The Final Number

Yup, we have “the number.”

A giant stack of RSVPs

A little under a month out from the wedding and we now know our guest count. The number that all factors can be multiplied by, one to use when putting together the seating chart and, more importantly, the number of family and friends that we are SO excited to celebrate with in May!!

And that number is…


Apologies, Hive, but I’m a data girl and so you’ll have to deal with me as I share with you the way that our number came to be.

I am always interested in hearing RSVP stories – how the attendance shakes out, what % of out of town guests are attending versus local and, mostly, the responses that had to be shaken out of guests. I promise to share all this with you today! Also, I can’t help but share with you some tips and insights – basically things I wish I knew beforehand.

First up, the responses. All our RSVP cards were addressed to Turkey Mom & Dad, as they are the hosts for the evening. So, each day, at around 3PM, we would receive an RSVP email from Turkey Mom. It usually looked something like this:

Wow I had to blur out a lot – sorry for the ugly picture

Turkey Mom included the response card’s number and guest names, when she was able to read them…or they wrote something.

Tip #1: Number your response cards

We had one guest who didn’t put their name on the RSVP and others where we couldn’t read the names. May be worth noting that we did not go “stealth” in our numbering (I just wrote a number in blue pen on the back) and it didn’t cause any issues. In fact, when I was telling a story at the shower about the RSVP without a name, everyone said “where was the number?”

The responses coming from Turkey Mom became a fun family email chain each day. In fact, when you take a look at the email after hers above, you see a response from me that covers the game (yes, game) that we created around the guest list. We had 2 measurements – first, the date when we would receive the first “no” and second, the final guest count. Mr. Turkey had the first “no” date exactly and Turkey Mom was only 1 guest off in the final count.

Insight #1: The RSVP process isn’t just fun for the bride and groom…

Tip #2: …involve your family (or friends)!

Now let’s get into the numbers. We gave about 5 1/2 weeks for guests to respond and the “YES” RSVPs were spread out during the time period we gave them.

NOTE: All info is based on invitations, not people (so, one invite could be 1 person or 4).

This are all our YES responses during the RSVP time period; C = Mr. Turkey, R = Miss Turkey

Week 2 was when we received the bulk of our RSVPs, but Week 1 had an impressive showing, especially when you consider that there were only 2 mail days for responses (based on when we sent out the invites). Our first NO came in Week 2 and then didn’t see many others until Weeks 5 and 6. I guess people wanted to wait to give bad news!

Speaking of bad news, I’ll outline ours now. Here are our Nos, late RSVPs and those that are still missing (we are over a week past the deadline).

Although my “side” had a higher number of “Nos” (50% known beforehand), Mr. Turkey’s side required “hunting”

Believe it or not, the late and missing RSVPs accounted for over 20 people!

Despite missing cards, we were able to beat secure responses from all but one guest at this point (we’ve just assumed they’re not coming…hopefully that’s right). I have also come to peace with the fact that we probably won’t recoup the remaining 6 response cards (won’t be part of the scrapbook).

Insight #2: You WILL have to hunt down guests

Although this wasn’t a huge shock, we did think that the generous timeframe for our guests to respond would reduce the amount of “shakedown” necessary. Yeah, no.

My advice would be to give yourself a buffer between your RSVP date and when you actually need the responses…and have fun emailing / calling / texting for answers! We divided and conquered through the 2 families and we were able to get everything without too much pain.

Now that you see how our invitations came in (and when), let’s get back to the number.

184 meant that 86% of our guests accepted their invitation (wow!).

Mr. Turkey & Turkey Dad give a “thumbs up” for the guest count

That percentage increases to 88% when you take out the +1s for those guests who are leaving their significant other at home (three had to work, one lives abroad and one has another wedding). If you want to really stretch it, we had 91% acceptance if you add on the guests we knew weren’t coming from the beginning (due to inability to travel or immovable engagements – like graduations).

However, any way you cut it, we had a pretty healthy acceptance rate.

Tip #3: Don’t assume 20% of your guests will decline

Maybe it’s just one of those rules of thumb that run within wedding circles, but we had heard that we should expect at least a 20% decline rate. As you can see, we only had a small percentage of guests say no beyond those we already knew were not attending. With our current venue, this number is not an issue, but our original venue had some constraints and such a strong acceptance could have caused some logistical problems (and given us heart palpitations through the process).

