Get them to the church on time – avoiding the dilemma of no-show guests

Ultimate snub or the reality of modern life – what is it with guests who don’t turn up to your wedding?

We all know that one person who never RSVP’s, always seems to arrive late or cancels at the last minute and invariably forgets to bring dessert to the dinner party, but what happens when it’s not a dinner party but your wedding day?

Perhaps surprisingly, considering how much time, planning and money is invested, not to mention how much notice is normally given, guests not turning up may be more common than you might think and they come in two distinct types – the last minute notifiers and the more insidious no-show(ers)!

It might seem inexcusably rude, not to mention costly, to receive a last minute cancellation but the simple truth is “life happens” and there will always be unavoidable, and understandable, situations that prevent guests getting to your big day. From the prosaic – perhaps sickness or serious injury close to the day – to the extreme – think volcanic ash clouds affecting airlines – there are multitudinous reasons why guests may have to pull out at the last minute. Whilst most people will endeavour top move mountains to be at your nuptial celebration, there are going to be occasions when you get that dreaded call a day out two out that throws your table plan into disarray and leaves you with the dilemma of offering an acquaintance a last minute invitation or seeing good food and money go to waste. The only upside is that those who cancel in this situation are probably as devastated as you and will try and make it up to you for a long time!

But what about “the others” – those who RSVP. the ones who chat excitedly about the big day with you at work in the lead up but mysteriously go missing on the big day, leaving an unexplained absence at a table and a hefty bill without even the courtesy of a phone call, text or email? Of course, it’s not just work colleagues who are guilty of the no-show – more often than not it is family or close friends who unforgivably do a bunk without an apology.

As Kate Moore, Wedding Coordinator at Hamilton Hotel says “It is so disappointing when guests don’t turn up, the couple spends so long planning everything about their special day to a tee and it is devastating when they have to pay for extra meals, furniture & decorations  for people who couldn’t make the effort to let their friends or family know they wouldn’t be attending.”

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So, is there anything you can do to avoid the nightmare scenario of empty seats at your reception? The honest truth is no, not really, but there are a few steps you can take to mitigate the likelihood of no-shows on the day.

1. Consider you guest list

It may sound obvious, but if you know people who are a little unreliable then it might be worth cutting them from the list early on, or perhaps have “ceremony only” invites that allow them to be part of the day but avoid expense in the event that they pull out. Children can be another big factor in last minute withdrawals, especially if you have insisted on a very definite “no-children” policy for your day, so think about how many friends and family have children and what the child-care implications and obligations for them will be. This is especially true for closer family who may have limited affordable options if the majority of the family are intent on attending the big day. The cost of attending can be a big aspect too – yes, you may be paying $250 per head for your guests, but if they have buy new outfits (who doesn’t?), drive for 2 hours to your dream venue, stay overnight at limited accommodation, as well as buy a suitable wedding present, a couple’s expenses could easily  exceed $1000. Whilst close friends and family will spend that the drop of a hat to share your special occasion, there might be some who will baulk at the costs and have doubts the closer the day that leave you with empty seats.

2. Be prepared and monitor RSVPs

The second step you can take to mitigate no-shows is through the invitation and RSVP. The more information your guests have early on, the more chance you have of filling every seat. If choosing a remote location or destination consider including a range of accommodation details and indicative pricing – the more research you do the less your guests will need to and they will be very appreciative! You should also indicate whether you are expecting gifts so be sure to include details of where to see your bridal register or let would-be guests know that there will be a wishing well on the night. You also need to set a realistic and sensible RSVP date and offer multiple ways to actually RSVP – and elderly aunt will appreciate a pre-paid envelope included whereas friends will extent to RSVP via email or possibly text! Your RSVP date should be determined by the cut-off time your venue has indicated for final numbers to be confirmed – making your RSVP date a week earlier than the venue’s should give plenty of time for even the slackest of responders to make a decision and let you know.

3. Friendly reminder

The final step you can take involves a little effort on your behalf, but will be worth it in the long run if you are worried about getting a bill for meals that were never eaten and quite simply is to touch base with everyone in the week before your wedding – a simple email out to the computer savvy with a happy (or quirky) reminder notice, or a quick phone call to the technophobes should allow you to allay any fears about attendance. It’s not rude, it’s not being a bridezilla, it’s just a polite and sensible precaution, especially if you are paying a high price per head for your reception. Contacting guests just before the day also puts the pressure on them to attend – they will feel decidedly more guilty backing out if they have heard from you a couple of days out from the wedding than they would if the last formal contact was the invitation. If anyone is game enough to back out at this point then at least you have a couple of days to find a last minute replacement – no one really wants to be a last-minute invitee, but if you have a list of possibles then someone will accept – just be very wary of inviting them +1.

For the final word we’ll leave it to Leonie Clothier, owner of the prestigious Mirra Private Dining and Events in Brisbane who sums up things perfectly:

As far as I’m concerned, guests who are a ‘no-show’ at wedding receptions really have something to answer for. Unless there is a valid reason, the investment from the bride in groom in terms of both time and money, is disrespected with the guests not turning up. From a venue perspective, there are financial and layout ramifications. Food and beverage orders are placed based on the final numbers provided, with time and expense spent to prep the meals ready for service. The room is then set for a specific guest number so the impact from the missing guests on photography and table seating plan is also felt. If a guest is no longer able to attend the reception, the courteous thing to do is to provide notice to the bride and groom as soon as possible. This gives the couple the opportunity to invite new guests in their place. There are always family & friends who will accept a last minute invitation and only too willing to join the celebrations!”

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Image Credits:
Venue Hamilton Hotel | Photo Masterpieces Photography + Video | Gown When Freddie met Lilly | Hair Whisk Hair Ashgrove | Makeup Blissful Makeup | Sylist Celebrations by Alysia | Model Katz Models
Venue Mirra Private Dining and Events at Style Masters 2015

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