I am planning a pre-invitation survey to get a guest list headcount. Will this work?

Guest post by J.
I am planning a pre-invitation survey to get a guest list headcount. Will this work?
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I have been scouring all the posts and comments threads about RSVPs and guest lists, and haven't seen an answer to a tricky question. How do you deal with guest list ambiguity when you live in an extremely expensive area, 2/3 of your desired invites are from out of town, and venues require guaranteed minimums on catering?

Is it over okay to make a survey for your friends and family to gauge best-guesses for will they/won't theys for a wedding a year and a half or two years away?

I was thinking of something along these lines:

“Dear (loved one), we are in the process of figuring out where to have our wedding in June 2020, and you are one of the people we would love to be there when we get married. The thing is, NYC venues make you book based on specific — and, yowza, pricey! — guest list numbers. I know this is unusual, but to figure out if we need a smaller or larger venue, we need to get a pretty good guesstimate of who is likely to attend. We swear you will not offend us no matter what your answer and we'll love you no matter what, so no pressure. That said, it would help us out a lot if you could tell us whether, if we hold our wedding on a Friday or Sunday in June 2020, you would:

A. Definitely attend, barring emergencies
B. Probably attend
C. Interested/maybe attend, but unsure because of money, time, or logistical constraints
D. Unlikely to attend because of money/time/logistics
E. Definitely can't attend because of money/time/logistics

This may seem super awkward, but I am at wit's end about guest list ambiguity because:

1) We have to book a venue between 18 months and two years ahead of time because we're in Brooklyn, NY — where the lower and mid-range priced venues sell out for summer weddings that far ahead, even in the surrounding cities and upstate NY;

2) Most venues force you to use their caterer and require a deposit far in advance, while guaranteeing that you will pay food/booze for a minimum number of guests (some 125 people, some 150 people, etc, at anywhere from $150 to $250 per person!). Note: we've looked into raw space venues hoping they'd be cheaper, and they can save a little bit, but they can be almost as expensive in NYC when food-tables+chairs+table linens+dishware+silverware+lighting+sound+wifi+certificate of insurance+more decor than an inclusive wedding venue because raw spaces here are often plain to ugly until you decorate them;

3) 2/3 of the people we love/plan to invite live out-of-state, and several in Canada and England;

How can you figure out how many people from your guest list will be likely to come to a wedding under those circumstances? We have to be reasonably sure how many people are coming in order to choose a venue. We would love our 150 guest list (or 125 if we are brutal) to come. But one venue requires paying for minimum 150 people at #toomuch$perhead, another venue requires a minimum spend of 125 people and we wouldn't be able to fit more than 125 into that space (also at too much money per person — sense a theme?), and another requires minimum catering for 75 people, but the maximum guest count allowed there is 100. Once we choose a venue, we are locked in to a financial scheme that won't change even if fewer people are able to make the trip to NYC than we anticipate — or if MORE people say yes than we thought, and then we wouldn't be able to fit them all unless we already chose the largest/priciest venue.

Even if we have financial help, we want to not be wasteful. If you have a “cheap” wedding in one of the lower cost venues in Brooklyn or the surrounding area, even with a ton of DIY and no flowers whatsoever, is around $30K. NYC is reportedly the single most expensive place for weddings in America, and reportedly the average is now $77,000!

We'll be doing a lot to reduce costs in other areas (DIY, Friday or Sunday dates, etc.) but for the most part, our fixed costs will still be high and knowing an approximate headcount would be so helpful.

Does the survey idea sound reasonable? Do you think people would throw a fit about it, or feel offended? Are there pitfalls I'm not anticipating about sending out a survey like that?

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