Yes, your wedding day is about you and your partner tying the knot, however your closest friends and family will be there to celebrate with you and they become a big part of your day. It is the most expensive party you will ever host, so why not make your guests feel extra-special and ensure that they also have one of the best days of their lives.
A recent American Express study revealed that guests spend an average of £432 to attend a wedding, including hotel, travel, gifts and drinks. Some guests may be attending multiple weddings in a year (we had five in 2015) so it can be very expensive. Keep this in mind when you are planning the day.
Here is my advice on how to make your guests feel special and make sure they also have a great day, without blowing the budget.
Give them plenty of notice
I would recommend sending “save the dates” to your guests as soon as you have booked your venue. This will give them plenty of time to put the date in the diary, book time off work if necessary and organise accommodation. This is particularly important if you are having a weekday wedding or lots of guests from out of town.
Transport and accommodation
Think carefully before booking your venue, it may be in a beautiful location, but if it is 30 miles away from the nearest hotel, is it really the right option? Research accommodation options before signing on the dotted line. If there are hotels nearby, contact them to advise them of your wedding and see whether they can reserve rooms for your guests. They may even by willing to do a deal on the price for block bookings.
If your dream ceremony location and reception venue are far from each other think about arranging transport. Our reception venue was about a 30 minute drive from the church, so we arranged a coach for our guests. This saved guests the stress of navigating between the venues and meant we could enjoy the journey without worrying about guests getting lost. We also heard it was a fun time for the guests to speak about the ceremony and one couple even bought a champagne picnic!
Talk to them
As a wedding guest it is disheartening if you are unable to speak to the bride or groom on the day. Your guests will appreciate that you will be busy and they do not expect to have a long conversation with you, but a few moments to congratulate you can mean a lot. There are formal ways to ensure you speak to all your guests, such as a receiving line, but this is not necessary as long as you take the time in other parts of the day to mingle.
We specifically booked a reportage style photographer, who wasn’t keen on dozens of posed shots, which meant we had plenty of time to speak to guests. Whilst photos are important, you don’t want your lasting memory of the day to be spending time with your photographer away from all the action. During couple portraits keep an eye on the time and be assertive. If you feel that you have spent too long away from the party then tell your photographer and explain that you want to return shortly. It also helps to discuss your expectations with your photographer beforehand, to avoid frustrations on the day.
Between mains and desserts at our wedding I took the opportunity to go round the tables and speak to guests. I am really glad I did as I had some great conversations with a number of guests and it meant I could enjoy the evening without worrying about whether I had spoken to everyone. Think about whether there time in the day when you can circulate and set this aside in the timeline.
Weddings are long days with large gaps between meals. Guests are also likely to start drinking unusually early and empty stomachs and day drinking are not a good mix, especially if you want your guests to party well into the night. So canapés (or an alternative) are an absolute must.
Although it can seem like an unnecessary expense, evening food is also a great touch and will keep guests fuelled into the night. We had little bowls of Thai curry and chilli for guests to eat, which were served about 9pm. It doesn’t have to be gourmet food, but it will be appreciated.
You can even hire food trucks offering pizza, ice cream or even Mexican food. This is a fun way to feed your guests and keep them entertained. Just check with your venue before booking.
Keep them updated
As a wedding guest it can be frustrating to have no idea what time you are eating or how long you will be standing around. You don’t have to tell guests every detail of the day, but let them know when and where the big events are due to take place. This means they will know where they need to be and won’t miss the big moments. There are some creative ways to display your timeline which can tie in with your wedding stationary.
White Willow Paper via Etsy
Make sure ushers are well briefed. Guests will ask them questions such as where they should sit during the service or where the toilets are. It may also be helpful to add important information to your wedding website, such as parking availability and dress codes.
As I set out in my previous blog post, we organised some wedding details just for our guests. On the coach we made sure there was bottled water and some homemade sweet treats. We also created a “how well do you know the newlyweds?” quiz to keep guests busy during the journey.
I put a box of mini toiletries and plasters in the ladies bathroom and we had hangover recovery kits in the rooms at the venue. These touches didn’t cost us much but guests commented on them.
A thank you card is a must! Yes, it is time consuming writing dozens of thank you cards, but it means a lot to be thanked for your gift and it’s always fun receiving post! Messages should be tailored to thank guests for their specific gift and they should be sent within 2-3 months of the wedding day.
It can help to run through your plan of the day from the point of view of a guest. How would you feel about the day if you were a guest? Are there long periods of time where guests are waiting with nothing to do? Is there food provided at regular intervals? Will guests be in the summer heat with no shelter for hours?
Be flexible and make any adjustments which will improve the day for your guests. If you keep your guests in mind during planning, everyone will be leaving your wedding with great memories.