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.

An Inquiry Into Queue Lengths At Wedding Receptions

So last night once again I was at a wedding reception where there was a long queue for getting on stage, wishing the couple, giving gift and getting photo taken. In fact, last night, the queue literally extended to outside the hall (maybe the non-standard orientation of the hall – more breadth than length – contributed to this) – probably the first time I was seeing such a thing. Thankfully the wedding hall entrance was deep inside the building compound, else there might have been the unsavoury sight of the queue extending all the way on to the road.

This has been a problem that has been bugging me for a long time now – regarding queue length at wedding receptions. Apart from a handful, most wedding receptions that I’ve attended in the last 3-4 years have had this issue. You get to the hall and finding a long queue to get on stage, immediately go and plonk yourself at the end of it. By the time you get to the stage and do your business, you are hungry so off you go to the dining hall to probably stand in another queue. And before you know it, the reception is over and all the networking opportunity that you had been thinking of is now lost.

Udupa has a simple solution to this – introduce a token system like they have at commercial banks. Upon entry, you get a token with a number on it and you go take your seat or go around networking. And when your number gets flashed on a screen close to the stage, you go join what will be a very short queue, and you have done your business without really wasting much time. I’m told that this is the system that they had introduced at Tirupati in order to prevent time wastage at queues. However, it is doubtful if such a solution is practicable for the wedding case – people might get offended, people might get too busy to see their token number flashing, and all such.

A while back, I had raised this issue with my mom, and had casually mentioned to her about Udupa’s solution. She said that the whole problem lay with girls’ fascination for make-up nowadays, and that 99% of the problem would get solved if the reception were to start on time. This was never a problem during her time, she mentioned, when makeup was lesser and girls took less time to dress. And she also mentioned that the number of guests hasn’t gone up as significantly as one might expect.

Another solution that my mom suggested was to get the couple to stand at floor level, thus reducing the “distance” between them and the crowd, and making them more accessible. Apparently, she and my dad did that at their wedding – abandoned the stage in favour of the musicians and stood on one side at floor level, and this, she says, made crowds move faster. In fact, even at Katsa’s wedding last weekend, the couple were not at a great height off ground level, and this made them more accessible, and somehow prevented a queue from building up.

Next, we will need to look at the various processes that go into the “proceedings”. So you meet the couple. One of the couple introduces you to the spouse. You make small talk for a couple of minutes. You handover the gift. Then, you stand with the couple and wait for the photographer to make sure everything is ready, and then get your snap taken. And then put exit and head for the grub. So we need to figure out which part of this whole process needs to be reduced, or even done away with.

Gift-giving takes minimal time, so it stays. Introduction is the reason you are there at the wedding, so that also stays. Yesterday’s wedding, they took photos side-on while we were putting small talk. And that still did nothing for queue length. But still, I think that’s a good start – too much time is wasted anyways in organizing gumbals for photos. And the closer gumbals can wait for beyond grubtime.

Small talk? Is there any way that can be reduced? Two weddings recently, the couple has promised to put small talk post-reception but reception has carried on for too long making us put NED before the talk. People kept streaming in even after 10pm. Will the couple abruptly getting off stage at the closing time help? People who come later can seek out the couple wherever they are, and in the meantime they can put the small talk. And this promise means that they don’t have to put small talk when there aer 100 people waiting in the queue?

Any other bright ideas? This is a common problem. Only thing is no one party will pay you enough to come up with a brilliant solution for this – benefits of this are far too distributed. Anyways, your thoughts on this, please.