How Your Guest Count Affects Wedding Design | Ruffled Blog | Houston Fine Art Wedding Photographer

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As it is with so many things that we experience, hindsight is always 20/20. Being in the wedding industry and having photographed over 100 weddings, this is true for so many things concerning a couples’ wedding day. One in particular that we hear about a lot from past clients as well as other vendors, is realizing how much their guest count affected their overall design and decor allowances. Since this is something that we continually see, we wanted to create an editorial to help visualize how much decor can change within the same exact budget but with different guest counts.

Overall, we put together three different setups all based on a $60,000 budget with the same design, but showcasing what the wedding would look like with a guest count of 250, 175, and then 100 people respectively. It is also worth noting that all costs used was real pricing from the actual vendors that participated in the shoot and if a vendor’s product was not photographed, such as food, music, or the officiant, we still obtained actual quotes from vendors that normally provide services for clients with the budget we chose. We even included items such as alterations, favors, sparklers, and attendant gifts.



THE ITEMS THAT REMAINED CONSTANT
(UNCHANGED ACROSS ALL GUEST COUNTS)

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1. Venue Rental

2. Security and Insurance

3. Officiant

4. Ceremony and Reception Music (String Trio for Ceremony, DJ for Reception)

5. Groom’s Tux

6. Veil

7. Photography

8. Marriage License

9. Guest Book

10. Bouquet


Another set of budget items, that had the same exact items and cost, but the total pricing changed due to a smaller guest and bridal party count are below. For frame of reference, the bridal party sizes were as follows: 250 guest count had 12 bridesmaids and 12 groomsmen, 175 guest count had 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen, and the 100 guest count had 4 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen. This was based on the average bridal party size that most vendors see with the associated guest count.

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1. Groomsmen Boutonnieres

2. Bridesmaids Bouquets

3. Makeup and Hair

4. Attendant Gifts

5. Favors

6. Sparklers

7. Catering and Alcohol

The budget items that changed due to having more budget because of decreased bridal party size and guest count are as follows with visual aids:

1. PLANNING & DESIGN LEVEL OF SERVICE

As the guest count decreased the level of planning and design services went up as based on Mallory from Two Be Wed’s experience.

As the guest count decreased the level of planning and design services went up as based on Mallory from Two Be Wed’s experience.

It is not to say that a higher level of planner is required to have a successful and beautifully designed wedding, but typically to stay in budget and to have a cohesive look, a wedding planner helps dramatically. Concepts like your guest count affecting your wedding design budget amongst many other factors to consider are going to be part of the way that a higher level of service from a planner will bring. This is in addition to leaning on your planner’s extensive experience on what vendors to hire to create not only a beautiful and cohesive look, but also to decide where to best spend (or not to spend) your budget to have the most impact. Another thing to note is that no matter the level of planning service that you decide on, one word of advice from Mallory is that even if you decide you only want “month-of coordination”, hiring your planner as soon as you get engaged, will result in the best bang for your buck. This is because they will still be invested in helping out as much as possible to not only guarantee the day will run smoothly, but that you have a trusted and talented team of vendors.

2. CAKE

Buttercup Bakery specializes in sugar flowers, but understands that it isn't always an option for all budgets. For the 250 guest count, only real flowers were used but as the guest count went down, more sugar flowers and custom flavors were added in.

Buttercup Bakery specializes in sugar flowers, but understands that it isn't always an option for all budgets. For the 250 guest count, only real flowers were used but as the guest count went down, more sugar flowers and custom flavors were added in.

When looking at your budget and how your cake will be affected in two-fold. One being that less guests, means less cake slices and that combined with a total overall increase in budget when inviting less guests, means more towards overall design as well as custom flavors. As you can see pictured above, the total design as well as the quality of the materials increases as the guest count goes down, not to mention being able to include custom flavors such as huckleberry jam, toffee crunch or valhrona chocolate tiers.

3. FLORALS

Going from 250 to 100 guests, the floral budget increased, resulting in not only more flowers overall, but also more premium blooms were integrated such as peonies and garden roses.

Going from 250 to 100 guests, the floral budget increased, resulting in not only more flowers overall, but also more premium blooms were integrated such as peonies and garden roses.

The amount of floral budget in this example increases not only because of the overall guest count going down (i.e. alcohol, favors, catering, etc.) but because of the total amount of floral arrangements going down because of less bridal party and less arrangements needed for tables. There are a ton of options when it comes to deciding where to spend the additional floral budget, but some would be additional floral design elements (as pictured above), premium florals (peonies, garden roses, etc,) as well as larger scale florals for the ceremony or entrances to the venue.

4. GOWNS

The gowns increased in price as the guest count went down, starting with a gown that was under $1,000 going up to $6,000

The gowns increased in price as the guest count went down, starting with a gown that was under $1,000 going up to $6,000

Inviting less guests, resulting in more room in your budget, also provides the ability for you to have more options and at higher price points for your wedding gown. Pictured from left to right:

Willowby by Watters from Unbridaled: $650
Sachin and Babi from Unbridaled: $3400
Pronovias from Mia Bridal Couture: $5970

5. CHAIRS & LINENS

Beginning with the 250 guest count, standard folding chairs were used. We made sure to keep the same wood tone so as to visually show the change in chairs. The 175 guest count used the popular option of chivari and then for 100 guest count, we used the linen and wood mixed chairs for a more luxurious feel. While the colors of the linens changed slightly from each guest count, they were all still referred to as grey in the swatches. With the 100 guest count linen, being the truest to gray and more much thick with a beautiful texture.

