How to be a Great Wedding Guest

In today’s post I’m going to get a bit preachy.  I feel like these are such important things to take note of, that I really can’t say it any other way.  If you’ve ever been a wedding guest, I’m talking to you.  Honestly, this post isn’t about making MY job easier (although certainly if you follow all these rules, you will).  Instead, it’s about being a great guest to the people who are getting married.  That’s right – your friends or family members.  The ones who love you enough to invite to share in their special day.  So listen up! 😉

So you’re invited to a wedding…  Hooray!

Do yourself – and your friend or family member who is getting married – a favor, and read this list first.  Trust me, you want to be a great wedding guest.  Not “that” wedding guest.  Right?

RSVP!

Weddings are expensive, time-consuming affairs to plan.  The couple has requested that you attend and wants you there.  But if you don’t ever let them know whether or not you’ll be coming, how are they to plan for your dinner?  How will they know to save you a seat and a piece of cake?  It’s a simple process – check the box, perhaps write in your name and select your meal choice.  Just do it.  Before the RSVP-by date.  Don’t forget.  Many couples even give you the option to RSVP online (some don’t even send paper response cards anymore).  You know, you can visit their website before your daily dose of Farmville…

Don’t forget, too, to be a thoughtful guest when RSVPing.  Inevitably at every wedding there will be one RSVP card without a name written in, that the couple has to track down.  There will always be one guest who asks to bring someone additional, who wasn’t invited (A tip: if you weren’t sent an invitation that says “You and Guest,” that means that the couple probably doesn’t have the space or the budget to invite you with a guest, but they still want you there…  I know it can be a drag to not know anyone at a wedding, but it can also be an opportunity to meet new people!).  There will always be someone who writes in their request for a chicken dinner when the choices are beef, fish, or vegetarian.  At weddings where no children are invited, there will always be an irate family member who calls to complain.  But just say no.  Don’t be that guest.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t bring up legitimate concerns to the couple (such as allergies or major childcare issues) but don’t presume, don’t bother, and always check over your RSVP to make sure it makes sense.

Whatever you do, don’t forget this crucial step in being a wedding guest.  Don’t make the couple call you to see whether you’ll be in attendance.  Don’t make them wonder if you’ll randomly show up that day.  And don’t just show up without telling them.  They, after all, have lots of other things on their plates.  Like getting married.  

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Arrive on time.  Or better yet, a little bit early.

So you’ve never been to a wedding that started right when it was supposed to.  So you hate waiting.  So the wedding is outside in blazing sun on the hottest day of the year and you’ve been asked to drape yourself in black to fit in with the bride’s color scheme.

If you are a guest at a wedding, getting there any later than the time listed on the invitation is inconsiderate.  And just plain rude.  Aside from the fact that you might miss the couple walking up the aisle, you also might hold up the wedding (I coordinated a wedding once where less than half the guests were seated, ready to go, by ten minutes after our start time…  and the bride decided to wait another twenty minutes until most – not all – of them finally arrived!  And at another wedding, we had an unavoidable delay due to a bridesmaid getting stuck in traffic, and started twenty minutes late.  I sent the bride up the aisle and had eight guests waiting behind her to walk in!)

Obviously, traffic and delays happen.  I once had a dress zipper break – and then the dress get stuck halfway over my head – when I was on my way to (attend) a wedding.  Yup.  I missed the bride walking up the aisle.  It happens to all of us.  Which is why I actually aim to get there a little early – and always suggest that to all guests.  But that doesn’t explain everything.  In fact, I know a lot of people simply don’t ever get to weddings on time.  I hear it every time I am in charge of a wedding and a guest gets there after it starts.  Life happens.  We all have those days.  But if you on-purpose plan on getting there late…  Or simply on-purpose don’t give yourself enough time to get there reasonably…  Just STOP it!

Don’t forget to sign the guestbook.  And your card.

Every couple loves getting to see messages from their guests in their guestbook.  That’s why they’re so popular.  So if there’s a guestbook (or a wishing tree, or an art project), participate!  It’s just sad to see a guestbook with only a few signatures in it…  Especially when it’s been sitting right there all night for you to sign.

And don’t forget to sign your card too.  The couple will want to send you a thank you.  Even if they don’t – they’ll still like to know who got them this beautiful toaster!  Oh – and on that note, please for the love of Pete, don’t just buy something for them that YOU like.  Use the registry.  Or a give a gift card.  Or money.  The couple will love you forever.

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Pay Attention.

If the officiant asks for quiet, be quiet.  If the DJ asks all the single ladies to come out on the dance floor and you qualify, the bride wants you on that dance floor!  If you’re supposed to be seated at Table 3, don’t sit down at Table 5, no matter how many of your friends are there.  I promise, there’s a reason you’ve been asked to do all these things.

