Here are 5 wedding planning tips you should consider that will make or break your guest’s experience on your special day.
"Don't make your wedding day an all day expedition."
Guests are looking forward to seeing you, spending time with you and having a great time with you. What they are not looking forward to is a marathon day. Guests (especially those from out of town) are not interested in a day full of driving all over searching for multiple hard to reach venues with over inflated parking rates. They're also not interested in long and hard to walk terrains. This is not the time to get creative with your wedding planning and ask grandma to walk half a mile in the sand or hike up a mountainside.
Choose a venue that can accommodate both ceremony and reception.
If you are tying the knot at a church, choose one that may have a hall or outdoor space on the property that can be transformed into a lovely reception space. If this is not possible then choose a reception site that is within "walking" distance to the church.
Ensure your wedding venue has ample accessible parking (including handicap spots for less mobile guests) and keep the path easy and short.
Plan an experience that doesn't require an all day commitment and be realistic regarding transition timing to allow for a smooth and stress free celebration. Keep transitions between venues less than 20 min not 3 hours.
"Don't make us wait."
Guests invest in your big day in many ways; one of those is time so making them wait is very disrespectful.
Start when you say you are going to start! Some couples give guests a "fake" start time that's 30 minutes or so earlier to ensure they arrive on time. News flash folks! A wedding that starts late is rarely due to the guests. It's usually a bride (or groom) or wedding party that holds things up.
Plan for you and key individuals to arrive 30-45 minutes before start time and set your clocks ahead so that your guests are not waiting on you.
A great way to ensure guests leave ample arrival time is to note “guest arrival time” and “ceremony start time” on the invitation. This bit of communication provides guests with an opportunity to plan accordingly.
Also consider taking your sweetheart formals (first looks) before the ceremony so you do not run the risk of making the long awaited cocktail hour run late.
"Take care of us."
Your guests are comprised of your most cherished friends and family members and although they will witness your nuptials they are not just an audience void of needs.
Provide shelter and or protection from heat or cold climates. Umbrellas, sunscreen, blankets etc. can help keep folks comfy. Planning for the ideal season and time of day ensures that you are not battling the elements.
Offer simple refreshments for those that arrive early and feed them on time for dinner.
Provide plenty of comfortable and roomy seating and try to arrange it so there is no bad seat in the house. It's not cool to make guests stand, not even for 10 minutes.
Make sure there is an adequate sound system for your ceremony. There’s nothing worse than sitting for 30 minutes staring at the back of someone's head and not able to hear a single word that is said. (Oh and yes you still need it even if it's "just a small 10 person wedding"!)
Pick up parking and drink tab (at least for a portion of the night).
Make local recommendations for hotels and cabs/rides.
“Plan accordingly, we are not your bank”
One of the most common mistakes couples make when wedding planning is not outlining a detailed budget. I can’t tell you how many times I get calls from couples saying “we are on a budget” which I already assume, since frankly I have yet to meet one person who is not. When asked what that budget is they say “we don’t know we are just looking for information.” Planning a wedding without a clear budget is like going to the grocery store and filling up a cart without knowing what you have in your wallet.
Create a detailed budget and establish a wedding account into which you will set money aside and allocate funds accordingly based on priority.
Focus your resources on needs first rather than wants. For example, you can most likely live without a limo but may not want to go without music. Staying within your budget keeps you from depending on monetary gifts to bail you out of financial ruin post wedding. Venue and number of guests (food/drinks) are typically the biggest ticket items on the list so do the math on cost per person so that you know how many guests you can afford to invite before sending out invitations.
Do not list registries or bank accounts on the invitation. Expecting guests to pay for wedding or for financial support is not just tacky, but insulting.
If you would like to create a gift registry, make it ONE not three and have the information available on your wedding site or via word of mouth. Register for items with a variety of prices so that guests can choose what fits within their budget.
Minimize the asks. Having a “bridal shower” or “engagement party”, then a “ wedding registry”, then a “honeymoon jar” and then a “money dance” can be a bit much.
“Spend time with us and make it an enjoyable experience”
Guests come to your wedding because they love you and want to celebrate your joy with you. If you are too busy worrying about the little things or MIA all together it will disappoint them.
Be present, all the wedding planning in the world won’t matter if you are upset that the colors of the flowers are not what you ordered and causing you to melt down. There are only so many things that can be done the day of, so try to focus on having fun and enjoying yourself regardless of what doesn’t go as planned. If you are having fun so are your guests.
Plan a realistic timeline. Too often-wedding timelines are planned down to the minute with no breathing room. Cushion the timeline to allow for unexpected needs and most importantly the little things like stopping to give grandpa an extra hug.
Take your sweetheart formals before ceremony or post wedding day. Everyone says how important photographs are yet come day of they cram both romantic and family formals along with greeting guests and getting to reception location all in one TINY hour. Take this out of the equation and give yourself time to mingle and enjoy your guests during cocktail hour. Not only will they be happy to see you and grab a few selfies with their bestie but you will be so glad you have the memories of being part of the celebration. Check out more on First Looks wedding portraits.
Plan for activities that engage people and arrange tables and seating to create a sense of unity. You want everyone to feel a part of the celebration. Skip the corny party games and avoid singling out unmarried guests.
Work with your key vendors (venue, day of coordinator, DJ/musician and photographer) to ensure your timeline is realistic, seamless and void of choppy stops along the way. There is nothing worse than getting the family up and having fun on the dance floor only to stop the action to cut the cake or make a speech.
The biggest factor in making your guests happy is by treating them well. Plan a "guest friendly" wedding and regardless what your budget is, your day is bound to be great and enjoyed by all.