When will people come?

So I was trying to estimate how many of my invitees will attend my wedding ceremony and how many will attend the reception (the former is at noon and the latter the same evening). While a large number of people have kindly RSVPd, not too many have really mentioned which event they’ll turn up for. So it’s my responsibility to somehow try and figure out how many will come when, so that the information can be appropriately relayed to the cooks.

Personally, if I’m attending the wedding of someone I don’t know too well, or a wedding I’m attending more out of obligation than out of the desire to be there, I prefer to go to the reception. It’s so much quicker – queue up, gift, wish, thulp, collect coconut, leave. The wedding leads to too much waiting, insufficient networking opportunity, having to wait for a seat in a “batch” for lunch, and the works.

Again, I hope that most people who are coming for my wedding are coming more because they want to attend rather than looking at it as an obligation. Actually I was thinking of a wedding invite as being an option – it gives you the option to attend the wedding, but you pay for it with the “cost” of the obligation to attend. In fact, over the last few days, I’ve felt extremely guilty while inviting people whose weddings I bunked (for one reason or another).

That digression aside, what upsets estimates for my wedding is that it’s on a Sunday, when more people will be inclined to come in the morning rather than at night. For one, they have the day off. Secondly, usually people like to spend Sunday evening at home, ironing clothes and the like, preparing for the grueling work week ahead.

And the fact that the venue is on the northern side of Bangalore, while most of my invitees live in the south (the fiancee and most of her invitees are in the north) makes me want to increase my “lunch” estimate and decrease the dinner estimate. And then the fact that I’m getting married on a seemingly “auspicious” day, when there are lots of functions all around, makes me wonder if I should discount the total attendance also.

After the wedding is over, I’m willing to anonymize and share the spreadsheet I’ve used for my estimates. Ok you might think I’m a geek but what I’ve done is to put an “attendance” probability for each event for each attendee, and then taken expected value to get my estimates. As I write this, I think I should take standard deviation also, and assume the law of large numbers (yes I’ve invited a large number of potential guests) in order to provide my in-laws (who are organizing the whole event) 95% confidence intervals for number of guests..

Anyways, I just hope that my (and my in-laws’) estimates are right and we won’t end up erring in either direction (shortage of food, or wastage) by too much in either direction. And the costs of the two (localized costs – as hosts, our costs of food shortage (in terms of reputation, etc.) is much higher than cost of wastage; though from global sustainability perspective it’s probably the other way round) have led our solution of the Newsboy Problem to be conservative in estimate.

And yesterday I was suggesting to my in-laws that after the wedding lunch, we can revise the estimates for dinner to M – X where M is the total number of guests we expect (counting double for people who we expect to attend both lunch and dinner) and X is the number of people who had lunch. It’s important, I think, to use as much information as possible in making decisions.

One thought on “When will people come?”

  1. I like your calculations. Some points (relevant and otherwise):

    1. I’ve never understood why people invite a LOT of people for the reception and only a select subset for the wedding ceremony. I understand the ceremony is supposed to be a “family and close friends” thing only (very special and private etc.) and the reception is more informal but it doesn’t make sense to me. If I get married, I really don’t care who is at the ceremony! I don’t even want a ceremony. But I sure as heck care for whom I’m buying dinner and drinks for! I don’t know how you’ve gone about it? Where are you invited more people? Or the same for both?

    2. I personally would never attend wedding ceremony except if it’s of either a really close friend or family. (The thought of going to church! Gah!) But the reception to me is always a ball. Good food, music and dance, nice women to hit on and an open bar (in reverse order of priority). I’d never attend a reception either unless there’s an open bar and meat is available on the menu. I attended one wedding which didn’t have either and it was a drag! You’re right about the list of activities. The two main areas of concern for all the guests appeared to be: a. Getting in line to wish the couple, and b. Getting dinner (where there wasn’t even meat!). Yikes! Not what I was looking for. At least there were women around and I had my little “party pack Coke bottle” (thanks to a kind forewarning from a friend).

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