2019 was the year to get married according to my friends and family. I attended five weddings and four hen parties between May and December; a truly wonderful year filled with love, friendship, and fun. I also learnt a few things about what a wedding day must include to keep its guests happy. Here are the lessons I learned from being a wedding guest and getting merry at five weddings.
Lesson 1: Make your wedding personal to you
When I told people I had five weddings, the response I got the majority of the time was “You’ll be sick of weddings after this year!” Why? Because people seem to think that all weddings are the same: you tear up at the ceremony, eat a three course meal, listen to speeches that go on for too long and then get drunk and disgrace yourself on the dance floor.
Well, while the majority of that is true, that doesn’t mean that all weddings are the same; all the weddings I attended were totally different to each other. Of course, your venues, and your food, and your fellow guests won’t be the same at every wedding, but the key difference to making YOUR wedding stand out, is how you make it about YOU.
I could see aspects of the bride and groom’s relationship throughout each special day: in the choice of favours for the guests, the music that was played, and the “guest books” (there are so many variations now from wooden hearts, puzzle pieces, all the way through to personalised colouring canvases). Making your wedding personal to you will ensure it isn’t the same as everyone else’s.
Lesson 2: Keep your guests happy: Food is key
One of my bride friends told me that the most important thing was keeping guests fed and entertained throughout the day, otherwise people just get tired. It’s a long, emotion-filled day for everyone involved, but I agree that if there’s food available, then everyone is happy. There’s also now so many different caterers to choose from, including the Cotswolds-based Arden Pig Company who can supply a life-sized inflatable pub!
Whether its nibbles after the ceremony or pizza during the evening dancing, providing food for your guests will keep them in high spirits and partying for longer. Having scheduled food intervals also gives the day structure which then makes it go quicker so you never risk guests getting bored!
Lesson 3: Your venue makes a huge difference
Picking a venue is undoubtedly your biggest decision. Do you have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception? Do you do it all in one place? Is it what the bride and groom imagined for their perfect day? These are big questions which leave all couples scratching their heads.
There are benefits to having a separate church and reception venue: it’s a more traditional approach, it’s potentially cheaper, you get to drive away in a gorgeous wedding car, and it gives you more choice for a reception venue (as some will not be licensed for ceremonies).
However, the weddings which had everything in one place were certainly easier from a guest’s perspective: I didn’t have to worry about how I was getting to (and from) the reception, there was no lull between ceremony and reception (risking midday tiredness), and the venues were able to show off their facilities more.
However, while taking your guests into consideration is important, this is still your day, so pick a venue that ticks all your boxes.
Lesson 4: Give your guests space to dance!
The meal and the speeches are over, now it’s time for my favourite part of the day: the dancing. And it’s not just me; wedding parties are the place when that friend you’ve never seen even clicking their fingers is suddenly throwing shapes to ABBA.
Dance floors are the spaces where people from all areas of your life will be able to come together to dance the night away, regardless of whether they know each other. There’s a real celebratory atmosphere on the dancefloor of a wedding, so make sure you’ve got a great DJ or band who keeps the music going, and don’t forget to give people the space to move!
Lesson 5: Where will you and your guests crash? Make sure it’s nearby!
That’s it, the day is over, and everyone is thinking about when they can take their heels and/or suits off. Having somewhere close by to collapse into bed became such an important consideration for the weddings I attended last year: I put more thought into that than what I was going to wear!
Having somewhere onsite was definitely the best option; however, it’s also generally the more expensive one, and spaces fill up quickly. If I wasn’t staying onsite, I always made sure I knew exactly how I was getting “home”; in the more rural locations, getting a taxi last minute was not always possible.
If they can’t stay onsite, offering suggestions for nearby hotels or BnB’s, and providing taxi firms’ details are always appreciated by guests. It’s not your responsibility to sort everyone out, but you’ll probably know the area better than them, so providing these details will certainly take the stress out of the aftermath of the big day.