I remember the day when, in response to my future mother-in-law's (FMIL) request to invite Great Uncle Kelly to the wedding, I wheeled around crazy-eyed, and screamed, “No More Diaper Changers!”
It wasn't my best moment.
She was suggesting yet another wedding guest and I was coming off the rails emotionally.
I was footing the entire bill for our wedding and I'd had enough of the additional, eleventh-hour guest requests. If I heard “But they changed Dustin's diapers” one more time, I was going postal.
We were three weeks out from the wedding. I already mailed the invitations, booked the venue, and ordered tables, chairs and dinnerware.
The full implications of inviting additional guests was hitting me in the gut every time I heard my FMIL chime, “You know who else we should invite?”
When One Wedding Guest Equals 10
The tables and chairs posed the biggest problem. I had ordered just enough tables for 100 wedding guests. That's 8 people per table for a grand total of 13 tables. I had two extra seats. That's it. Those seat we're filled quickly and now we were looking at inviting “Dan and Carole,” which would mean renting another table, another 10-pack of plates, an additional 10-pack of napkins, and extra 10-packs of forks, spoons, and knives. I would also have to account for extra centerpieces and extra favors.
I really did want to please my new family. I love them. And I truly wanted to invite everyone. But I refused to go into debt over a wedding.
Another couple, another table, another bundle of place settings was simply not in the budget.
In hindsight, I realize that my mother-in-law just wanted to show off her son. She wanted everyone (especially the ones who knew him as a baby or a little boy) to see what a fine man he turned out to be, to see his beautiful bride, and to celebrate this new and exciting turning point in his life.
But all I saw was an exploding budget.
Understand Your Cost-per-Guest
Look, everyone is on a budget. It doesn't matter if you have a $25K budget or a $70K budget. Someone is monitoring the bottom line, and that someone very likely wants to avoid blowing their budget. This could be you, it could be your parents, it could be your partner's grandparents.
Whoever is minding the budget should understand the basic cost-per-guest.
In the end I learned to explain the situation and break down the cost per guest for her. I would say something like:
Each guests costs $75 dollars, and by adding these two guests we would also have to rent additional tables, chairs and place settings. The place settings come in 10 packs. I would have to add a table for these two guests so the total costs for these two additional guests would be: $750. We are at our budgetary limit, but if you would like to contribute $750 I'd be happy to invite them.
Most of the time she wasn't interested in paying for people she had fallen out of touch with. And most of the time she simply didn't know how much everything was costing. I learned that freaking out didn't help. Rather, it was my job to educate and give options.
- Know your cost per guest. Knowing that 2 extra people will cost an extra $750 is key to understanding what “just two more people” actually means to your bottom line. And maybe you'd like to spend that money elsewhere: an extra hour of dancing, a bigger bouquet, engagement pictures, a couple's spa treatment. I'm not saying these things are more important than your wedding guests. But if you are in a situation where neither you nor your groom know the people your parents want to invite, and you are paying for your own wedding, you need to understand the trade-off you're making for strangers.
- Once your guest list is solidified and your tables, chairs and utensils are ordered, keep careful track of that seating chart. You may find that adding extra guests is more of an expense than a straight cost-per-guest break down. If you find yourself adding a whole new table and 10-packs of place settings for two guests, your costs for those two additional wedding guests may be double or triple the average. Conversely, you may find that two extra guests are really no big deal.
To figure out your cost per guest, check out Valley & Co's excellent post on calculating your costs per guest.