And – this is a personal request – if the coordinator is dismissing tables for dinner, don’t just go ahead and hop in that buffet line.  Aside from it being (again) totally rude, you’re also creating chaos.  Sure, it might just be you.  Then again it might be you and every other guest at said wedding.  Which creates a super-long line and lots of grumbling.  Both by the people who are patiently waiting at their seats to be dismissed, and those who are now at your table watching you eat.  And then people get mad at me.  There’s actually a method to dismissing people, even if you can’t see it.  The coordinator – um, ME! – will be paying attention to the length and speed of the line, and I promise you’ll get dismissed as soon as you’re able to.

Look, someone has to be last.  Someone has to come to the dance floor for the bouquet toss.  Someone has to sit at Table 5.  I’m sorry if it’s you and you’re not happy, but I promise it’ll go more smoothly if you just pay attention.

Don’t bother the couple!!!

This goes for the entire day.  From the moment that couple gets up in the morning until the moment their wedding reception is over…  Just do your best to be considerate of them.  Don’t call or text them asking for directions or what you need to wear to the wedding.  Don’t interrupt their picture taking (it’s probably been scheduled to the minute and believe it or not you might be the difference between their being able to take all their photos and not!).  Don’t come up to them and ask to take their photo while they’re eating.  No, seriously.  Don’t do it.  I once had to have the DJ make an announcement to let the bride and groom eat because people were literally lining up to take their photo while their food was on their plates.  The guests sat down for a few minutes and then kept hopping up to talk to the couple, who were desperately in need of food (getting married is exhausting stuff!); I finally had to stand next to their sweetheart table and tell people to come back later.  Over and over again.

The couple may be the center of attention, but to be a great guest, let them enjoy their day.  Don’t bring them undue stress, take their time away from what they’re supposed to be doing (eating is absolutely essential!!!), or expect them to be able to answer your phone call while they’re getting ready.  Call another friend – or a relative of the couple if you must.  Wait until they aren’t busy and can give you their full attention.  And let them eat!!!!

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Don’t ding your glass.

Okay…  It’s cute for the first three or four times.  And most couples are good sports.  After all, kissing your new spouse is great fun.  But along the same vein as the last point…  Just let them eat already!

Don’t make a mess.

Seriously, after certain weddings I feel like someone’s mom.  I go around, picking up water bottles and candy wrappers (Seriously…  Don’t throw these behind the candy buffet…  Haven’t you heard of a trash can?).  I find balled-up napkins in the strangest places, and usually wipe down sinks covered in water.  At a venue like a hotel, this is bad enough – they have a full-time janitorial staff who will scrub down the reception area to make sure it’s ready for the next couple.  But if you’re a guest at a backyard wedding, the janitorial staff is the homeowner and (sometimes) the wedding vendors.

This goes, too, for not breaking things.  At Emma + Chris’ wedding, an overly-enthusiastic guest was trying to get water to flow faster from my glass dispenser and tipped it and shook it vigorously.  The bartender told me the story afterward that the guest simply was too fast for him to stop – and the large, heavy top to my dispenser went tumbling.  The bartender had to dump all the water in the dispenser in addition to cleaning the bar and the floor, because sherds of glass went everywhere.  Oh yes, and my dispenser sat for the rest of the night with a cocktail plate on top of it, which looked, frankly, terrible.  Functional but ugly.  Wedding vendors get it – we don’t bring anything to a wedding that we aren’t aware could potentially return broken or lost – but it’s still tough to see all that extra work, not to mention the expense of replacing an item just because a guest wasn’t being thoughtful.

With this story goes one more…  And it’s too disgusting to go into too much detail.  Let me just delicately say…  At a backyard wedding I worked, an extremely drunk guest evidently decided that he needed to use the urinal in the rental bathroom trailer for more than its intended purpose.  And then decided to “redecorate” the room.  Let me reiterate: this is unacceptably repulsive behavior in any venue.  But at a backyard wedding, who do you think will be cleaning it up?  I guess this dovetails with my next point, though, which is…

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Don’t get too drunk!

One of my brides asked me recently, “Isn’t there always that one couple at every wedding who gets too drunk?”

Sadly, yes, there usually is.

That doesn’t mean that you should be that couple.  In fact, that couple doesn’t need to exist at every wedding.  Drunk guests cause the most chaos at weddings – from stepping on the bride’s bustled train and tearing the buttons off to throwing up (never in the toilet or the trash can; it’s always in front of the bar or in the middle of the bathroom!) to grabbing the mic and making embarrassing toasts to starting fights…  There is no reason for you to drink enough that you won’t remember the wedding the next day.  Or that you’ll think it’s okay to leave “presents” for your hosts (see above).  Save that behavior for the frat party!

(And yes, the photos above and below demonstrate that you CAN have an immensely good time without being wasted!)

Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

This is especially easy to do at a backyard wedding, where no venue staff is there to kick you out at 10:01.  But as a guest at a wedding, please don’t be that person who lingers forever.  The couple wants to go back to their room.  The vendors – often having worked a ten, twelve, or fourteen hour day – want to clean up and go home.  The hosts want to be able to get some sleep.  Once the DJ plays that last song, hug your friends, clean up your area, and head for the exit.  If you absolutely, positively must keep the party going on longer, gather a group of your friends and plan to meet at a bar or club, or someone’s house nearby.  Just remember to have a designated driver!

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Photos by We Heart Photography, FlutterGlass Photography, Jason Almazan Photography, Bryan N. Miller Photography, and Chaz Cruz Photography

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Belated Happy Anniversary, Michelle + Dave!

I have been SO busy lately, most notably dealing with an internet outage at home that really knocked me off my game (three weeks without internet = a VERY tough time getting anything done!).  My mobile data is almost used up for the month (I’ve never done that!!) and I’m thisclose to my maternity leave…  But I had to leave a little love note for Michelle + Dave, since it’s been a year since their wedding (their anniversary was Sunday)!

They found me on Yelp and hired me sight-unseen to plan their wedding for them, long distance, from Chicago.  From the minute we had our first phone call, I knew they were going to be the kind of clients planners always wish for; the kind that have their own mind about things (you’d be surprised how difficult it is to plan for someone who has no opinion!) but have lots of trust in the people they hire to do the best job they can.  We had so much fun planning and creating their wedding together, and assembled a dream team of vendors.  And THIS happened.

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Yup.  Pure bliss.  Nothing makes a planner happier than to see her couple so happy that they don’t care who else sees them nuzzling. 🙂

This is another one of my favorite photos from their wedding:

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Seriously?  When the groom tears up seeing his bride coming down the aisle?  This planner melts.  I was behind the bride, way in the background, and didn’t see this happening.  When I saw the photos later on, it took my breath away.  It’s also a great reminder that the First Look (which they had) does not spoil the Coming Down the Aisle.

You can see more photos and videos on my blog:

And on my website Gallery.  You can also read what Michelle had to say about my services in my Happy Clients section!

I’m lucky enough to have been able to stay in their lives this year and I’m thrilled to say that things are going well for them – and I hope that next year we can celebrate their anniversary together, with our daughters! 😉

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 03*24*2012 (Part 5 – The VIDEO!)

I can’t even say how excited I am to share this video with you!

If you follow me on Facebook you might have seen it already; it was posted way back in April by Liz at Porcelain Rose Productions.  But now that you’ve gotten the chance to see Michelle and Dave’s Ceremony, Details, Stationery, and Reception, it’s only fitting to see the hilight reel!

Liz from Porcelain Rose actually approached me for a one-on-one vendor meeting back in late February.  She’s a friend of my sister-turned-model and saw the photos of our Boho Glam shoot.  She previously worked for another videographer, and asked me if I had any clients who were in need of a killer deal on videography.  Did I?

I’ve now worked with her four times, for weddings and shoots, and I can definitely attest to the fact that she’s not only incredibly talented, but also incredibly sweet.  Seriously!

And just look at this hilight film!  Anyone who is a fan of Bryan’s shots of the groom tearing up when he sees his bride will love this!

She did such a great job with Michelle + Dave’s hilight reel, and then surprised me with a special treat of my own; a video of my team and I (including former bride Marisa, who was my Wedding Day Setup Assistant!) setting up for and working at the wedding!  Now, I’d imagine I’m not the only one who hates seeing the faces she makes while concentrating, or of the self-conscious cheesy smile I flashed Liz (and I swear I wasn’t telling off DJ Dave – I was checking in with him!!).  And considering that this provides a rare look into the chaos that is backstage several hours before a wedding (the shot – you’ll know it when you see it – was taken not long after we all arrived), I’m a little nervous to show you.  But I also think that it demonstrates a lot of what we do on a wedding day, taking chaos and making order and beauty.  And it’s rare to get a chance to show that to anyone.

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 03*24*2012 (Part 4 – The Reception)

I’ve already shared with you photos of Michelle and Dave’s Ceremony, Details, and Stationery.  Now it’s time for the Reception!

After Michelle and Dave’s toes-in-the-sand beach ceremony, their guests were treated to a San Diego sunset on the patio of The Shores Hotel, under big Chinese lanterns!

It was windy during setup, so we used shells at each place setting to hold down the menus and napkins!

Once it got dark, the lanterns truly looked magical!

Michelle and Dave felt very strongly about wanting to dance.  And dance!

And just before sunset, Bryan whisked them away for some truly gorgeous photographs.  Seriously, they look so happy, so in love, and so beautiful in these!

Seriously.

