3/9 Ask Liz About Guest Lists and Guest Blocks

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I know, I know, two weeks in a row. People email me and ask stuff, stuff you might want to know, too, and I didn’t want to wait. This is not a precedent. Most likely. 🙂

Only so much room...table and budget-wise. Photo courtesy of Brett Arthur Weddings

Dear Liz,

My mother is contributing to part of our wedding, so when she told us we had to invite certain friends from her college days, I obliged even though our guest count is already higher than I’d like because every guest means another $100+ in catering and I know that keeping the guest count low is one of the best ways to keep costs down.

At the time, she assured me that one of her college friends didn’t need a plus one because we’re not super-close and he and his SO are not engaged, married, or living together (which was apparently what Emily Post told my mother should be the deciding factor on whether guests get a plus one). We addressed the Save the Date just to him, but when my mother spoke to him, he hinted that he and his SO would be attending.

Now she says I should plan on both of them attending, but I feel that she should be able to politely explain that we’re on a budget and we’re also up against the space constraints of the venue so we’re not able to accommodate plus one’s for every guest. Obviously, if they both show up, we’ll graciously accommodate them, but I think there’s plenty of time to clear up this confusion and avoid guest creep. She’s offered a lump sum so my groom and I will have to absorb the cost of the extra plus one (whom we’ve never met). What’s the appropriate way to handle this?


List Locked

Dear List,

Well, there are a couple of things going here, both of which can get pretty touchy.  First of all, these are your Mom’s guests, and I get that you don’t want to put her in  position where she has to un-invite them to her daughter’s wedding. Definitely start by telling her that, and that you’re grateful for the money she’s given you.  Leading with the truth is always a good idea! But remind her that It’s $100 + (be VERY specific about the cost) if he brings his SO. And then stop talking and let her reply.

Do NOT go into how you may have cut your own guest list to accommodate both your budget and the venue. Do NOT go into how you don’t understand why she didn’t ask you if it was okay first, or just tell him “No” in the first place. It’s done, and that’s only going to put her on the defensive.

If she does ask about the money that she already gave you, tell  her that you’ve already it used for whatever you’ve already used it for. Again, be specific. And calm. If you haven’t used all of the money yet, tell her what you were going to use it for.

She will probably do one of two things, or maybe both. She will say that she will give you the money for the extra guest, or say that another $100 or so isn’t a big deal. Since, again, you don’t want to put her in an awkward situation, you should give her the option of paying for the SO, if she wants.

But here’s the second thing: you’re worried about this extra guest, sure, but you’re really worried about the next extra guest. So, however it is that she responds, remind her that the venue capacity is X, and right now you stand at Y. You (use “We” since you’re all in this together) can’t invite any more people after this, especially at $200+ a couple. Ask her if she can agree  to draw the line with this couple. Ask, not tell.

And remember – don’t get angry, just be calm and clear. Good luck.

Such a simple building to be so filled with questions, you know?

Dear Liz,

I’m SUPER confused about his whole hotel block thing. First, we live in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. Our families are coming for a week to 10 days before the wedding to help, and a lot of our guests are from out of town. I’m happy to find a block of rooms at one of the two hotels in the 20 minute drive radius from us but… how do I do that? What’s the budget for something like that? Do I have to pay a deposit for the rooms? What if I reserve ten rooms and only 2 people book? Am I stuck covering the remaining rooms? Or do I just list a bunch of hotels on our website and let people handle reserving them themselves?


Room Blocked

Dear Blocked,

Call each hotel and ask for their sales or catering department. Not reservations. They are the ones who deal with larger bookings. I talk about this in my book, but what you want is called a “complimentary” block of rooms. They might have another term for it, but basically, you tell them you need 10 rooms for your guests, or however many, and they give you a discounted rate, and a deadline for when they need to be booked. Rooms in your block that are not booked lose the discounted rate after the deadline, but you’re not responsible for paying for them. Usually you have to sign a contract to that effect.
There is also a second type called a “closed” block. It starts out the same – you reserve 10 rooms,  they give you a discount and  a deadline to book them, BUT if a certain percentage of rooms isn’t booked, you have to pay for them. So, say you reserve 10 rooms, your contract says that you’re responsible for 80 percent of them, but by the time your deadline comes around only 7 have been booked? You have to pay for the 8th room.

The complimentary block is preferable, obviously, but if you do have to sign a contract for a closed block, stick to the minimum number of rooms that they will let you reserve, and start keeping track a couple of weeks after you send out the invites. And you can always add more rooms to either block later on. Subtracting isn’t as easy, though. And, with either block type,  ask how many days out it’s  good for. In other words, some of your guests are coming the day before the weddings, your families for over a week. Make sure that the rates they give you apply to all of those days.

So, are you having problems with your parent’s growing guest list? Any questions about securing a hotel block? Let us all know in the comments below!

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith is the owner of Silver Charm Events, a wedding planning service in Los Angeles. She's also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of "DIY Your DOC: Do-it Yourself Wedding Day Coordination." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.