When you start planning your wedding, you’re going to get A LOT of mixed messages.
Some will tell you that you need to make every decision based on what your guests would want, and others will cry “It’s YOUR day”, insinuating that you have full permission to demand whatever you like out of your guests because this, of all days, is the one day that they are forced to oblige to your every wish.
So, as you wade your way through that bouquet of mixed messages, let’s talk about the sacred dance of host and guest. As an invited guest, you can pretty much expect that in exchange for you getting dressed up and making the arrangements to be somewhere at a certain time, you will be provided shelter, drinks, food, and some form of entertainment. So, you can see that means that as the host of an event, such as a wedding, it is your duty to provide certain items for your guests.
It’s like an unspoken agreement between friends — “Sure, I’ll drag myself away from watching the Handmaid’s Tale this Saturday night, so long as you promise to feed me all of the mini-quiches I can get my hands on with bottomless bubbly to wash it down.”
When a guest agrees to attend your event (wedding or otherwise) they are essentially signing over their control of a situation to you. They agree to show up at the prearranged time and place and expect that their needs will be taken care of — from shelter to refreshments and entertainment. This means that a great deal of responsibility falls to you as you assume the care of your guests.
Let me get straight to the point: sometimes you just gotta put your guest comfort before your perfect venue –– especially if that perfect venue *happens* to be a floating barge, in the middle of a lake, on a mountain that can only be accessed via hiking 5-hours straight up. That’s not to say that you should just oblige to all of the expected norms of what your guests may typically expect from a wedding. The key is taking the time to consider what items your guests may need to make their experience an enjoyable one, and then, communicating your plans to your guests so that they can prepare accordingly.
With that, here are my top 5 tips for making sure your guests’ experience of your wedding is a positive one.
Keep Yours Guests’ In Mind — Always
While this is your day to celebrate as you please, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of keeping your guests’ comfort in mind as you work your way through the planning process. Because of the pressure you may feel to people-please and have your wedding look a certain way, it is possible to forget to consider your guests’ comfort at the event.
This might look like not ordering enough food because you needed more to be budget available for more expensive floral arrangements. Or asking guests — elderly grandparents and all — to scramble through the forest in their formal wear to get to your most perfect ceremony location.
If you’re not sure what you should be looking out for, start with the basic human needs; water, food, and shelter. If it’s a hot day and your wedding is outdoors, provide your guests with water and shade. If water isn’t readily available at your ceremony location, bring some with you, or at the very least instruct guests that they should bring their own.
Think About the Bigger Picture
Beyond the basic human needs, it’s helpful to consider comfort from a logistical standpoint. Hosting separate events at different venues on the other side of the city will prove challenging for your out of town guests when arranging transport between the two. Asking your guests to join you for a ceremony on the beach, followed by a formal, black-tie dinner will prove challenging for guests when determining their outfits for the day. So consider these aspects as you make wedding decisions.
Will Everyone Be Comfortable?
It’s 2019, and accessibility is finally in (and about time, too)! You’ll want to consider details like parking, how many flights of stairs your guests will have to climb, the presence of an elevator, the proximity of neighbours, and whether there are enough and appropriate washroom facilities for your guests (think: change rooms for babies, accessible washrooms, gender-neutral washrooms).
Don’t try to keep your plans a mystery until the time folks arrive at the event, be upfront and speak in terms that are clear and concise. Offer examples, and suggestions, like: “We will not be serving a plated dinner, instead we’re we’ll serving our favourite finger foods from our travels around the world! And our favourite Louisiana hot wings mean messy fingers, so casual clothing is encouraged!”
Don’t Forget About Feelings
Throughout the wedding planning process, you’ll be challenged with some potentially awkward situations and conversations as you manage various relationships in your life. In these circumstances, the comfort factor still applies.
Unable to invite someone to your wedding due to budget or venue size restrictions? Won’t be asking a friend to be your bridesmaid, even though you were theirs? Don’t want your Dad to walk you down the aisle and “give you away”? Let them know. When situations like this are left unaddressed, it can cause discomfort between the two of you. The last thing you want is for your wedding to cause any negativity within your relationships.
Just to be clear, there’s a difference between catering for guest expectations when it comes to weddings specifically and guest comfort.
Catering for your guests’ wedding expectations looks like opting for a formal sit down dinner because you fear being judged by your posh in-laws –– when really, you’d prefer a casual afternoon picnic.
Catering for your guests’ comfort, on the other hand, looks like providing important details about what the event will look like ahead of time, providing ample shade, appropriate seating for guests with additional needs, and plenty of water at your picnic event. Forget about the matching picnic rugs, supplying insect repellent and sunscreen is what’s going to score you extra host-with-the-most points!