The most seemingly obvious yet simple way to be thoughtful of your guests is to, well, think about them. Put yourself in their shoes. There are a few factors that will impact your guests the most – travel, weather, food/beverage and the first impression – and by just spending a little time thinking these through from the viewpoint of your guests will go a long way toward making sure your event is talked about for a long time afterward…in a good way!
Are a lot of your guests coming in from out of town? Have you reserved enough hotel rooms at an appropriate variety of room rates and did you communicate this information to them? Have you considered drive time between your lodging options and the ceremony and reception sites? Did you provide easy-to-follow, accurate directions to your venues? Often when couples have a large number of guests traveling to attend their wedding, they will have both the ceremony and reception at one venue, simplifying logistics for their friends and family. Taking it a step further, having the event at a hotel will eliminate the problem. And, many hotels will give you a better room rate for your guests if you’re having your event at their hotel.
If you do have a lot of out-of-towners, it’s very helpful to provide transportation for them. Buses are a great way to get a lot of people from one place to another – and make sure they get to the ceremony on time. Bussing is also a fun way to foster mingling between your guests who may not know each other or to give far-flung relatives a chance catch up.
Also along the lines of travel is parking. If your venue does not have a large free parking lot, you’ll need to plan for valet service. By all means, please build this into your budget! It is frustrating for guests to have no choice but to valet and then have to pay for it themselves. Even if your event site does offer a park-yourself option, providing valet service for your guests is a very generous touch and your guests will appreciate it. Make sure you explain the parking situation on the direction cards you include in your invitations. And as many guests will invariably lose it along the way, make sure to have copies of the directions on hand at the ceremony site and include one in your welcome items (more on that later).
While you obviously can’t put in an order for perfect weather, you should consider how weather could affect your event – and your guests. Did you know that May is the rainiest month in the D/FW area? January is the coldest month, while July is on average the hottest (though you probably would have guessed it was August right about now). If you’re set on an outdoor event, you must make a back-up plan in case of rain. Tents take time to construct and if earlier in the week it looks like it might rain, play it safe and get the tent! Other thoughtful touches if you anticipate rain could be a stand of umbrellas for your guests to get to their cars relatively dry or baskets of flip-flops so ladies can save their Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik heels from mud.
If you insist on an outdoor event during the warm months, make sure you have fans, ice-cold drinks and other means to keep your guests cool and comfortable. If your event is during the winter months, you should rent a coat rack for the reception. It’s unkind to expect your guests to just keep their coats on the back of their chairs and it will kill the look you probably spent a lot of money on.
Food and Beverage
Let’s be honest, while your guests are looking forward to witnessing your lovely marriage ceremony, it’s the reception that they’re most excited about – the music, the dancing, the food and drinks!!! What a disappointment to stand at the bar and order a drink only to hear, “that will be $6.00, sir.” What?! Just say no to the cash bar. It is in poor taste to expect your guests to pay for their own drinks. You wouldn’t invite guests to your home for dinner and ask them to pay for their cocktails while they’re there, would you? Of course not! If you cannot afford a full open bar for the duration of your reception, there are plenty of more affordable options. You can offer only beer and wine; you can have a champagne-only bar or save by nixing the champagne and having guests toast with drinks “in hand” at the time of your formal toasts. Or you can forgo alcohol altogether and just serve iced tea, coffee or soft drinks.