Nothing spoils a wedding like a bunch of unhappy guests. Making your friends and family comfortable is a way of thanking them for celebrating your special day with you. Sure, your wedding should have your personal stamp on everything from the canapés to the candle holders. But, at the end of the day, you want to make sure your guests are as happy as you are.
No one wants family members complaining to each other before they’ve even left the parking lot. Since people rarely tell the bride or groom directly, however, it can be hard to know what caused offense. If you’re ready to hear it, listed below are the most common complaints guests have about the weddings they attend.
Things That Prevent Participation
Guests come to weddings to share the joy of the day with the newlywed couple. Naturally, being unable to participate is a large complaint. It sounds basic, but in the flurry of wedding planning, couples sometimes forget to look at things from a guest’s point of view. Arrange your ceremony seating so every single guest can see and hear you say your vows.
When planning reception table centerpieces, keep in mind that vases and other tabletop decorations should be short enough for your guests to see each other without craning their necks. (Believe it or not, this isn’t always the case.)
Seating arrangements are another factor that can limit participation. Take care to seat your guests at tables where you’re certain they’ll have something in common with their tablemates. If necessary, include one interesting fact about each person on their name tags to get conversations going.
If you and your new spouse sit at a head table, make a point of getting up and greeting each guest personally during the reception. (Surprisingly, some couples forget to do this.) Some of your shy guests may need to be drawn out a bit, but everyone should have the opportunity to participate if they wish.
Too Much Waiting
Nothing cramps a wedding’s style like too much waiting. In the time between the ceremony and reception, guests can become bored or antsy and come away with unhappy memories of your special day. If your ceremony isn’t immediately followed by your reception, keep your guests occupied with a cocktail hour or other arrangement.
If you need a long time for photos or other just-wedding-party activities, don’t keep your guests waiting for hours. Schedule lengthy private activities for the previous or next day, instead. Out-of-town guests especially don’t like to cool their heels in an unfamiliar location when there’s nothing else to do.
A long wait is even more uncomfortable when you’re hungry, so keep track of the last time your guests ate. If your morning ceremony leads into an evening reception, schedule lunch or hors d’oeuvres for the time between. Even inexpensive options like pizza are better than facing a room full of growling stomachs. At the very least, state the duration of the wait on the wedding invitations so your guests can plan ahead.
Plan an appropriate number of amenities for the amount of guests you’re expecting. Everything from bars to bathrooms can become pile-ups when there are too many people vying for limited options. If your location doesn’t have enough bathrooms, you can rent deluxe porta potties (which are much more lavish than they sound).
Avoid long lines for food by dividing your buffet into food stations; everything from coffee and tea to gourmet grilled items gets its own station. That way, guests can choose exactly what they’re in the mood to eat, and the flow of your reception encourages more mingling.
Music That’s Too Loud
Your wedding is likely to bring together relatives or old friends who haven’t seen each other for years, and this is their chance to catch up over the topic of how radiant you look. No one likes shouting over the music in order to be heard. Keep your dancing area a bit removed from the area where your guests are mingling, or keep the dance music at reasonable levels. If you have guests who are particularly sensitive to noise (such as those with hearing difficulties or small children), take care to seat them away from the speakers.
While the right wedding favors are lovely ways to thank guests for coming, the wrong favors often seem forced and unnecessary. Don’t put guests in the position of feeling obligated to take a monogrammed snow globe home with them, then wondering if they have to display it every time you come over. Wedding favors should be truly useful presents, such as edible treats, fancy lip balms, or donations to charity in your guests’ honor. Obligatory trinkets just create waste and send guests home with the wrong feeling.
Financial questions quickly turn into boggy ground at weddings. Should the couple or their families pay for everything? Are guests obligated to bring gifts? Is it ok to give the bride and groom cash? Are bars that aren’t free just an insult?
While only you know what level of generosity is appropriate for your wedding budget, you can still take care to avoid giving your guests the sensation of being nickel-and-dimed. Do this by being very open ahead of time about any costs your guests are expected to pay. Never include your registry on the invitations (this should be spread through word of mouth) and avoid venues with parking fees (or, the very worst: pay toilets!). If your guests do need cash to pay for things on the premises, at the very least you should ensure that there is an ATM close by.
Remember, when your guests are happy, your wedding goes more smoothly. Comfortable guests are less prone to argue or stir up old drama. While you shouldn’t sacrifice your idea of a beautiful wedding in order to make it all about the guests, you do have to make some compromises.Keep in mind that the wedding ceremony is for you and your beloved alone. The reception afterward is your chance to share your joy with your guests.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.