Our acceptance rate was also surprising when you consider that more than half of our guests are coming from out of town (64% to be exact). The majority of these guests are from my “side”, but Mr. Turkey has over 30 friends traveling for the weekend plus a number of family members crossing state lines for the wedding. And although we do have guests coming from nearby states (New Jersey, Maryland, DC), there are a decent number coming from the South, West Coast, Midwest, upper New England and even abroad. I won’t bore you with that breakdown. :)

Insight #3: We are lucky.

Yup, we’re lucky to have as many people as we do willing to take the time (and money) necessary to travel for our wedding day. This is part of the reason why we’ve been so focused on coming up with ideas to “entertain” our guests outside the wedding and will be trying to welcome them to Philly in the best way possible (a post on guest bags later).

We want the City of Brotherly Love to love them back! (personal photo)

The final breakdown is by “side”. We split the guest list 50:50 and, in the end, it almost matched up exactly! There are also a number of folks who were arbitrarily assigned to a side (like those we worked with at the company where we met)…this will have to play into our decisions about seating at the church later.

So close, we can barely tell which side is which!

I hope I haven’t sufficiently bored you all with my data analysis and maybe even gave a few helpful tips / insights for those of you “waiting” or just about to send out your invites (exciting!).

How did your guest list break down? Did you (over) analyze the information?


Mrs. Turkey

Wedding Date:
May 2012
Honeys Do: An Obstacle of a Recessional
Save the Dates Can Wait
Add a comment


  1. Member
    Eulalia 169 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:30 am

    What a thorough breakdown! Glad you are so well loved! Woohoo!

  2. Member
    PeaceLoveLaughter 685 posts, Busy bee @ 5:30 am

    You and my boss would be in love with each other, you Data Queen, you.


    Our RSVP’s are starting to come in and I love it!

  3. Member
    mdove07 8 posts, Newbee @ 5:43 am

    Thank you! I’m a data person, too. Out of curiosity, would you say that most of your no’s came at the end of the RSVP time frame? That’s something I’ve been wondering about.

  4. Member
    kmnowlan 207 posts, Helper bee @ 6:25 am

    What a helpful post Miss T! (also, as I always say, your posts make me miss home sooo much- Oh Philly, how much I miss you!) Anyway, I wish this post was here before I got married because I would have printed out tip #3 and brought it to our event coordinator who insisted we would have 20% of people decline. I kindly told her before any invites were sent that my entire family lives within an hour and we are a very close group of friends and family! I predicted that maybe 10% would decline. She, however, insisted that wedding rules are rules for a reason. Well, needless to say- she was wrong! Our decline rate was about the same as yours maybe even a little smaller if you can believe it- I think around 8%! People sure do like coming to the Philadelphia/South Jersey area for weddings =P

  5. Member
    littleprettyliz 358 posts, Helper bee @ 6:27 am

    I love the analytics- very helpful! We just sent out our RSVPs this week. Got our first one back in the mail already (only 2 days after I mailed them! Crazy!). If by your statistics, most come in on the second week- that falls into next week which I will be at a Conference all week away from home. Then off to Fiji for a week and will not get to see the RSVPs come in. Talk about perfect timing :( At least the Fiance will get to open them and share the excitement over the phone with me!!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    KimbeeQ, Guest @ 6:43 am

    I hate to assume 20% or more will decline. We really want to stay around 175, which is a required minimum at our venue, but we dont want to exceed 200 because then we have to start adding tables in weird places… I have no idea how that is going to work out. How many people did you invite total? Most of our guest list lives within an hour from our venue so I have a feeling we are going to have a low % of no’s.

  7. Member
    MrsKeAloha 1044 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:46 am

    We sent our out 9 days ago. So far only email responses. To which I wanted to reply… Mahalo, I can’t wait to see you. Ps. I love getting mail please toss the response card in the mail.
    Honestly, I did not want electronic response so I hope they use the stamp I already placed and mail it back. So far nothing but text and emails

  8. unicycle Member
    unicycle 476 posts, Helper bee @ 6:52 am

    I love this post so much! But you’re making me nervous that we’ll have too many guests now. I never thought that was something I’d worry about…we definitely invited more ppl than the venue can hold…

  9. Member
    BreeninBoston 160 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:55 am

    I LOVE Rsvp breakdown posts (yes, I am a huge dork). This was one of the best I have ever seen! I love your helpful advice and your informative graphs!

