Think back to the last wedding you attended. Can you say it was the best wedding you have ever experienced? Was it memorable for anything? Something? Hopefully so. But if you are part of the pack who wishes to have an event that people remember (for the right reasons, mind you) then read on, my friend. Here is my top 5 list of how to keep your guests happy and wowed all night long.
1. Have at least two surprises planned
Weddings don't have to be 'by the book'. In fact, with the exception of a few details of pomp and circumstance (the ceremony should probably occur before the reception) you can pretty much write your own script. Now, unless you are truly wild and crazy, there are elements that are traditional that brides typically opt to include. But just for kicks and giggles lets wash the slate clean and look through the lens of planning your perfect day. Surprises come in all shapes and sizes. You do not need to parachute in holding hands to say your vows (but wow, that would truly be memorable) or get married by a chimpanzee (saw this once; wasn't pretty) but what if... What if you arranged for your guests to be transported to a destination that they know nothing about? What if you have a garden wedding, only to take your guests to a scene that looks like it was created for a magazine shoot? And before you see dollar signs, know that it doesn't have to be costly. Something as simple as twisting the elements slightly can be just enough to earn the title of surprise. Before we begin, a few words to the wise: to keep it truly a surprise element, you must stay clear of the been there, done that (releasing of doves, sparklers as you exit, etc.). Not that those aren't wonderful because I've been known to shed a tear at the graceful birds flying overhead, but we're looking for knock-down, whoa, what was that?! reactions...
Here are a few ideas:
- Who says flower girls need to be under 8 years of age? Bring your grandmas into the mix and give them the respect they deserve as you let them set the stage (or aisle as the case may be) for smiles and fun.
- Serve a cocktail prior to the ceremony. What? Yep. Why not start the party when the party starts? Limit to one to keep things in order. Limit to none if you're at all concerned with anyone's behavior.
- Bring in the theater. Entertainment is the newest trend in weddings. Not sure if Katy Perry kicked off this trend by riding an elephant down her ceremony aisle, but it is something you'll see at weddings across America this year. To be done right, it must be an extension of the type of wedding you are having. Beach weddings beg for belly dancers & hula girls. Museum weddings offer a heightened excitement with live art. And if you are having a barn wedding, bring horses to ride or a hayride for the kids to keep them busy so their parents can get their groove on? Nothing should be off limits as you let your creativity run wild.
- CD Invitation (did this at my own wedding). Send your wedding invitation as a musical CD. Ask your guests to memorize one of the songs. Each table - after properly introduced to one another - comes up with a unique way to sing their verse. Our guests got to know each other really quickly. Turns out we had quite a few friends and family who were highly competitive! Result: one of the best memories from the wedding.
- Move locations. You've had your ceremony at a church or maybe even where your reception is being held. Then there's dinner followed by some dancing. What if the end of the night is in another room set to jazz and a late night bar? What if you move from a hotel ballroom to an outdoor pool deck? Or have a boat cruise in & pick up your guests from the dock and take them out on a cruise? Chances are you will have lost part of your crowd and your numbers will be smaller as parents & their kids head home, etc. The change in scenery will take on a new vibe and be completely unexpected.
2. Feed & water your guests
Brides know how to keep everyone happy and engaged. Have ample amounts of food and drink. Think about your timeline and plan accordingly. Will there be a lull between the ceremony & reception? Bring in the food trucks to the outdoor reception area (can't you just picture them rolling up to the scene?) and let them munch on specialties unique to you and your guy, or that are in line with the theme. Make sure you have each segment covered. Pre-party, cocktail hour, early reception (most guests plan on eating with you sooner rather than later - this is what we've been conditioned to expect over time), and of course the newest thing - late night munchie tables that feature everything from a candy & ice cream bar to awesome finger foods. And don't forget about the watering holes. Your venue will guide you on the number of bars you should have to accommodate the number of guests you guarantee. Also, always be sure to indicate if you have a heavy drinking crowd so that they can plan - they'll need more liquor and more glassware to keep your guests happy and grooving all night long. If you are a DIY bride, here's your cheat sheet: # of guests X 2-3 drinks per hour X # of hours your bar(s) is/are open. Also, plan for one 750 ml bottle of wine for every two (adult) guests, and one 750 ml bottle of liquor for every 15 guests if you plan to have a bar. You should also expect to use one quart of the drink mixer (i.e., ginger ale) for every 3-4 guests. For larger receptions, consider purchasing a case of wine, which will typically serve 80 to100 guests, and a keg of beer, which could serve the entire reception.
3. Who, what, where
Don't worry about sitting all of your college roommates together. Trust me, they'll seek one another out. Instead try mixing things up a bit by letting your worlds collide. Put one person at each table in charge of introductions to get things loosened up. And, if it doesn't go as planned and people choose not to converse, they'll be up on the dance floor in no time so no harm, no foul. Alternatively, my favorite way to seat people is at a communal table. It's often difficult to hear someone across a large round banquet table, but with a communal table (they can go as long and as far as you have the room to accommodate; there is no rule here) your guests will dine and enjoy the company of those around them without straining to hear or talking over one another. For this type of seating arrangement, let everyone except the wedding party sit where they want to (and if you do, another item comes off of your to-do list: creating the seating chart - yay!).
4. Safety first
Help with transportation planning to local hotels so that people don't have to drive. They will have a lot more fun and you won't lose honeymoon sleep worrying about your guests getting home safely if you take this into consideration. Be sure to advertise early so that people can plan.
5. Enjoy yourself
No one wants to hear how hard you've worked (if they're married they know and if they're yet to be married they'll go through the same thing) so as soon as you head down that aisle, take a deep breath and let go. Whatever happens - even if unintended will likely make for great stories afterward so don't stress. Walk back down the aisle after your vows and share a smile and a cocktail and have a good belly laugh that perhaps at least the not-too-distant future will be a whole lot less stressful.