This weekend I attended a wedding....as a guest! Not the kind of guest that gets called into the back moments before the wedding to bustle a train, or the kind that needs to arrange flowers, cue bridesmaids, or check in with the caterer. No....Just a regular invited guest.
What a nice change to be on the other side of the aisle! In my profession, I am always in my head, bouncing between the creative and the logistic, the bride and the groom, the timeline and the natural, living progression of the evening.
Despite what you hear about the wedding being "your day" a great wedding is really all about the guests. The best weddings start with couples that are deeply invested in the guest experience. A wedding is about turning a moment into a memory, and that begins with creating extraordinary moments for your guests.
But what do your guests really take note of during a wedding? Having spent time on the other side of the aisle, and having spent years talking with guests at weddings, let me tell what they really think and want!
1. Timing is Everything - Does your wedding start on time? Or are guests left to wait upwards of 30 minutes for you to arrive. Is your cocktail hour lively and moving along? Or does it drag. on. for. ever. Is your wedding reception well thought out and managed, or are guests held hostage by an endless stream of toasts that start to feel like open mic night?
Work with your wedding planner and create a well functioning timeline. Ensure that your day is organized and moves along with an air of excitement and anticipation; it will keep your guests engaged and enjoying themselves. Instead of saying, "Will this night ever end?" they will be chanting for one more song!
2. It's the Little Things - Think no one pays attention to whether or not your invitations match your escort cards? Or if your menus are printed on upgraded paper with a special monogram? Think again! In today's wedding-obsessed society, it's the small touches and the little things that really make an impression. Invest in details, from the color of the napkin to the font on the menu. Design a monogram or branding image, select a color scheme, and then carefully apply these to elements throughout the day so that it reinforces to guests that this is your wedding. Small, special touches makes the most ordinary things feel custom and special, and give guests the feeling of being catered to and taken care of. These are the things that leave your guests saying, "They really thought of everything!"
3. Surprise Guests with Unexpected, Personal Touches - My couples are always asking, "Do you think it's okay if we...???..." when it comes to adding an unexpected twist to the wedding. And my answer is almost always, "YES! It's your wedding, and if this speaks to you, that makes it okay." You want guests to rave about your wedding, and that only happens if it's YOUR wedding. Not a cookie cutter that they've seen a million times before, but something so deeply personal that it could only be a part of the two of you.
But what does that mean? Well, for the couple who's wedding I just attended, that meant having a BBQ themed menu (totally unexpected) in honor of the bride's southern style, and having opposite-sex attendants in their bridal party. 43 years ago, when my parents got married, they had lobsters dressed as Carmen Miranda in their cocktail hour in honor of the fact that they met in Puerto Rico and were honeymooning in Acapulco. For an Italian couple to have this was unheard of at the time, but people loved it, and over 4 decades later, it's still one of things people talk about.
4. How You Feel. Your Emotions Set the Tone for the Day - Guests are like dogs in the fact that they can smell fear. And anxiety. If you are nervous, preoccupied, or stressed out; your guests know. Likewise, when those doors open and you are overcome with emotion in the moment that you see one another, when you get lost in the quiet moments of you first dance, when you jump out of your chair when you hear your favorite song....We know. Your guests are there for you, and they feed off of the energy that you bring to the day.
5. Give Me a Great Party - Is this a party, or is this a party?!?!?! Great food, cool drinks, a thoughtful seating arrangement, and amazing music are all key in giving guests something to rave about. For example, in the past ten years I can count on one had the amount of times my husband has danced with me. Typically with reticence, and almost always only the the slow songs. But this weekend we sat with the coolest of cool couples, and after dinner they dragged us out onto the dance floor where we stayed until nearly 2 in the morning. TWO IN THE MORNING! That has never happened, but we literally had the best time ever. And now, we have a few new friends that will always remind us of this couple and their night.
And a BONUS TIP!!!!
Don't Run Out Of Anything! Food, booze, cake, music....Ensure that your guests will want for nothing! Could you imagine taking the time out of your life to travel to a wedding, guest dressed, pick out a gift, and sit through a ceremony...Only to find that they ran out of the couple's signature cocktail while you were in the restroom? Dying for a shrimp skewer and none can be found? What about waiting all night for dessert only to find that they didn't have enough cake? And it's my personal opinion that you should never ask your guests to pay for anything; from valet parking to late night cocktails, you should ensure that your guests are truly guests, and that you treat them to everything they will experience.
In the end, a wedding is all about the details, how they come together, and how they make your guests feel. Take the time to add special touches throughout the day, and treat your guests like royalty, and they will rave about your wedding for years to come.
What do you think?
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