Have you ever attended an event where the venue was jam-packed, food and drinks were insufficient and you couldn't enjoy the activities comfortably?
This happens often because there is no estimated attendance. Usually, caterers and event venue managers will ask you the size of your guest list before giving you a price quotation.
Events are supposed to be intimate, fun and engaging. The less people you invite, the more intimate your event can be. However, we cannot but admit that most Nigerian events are made up of invited, uninvited and unexpected guests.
One unique characteristic about Nigerian events is that some of the guest you invited will not show up while people who you did not invite will end up attending the event.
In every Nigerian event, there are guests of guests who assume that they can attend your events uninvited. You must understand that with every additional guest, your budget increases. Irrespective of your budget, you want the right crowd, not just a crowd.
If your event is not an open house event where anyone can attend, then you need you need to create a guest list. Who do you invite for your event and how do you prevent uninvited guests to flood your event are important questions that you must sincerely answer, if you want to host an elegant event.
A guest list is one of the most important part in event planning. The number one rule for planning any event successfully in Nigeria is that YOUR GUEST LIST MUST NEVER EXCEED YOUR BUDGET.
With a smaller guest lists, you can maximize the opportunity for great memories with every single guest present. You can even decide to invite them to your event via a phone call, rather than give out the conventional I.V cards. A small guest lists save you money and stress.
There are tested and proven ways to create your guest list without causing rift or stirring up tension.
1. Have a discussion with your partner
If it is a wedding, it is advisable that you firstly have a discussion with your partner concerning your preference for a small guest event and the maximum number of guest you both want. Before taking further steps to plan your event, ensure that it is consensual decision.
2. Take the lead
You cannot be planning a small guest event when your bridal train and groom men are larger than the average number. Having one bestman and one bestlady is enough. You have to walk the talk. Its all starts from you.
3. Invite immediate family members only
If you have not spoken to your relatives in years, you are not obligated to invite them. It is your event, not a family reunion. Your event should be about the dearest and nearest people to you. Immediate family only.
This applies more to people who personally desire a small guest event, but they come from a large extended family or a polygamous home. There may be side talks, but it is what it is.
4. Close friends only
If you have lost touch with them or had a fall out, they do not deserve to be on your guest list. If you have not spoken to them within the last three months, don't invite them.
Most childhood friends, street goons, former classmates and co-worker are not close friends. If they are not close friends, they will most likely not be too offended if you do not invite them.
That you share a cubicle with a person at work or you eat lunch with them occasionally is not a reason to have them on your guest list. You can always reserve some sourvenirs for them or plan a work happy hour to celebrate.
This rule applies to your boss, too! If your boss has been both a mentor and close friend, include them in your guest list. But if it feels like an obligatory, cross them off with your full chest.
Some neighbours live close to you but are not close to you. You are not obligated to invite them either. If may feel awkward about it, but you really do not have to worry. Explain the reasons for your actions to them, they will understand.
5. Follow the rules
Cutting your guest list to a reasonable, suitable and affordable amount is possible if only you strictly abide by the rules of the game.
If it's a wedding, the couple usually gets half the guest list while both parents share the other half. You can also decide to split the guest list into equally into three. It is called the Divide-and-Conquer strategy.
If you have never met or spoken with them before or heard their names before, do not invite them. If you have not spoken to them in the last three years and they are not related to you, don't invite them. Your event is not a reunion party.
6. Enforce the guest list
Drafting a guest list for your event is not the end of the task. It is one thing to create a guest list and another thing to enforce it.
Sticking to a guest list is not easy and comfortable. Some people may feel snubbed or less important because they were not invited.
In event planning, you either develop a thick skin or prepare for inevitable dramas and surprises.. If you are unable to enforce your guest list, get ready for unexpected and uninvited guests on your event day.
7. Don't invite them, if you don't like them
If you will not be comfortable or personally thrilled at the thought of having someone or some people in your event, why should you invite them in the first place?
8. Have the big conversation with your in-laws and other financial sponsors
If there are persons who are the financial sponsors for your events, it is advisable that you firstly discuss your plans with them. In most Nigeria weddings, one or both in-laws financially contributes to the wedding.
Nigerian parents can be frustrating. Some parents may even try to dictate your guest list. They try to make your event all about them.
Whether or not you carry them along, they already have plans to invite their own friends and colleagues to your event. For most Nigerian wedding, having large crowd of guests indicates how influential you are.
Most Nigerian parents are ready to invite all Toms, Dicks and Harrys to your wedding just to proof this point. In cases like this, discuss your guest list in order to avoid surprises. Even if they are contributing financially, you may want to limit them to a specific number of people they can invite.
9. Set boundaries
You cannot effectively enforce a guest list if you do not set boundaries. If you do not set boundaries, your efforts may be frustrated.