  10. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:59 am

    I really loved this post! Maybe it’s the nerd in me, but I always enjoy the breakdowns. :)
    You are such a lucky girl to be so loved by family and friends!

  11. Member
    Missido 813 posts, Busy bee @ 7:50 am

    Thank you for sharing this info Ms. Turkey! Very useful. (I’m sending out the invites next month.)

  12. msdragon Member
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 7:57 am

    I’m excited to break ours down — but with only 50-ish people I’m sure it will be not that exciting. 😛

  13. Member
    cancanny 61 posts, Worker bee @ 8:00 am

    i am jealous of the # of your timely responders! we have 1 more day before people are supposed to have RSVPed and… 34 invites haven’t come back (for a total of 63 people!) We know some of them, but this is only 20 people less than are coming to the wedding so far!! Sheesh. Did not expect it to be this bad!

  14. Member
    gonnabeMrsHH 466 posts, Helper bee @ 8:04 am

    Great post! We have not send out invites yet, but Im sure my FI will excited to have a breakdown like u did (he’s a real numbers guy :)

  15. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:12 am

    Geeky bride here, loves data breakdown posts.. :)

  16. Member
    Melissaw906 5 posts, Newbee @ 8:32 am

    What a great tip about numbering the RSVP response cards. We just sent out our invitations as well and I have already gotten an rsvp with out a name. I wish I could have read this a week ago.

  17. Member
    SnowflakeDS 334 posts, Helper bee @ 8:43 am

    Love the detailed analysis!

  18. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 8:45 am

    Love your detailed breakdown! It’s so awesome that you’ve had such an affirmative response rate!

  19. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:47 am

    I’m in week 2 and the rush of cards that were returned in week 1 has dwindled. :( I think we’ve gotten 1 response per day this week.

  20. coyote Member
    coyote 1960 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:12 am

    Wow, thank you for this breakdown! I am a nerd and love reading about the RSVP breakdowns. Our RSVPs are being sent to my parents’ too so I’m excited for the email chain that I’m sure will follow! 😀

  21. Member
    new york bride 13 334 posts, Helper bee @ 9:13 am

    I love the break down! Even though our invites won’t go out for a while (we’re still a year from sending out our Save the Dates!), I love looking at the data. I can’t wait to start getting responses and breaking down all of the date. I’ve already got a few charts of FI family vs. my family vs. my friends vs. FI friends just to see how it all plays out!

  22. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:26 am

    Love your charts and graphs, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff! It’s so wonderful that so many people are able to make it, even though the are coming from out of town. We’re in a similar boat (with the majority of people needing to cross state lines), so I’m interested to see how our numbers turn out!

  23. Member
    esoretihw 41 posts, Newbee @ 5:03 pm

    Thanks for the info! Over 75% of our guest list is out of state, and I was thinking that there was no way a good number will come. Now, I know that there is some hope that more people will be willing to travel.

  24. turkey Member
    turkey 654 posts, Busy bee @ 6:28 pm

    @mdove07: Yes – most of the no responses came near the end.

    @kmnowlan: That’s crazy that she didn’t listen to you!!

    @littleprettyliz: Oh no! Sorry you won’t be there to collect them, but hope your fiance sends you daily emails (with pictures) :)

    @KimbeeQ: We invited just over 214, but we knew that 9 of the people weren’t coming from the beginning. So I guess you can call it 205.

  25. turkey Member
    turkey 654 posts, Busy bee @ 6:32 pm

    @Miss Ke Aloha: I would totally ask them to send back the response!!

    @Miss Unicycle: Sorry to make you nervous!! I’m sure it will work out – it always seems to.

    @BreeninBoston: Glad it was helpful!

    @cancanny: Wow – people need get on the stick!!

    @Melissaw906: Sorry the advice didn’t help you – do you have a way to figure out the mystery guest?

    @Miss Mink: Perhaps you had “more” of week 1? We only had 2 days that week, so it could be slightly skewed!

  26. turkey Member
    turkey 654 posts, Busy bee @ 6:33 pm

    @Miss Coyote: The emails chain were really fun!

    @new york bride 13: A girl to my own heart :)

    @esoretihw: I am sure you will be surprised!

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