Big Event Fail: Guest Count Doubling Debate


Liza Nagelkirk

While preparing for an event, ensuring that the guest count will fit comfortably in the event room is a crucial part of the preparation process. It is also important that the interested party understands the maximum guest count for a given space and how having more guests could backfire on the experience. For this week’s Big Event Fail, Liza Nagelkirk, event manager at Gelso & Grand in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood, explains her story about what happened when a group doubled in size upon arrival with no prior notice.

“All of our private rooms at Gelso & Grand were completely booked with different events on this specific day when a guest called inquiring about an engagement cocktail celebration for 30 people. The main bar area at our venue can accommodate groups of about 30 people, but it is a semi-private space so it is not ideal for any more guests than that. We agreed to allow the group of 30 to come for the engagement celebration in the semi-private space, but when the guests arrived, there were way more than 30 people. The guest count more than doubled with little to no notice from the party, leaving the bar jam-packed and the other non-related guests at the bar very irritated.

“We soon realized the annoyance from other bar guests, so we put an extra cocktail server behind the bar to serve. In the nicest way possible, we also tried to get the party in the private event room squared up and out the door right when their event time was over. Once the group left, we quickly flipped the room in the hopes to move the engagement celebration to another space.

“Ultimately, many of the guests with the engagement celebration opted to leave after a drink or two due to the lack of space, and unfortunately even after the room was flipped, they had made up their minds to go in other directions.

“From this experience, I learned to firmly state guest counts and repeat the maximum capacities to all interested parties so that they understand what will be best for their event. In hindsight, it may have been safer to book on the smaller side with room for growth rather than with the maximum capacity in case the group does grow larger. In the future, I will do just that to ensure the event guests and all other guests in the venue are completely satisfied.” 

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