The Numbers Game

One of the most exciting things about preparing for our wedding was finding out who would be able to come and celebrate with us. When we were receiving RSVPs our main focus was who would be able to celebrate with us on our wedding day, but we were also concerned with the counts. On the one hand, even though we had budgeted for the (unlikely) scenario that each and every one of our 258 invited adult guests would RSVP yes, that was a BIG, scary number. On the other hand, given that so many of our guests would have to fly to attend our wedding, we knew that there was some chance that we wouldn’t meet our minimum of 200 guests.

rsvp wonka

Image credit: Quick Meme

There are many ways to derive predictions of who will attend your wedding. Mrs. Squid gave a great review of some of the more popular techniques in her post here. My estimation technique was something similar to Mrs. Squid’s 90/10 (probably attending/probably not attending) in that I assigned individual predicted values to everyone on the guest list under two scenarios.

A “Projected Guest Count (Low)” and a “Projected Guest Count (Mid)”—for each I tried to make a realistic prediction about whether or not the guest would come; for the low I used not exactly “worst case” but “less than ideal,” and for the mid I used “if things went well” type reasoning.

The difference between this and other techniques is that I used a more varied measure of attendance (values between 0.10 and 1) than 90/10, and I tried to give a little more nuance then just out of town, flying, etc., because we had some guests who would fly cross country that were a definite and some guests that were relatively local that I wasn’t sure about. In other words, I made entirely subjective (if moderately systematic) guesses about who would come and who wouldn’t.

guest counts

It turns out my “Low” count was the closest to the actual RSVP count. The low prediction had 181.4 adults attending, which would be a 70.3% acceptance rate, and we actually had 190 adults RSVP “Yes,” which is a 73.6% acceptance rate. To be honest, in the frenzy I wasn’t really paying attention to our overall acceptance rate. Looking at it afterward, I was a smidge sad; but this article on A Practical Wedding put it in perspective for me, showing that we’re actually at the high end of acceptance rates for a large wedding.

Given that we were under our minimum we invited my parents’ new neighbors and some of my colleagues from work. Since we had to pay for 200 adults, we were going to have 200 people there* come hell or high water!

The breakdown of our acceptances looks like this:


I know this graph looks SUPER skewed—as though 75% of the guests at our wedding were “mine.” In reality, the assignment of a guest to Mr. Crab (red) or to me (blue) was pretty arbitrary. Since we’ve been together so long many of my friends are now our mutual friends and vice versa. For the simplicity of the graph, I’ve assigned a guest to him or to me based on who brought the person into our lives. Lucky for me, it never bothered Mr. Crab that only about one quarter of the guests were “his,” but it’s probably because neither of us even considered an equally proportioned guest list.

How close did you get with your guest-list predictions? Did you have a super skewed guest list? Was it a problem?

*Turns out we did end up paying for guests that did not attend. Ultimate sad face.


Mrs. Crab

July 10
Classifieds: February 9, 2015
I Bought a Pre-Loved Wedding Dress
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  1. walrus Bee
    Mrs. Walrus 187 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:50 am

    You had a really good turnout considering all your guest were from out of town!

  2. pyramid Bee
    Mrs. Pyramid 104 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:02 am

    ooo numbers and graphs make me happy 😀 For my job, we do a lot of low-mid-high predictions, so seeing how your actual fell right in the middle of those makes the statistical side of my brain happy!

    But on the bride-side of my brain, I’m sorry you had to end up paying for people who didn’t show!

  3. msnarwhalbee Bee
    Mrs. Narwhal 87 posts, Worker bee @ 6:53 am

    Next to details and stationary posts, I have to say these are some of my favourite posts. I just love seeing the breakdown of guests.

    That seriously sucks you had to pay for people that rsvped no. Hopefully not too many people!!

    Only in the wedding world do you secretly hope for no’s, but want EVERYONE to come. It’s such a weird balance… wanting everyone on your list to be there but when you look at the large number, you get a bit of panic. Every time one of my out of town guests tell me they’re coming I’m so excited and filled with surprise that they’re making the trip! It’s such a huge shock people are paying hundreds of dollars to travel for US! What?! So… my guessimations so far are way off!

  4. mssquid Bee
    Mrs. Squid 49 posts, Newbee @ 7:20 am

    Nerds unite! Love your graphs and detailed breakdown! Our guest list was heavily skewed to my side too, but it never seemed to bother Mr. S. Did you have to pay for extra guests to meet the minimum or were they no-show’s? Either way, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

  5. msbordercollie Bee
    Mrs. Border Collie 102 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:54 am

    I am seriously laughing at “Mrs San Quentin” (tho, I am probably one of the only few). I assume you worked there? haha. Guest lists are stressful. If memory services, I totally had more guests at our wedding than Mr. BC. But only because I had some out of state family came (which rocked!), but skewed the numbers in my favor. I heart pie charts.

  6. mscrab Bee
    Mrs. Crab 60 posts, Worker bee @ 8:12 am

    @msnarwhalbee – I LOVE these posts too! Statistics make me swoon.

    @pyramid & @mssquid – We had a few no-shows (a couple of which absolutely could have been avoided). I’m considering writing a post about it but so far I haven’t been able to pull myself together enough. It’s so maddening!

    @walrus & @msnarwhalbee – We were SO ecstatic when out of town guests would RSVP yes. I sent a lot of “Just got your RSVP – I’m DYING of happiness” texts. We were stoked about everyone but some people went above and beyond – our friends flew out from California with both their daughters (thankfully they had family in town) – an incredible gift!

    @msbordercollie – HA! I was wondering if anyone would pick that up. Should have known you would notice. Yes, I taught in the Prison University Project when I was living in the Bay. These were friends from the faculty of that program.

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    Sunflower, Guest @ 10:39 am

    Our RSVP return is diiiiismal. We’re still waiting on a few stragglers to come in, but it’s looking like our acceptance rate will be around 41%. It makes me sad, but…hey, consolation prize? We’ll save thousands of dollars. Saving a lot of money is never a BAD thing…even though we’d prefer to have our people with us that day.

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