It's an uncommon problem, but if this does happen to you, there are things you can do to remedy the situation—without pulling together a B-list of invitees.

By Blythe Copeland
February 18, 2020
ryan shep wedding invitations surrounded by jewelry and floral decor

After all the time you spent politely explaining to your future mother-in-law that your reception space isn't big enough to host her entire bridge club and encouraging your father to trim his second cousins from your guest list, ending up with a final guest count that doesn't meet your venue's minimum creates a whole new set of problems to solve: Not only did you commit to spending a certain amount of money, but you might also be facing a room that feels too big for your group or a disappointing turnout from the friends you expected to pack the dance floor. But making a few small changes to your plans, you can absolutely salvage your party—and make it even better than you anticipated.

Do: Upgrade your menu—and your bar.

"Leveling up the food and beverage experience is a great way to make up the minimum," says Gretchen Culver, owner and creative director of Rocket Science Events in Minneapolis. Add an additional course to your menu, opt for an elaborate dessert table, or choose a to-go snack for guests at the end of the evening. "Offering a completely hosted bar, adding a signature cocktail, or selecting premium wines to serve at dinner are easy ways to enhance your guest experience and meet your minimum," says Culver. "On the food side of things, adding hors d'oeuvres or an experiential food station are fun, unexpected ways to wow your guests."

Don't: Consider a different venue.

By the time the RSVPs come back, you've missed your chance to move your wedding's location. Not only are you under contract, but all of your other decisions—from the floral chandeliers to the formality of your bridal party's attire—have been made around your venue, and the guests who accepted your invitation did so with your spot in mind. "It's too late to switch venues," says Culver. "You have set an expectation for your guests and it is time to get creative on how to deliver. Use the money you need to spend to give your nearest and dearest the VIP treatment."

Do: Ask your venue for their suggestions.

Remember, you and your venue representative have the same goal: a flawless and unforgettable evening. "Your venue should work with you to come up with creative ways to meet your minimum—it is in their best interest," says Culver. "Be honest and ask for their help. They might have some really great ideas they haven't had the opportunity to showcase before, and it is a win-win." Though switching rooms within the same venue might not be possible—especially if a space is fully booked in peak season—thoughtful touches can make a small party feel intimate instead of bare. "If your guest count shrinks, size up your décor," says Culver. "Adding in soft seating or other lounge vignettes takes up a lot of real estate, making the space feel full and intentional."

Don't: Try to put together a B-list.

"If your final total is less than anticipated and you need to meet minimums, the first thought would be to add guests, but don't!" says Culver. "Unless you had a B-list from the beginning, don't invite more people to make up the difference. You are going to be spending money on people that you don't really value having at your wedding." If you're concerned that your smaller-than-expected guest list is missing some crucial party people, a thoughtfully-worded invitation to the later part of your reception can inject some second-act energy into your evening. "You might want to consider inviting a few friends for post-dinner dancing to help you with increasing the bar tab and eating late-night snacks," says Culver. "But be careful with this strategy, as you want your "reception only" friends to feel just as welcome and taken care of as your other guests."


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