Can I bring a friend? "I'm sorry, you can't. I can't allow more guests than the venue space and budget permits. Please bear with me." Simple, firm and polite response. It may seems to be a hard conversation, but it is best to be honest.
Whoever wants more guests should be ready to foot the bills or contribute financially to the event. Your views and opinions must heard and respected.
10. Be realistic
What is the estimated attendance you are expecting? 100? 200? 300? 500?Are you too popular for your budget? Do you really want a talk-of-the-town event? Will a long guest list make your event special or just blow your budget?
Most times, it's not only about cutting down your guest list, it is also about knowing the minimum amount of guests that you actually want. The size of your venue and your budget are key determinants of this.
11. Use the A and B strategy
Most times, it is until you sit down to create a guest list that you discover that you know a lot of people than you actually think.
Take out your pen and paper. Create two lists (A and B). Make A a list of people that you must invite to your event. That is, families and close friends. Make B a list of people that you wish should be present in your event.
This strategy is used to create a guest list in their order of importance. Send out your invitation cards to guest list A and use list B as a backup list to cover up for very important persons that would not be present at your event for some reasons.
12. Keep your invitation card off social media
Steer clear social media when planning an event of a small guest list. Rather than tell people outrightly that they are not invited for your event, it is preferable not to let them know about it at all.
13. Choose an unusual date
In Nigeria, weekends are for owanbes. If you want do not an event filled with fake crowds, be strategic with your date.
Having your event in a weekday is an effective way to maintain a small guest list. During the week, most 'aprokos' are busy at work.
Don't worry about your VIPs. If they really want to be there, they are going to be there.
14. Plan a destination event
Do you know that you can make all the noise about your event, yet have a small guest event? Yes, you can. Have a destination event.
You can choose a venue outside your state, region or country - any distant place. It is a perfect excuse and most effective way to filter some people from your guest list.
For a wedding, expect 80 percent of in-state guests to attend, but with a destination event, anyone who has no business attending your event is cut off. It takes time, money and commitment for anyone to attend a destination event.
If they are closer to you, they will make every sacrifice to attend your event.Nobody wants to spend time and money travelling and booking an hotel for an event they are not invited for.
15. Choose a Venue With a limited guest capacity
When you choose a large venue, you are indirectly telling your friends and families to invite as much people as they can. With a venue that has a strict guest capacity, they will know that you are really serious about having a small guest event.
16. Go virtual
If you want to have a small guest event but you are being pressured to invite more guests, don't panic. Go virtual.
Invite the very important and intimate guests to the physical event, while others can livestream from their homes. Invite others to attend virtually. There are several virtual platforms that you can use.
17. Plan an adult-only event
Having children at your event can negatively impact your estimated attendance, no matter how little.
If you are not sure how to tell parents about your decision of a kid-free event, let your invitation card do the talking. Mind you, "Adult Only" seems to be more polite than "Children are not allowed."
If you to have a kid-free event, you must stick to the rule. If you are asking parents to leave their children at home, be consistent. No children allowed, No favouritism.
18. Don't feel the emotional need to reciprocate
That someone invited you to their event sometimes ago is not a sufficient reason to invite them to yours. Your current relationship with them is a determinant.
As a rule of thumb, if you attended a friend's event within the last 12 months, you should reciprocate if your event is a similar size and if you are mutual friends.
As long as not inviting them to your event will not affect your relationship with them negatively, you can cut them off your guest list. Your conscience may prick you, but your conscience will never fund your event. Do not invite them because you feel guilty about leaving them off.
19. Let your invitation cards do the talking
When drafting your invitation card, carefully use the right words. Be specific by writing out the names of each invited guest. For singles, clearly write their name.
In Nigeria, "Mr. and Mrs. Soremekun" is different from "The Soremekun Family." Can you decode that?
If your event is a "Strictly by invitation" event, state it clearly in your invitation card. If the invitation card serves dual purpose as the gate pass, state it clearly in your invitation card, so that your guests will bring the card along with them.
Please note, "Strictly by Invitation" event can only be achieved successfully when you make use of an event center.
20. Do a registry wedding
There is a limited number of guests that can attend a registry wedding. You can save yourself the stress and drama of creating a guest list by opting for a registry wedding.
If you are a worker in a big church, you can opt for a registry wedding. If any of your in-laws hold a chieftaincy title, religious or political position, you can opt for a registry wedding, rather than settle for a society wedding.
21. Don't celebrate in the village
If you do not want an event filled with uninvited guests, do not celebrate in the village. In Nigeria, it is very difficult to plan a small guest event in your village.
This is because anyone from anywhere can show up at anytime, especially if it is an outdoor event. Preferably, discuss with your in-law to see if you can pay all traditional rites to the kinsmen without having to go to the village for a celebration.
22. Explain and apologize for your actions after your event
After your event, reach out to those who felt snubbed and explain the reasons for your actions to them. They will understand. Apologize to them and they won't take it too personal.