The question that many professionals in the wedding industry often hear. Should couples invite wedding guests to the dance portion of the wedding reception and not the dinner?
Many couples opt to have a smaller ceremony, smaller reception and invite a larger amount of guests to the dance portion. However the question is, why do couples opt to do so? One of the most expensive parts of a wedding is the reception when there is food and beverages provided for guests. The reception can account for about a third of the wedding budget and when inviting only a limited number of guests to the reception, the reception costs would be lower. Therefore, couples have the thought to opt to just invite more people to the dance portion, thinking it can save on costs.
In theory, this does sound like the perfect combination; having a smaller amount of reception guests to save money and then having all the other guests to the dance portion. However, it can be more complicated than it seems.
Consider that a couple is inviting 100 dinner guests and 100 dance guests to their wedding and a floor plan is required to be determined. The couple would have two options, opt to have seating for 200 guests, or opt of have seating for 100 guests. Here’s the dilemma, if you have enough seating for all 200 guests, then half of the tables would be empty for dinner. In photographs, having half of the tables empty, looks as though half of the wedding guests did not show. This would also mean that half of the empty tables still require décor (linen, chair covers, centerpieces, etc.) to keep all tables uniform. While all the tables would look uniform, this can be a wasted cost in décor as they will be empty for the dinner, and potentially empty all night if your dance guests decide never to sit.
The other floor plan option would be to only have enough tables and seating for the 100 dinner guests. While now the room would look completely full in photographs, once the other 100 dance guests arrive, they would not have a location to sit during the duration of the dance. If none of the 100 dance guests have a seat, they would stand, often in crowds either crowding the bar or other guest tables which can be intrusive. As guest behavior (sitting, not sitting) can be undetermined as it really all depends on the guests and the atmosphere, predicting which floor plan to choose is not a simple task.
While the couple in theory, would be saving costs on the dinner, they may not be saving costs on beverages. While only having 100 guests for dinner, yes the couple would save on the dinner wine, however other than wine on the tables, the bar at the venue is typically closed during dinner which doesn’t allow for any dinner guests to drink anything else. While the couple may save 100 drinks during cocktail hour, the guests who weren’t invited to dinner now haven’t had any dinner wine and can drink more as they feel they didn’t get a meal, and are trying to get more value out of being a dance guest.
The late night buffet is also something to take into consideration. An on average wedding, couples can often expect to cut down their late night buffet guest counts, as typically there are factors to consider, such as some guests who are there for the dinner would have already left by the time late night rolls around, some guests may still be full from dinner and other guests may be having too much fun to notice extra food. With the case of adding 100 more guests to the dance, this theory can be flipped. Often those extra 100 guests will eat one, if not two, portions of late night themselves. Again, as they did not receive a dinner meal and may not even have eaten dinner before, they will indulge more on the late night buffet. Many wedding planners and caterers will at this point advise couples to increase the late night buffet amount, just in case which increases costs.
Choosing favours are also a question to be answered when having additional guests to the dance. Are just the dinner guests receiving favours or are all of the guests receiving favours?
Finally, timelines of the day must also be a consideration. As any wedding professional will know and tell their clients, the task of keeping the timeline on schedule is an important factor which sometimes, can be unpredictable. Even the best of wedding planners cannot predict the schedule time, as so many outside factors can influence a timeline. Say perhaps the timeline of the day has the dance beginning at 9:00pm, and dance guests are set to arrive at 9:00pm – yet the speeches have gone over the allotted time and the schedule is now 30 minutes behind. Those dance guests are now to arrive, which provides a few dilemmas. The dance guests could be coming in nosey, expecting the party to be started and be disruptive to the speeches. If there are not enough seating for the rest of the 100 guests, they will be standing around with nowhere to go, waiting for the dance to begin. Consider the bar does not open until speeches are done, the dance guests now cannot even get a beverage as they wait. These factors may also make a dance guest feel very uncomfortable, which is also a dilemma as the goal of the day is for all attendees to be happy.
Friend or foe, this option proposes questions and always consider that many factors can influence a wedding day for better or for worse.