4 Ways to Estimate Guests for Your Event

Whether you're planning a wedding reception or a corporate event, you need an accurate estimate of guests for the caterer. If you estimate too many people, you'll lose out on money you could spend on other aspects of your event. Even worse – if you estimate too few guests; your guests might go hungry.

Use these tips and tricks to get the most accurate guest estimate for your event.

1. Send RSVP Cards

The traditional way to get an early guest estimate is to send RSVP cards along with the event invitations. Send out the invitations and RSVP cards six to eight weeks before the event. This gives out-of-town guests enough time to plan their trip.

On the RSVP cards, inform guests whom to contact and by what date. Set the RSVP date soon after you send the cards-within a few weeks-so guests don't forget.

Keep in mind that many people will forget to RSVP. You may need to call or email those who haven't responded to get a more accurate count.

2. Use Google Forms

If most of your guests are young and tech savvy, you can use web tools and social media to create your guest estimate. This gives you a very accurate count and requires minimal work on your part.

First, set up an online form, such as a Google Form, to track guest information. To do so, you'll need to create a spreadsheet where you'll store names, addresses, and how people many from each family will attend. Then, you'll create a survey that asks for guests' responses and then links guests' responses to your spreadsheet.

Make the link to your survey available to guests by posting a link to the form through a social media site like Facebook. Guests click on the form and fill out the information, and all the information is automatically stored in your spreadsheet.

If some of your guests don't use computers or social media, you can contact them individually and enter their response manually.

3. Use a Calculation

The caterer may ask for a general guest estimate weeks before the event. If you don't have a complete count yet, there are a few tricks you can use to estimate your guest count.

For local guests, plan for 85% of the invitees to attend. Don't forget to add spouses and children if they are invited.
For out-of-town guests, plan on 55% of them to attend. However, if most of them are close family, your estimate could be higher – as high as 85%.

Use the following equation to estimate your guests:

(Number of out-of-town guests x 0.65) + (Number of local guests x 0.85) = total estimate

You can always get a more exact estimate as time goes on. Do your best to let your caterer know your final count several weeks before the event.

4. Invite a Set Number of Guests

Another way to ensure you have an accurate count is to decide on a set number of guests that can attend. Create an "A" list of guests that meets this number. Then, create a backup "B" list. Invite the guests on your A list first and wait for their RSVPs. Once you find out how many people can't come, invite that number of people from your B list.

This way, you won't have many unexpected surprises in the number of guests. But using this method depends on whether you have enough B-list guests in mind.

In order to ensure that you have enough food for all your guests, make sure you have an accurate guest count. Use any of the methods above that work best for your event. Then get ready to plan all the other details so your event goes flawlessly.

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