How to Reallocate Your Wedding Budget with a Smaller Guest Count

Covid-19 restrictions cutting down your wedding guest list? While we know having your friends & family in attendance is probably your number one wish, there is one silver lining: added funds to your wedding budget.

If you’re deep in wedding planning – like, figuring out tables, chairs, plates & glassware deep – then you know how each wedding guest adds up. Each guest accounts for dollars in invitations & stationery, catering, cake, rentals, venue fees. So, if you’ve had the unfortunate news that you must downsize, at the very least you should have more budget to work with!

Now what to do with those added funds?! Of course, you can save them – maybe for your future home, family, honeymoon? But if you’re wondering where you might allocate those added funds to upgrade the wedding plans you already have – we have ideas!

Our friends at Be Inspired PR polled their group of wedding vendor experts for great ideas to spread out those extra funds. And remember, even if everyone can’t be there in person – you can always live stream your wedding celebration! And with extra funds, we would splurge for a full-service live stream vendor with rentals & tech help included!

A Second Look!

“Have your eye on a party dress? Does your designer have ways to turn your wedding gown into multiple looks? Feel free to buy the couture you never thought you could now that you have surprise room in your wedding budget. This is likely one of the few occasions in your life you get to go-all-out with fashion – so don’t be shy!” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings

Indulge in a high-end photographer!

“Intimate celebrations are here to stay! There is something special about an intimate celebration and there are certainly benefits from a cost perspective! Our top area to splurge though would be a fantastic photographer that can capture those romantic moments – you will have extra time for romantic photos so take advantage! Our second area to focus budget on would be the video or live stream element – make the virtual experience seamless for those joining from around the country! We also recommend a killer bouquet or ceremony backdrop and if you are hosting a small gathering, invest on the quality of the food (and the wine) as well as the tablescape!” – HoneyFitz Events

Photo by Ryan Ray & escort cards by Cecile’s Paper Co

Splurge on personalized touches.

“Put that extra money towards custom-printed menus, a specialty cake topper, a custom neon sign, a handmade hairpiece, watercolor painted programs – close your eyes and picture those little luxurious details that would make even the smallest moment of your wedding day that much more special and unique to you! It’ll be so worth it, and your guests will get the biggest smile recognizing the little touch of “you!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

Treat yourself to little luxuries.

“This is your chance to treat yourself to the little luxuries you might not have been able to work into your budget with a larger guest count! Add a champagne tower to your reception with a high-quality bottle! Or create welcome bags for your guests full of all the COVID necessities as well as local treats, custom details, and nods to your personalities as a couple, like playing cards or a mini candle.” – Michelle’s Catering

Get creative with your catering.

“Caterers are now offering a multitude of COVID-friendly options for weddings, including canned signature cocktails at each place setting, pre-plated hors d’oeuvres, and boxed-to-go cake slices. Instead of tray-passed apps, guests can enjoy being served at standing cocktail tables or having their own “household” mini crudité platter or charcuterie board. Reallocating a bit more budget toward creative catering options will elevate the feel of your reception while keeping food service as sanitary as possible.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

Photo via Bianca Events

Bring the inside out!

“Outdoor venues are your best bet for hosting a safer event; though why not bring the indoors al fresco? Achieve a cozy, homey feeling outside with plush sofas or armchairs, a colorful rug, floor pillows, ottomans, and perhaps a coffee table or canopy overhead! The sky’s the limit when it comes to the look, but giving your guests an outdoor space to relax and converse with plenty of open space and fresh air.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

Encourage COVID-friendly entertainment.

“If the thought of guests getting after it on the dance floor makes you nervous, never fear—there are tons of socially distanced entertainment options to consider! Lawn games are a clear winner here, especially if you’re having an outdoor reception. From cornhole and bocce ball to giant Jenga, there are so many ways to encourage guests to safely play at your party.

Live entertainment is another place where you may want to consider splurging. A fantastic musical performance, stand-up comedian, cultural dance groups, or caricature artists will WOW your guests with an experience they won’t soon forget.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

Be practical: implement safety measures.

“Having a reduced guest count can allow you to spend money towards having a safer wedding amid continuing COVID concerns, such as including a live streaming service, providing masks and hand sanitizer for all guests, booking a live band for guests to enjoy while seated instead of dancing to a DJ, and specialized catering to include individually served appetizers/meals.” – Lisette Gatliff, Lisette OC Photography

Photo via Lace & Belle

Adjust your paper goods budget to make the most of your overall budget.

“Many people assume that working with a custom stationer always comes at a high cost, but designers, like myself, will offer options to get the total investment as close to a couple’s allocated budget, as possible. Choosing digital printing rather than specialty printing (like letterpress and foil stamping), flat card style versus a pocket style, one additional insert card directing guests to your wedding website instead of multiple inserts, are just a few ways to cut costs to make the most of your money.

Not only will the overall experience leave your heart filled with joy as you work alongside a seasoned designer, but it also ends up being invaluable. Working one-on-one with a stationer will guide you through the process, leaving more time for you to plan other parts of your wedding day and enjoy time as an engaged couple.” – Meghan Shaughnessy, Lace and Belle

Upgrade your furniture rentals & food.

