Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ask Liz: The Fine Art of Guest Management

Courtesy of

Dear Liz:

We're getting married in November, and more than half of our guests, and most of the wedding party are from out of town. I want to be accommodating, but how much is too much? I definitely want to provide a shuttle service from the hotel, but what else can I do to make sure they have a great time?


Out of Towner Tormented

Dear Tormented,

Wedding guest management all comes down to managing guest expectations. So, what do guests expect? They expect to be told exactly where to go, when to get there, and to not be inconvenienced when they arrive, or on the way. Everything else is cake icing.

That sounds pretty stringent, but it isn't really. For instance, the shuttle is a nice perk - it's not necessary, but it's a really nice thing to do. But, make sure you let them know about it - when it leaves the hotel, when it's going to return. If they decide to drive, let them know if they have to pay for parking at the venue...and where the parking lot is. Aim to send them that information at least 3 times before the wedding, whether it's in the invitation (if you know it then), on your wedding website, or at the hotel when they get there. This is also why I recommend having everyone's email addresses handy. Or, depending on your crowd, their cell phone numbers.

Make sure that your venue is ready for your guests when they show up. That generally starts 30 minutes before the ceremony time. So, 30 minutes before, there should be chairs for them to sit in, and a space for them to wait. Figure out where the bathrooms are, and make sure that whoever is going to be standing around to greet people (your parents, your planner, the DJ) can direct them there.
Guests expect food and refreshments at cocktail hour. A lot of couples - especially ones with lower budgets - get hooked up on this. Do you have to have a full bar? Do you have to have passed appetizers? No. You can have a table with cheese, crackers and fruit on it, you can have wine or beer, or no alcoholic drinks at all. But you should have something, and signage helps.

Guests expect to be able to find their seats easily. I'm not a big fan of open seating, because it can cause confusion (everyone usually gets a table number, right?) or make people uncomfortable (for instance, if the only two seats that are available are next to the woman who was your husband's last girlfriend before you - you get the picture). And, no, you don't have to assign them a specific seat. Tell them where they are going, as easily as possible, and that means escort cards or table charts by last name or first name, NOT by table number. Don't make them look through all the tables to try and find out where they are sitting.

Other nice touches:
A water and lemonade station before the wedding. Especially if it's outdoors and in the summer time. No fainting from the heat! Rent or buy dispensers, fill them up with water and lemonade yourself, even. Get as least two times as many cups as you have guests.

Cake boxes. There is almost always cake left over. Guests are either full by the time the cake is cut or they are on the dance floor. Ask your bakery for little-to-go boxes and set a couple on each table. Extra points if you have your DJ point them out. Wedding cake makes an excellent breakfast meal, and you can tell everyone I said so.

And finally, as far as having fun - your guests will have a good time if you're having a good time. They will follow your lead. So, get out on the dance floor. Get into the photo booth. Take a few minutes to stop by every table and thank everyone for coming. Play your favorite music. Eat your favorite food. Enjoy yourself, and your guests will, too.

Confidential to Rodeo Drive - You don't need to be a U.S. citizen to get married in California, but you DO have to present a valid and current Passport or photo I.D. when you get your marriage license. And the two of you do have to go get that together.

Got a wedding question for me? Email me and let me know what's up!

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events

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