Weddings are a wonderful celebration of love and marriage. And how wonderful to have all the people you care about in the same place at the same time. Along with the wedding party, the other beautifully attired guests in the room will have invested their time and money to be there on the day with you too.
At one point in my life I was a serial wedding guest and also could often be seen wearing a fancy dress stood at the front (although only as a bridesmaid all too often). Luckily I’ve now found my Prince Charming and I vowed to learn from all the weddings I’d attended to ensure that our wedding guests had an amazing time.
Here are my top ten tips to keeping your wedding guests happy and ensure your wedding is remembered as a great day by all:
1. Keep your guests fed, watered and entertained then you pretty much can’t go wrong. Fail at one of these and they’ll get twitchy, tetchy or bored. Remember everyone loves free things! If you can’t afford to pay for the bar all night then perhaps welcome drinks and some with the meal will be a nice gesture. Plus as someone with dietary requirements, I’m always impressed (& relieved) when different diets are considered at a wedding (which means I’ve got something to eat to soak up all that free drink!)
2. Keep them busy. No one likes to sit around for too long. Getting them involved and interacting will keep them engaged. Perhaps a video diary room for them to leave you a message or a photo booth for some fun. Don’t forget the children too with activities to keep their minds busy (and parents happy!)
3. Set expectations early. People are generally happier if they know what is happening and when. Give them a schedule with their invites (or in the order of service) so they at least know when the food will be served. Make it really clear in your invites who exactly is invited and to which parts. I was invited to a wedding a few years ago and the invite didn’t have any names on it. We didn’t know if our children were included let alone if we were both invited! Worse still, make it clear if they’re only being invited to the evening part rather than all day. Nothing worse than having to embarrassingly turn away guests.
4. Give clear and consistent communications. Make sure you say the same things to everyone. Don’t have different rules for different people. Or if you do, be clear why this is the case. For example, if you’ve said that it’s a kid free wedding but then you let one of your out of town guests bring their little ones with them. Or I once went to a wedding and wondered why so many of the guests were dressed in black and white. It turns out that one side of the family had been told that the couple had requested a colour scheme. However this message hadn’t been translated to all the guests including me (in my green and brown dress) and my husband (in his blue suit) plus the rest of our side of the family!
5. Choose your guests carefully. They say that the enjoyment of most gatherings can be made or broken depending on who is there. People do really make the party! So the all important seating plan can dictate what kind of a day your guests might have. Often I’ve been a guest at the evening part of a wedding and not really known anyone except for the happy couple. It’s been really hard to integrate with the day guests when you don’t know them and when you’re coming to the show late. So make sure that you can offer the evening guests a flavour of the day too. Perhaps save cutting your cake and first dance so they get to experience some ‘wedding’ elements in their experience too.
6. Inject some humour in to the day. Honestly the best weddings I’ve been to have been when I’ve been belly laughing at the speeches. Not the ones where I’ve been cringing at the inappropriateness, or yawning at the length of the speech or felt like an outsider as I didn’t understand any of the in jokes. Laughter is great and it’s really important to make the day fun for everyone but not just for a select few.
7. Show your love and gratitude. Guests may have come a long way, taken time off work or paid to stay over. So let them know how much you appreciate their support and presence either with words or presents. Isn’t it great to see a happy couple so in love and making this commitment. As a guest, I’ve definitely enjoyed weddings where the couple really look in love (it’s never good if you’re doubting whether it will work!) Just like the royal kiss on the balcony, we’re all waiting for the ‘you may now kiss the bride’ moment after your vows.
8. Pick the perfect place to say I do. Your guests don’t want to be freezing in a marquee in the winter or glomping across a muddy field in stilettos. If you’re going with something a little out of the norm then give your guests warning on different attire to wear or provide blankets, flip flops, sunglasses etc to cover the different eventualities. A wonderful trend at the moment is the weekend wedding when you pick a venue where your guests can stay over too. This is great to prolong the festivities and give you more opportunities to relax and mingle with all your guests.
9. Personalise the day. Where you can, try to make the experience individual for your guests so they feel special and an important part of your day. I once went to a wedding and the favours were all bars of chocolate. The wrapper was printed with a photograph of me as a child with the groom (who I’d know since I was very small). Every favour was personal to each guest and how they knew the couple. It still makes me smile thinking about it today.
10. Make it affordable. Think about your guests’ wallets when you’re planning the day. How much does a pint of beer cost at the bar? How much is a room to stay? How far away is the venue from where they live? It may put some guests off or leave a bad taste if things are too expensive or not good value for money. You may look at your guests with dollar signs over the head when you’re writing the guest list but they’re weighing up the expensive of coming too. Make it worth their while and give them a great wedding to remember.