All you need is a little planning & communication!
Awhile back, my sister linked me to an article that made me cringe entitled 10 Things Wedding Guests Absolutely Hate. Honestly, all 10 of the items on the list are things that could be rectified with better planning, but instead of offering much in the way of solutions, they proceed to shame couples and trash their weddings. I take issue with how the article implies that if you -HEAVEN FORBID- do any of these 10 things, that your wedding is automatically terrible. Some of the items on the list are choices a couple could intentionally make for perfectly good reasons, so it is unfair to be super judge-y!
Let me make something perfectly clear. You do not OWE your guests anything. Really, absolutely nothing. We also need to do away with this catty, comparative, bullshit that goes on between brides, families, guests, etc… it just brings everyone down and none of it matters! That said, with a little bit of planning and communication, we can avoid some common mistakes and manage the expectations of family members and guests. Then everyone can have a good time!
I wanted to present some practical solutions and explanations for a few of the dreaded things mentioned in the other article. Honestly, some of the items they put in their list do not even deserve a response because what right do your guests have to be angry about how much you spent on decor, flowers, etc… But for the issues which are worth addressing and solving, here it goes!
Most wedding planning and etiquette blogs like to paint the cash bar as the ultimate snub to your guests. If you have ever researched what an open bar actually costs, you will understand why it is hard for some couples to shell out for one. Let’s estimate, $5 per drink, per hour, per guest, a 4 hour reception with 100 people, you are already at $2000 plus a 20% gratuity for the bartenders, $2400. Not everyone has this kind of money! When my husband and I got married, we chose to provide a limited amount of two featured beers and my parents sprang for the Champagne Toast. Everything else was available at regular bar prices. We are all adults here and no one complained that it wasn’t a full open bar. The key to having a cash bar or a partial open bar is communication. Let your guests know ahead of time what to expect and they will be able to plan. We had some guests take advantage of the complimentary beers, and others who happily paid for cocktails, wine, shots, and scotch! In the end, its your decision, no one should ever pressure a couple to pay for an open bar if they don’t have space for it in their budget.
This is similar to the Cash Bar issue. Not everyone wants or can afford to have a multi-course surf & turf soiree. Maybe you are only having an afternoon cocktail party with cake & punch, and that is totally fine. Simply make sure the guests know to make other dinner plans. If you plan your reception for meal time, you should probably serve at least a light meal, because expecting people to just hold out and eat dinner later will make everyone hangry and miserable to be around. I also personally feel its important to try to accommodate food sensitivity issues and special diets as much as your budget allows, your guests will be super grateful.
A Break Between the Ceremony & Reception
Ok, sure, its annoying to have to wait 2 hours while the couple is off doing some on-location photoshoot in their wedding duds, but usually this is not the reason why there is a break between Ceremony and Reception. More than likely, their ceremony space, church, or venue didn’t give them any choice. It may even been a cultural or religious thing. For those of you planning weddings where this might be an issue, Â make sure everyone understands the schedule for the day in advance. Put a cute timeline on your wedding website! Print a schedule and hand it out at the rehearsal! If guests arrive and are SURPRISED about the fact that there is a 5 hour break, you are going to have some very pissed off guests. If you have to work around a break in your day, make suggestions for things to do or see in town and give your guests time to actually do something with their afternoon instead of just waiting around getting drunk at the hotel bar. Also keep in mind the dress code for the event, no one wants to spend all day in their evening wear.
People who love you shouldn’t give a crap if other people who love you want to talk about it. But if you are worried about someone running long, ask to see their speech ahead of time or put a time limit on each person giving a toast. Stick to 2-3 short toasts and no one should complain, but if you want more, guess what! It’s your wedding and you can have as many or as few reveling toasters as you want!
Seating Charts & The Elements
Not every guest is a Special Snowflake that gets a VIP seat. Someone will end up near some speakers or the bathroom or at a table with Weird Aunt Marge. All you can do is create a seating chart that at least tries to take into account things like bathrooms, DJ booths, drafty doorways, weird aunts, etc… and just remember you can’t please everyone. If you are doing a cocktail party or casual reception, you can skip the seating chart all together, but if there is a seated dinner, you should at the very least give your guests a table to sit at. Free-for-all seating can be hard on your guests, especially if they don’t know anyone else besides you! If you are having an outdoor wedding, have a Plan B for if it rains/is too hot/is too cold/is muddy, etc… Plan ahead. You are not at fault for the weather, but if you plan for the worst, everyone will be happier!
The Electric Slide & Single Ladies
Group Dances, Bouquet Toss, Garter Toss, etc… This is the time where you need to really know your guests and what they will enjoy, acknowledge it, but then do what feels best for you. We skipped the Bouquet Toss and Garter Belt bullshit because its gross, anti-feminist, single-shaming, and honestly, no one missed it. If you want that stuff, you do you! Some single people feel off-put by those traditions so don’t make it mandatory. Usually guests only feel bullied into participation when the couple hires some loud mouth DJ who doesn’t know how to work the crowd. Easy solution, vet your DJs better and hire someone who gets your vibe! You could also consider having a friend or family member be the MC rather than the DJ for a more personal touch! Entertainment is important and your music should reflect who you are as a couple, but throw in some popular songs too if you want everyone out dancing! Some folks really love those big group line dances, but if that isn’t you or your friends’ scene, maybe tell the DJ to skip ’em.
But really, just do what you want…
Hopefully this helps put some things in perspective for you and your partner. In the end, your wedding is a reflection of you as a couple and shouldn’t be just checking boxes of what you are “supposed” to do because your Mom/Dad/Best Friend says so. Be yourselves, if you are enjoying the day, your guests likely will too!