“With a smaller guest count, you now have the opportunity to splurge on the items that you had to lower with a higher guest count. With a smaller guest count, that means fewer tables & seating. If you had your eye on those gorgeous, but slightly out of budget, ceremony chairs…now is the time to rent them. Smaller guest counts give you the chance to really allocate your funds to your wedding design. With many items being priced “per person” the thought of getting the $18 chair may have seemed excessive with your original 150 guest count wedding. But can be very doable with your now 30 guest count wedding. A smaller wedding doesn’t mean smaller style. Use those extra funds to go big with your design choices such as your linens, florals and furniture.

You can also use this as a chance to step it up a notch with your food selections. A smaller count of people attending the rehearsal allows you to take the menu to the next level and truly wow your guests with your menu choices. A top-shelf open bar and a savory sit-down dinner are more feasible with a smaller list of attendees.” – Krisy Thomas, Southern Sparkle Wedding & Event Planning

Photo by Laura Gordon

Create a more special place setting!

“Downsizing your event can open up the budget to custom details that were out of reach previously. Upgrading your place setting can add texture and personalization to your guest experience with custom place cards, patterned china and colored water glasses for added color!” – Stephanie, Senior Planner at Cape Cod Celebrations

Go all-out on wow-factor decisions.

“Some couples may find COVID to have brought a bit of a silver lining with it. The opportunity to scale down their guest count to those that they are closest to. No more having to invite relatives you haven’t seen for years or parents’ friends you don’t even know. State mandates require reduced counts, which is a perfect excuse to scale down. Another silver lining that comes along with that is a reduced budget! So much of a couple’s wedding budget is dependent on guest count (rentals, number of centerpieces, invitations, etc.) so they will automatically be saving money.

Many of our clients have taken this as an opportunity to go big, but for a small count. Over-the-top florals, upgraded linens, designer rentals, personal desserts and so on. Focus on the wow factors rather than the little details, and splurge in areas that you want to while scaling back on those that are less important. A smaller count doesn’t mean you have to switch dresses or cut your hair & makeup squad! This is still your wedding and a special day and you should go all out if that is what you want. With a reduced count, you have so much more flexibility and will still likely be saving money when all is said and done!” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss

Photo by Kate Ignatowski & shoes by Elihav Sasson

Take another look at your budget with your partner to find wiggle room to add things you previously said no to.

“If you feel disappointed about changing your original plans or having a smaller wedding, which is valid and completely understandable, it means you have to adjust your budget for a smaller guest count but that can actually turn out to be a great thing! I have been telling my clients that this may be the perfect opportunity to splurge on something that wasn’t in the original budget since your guest count is much lower.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate (or even “expensive”). However, think about what you and your significant other really want. Is there a pair of shoes you were eyeing, or a favorite restaurant you want hire as a caterer? Maybe you always dreamed of an amazing and elaborate floral installation at or personalized favors for guests? Look at your budget and see where you may have a little more wiggle room now that your budget is changing. Dedicate funds for one special item or vendor that will make you and your partner smile despite all the changes! This actually allows couples to bring in more personalized and special elements that represent them to really make the day and overall experience perfect.” Kari Dirksen – CEO + Lead Planner of Feathered Arrow

Prioritize videography services.

“During this unprecedented time when wedding guest counts are trending lower due to the pandemic, a major consideration for reallocating your budget should be placed on photography and videography splurges! The pandemic has shifted the importance of videography. For couples with the budget for video, it’s always been a must; however, this is a service to splurge on right now, no matter what your budget.

Similar to photography, a video is a lasting, tangible memory from your wedding day – one of only a few. Since it’s been so long since you’ve seen some of your closest family and friends, you’ll definitely want to capture the party on video. There are sure to be some moments with your loved ones that you won’t want to forget. Also, a superb video team can help with audiovisual (streaming, technical support) – something that every wedding needs right now.” – Brooke Avishay of Orange Blossom Special Events

Focus on things that aren’t affected by your change in guest count, like style!

“One thing you can count on in 2021 is constant change. And that includes your wedding plans and budget. If you’re like most people, you probably had to shorten your guest list to accommodate local health guidelines, or just to make sure your friends and family feel safe at your wedding. With those changing plans come opportunities to reallocate your budget.

One way to do that is to look at what some of the important people in your life will be wearing to the smaller wedding. Go beyond the groom and groomsmen and get the ring bearer, fathers of the bride and groom, and others into matching suits or tuxedos to really dress up those wedding photos.” – Matt Ramirez, Generation Tux

Photo via Studio Kage

Go all out on your honeymoon!

“Okay, I know our vendor friends all gave great advice above on upgrading various wedding-day aspects but girl (or dude) there is no shame in re-allocating those added funds to spoil just the two of you! Were it Jack & I, we would be upgrading to that honeymoon suite, arranging private airport transfers (a vastly underrated travel service), booking once-in-a-lifetime wilderness excursions & ordering ample champagne. Treat yourselves!” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings

Love getting real with our Editor, Claire Eliza? Gain the confidence to throw the party you want by reading through her sage Real Talk wedding advice.

These tips were gathered by Be Inspired PR, a PR + Social Media Agency for wedding, wellness & lifestyle clients. With over 10+ years of experience, we’re here to take our clients to the next level! Find oodles of stylish wedding inspiration on their Instagram & Pinterest.