Beginning with the 250 guest count, standard folding chairs were used. We made sure to keep the same wood tone so as to visually show the change in chairs. The 175 guest count used the popular option of chivari and then for 100 guest count, we used the linen and wood mixed chairs for a more luxurious feel. While the colors of the linens changed slightly from each guest count, they were all still referred to as grey in the swatches. With the 100 guest count linen, being the truest to gray and more much thick with a beautiful texture.

One huge decor element that can make a substantial impact are the chairs and linens used. Just as some of the other design elements, we were able to stay within budget, even with these rental items because of not only because of the total design budget increasing (as the guest count went down) from less alcohol, food, favors, and so one, but because we needed less chairs and tables overall, allowing us to spend more on each individual chair and linen.

7. INVITATIONS & ALL PAPER ITEMS

As you go from 250 guests to 100 guests, not only does the number of pieces goes up, but also the amount of custom design and personal touches such as the wax seal and handwritten calligraphy

As you go from 250 guests to 100 guests, not only does the number of pieces goes up, but also the amount of custom design and personal touches such as the wax seal and handwritten calligraphy

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, after photographing over 100 weddings across all budgets, the element that tends to always make the biggest impact (alongside florals) is the paper (ie. invitations, escort cards, place cards, etc). It is one of the only elements that truly reflects the couple, that guests can touch as well as one of post-wedding day items that you get to keep beyond your photos, wedding rings and dress. Below is how the paper elements changed going from 250 to 100 guests

250 GUESTS:
2 Piece Invitation Suite
Save The Dates
Envelopes & Postage (outer and RSVP)
Machine printed addresses
Table Numbers
Seating Chart

175 GUESTS:
3 Piece Invitation Suite
Save The Dates
Envelopes & Postage (outer and RSVP)
Custom Envelope Calligraphy for Addresses
Handprinted Program Sign
Place cards (Plain cards with calligraphy)
Table Numbers
Seating Chart Sign
Menus

100 GUESTS:
3 Piece Invitation Suite (With Die Cut Shape and Premium Paper)
Envelopes (Outer, Inner, RSVP)
Save The Dates
Postage for STDs, Outer Envelopes and RSVP Envelopes
Envelope Calligraphy for STD, Outers and Inners
Programs with extra design element
Place Cards (printed design + calligraphy)
Table Numbers
Menu Cards
Escort Cards with Escort Card Wall Design
Return Address Printing (outer envelope flaps, rsvp envelope fronts)
Printed details on envelopes to match suite
Extra embellishment, silk ribbon or wax seal
Inner envelope liner

8. TABLESCAPE
(PLATES, FLATWARE, CHARGERS, DRINK WARE, ETC)

Going from left to right, we were able to incorporate more design elements rather to only use items included with the catering service

Going from left to right, we were able to incorporate more design elements rather to only use items included with the catering service

Below is what we were able to rent within each guest count, all with the same overall wedding budget.

250 GUEST COUNT:
Plates, Flatware, and Glasses - Included in catering service
Napkins - Rented
*Chargers - Not enough room in budget to include

175 GUEST COUNT:
Plates and Flatware - Included in catering service
Glasses, Chargers, and Napkin - Rented

100 GUEST COUNT:
All pieces were premium rented options:
Plates, Flatware, Dinner Plate, Salad Plate, Glassware, and Napkins

Lounge rental example as alternative to usage of leftover budget due to decreased guest count

Lounge rental example as alternative to usage of leftover budget due to decreased guest count

Also, we do want to note that while we understand that not everyone will be focused on increasing their design budget with a lower guest count, some other options to consider that you could invest in instead of florals, decor and paper (or a mixture of):

1. Photo Booth

2. Videographer

3. Band

4. Accent Lighting

5. Upgrading to premium liquor

6. Honeymoon (or honeymoon upgrades/excursions)

7. Upgrading menu

8. Lounge furniture

9. Upgraded photography package (to include albums, additional coverage, etc.)

Above all else, we hope this was helpful in visually just how much your guest count can effect your wedding budget and it helps in deciding what matters most to you on your wedding day!

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Thanks so much to Ruffled Blog for featuring this labor of love! You can see the article here, here and here (separated into the three different looks).

Concept, Photography, & Styling: Josh & Dana Fernandez | Venue: River Oaks Garden Club | Planning & Design: Mallory with Two Be Wed | Florals: Flower Vibes | Cake: Buttercup Bakery | Makeup and Hair: Hey Lovely Makeup | Gown Designer (100 Guest Count Gown): Pronovias | Gown Boutique (100 Guest Count Gown): Mia Bridal Couture | Veil Designer: Toni Federici via Mia Bridal Couture | Gown Designer (250 Guest Count Gown): Willowby by Watters | Gown Designer (175 Guest Count Gown): Sachin and Babi | Gown Boutique (250 & 175 Guest Count Gowns): Unbridaled | Invitations, Menu, Place Cards, Escort Cards, Table Number, and Painted Escort Card Backdrop: Half Moon Lettering | Plates, Louis Side Chairs, Hemstitch Napkins, Table Linens, Flatware, & Glassware: Aztec Events & Tents | Table, Lounge Furniture, Armless Linen Chairs, Chivari Chairs, & Folding Chairs: Swift + Company |
Model: Taylor Morrison |