How Many People Can You Stuff in a VW Bug? How Many Wedding Guests Can You Fit on Vieques Island?

Hola! When I first opened this wedding planning business on Vieques, I was warned by a few of my less optimistic friends that all I would get would be two-person ceremonies and pregnant brides. Nice, eh? I ignored them, and now I’m so glad I did. So far, I’ve only done a couple of tiny weddings and all the rest are of pretty good size with decent budgets. No pregnant brides yet — but I’ll be happy to plan their weddings if they call!

Lately, potential clients seem to be coming to me with bigger and bigger guest lists. For some reason, everybody seems to think that nobody is going to travel to Vieques for their wedding, and then they send out the invitations and find out that most of the people they’ve invited are actually planning to attend the big event. Suddenly, we have a guest list of 80 people instead of 60. Or 100 instead of 75. A significant change in the number of guests you’re anticipating will seriously impact your budget. It means you need more food, more booze, more seating, more china, more servers, more bartenders, more wedding favors, more bathrooms, and more space!

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. If you’ve got an emergency fund to cover your costs for suddenly increasing the size of your guest list by 25 or more percent. And if the venue you’ve chosen can actually hold that many people.

I have a bride this January who hired me to plan a wedding for 60 that has turned into a wedding for 85. Her mom is generously covering the costs over the initial budget, but the venue just isn’t big enough to hold 85 for a seated dinner. It won’t really work for a buffet either. The bottom line is that we can’t plan to seat all 85 guests at the same time and still have room for people to move around. So we’ve had to back up and punt. The style of the wedding reception has moved from formal to a more loosey-goosey cocktail style reception with food stations scattered across the area instead of one long buffet table. I think it’s going to be gorgeous, and I believe the bride and her mother will both be very pleased with the result. But that’s because they’re both very relaxed and they’re willing to take my advice on these matters. Not every bridal couple is so flexible.

I guess the moral of the story here is that you need to be realistic about the size of your wedding guest list. Your wedding planner will have tricks to help you get real numbers and commitments from your guests as early as possible, but it’s up to you to use self-control when you and your fiancé make up your guest list. With the exception of elderly relatives who you know won’t be able to travel but must be invited, don’t invite anyone you don’t want to see at your wedding. You can’t assume that anybody will not come. Everybody might come. Don’t invite more guests than you can afford to feed and water, and don’t invite more guests than the reception venue you’ve chosen can hold. Some venues will throw down the gauntlet and refuse to hold your reception if you go too far over their established limit.

Look, I don’t mean to sound like a party pooper. I love a big wedding as much as the next wedding planner. I just like brides to really think about their guest lists for a destination wedding. If you have 300 people on your list that you absolutely must have at your wedding, you might be a better candidate for a traditional wedding in your home town. Or you might want to invite 60 of those people to your actual destination wedding and then have a reception back home afterward for the rest of your friends and family.

I’m not saying you can’t have a big destination wedding in the Caribbean — you can. But a big wedding on an island is just as expensive as a big wedding at home. And you definitely need to hire a wedding planner!

Happy Wedding Planning!

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