Photo: Marcela Polo
It can be tough to remember that weddings aren't just about the couple, says Jaclyn Fisher, owner of Philadelphia-based Two Little Birds Planning. But your wedding guests matter big time, too. "While a wedding is about celebrating their love, it's important for couples to remember that they are hosting their guests, and as good hosts, their guests' comfort and happiness should be top-of-mind," Fisher says.
But luckily, says Viva Max Kaley, New York-based wedding planner and creator of Viva Max Weddings, "happiness for guests can be pretty straightforward. They want to know what they're doing, where they're going, and what's expected of them." So here, according to our experts, is how to give them what they need and keep them happy as clams on your big day.
1. A comprehensive wedding website.
Everyone seems to have a wedding website these days. But the ones that stand out to guests, says Fisher, are those that include all the details about the big day. Think: the dates, times, and addresses of all wedding-related events; the hotel room block information with the hotel's phone number, address, and a link to the booking site; transportation details if applicable; and recommendations of restaurants, shopping, and area attractions. "The unknown can be stressful," explains Fisher, "so communicating the details to your guests will make it easier for them to book their travel, plan their weekend, and enjoy their time with you."
2. Well-stocked welcome bags.
Says Fisher, "Nothing is nicer than getting a gift bag of goodies at hotel check in." But even better, she says, is when that goody bag is stuffed to the brim with useful items such as snacks, water, location information, and hangover helpers. "Don't forget to include a welcome letter reiterating the shuttle information and wedding details," Fisher adds. "And be sure to include the venue address for those driving themselves."
3. Seeing the happy couple.
The easiest way to make your guests very happy? Be happy yourselves, Kaley says. "People are watching you," she explains. "They spent time and energy to celebrate your new love and this new chapter in your life. And if you're negative, the mood of the event will feel negative." So if you're feeling stressed or facing a wedding day disaster, "try to take a moment to feel out a way to be with your guests in a positive and gracious way," Kaley suggests. "If you're smiling, appreciating, and being joyous with your friends and family, that's what will make your guests the happiest."
4. Clearly marked wedding signage.
Wedding signs are the way you'll communicate the details of the day, such as shuttle departure times, what signature drink you're serving at the bar, and which direction they'll want to head in order to find the outdoor lounge. "Good signage is especially important if your venue is spread out or if you have activities such as a photo booth or lawn games," says Fisher. "You worked hard to plan these details and signage will make sure your guests can find and enjoy everything."
5. Passed drinks at cocktail hour.
Says Fisher, "Nobody likes waiting in line to get a drink — your wedding guests included." By having servers at-the-ready to greet your guests with beer, wine, water, and even a signature cocktail, "you will eliminate a long line at the start of your reception," says Fisher. Bonus drink tip: "Offering guests wine service with dinner lets guests sit, relax, and enjoy their meal without worrying about constant trips to the bar," Fisher says.
6. A variety of food.
Not everyone is a meat eater, nor can everyone stomach tofu. "Be prepared for different palettes with a variety of food options for your guests," says Fisher. "Guests will remember bad food or being hungry because there weren't options that were appealing to them." When you plan your menu, cover all the bases. "Have an assortment of passed hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour, including one that features chicken, another that is fish, a steak option, and at least one vegetarian item," Fisher says.
7. Amenities in the restrooms.
Your guests might not slip into the reception restroom just to go to the bathroom. And by offering bathroom amenities or baskets, you could be helping them out in a time of minor crisis, like a wardrobe malfunction. "It's a wedding detail that makes guests feel well taken care of," she explains. "The baskets should include items such as Band-Aids, for those who forgot to break in their shoes; a sewing kit and pins, for unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions; and mints, to keep everyone feeling minty fresh."
8. Heartfelt thank you notes.
Your guests may have spent good money on your gift, and sending them a thank you card "ensures they're confident that you received their gift," says Kaley. "Mailing something from a registry can feel like a removed process, with guests often wondering if it ever arrived. Putting an envelope in a box at the wedding is also a bit mysterious for some guests, who wonder if you saw their gift. Writing a thank you note eases their concerns and lets them know their gift was received."