7 hospitality tips for elevating the overall wedding guest experience
It seems as if you’ve waited for this movement for a lifetime. You have the perfect gown, found the perfect shade of pink for your floral arrangements, and even selected your first dance song for you and your dream guy. Your hair and makeup appointments are set, your venue is gorgeous, the food will be delicious, the invitations are in the mail, and all of your plans are going as scheduled. What could possibly go wrong?
One hundred of your closest friends
As much as I’d like to say that your wedding day is all about you and your fiance, I would venture to say that more than half of your wedding budget actually services the special people in your lives. While the priority should be on you and your betrothed, you are just two out of the hundreds of other people who must be considered when planning your big day.
For example, if you and your fiance are vegan and you both come from beef-loving families, you may need to adjust your menu. Don’t drink alcohol? Your guests may want to partake in a glass of wine or two with their meal. So what should you do? While I’ve never been an advocate of compromising your beliefs and/or overextending your budget to make your event more comfortable for your guests than for yourselves, I do believe that the most successful events are those in which wedding guests are comfortable. Comfortable guests tend to stay longer, dance harder, and just make the overall experience more memorable.
Check your guest list
So how can you fulfill your dreams and appease your budget without the threat of seeming shallow or insensitive to your guests? The solution is somewhat simple: change your way of thinking! Let’s take this short quiz:
Do you feel anxious or nervous about a particular guest/group of guests attending your wedding?
Is there anyone on your guest list that you’ve invited, but secretly do not want to attend?
Would you and/or your fiance become irritated if someone you’ve invited to the wedding actually confirms that they will attend?
Would you and/or your fiance be upset if a guest asks to bring a plus one to your wedding that you had not originally accounted for?
Would you be upset if any of your wedding guests RSVP’d and “wasted your food” by either not eating the food you provide and/or being a last minute no-show? Do you think this would negatively affect your relationship with this person a year or more after your wedding date?
Are you and/or your fiance are currently viewing ANY of your wedding guests (including your wedding party) as a financial burden?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you may have guest list problem on your hands.
There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed: At one time or another, every couple has felt the same way that you do. In my 15+ years of experience in the industry, I’ve found that there are only two ways to solve guest list dilemmas: (1) remove troublesome guests from the list and accept the possible consequences in the future or (2) keep “mandatory” guests on the list and make the best out of the situation. I know, I know, the latter solution is no fun! It’s easier said than done to make the best out of a situation that is less than ideal.
It’s hard, but I believe in you. You can do it! Repeat the following lists of facts after me:
I cannot control how other wedding guests behave at my wedding.
I can only control how I react to uncooperative wedding guests.
There is no wedding gift large enough or expensive enough to compensate me for the amount of money that I’ve spent on the wedding and I shouldn’t expect anything back in return- this event is not about an even exchange!
I would not want to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at an event, so neither should my guests.
I am playing the role of a hospitable host/hostess to my guests.
It’s all going to be okay!
Handling unhappy guests
Unhappy or uncomfortable guests can turn a perfectly beautiful event into a more complicated affair. While I don’t believe that any one person has the power to tank an entire event, they can definitely be a deterrent. In my experience, the usual suspects are typically bridesmaids, siblings, parents, and/or estranged relatives that somehow feel that they have not been properly appreciated or acknowledged.
A lot of times with all of the excitement, people who were once a part of the inner circle of your life now feel left out. Think about it, can you think of another time in which you’ve had to keep track of 150+ people all at one time? Someone is going to feel isolated.
Call me naive, but I’d like to believe that no one wants to ruin a loved one’s big day. Weddings oftentimes run high on adrenaline and emotion and some people (oftentimes with prior unresolved issues with the couple) just don’t know how to express their concerns. I am by no means a therapist, BUT I do believe that showing a little extra TLC to your wedding party and guests can make a world of difference in the relationships that you are forming and/or maintaining throughout the wedding planning process.
So how do you keep your guests happy without feeling like a hostage at your own wedding? Try your best to maintain your role as a host/hostess to your guests.
Be our guest
Whether your guests are coming from across town or from across oceans to witness your special day, making sure that they feel special is always a win. I’ve noticed that when wedding guests recount the highlights of past weddings they’ve attended, the things that typically mattered the most to the couple are often quite different from what matters to guests.
