Everyone wants their wedding day to be memorable – for the right reasons. Unfortunately for guests, rather than the perfectly planned reception playlist or the personalised favours, it’s often the not-fun parts of the celebrations that stick in the memory: a long queue for drinks, food served late (and cold), or music no one enjoys.
Unless you’re having a just-the-two-of-us elopement, you need to factor in your guests’ needs, so put yourselves in their shoes.
While it’s perfectly fine to spend time thinking about your stylish stationery or which shade of shoes the bridesmaids should be wearing, here’s what your wedding guests secretly wish you’d also bear in mind…
Give wedding guests lots of information
Make sure your wedding website or invites have transport and accommodation details, and try to provide both as far in advance as possible.
On the day, make sure everything is signposted, if it’s likely to be needed, or provide a map showing how to get from the ceremony to the reception – you don’t want any of your guests getting lost along the way.
Guests also like to the know the order of the day, where to leave cards and gifts, and the best ways to get home later on – providing transport is a nice touch, or make sure the numbers of local taxi firms are close to hand.
Keep some surprises from your guests
While information is important, don’t share every element of your plans on social media – build some anticipation.
Guests love those moments before the ceremony as the bride is set to make her entrance, or walking into the reception room to see the décor for the first time.
Enjoy the “I do”
“At the heart of any wedding is the ceremony,” says wedding planner Kim Balasubramaniam.
“Your guests are coming to see you declare your love for each other. There’s an immense excitement as guests are sat down, and they love the ceremony – particularly if you can make it as personal as possible.”
Photographer Lucy Davenport recommends that you ban phones and tablets for an ‘unplugged’ ceremony, helping guests to stay in the moment.
“This has to come from the bride and groom, though,” she advises. “A vicar or registrar announcing that there should be no photography usually falls on deaf ears!”
Be patient with guests
Not everyone has planned a wedding before, so if guests RSVP after the deadline or request a plus-one, it’s probably not because they want to annoy you. People don’t necessarily understand your obligations, such as giving final numbers to caterers and the venue. Be clear – and patient!
The wedding seating plan can be a worry
While you may have struggled with how to create the perfect seating plan, your guests might be feeling anxious about it too.
People don’t generally want to sit with strangers. If you’re determined to mix up family and friendship groups, make sure you choose carefully, and consider having ice-breaker games on the tables.
The length of your wedding reception matters
“If you’re going for a longer drinks reception, up to two hours, for example, then it’s really important that you have around six to eight canapés per person, that the drinks are free-flowing, and you provide enough seating,” recommends wedding planner Liz Linkleter.
“And never go over two hours.” Liz also advises to keep the speeches to a maximum of 10 minutes each.
“It’s important to start them promptly and to keep the pace punchy,” she says. “We usually suggest beginning 10 minutes after dessert is served.”
But it’s not over yet – think about post-speech timings, too. “A short break is good for guests to stretch their legs,” continues Liz. “But to keep things moving, they should be on the dance floor as soon as possible!”
Guests remember the food…
“While some guests may love your choice of entertainment and others will go wild over the florals, everyone will notice if they don’t have a drink or they are hungry,” cautions Kim.
Don’t forget the vegetarians or those with allergies. Make sure there’s a round of food around 10pm, too – that will help to soak up booze, and will please evening-only guests.
Consider drink wisely
"Not all guests will want to drink wine and beer all night, so it’s important to switch things up,” explains Liz.
“Serving a great cocktail at the drinks reception and after the meal is always welcome. Espresso martinis after dessert are hugely appreciated, and help get the party started. If you don’t have the budget for that then a few bottles of Patrón XO Cafe, a tequila-based coffee liqueur, can have the same effect!”
Comfort is important
“Make sure your rooms are all at the right temperature,” says Liz. “Depending on the time of year you’re getting married, hire heaters or air conditioning units.”
Also consider giving out water or paper fans before the ceremony if it’s going to be hot, or blankets if chilly. You should also think about how guests will get between different parts of the venue – do they need umbrellas, or a covered walkway, for example?
Other details that are always appreciated include providing wedding flip-flops for the dance floor and to give those wearing heels a break, as well as a covered outdoor area for sun or rain protection.
Make time for your guests
At the meal, both of you should try to visit every table. Your guests will appreciate a brief moment to chat.
Heartfelt treats are lovely
There are some totally affordable details that can feel like luxuries, such as a handwritten note for every guest. Don’t go for favours for the sake of it, as they tend to get left behind.
The same goes for multiple Pinterest-inspired DIYs – there’s a good chance no one will notice, so only include them if they genuinely mean something to you.
Consider appropriate entertainment
“Everyone loves a good party, but look through your guest list to ensure everyone has been thought of,” says Kim.
“Perhaps this means a quiet area for people to chill out, or making sure your band or DJ has a wide range of music.”
Check out our wedding entertainment ideas for young and old guests to ensure everyone is catered for.
People love to give presents
Choosing a gift can be a headache, so a link to your gift list or donation fund on the invite isn’t pushy – it’s helpful! Guests just want to get you something they know you will want and appreciate.