Help! I Can't Afford My Event. Should I Uninvite Guests?

Imagine planning your dream event for all of your favorite people. You have the perfect event theme and style in place and will have all the bells and whistles. Every day you daydream about how epic your event is going to be and how everyone who you invite will talk about it for weeks.

After locking in the best DC venue you decide to invite everyone on your list. RSVPs start rolling in and that gets you even more exited. People are texting and sharing on social media how excited they are to be invited. This causes you to work even harder on making your event a success.

After the rush of excitement from your RSVPs you begin to book your vendors and make sure all of your ideas are in place. As proposals come in, you realize that the cost of your event is slowly moving past what you expected the event to cost. You get a slight hint of panic as you are unsure of what to do.

By now you have received 250 RSVPs from people stating they plan to attend. The problem is you can only afford to host 175 people at your event. What should you do?

Should I Uninvite Guests From Attending My Event or Wedding?

This is a very tricky question to answer as there is no straight answer. But I will give you some tips to avoid being in this situation to begin with. The best thing to do is to plan ahead and make sure you keep track of your event budget and set clear expectations for yourself. Don’t host an event just to impress others. Every event should have a Why Factor.

Establish Your Budget Before you Book Or Invite Anyone

Photo: Alexander Mils

Photo: Alexander Mils

Your budget should always be part of the first steps you take to planning an event or wedding. Whenever I hold a consultation with clients, budget is the first thing we talk about. But Andrew isn’t that kind of rude to jump into budget talks? Not really.

When you establish a sound event budget from the beginning, you can better understand your event parameters. It’s more beneficial this way than to have a client say they want the world and their budget cannot afford it.

One helpful tip is to contact potential venues and vendors and ask them for the average cost of their services. Let’s take hotels as an example.

Hotels have a food and beverage minimum. Most DC hotels have a food and beverage minimum between $8,000 and $10,000. The food and beverage minimum means this is the least amount you will pay to do business with the hotel. This price is not always the final price as the more people you add the higher the bill.

Once you know the general pricing and cost per person, you can then understand how much your event is going to cost.

Create a Primary and Secondary Event Wish List

Having a wish list for your event is extremely helpful. On one list you outline what your primary items are. Here are a few primary things most events have to have:

  1. A venue

  2. Food and Beverage

  3. A reason to host the event

Feel free to add to this list. The point is for you to identify what your primary things are. You will also want to create a secondary event list. These are the things that are nice to have, but won’t break the event if you don’t have them. Some secondary things could be:

  1. Grand event or wedding decorations - I’ll talk more about this shortly

  2. A photo booth

  3. Lavish menu items

My recommendation is to always focus on your primary items first. If you have room in your budget to add on the secondary things, then go for it. Just don’t make them a priority at the beginning of event planning.

Split Your Guests Into Group A and Group B

Image via RSVPify

Image via RSVPify

Another way to ensure you don’t over invite guests to your event is by splitting them into two groups. Those in Group A will be your primary audience and are the ones who will get the invites first. Wait to see how many of them RSVP by your deadline before extending an invite to Group B. Having two groups gives you more control over who you invite and to make sure you have a budget that can host them all.

Understand that everyone who you invite may not actually show up even if they RSVP as attending. RSVPify reports that 83% of people you invite are expected to attend. Doesn’t mean they will as life happens.

How To Cut Event Costs Event Further

If you’ve followed the above party planner tips and are still outside of your budget, it’s time to trim off what you don't need. Remember that Primary and Secondary list I talked about? If you have some of the secondary items still on your agenda, cut those off. Focus on the primary things and use those to get guests excited.

You don’t always need lavish food and décor elements to have a great party. Focus on statement pieces.

What If I’ve Done All of That and Still Need To Uninvite Guests?

If you have no other way to trim your event requirements then I would recommend uninviting guests. This of course is the last thing I’d do. Identify all of the guests you would need to uninvite. Get your team on board and go over what this conversation will look like.

Once you have a script in place and have set the tone for how these conversations will go, call those who are going to be uninvited. Yes CALL. No one wants to be invited to an event and then get a email or text saying they can no longer come. Calling them makes things more personal and shows you care even if you have to give bad news.

No matter how many phone calls you have to make, spend the time making them. You don’t have to have long drawn out phone calls. Use your script and let them know if they need to talk more, that you can after your event is over.

WEDDING PLANNER GUEST TIP: If you are having a wedding and know that you cannot afford a large wedding, here’s what to do. Invite everyone to the wedding ceremony and only invite specific people to your wedding reception. Ceremonies do not cost as much as a wedding reception. For those only invited to the wedding ceremony, plan to host a happy hour or small celebration later down the line.

In Conclusion

If cancelling your event makes more sense so that you can get more money to host everyone….DO IT! More people will understand an event being cancelled than you uninviting people because you don’t have a big enough budget. No one wants to be that person on the outside looking at the event they were supposed to be at.

But my best advice is this. Hire a top Event Planner in DC who is great with budgets and can establish clear expectations up front. Even if it’s a day of event coordinator, it’s better than nothing. For all of our clients we have a budget tracker to keep them fully aware of where their money is going and when they are getting closer to the red. Want to learn more about our services? Click here to get started.