OK, I have to admit, the pic is mostly for shock value! But c'mon, you've all been there. The wedding that's SUPER awkward for you, as a guest (or member of the wedding party) because the couple didn't think about a few things that'll prevent those 'what do we do now?' moments, and ensure that their day is not only amazing for them, but for their guests as well.
Here are just a few tips to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy on your wedding day:
#1: Tell you guests what to do next.
Generally, assume that your guests DIDN'T read the invitation (with all that info you spent hours proofreading, perfecting and polishing), and that they've NEVER been to a single other wedding. Tell them what to do, and when to do it. This can take the form of:
- explaining potentially unfamiliar ceremony elements (think: Eastern/Greek Orthodox or Jewish ceremonies, Indian or Muslim ceremonies, Chinese Tea Ceremonies . . . etc.) by means of a ceremony program
- creating an itinerary for the day, either as an invitation/program insert or on a sign/chalkboard at the ceremony
- announcements that your officiant makes at the end of the ceremony with directions on what happens next
- a "concierge/maitre 'd" who helps direct guests (from ceremony to reception, from cocktails to dinner, etc.)
- signage around the venue (i.e. "This bar will close at 6:00, at which point you're encouraged to find your seat for dinner")
- a clear outline given by your MC as he/she welcomes guests to the reception
#2: Avoid long, confusing gaps.
The classic gap between ceremony and reception allows for the couple, family and wedding party to take photos, but what will guests do during this time? A common way to avoid this gap is to consider doing your formal photography prior to the ceremony. A "first look" photo is SO great, for SO many reasons (blog post to follow about that!), and if you are up for taking formal photos of you and your fiance, the wedding party, and immediate family before the ceremony, awesome! BUT, we understand that seeing your boo before the ceremony isn't for everyone. So . . . think about what your guests will do during that time!!
- First, know that cocktail hour is, almost universally, the hardest-hit time at the bar. If you have an extended cocktail hour (1.5 hours or more), expect that a lot of guests will be fairly . . . well-lubricated, unless you've given them some options.
- To mitigate drunken cocktail-hour guests, consider:
- limiting bar options to punch, beer and wine, or two signature drinks.
- giving guests options to keep them busy (lawn games, mixer games, scavenger hunts, photo walks, etc.).
- providing food to soak up the alcohol.
- hosting your ceremony and reception at different locations, providing the intervening time as a hotel-check in for out of town guests, or as 'free time' for guests to explore the city (be cognisant that this may actually be MORE awkward for out of town guests, depending on your demographic).
Other gaps in timing are also SUPER awkward for guests, and generally occur during the reception. Try to avoid the following (hint: a great MC can save your bacon here, as can a wedding coordinator who knows their stuff).
- awkward gaps in service times. Ask your caterer how many servers they have, and what their anticipated service time between courses is. A slow-moving dinner is very frustrating for guests.
- breaks between dinner and speeches, or speeches and cake cutting, or cake cutting and dances. Generally, we advise trying to group the "duty events" together, so that you only have to get the attention of your guests once. . . for instance, go straight from speeches (which should follow one another immediately, with no breaks) to cake cutting to first dances, then open the dance floor for the party.
- DO keep your dance momentum going (your band/DJ will thank you!) by limiting the number of times you stop the action. If you're doing a bouquet/garter toss, do it right before the announcement of late-night food being available, so that the action only has to be stopped once to announce events to your guests.
#3: Think REALLY, REALLY hard about who you include.
I'm talking about both guests and wedding party here. Let's be honest. You have, like, 15 BFFs that HAVE to be included in your wedding party. Your parents are paying for most of the wedding, and they're insisting on inviting THEIR friends. Your cousins refuse to attend unless they're allowed to bring their kids.
Let's. Get. Real.
- You have tons of friends. That's amazing. Really, really amazing. But the reality is, on your wedding day, tensions will run high. Your BFFs from different sectors of your life might not be BFFs with each other. This is bound to create some tensions, which will, ultimately (and despite your bridal party's best efforts to the contrary), affect your day. Consider carefully who you include in your wedding party, and think about keeping it simple and small, if possible. Not only will this keep costs down (each bridesmaid bouquet is likely to cost $100+), but it will also allow you to choose only your closest friends, and the ones who would rather die than let some silly drama ruin your wedding day.
- Yes, if your parents are paying for some, or a large portion of, the day, they'll feel entitled to invite some of their friends. There's a bit of a tightrope wire to walk here, though - if 1/2 of your wedding guests are friends of you or your fiance's parents (and, presumably, people you've never/rarely met), it's bound to be a bit awkward for you as you mingle and accept people's well-wishes. It's definitely not an easy situation to navigate, but have a convo with your parents about how many guests THEY want to invite sooner, rather than later, and you'll at least know what to expect on your wedding day.
- Know that this is YOUR wedding. Particularly if you're footing most of the bill, YOU get to decide what YOU want. If you decide not to invite children, stand strong and weather the potential push-back, knowing that if your friends/family refuse to come because their children were not invited, you'll probably have a more enjoyable day because of it (in the end). If you decide not to give every single guest a plus-one (and, say, limit it to relationships of 6 months or more), stand firm in the knowledge that your budget will be in a better place, and any guests who don't give you the benefit of the doubt may not have contributed to the happiness of your day in the end, anyway.
Moral of the story: it's your wedding, and you need to do what feels right for you. But there are a few little considerations that will make the day more comfortable for you, your families, and your guests. We'd love to hear your feedback on this issue. What are you planning to do to make your day flow smoothly? What worked well for you at your wedding? Post a comment; we'd love to hear from you!