Typically, guests may not remember what your flower arrangements, bridesmaids dresses or invitations looked like, but what they will remember is how you made them feel. Guests will oftentimes mark their “best weddings” by the couple’s hospitality. Wedding guests that are inconvenienced or treated poorly at a $150K wedding will have no better memory of an event than a guest that was pampered at a $30K wedding.
Here are a few easy ways to make sure your guests feel the love, listed in order from most to least expensive.
$$$$- Arrange for out-of-town transportation
I believe that there is no better way to welcome someone to a new city or country than by greeting them at the airport with a smile. Renting shuttle vans and/or hiring a charter bus to transport your guests to and from the airport is a great luxury. Depending on the logistics of when and from where a majority of your guests are coming and going, this well-appreciated convenience can be a bit of work to organize. However, a professional wedding planner should be able to help you find the right transportation company and develop the perfect schedule to safely get your guests where they need to go.
$$$- Secure hotel room blocks
Keeping your wedding guests together at a central location is an unmatched convenience. Having a common “gathering point” helps with the logistics of making sure that guests are able to participate in all of your pre-event festivities— even if they do not have their own transportation. Securing nearby lodging facilities also allows your guests the opportunity to safely enjoy themselves, drink responsibly, and not worry about driving home at the end of a long night.
Typically, most hotels will provide courtesy room blocks for hosted events. This means that the couple is not financially responsible for any unused rooms reserved; therefore, providing this guest luxury may actually be free for the couple. This is the best type of room block if you can get it. However, some hotels will charge a separate fee (or the full room price) to return rooms back to “inventory” if all of the guests that you anticipated renting rooms do not book.
$$$- Provide complimentary hair and makeup services for your bridal party and/or immediate family members
Providing hair and makeup services to the important women in your lives brings so much joy to the overall wedding experience. Not only does it ensure a cohesive bridal party look, but it is also a wonderful bonding moment that is oftentimes beautifully captured by the photographer and/or videographer.
$$- Provide on-site event childcare services for guests with children
Allowing your wedding guests with children to have a “night-out” is always a special treat. Professional sitters not only provide games and activities to keep the kiddos busy throughout the night, but these CPR-certified angels will also feed and diaper your precious bundles of joy.
$$- Host a hospitality room or happy hour for incoming out of town guests at the hotel
Reserving a meeting room that’s set-up self-serve, buffet style is a great way for guests to meet other wedding guests also staying at the hotel. Allowing the two families to casually meet before more formal activities such as the ceremony rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, etc. is a great icebreaker.
$- Provide welcome bags to your out-of-town guests
Leaving gift bags at the hotel check-in desk or in each guest’s individual room is one of the most inexpensive yet sincere gestures of kindness. Gift bags can contain a variety of items such as sweet and/or savory snacks, a bottle of water, painkillers, wet wipes/hand sanitizer, etc. Essentially, these bags are filled with items commonly purchased in the hotel pantry.
No cost- Provide your guests with details of your event via a Wedding Party Memo
Although all of the previous tips are an added luxury, making sure that your wedding guests are well aware of the events at hand is the biggest courtesy that you can provide. There is nothing worse than an out-of-town guest not knowing where to go or what to do in a strange city. Poor planning and communication of a wedding can be one of the largest signs of disrespect that can plague marriages for many years to come.
For years, we have avoided this conflict at Aisle Runners by creating our signature Wedding Party Memo. The memo covers everything from ceremony rehearsal details to hotel accommodations to hair and makeup appointment times and more. This memo is complimentary to all Service Package clients.
Being the perfect host/hostess at your wedding is not a sign of surrender or weakness. Making sure that your guests are well taken care of demonstrates that your union is special and set apart from any ordinary day. It allows guests to focus on you and your fiance, pray for you, bond with you, and wish you well without being distracted by insignificant details such as where to park or what to eat.
At the same time, couples should not be overwhelmed with guest hospitality. With the right planner, these items are coordinated well in advance and offer no additional stress to the overall wedding experience for the bride and groom. Start your wedding off on the right foundation: Show your future mother-in-law some love, make your bestie feel special, or try getting on your grumpy uncle’s good side! A little TLC now goes a long way and makes for more comfortable family holiday dinners in the future.
For vendor referrals of any of the services listed above, please click below to book a consultation with Aisle Runners today.