells containing the # in party and likelihood they'll attend.


This is a rad idea and I just used it for my own GDoc wedding list, however for reference the SUMPRODUCT formula in the above example actually needs to be
=SUMPRODUCT(B2:B200,C2:C200)
The SUMPRODUCT function takes two arrays, column B and column C, and multiplies them together then sums the results (this may be different for e.g. Excel but that's how it works in GDocs).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:04 AM on October 27, 2011


no need to do this. book for 50 people. i am a caterer and adding an extra 20 people, even the week before is still 20 extra plates @ $X. i wouldn't turn it down and neither will they. as for the venue, the difference between 20 people shouldn't be much of an issue. barring some really specific odd venues, most places will have room for 70 if they have room for 50. work with the venue and the caterer - they expect these last minute changes.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 4:17 PM on October 27, 2011


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