Ensuring that your guests have a truly wonderful time at your wedding involves more than just throwing a successful party. Many weddings are now weekend-long celebrations, with family members and friends traveling from all over the country, and the world, to attend. This means you need to consider a great many more details to make sure that guests are happy and comfortable. Here are some thoughtful tips and creative ideas to help you do just that.
Before the Wedding
Be sure to send your save-the-date cards early (six to nine months before the wedding) and include pertinent information about hotel reservations and rental-car services, as well as a schedule of events with corresponding dress codes. Suggest some activities that guests might enjoy during the weekend, such as museum visits, fly-fishing, hiking or wine-tasting. Organize tennis or golf games. Provide your guests with recommendations for babysitting services, coffee shops and convenience stores.
When you arrange transportation to and from wedding events, it makes the weekend much easier for out-of-town guests. Set up shuttles or a car service to retrieve guests from the airport and stock the vehicles with cold bottles of water and snacks to revive the travelers. And, of course, transportation back to the airport at the weekend's conclusion will be appreciated, too.
Be inventive when putting together a goody bag to welcome out-of-town guests to their hotels. Include the necessities: a bottle of water, a midnight snack, a map of the area with event locations clearly marked and a detailed schedule for the weekend. Then consider your setting. If your wedding is in New York City, for example, treat your guests to a Metrocard for the subway, a Zagat restaurant guide personalized with your event details (zagat.com), a caramel-dipped "Big Apple" and a museum pass to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org). For a seaside setting, fill up a stylish beach bag with sunblock, a plush beach towel and Havaiana flip-flops (havaianasus.com). Welcome guests at a winter wedding in Aspen with a cozy blanket, gourmet hot chocolate, woolen mittens, lip balm and hand-warmers.
At the Wedding
If you're planning to hold any part of the wedding outdoors, always prepare for the weather. Having blankets (for cool weather), fans (in warmer climes) or umbrellas at the ready is a must. The ladies will appreciate a basket of flip-flops or socks next to the dance floor so they can slip out of their heels for a bit.
To make guests feel special at the reception, leave a handwritten note of welcome and thanks at each seat. Make it personal by including a detail about how you know him or her. (For someone you don't know well, like your mother's co-worker, you might write, "My mother and I were so happy you could celebrate with us.") Choose a host for each table who can greet guests as they arrive at their seats and introduce those who haven't met yet.
Offer your guests a bite to eat as the party winds down. Pile a table with huge glass jars of candy in your wedding colors, several scoops and individual bags that departing guests can fill and take with them. Fresh doughnuts, hot cookies or mini-burgers also ensure your guests go home well-fed and happy.
After the Wedding
The next day, hold a send-off brunch in a convenient location. Share stories of the night before and wish your guests safe travels home. You'll no doubt hear that they all had an incredible time.