Using Statistical Modeling To Determine The Guest List

by admin on February 5, 2014

Here’s a couple who found a way to celebrate with the maximum number of family and friends they could afford while avoiding the trap of A and B guest lists. It wasn’t perfect, but might statistics help us with etiquette?

Your thoughts?

I read it and thought, “I do this in my head already.”   Unless one has unrealistic expectations that the world should stop revolving and attend your wedding, there will always be a subset of guests who cannot come to the wedding.   What surprises most couples is the realization that not all of their local guests will come to the wedding…as if travel distance is the only basis upon which people make decisions whether to attend a wedding or not.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

BeachMum February 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm

We did this when we got married 13 years ago. We set up a spreadsheet and put the probability of each unit (a single or couple who was being invited) of coming to the wedding. Some, who were older and lived far away, were nearly zero and others, like those in the wedding party, were 100%. We invited 250 people to the wedding and estimated that we’d have 120 people. We ended up with 125.

I was surprised by how the article assumed that one always gets people who weren’t invited. We had exactly one person who wasn’t invited come to the wedding, and that was because it was the girlfriend of an out-of-town guest — he’d called to make sure that it was ok for her to come. I’d be angered if people who weren’t invited just showed up, and I’d wonder about my friends and family if uninvited guests made up the majority of guests at my wedding.


AS February 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm

My father has a Ph.D. in Statistics, and has spent his life as a professor of Econometrics with his work cited many hundreds of times (which basically means that he actually understands Statistics). But when we were making our guest list, he said that you never invite more than the number you can accommodate, because there is a small probability that everyone you invite can show up. Also, 95% prediction interval has a very high wobble room, and valid only in cases of experiments with a lot of variables like, for example, sampling plants in natural environment rather than grown under controlled lab conditions. Response to wedding invitation do, in fact, have a high variability in the form of reasons why invites may be accepted/declined; and hence using Statistics is a pretty dangerous ground.


ddwwylm February 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Well, I guess if they’re going to make an app for that, good on them, they can sucker some people into buying it. I remember when I was getting married, some article somewhere stated that you should expect about a 20% decline rate. That’s about what that couple ended up with, so I guess they didn’t need to go to all the trouble of staying up ALL night working on an equation.


Enna February 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

It could help as an indicator. I do agree with both posts – you could end up with everyone saying they can come.


Lynne February 8, 2014 at 11:21 am


Was that really a closing statement that hosts should always expect uninvited guests, plural, to show up?


AIP February 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm

For me an overseas wedding is a great guilt-free excuse for a holiday. In some jobs and at some times of the year it’s easier and less stressful to take the weekend off rather than the week as you have more time to prepare for the day and recover afterwards.

And as for the statistics, as AS says they are always subject to variables, mainly in this case the bride and groom themselves. Frankly I have friends and family who I doubt would cross the road to attend my wedding, whereas with others they are more liked or you would be guaranteed a good time.
Of course wild cards can happen. Say Garth Brooks decides to play in your country for the first time in 17 years and the mania results in extra dates being added – more than one bride has been warned that there may be a few people missing. In my cousin’s case a couple of us had bought a Lady GaGa tickets months before we knew her wedding date, so there was a few worrying moments until we realised her wedding was the day before! (Seriously though, tights are idiotically expensive here, and unless it’s Garth, you can’t be guaranteed to sell them on)


AIP February 14, 2014 at 11:31 am

*tights!? I meant tickets!!


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