Article by Pam Black owner of Celebration House.
One of the important aspects of planning a wedding is ensuring that you take your guests’ needs into consideration. After all, when you think about it, they are not there purely to admire the beautiful bride and the elaborate decor, but because you invited them and wanted them to share this special day in your life.
They have also taken the time and trouble to be with you, and have probably spent quite a bit in order to do so, whether in the form of travelling costs, new outfits, babysitter fees, or wedding gifts.
So, what are some of the areas where the needs of guests at weddings are sometimes forgotten?
1. Clear directions to venues
When sending out your invitations, a nice touch is to include a map to both the ceremony and reception, especially if the venues are a bit off the beaten track. Have a few spares printed and hand them to the ushers at the ceremony venue, in case a guest has forgotten his or hers.
2. Cash bar
If you plan on having a cash bar at your reception, state it on the invitation. Guests will welcome knowing this in advance, to ensure they have sufficient cash on them and are not caught unawares. There is nothing worse than wanting to buy a round of drinks for your table, but realising you have only enough cash to treat everyone to a glass of mineral water!
3. Special dietary needs
When guests reply to your invitation, enquire whether they have any special dietary needs. For example, there are a lot more vegetarians around now, and they will love you for thinking of them! It is a good idea to discuss a vegetarian option with your caterer, and to check whether they can assist, should there be any unusual last-minute requests.
4. Arriving (too) late for the ceremony
I am not sure where the tradition of the bride arriving late originated, but in fairness to your guests, it is considered impolite to be more than 7 to 10 minutes late. In fact, I have heard of Marriage Officers who have warned brides that they would leave if they failed to arrive on time!
5. Wheelchair accessibility
If any of your guests are in wheelchairs, take this into consideration when working out your seating plan, and make sure that they have easy access to their seats. Ask your venue manager for advice as to the best access route for wheelchairs, and find out if they have any parking bays reserved for those with disabilities.
6. Outdoor ceremony precautions
If you are planning to hold your ceremony outdoors, make sure you have adequate protection from the sun for your guests. The rays of the summer sun can be very fierce, even in the late afternoon. It’s not necessary to go to the expense of providing each guest with a parasol, but a few strategically placed cloth umbrellas should offer adequate protection. Your venue manager will be able to advise you regarding the number required and the best places to position them (which will depend largely on the time of day of your ceremony).
7. Guest seating
Do spend time planning where to seat all your guests ? this is not something to be done in five minutes! At an evening reception in particular, your guests will be seated for several hours, so try to group like-minded people together. It is also a good idea, wherever possible, to have at least one extrovert at each table who can be relied on to keep the conversation flowing!
8. Checking the seating plan
Check, check (and then check again!) that you have not left anyone off the table seating plan that you put up at the venue. There is nothing more embarrassing for a guest than to discover that his or her name has been omitted. It can also be a problem, at this late stage, trying to decide where to squeeze in someone who has been left off the seating plan.
9. Providing a gift table
I have attended several weddings, gift in hand, and then not known what to do with it. In fact, on one occasion I resorted to taking it back to my car! Remember to have a gift table, and ask a close friend to look after it for you. In addition to the gifts, ask them to take care of any envelopes containing cheques or gift vouchers, as it is wise not to leave these lying around. And do arm your attendant with a roll of cellotape, as guests sometimes bring gifts with unattached cards.
10. Reception welcome
Couples often overlook the fact that after the ceremony, while they and family members are off having photos taken, their guests will be arriving at the reception, with no one to welcome them. Close friends are always volunteering assistance at weddings, so here’s a chance to take one of them up on their offer by asking them to be on hand at the venue to welcome guests, and to be around to take care of any queries that may arise. If you are not having your photographs taken at the venue, try to stay in cellphone contact with your friend, so that he or she will know, for instance, when to ask the guests to be seated.
By following the above guidelines, you will ensure that all your guests will not only feel well cared for, but will also notice that you have thought about their needs – and, as a result, will feel very welcome at your wedding and therefore in the mood to thoroughly enjoy your special occasion along with you.