Of course I asked Bryan to take a photo of myself and Rachael with the happy couple…  And a few of their photo bombing friends!

Thank you, Michelle and Dave, for putting your faith in me to plan your big day!  It was so much fun and so beautiful!!!

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 03*24*2012 (Part 3 – The Stationery)

I’ve already shared with you the Ceremony and Details of Michelle and Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding; today I’m sharing their stationery!

I designed every page of the printed materials for this wedding, from the invitations to the programs to the menus, vows, table numbers, guestbook tree cards, candy buffet signs, and even escort cards!

I’m a sucker for matching paper goods.  I love so much to see beautiful coordinating stationery, so it was a ton of fun to be able to provide this design service for Michelle and Dave!

It all started with the invitation.  Michelle and Dave wanted something classic and a little bit beachy, in colors that roughly translated to a light lavender and turquoise.  Working from an inspiration board Michelle and I created on Pinterest, we came up with a simple custom design featuring “California” palm trees (per Dave’s request, the tall ones!).

They liked a pocketfold design, and wanted additional pieces too.  Like this custom map:

I think the whole thing came together well.

Okay, now that I’ve tortured you with my obviously-taken-at-home photographs (sorry; I really do need to make sure to always bring a copy of my couple’s custom invitations for their wedding photographers to take!), here are the “real” ones from the day of the wedding, courtesy of Bryan N. Miller!

 

I feel so strongly that printed goods help to bring together the entire look of the wedding day, so I was so happy to be able to provide all of these!!! 🙂

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 03*24*2012 (Part 2 – The Details)

Last time I blogged, I shared Part 1 of Michelle and Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel!  Today I’ve got more photos to share with you… This time of the gorgeous details!  (Yes, even if I do say so myself!)

My favorite ceremony detail was this fun sign that I handcrafted for the event:

On one side it said “Here Comes the Bride,” and on the other, “Happily Ever After.”

Of course Michelle and Dave wanted a candy buffet – so I created this purple and aqua beauty.  The backdrop might be hard to see in this photo (it was on a window, so it was a bit backlit during the day) but I had so much fun creating this multicolored streamer-filled wall, and I think it made the whole thing come together.  It was a total surprise to the bride and groom, who just told me to “run with” the buffet design.

Michelle got Dave an extra-special Groom’s cake with the logo of his favorite baseball team – the St. Louis Cardinals!  San Diego Desserts did an excellent job with the design!

Speaking of the design – Calculated Whisk came through as always with whimsical, beautifully-decorated cake pops!

San Diego Desserts also made a lovely three-tiered wedding cake, decorated by Diane’s Flowers Please.

And since it was a destination wedding, I thought it a totally appropriate use for my vintage aqua suitcase!

Of course…  Let’s not forget a shot of those beautiful rings!

Still more gorgeousness to come!

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel, 03*24*2012 (Part 1 – The Ceremony)

Michelle and Dave were my first clients to hire me sight-unseen.

Usually I meet with potential clients, talk with them in person.

But occasionally, a client lives out of town and isn’t planning to visit any time soon.  So we schedule a phone call or use Skype.

It’s a scary thing, having an initial consultation over the phone.  You can’t see each other.  I mean, it seems obvious.  But as humans we’re so used to paying attention to each other in person that talking on the phone, for something like a “getting to know you” meeting, is just…  Strange.  There’s no way to gauge how you’re doing, no body language to go off of, and no way to recognize that you’re talking too much!

Plus…  Sometimes potential clients ask scary questions.  It happens.

Still, I really felt like we had a great connection, so I was thrilled when Michelle e-mailed me a few hours after our phone call:

“I had a feeling that you were going to be our coordinator, for some reason I can’t explain, but that feeling was right.  We are very ready to move forward if you will have us!”

Well, you can guess my reaction.  I think my return e-mail had lots of exclamation points in it.  (For anyone who wonders, yes, I talk like I write.  Tons of exclamation points!)

Because Michelle and Dave were planning their wedding long distance, they wanted full wedding planning, and they needed to work with someone they could trust to make everything come together.  I was honored to be chosen for the task!

Michelle and Dave had already chosen their location – the gorgeous La Jolla Shores Hotel – but we were able to work together to put together a vendor “dream team” for their wedding.  For each vendor choice, I gave Michelle and Dave the options I felt were best for their style and preferences, and they made the ultimate choice.  I can honestly say that I have never had a wedding where I worried less about how the vendors would do on the day of the event – because I’d done the “matchmaking” myself I could say for certain that each vendor would work well both for the couple and with me.  And I trusted each vendor implicitly.  They did not disappoint!

In fact, the incredible Bryan N. Miller is now the standard to whom my assistant Rachael holds all photographers, for both his talent and charm!  I think his gorgeous images of the day speak for themselves, and it didn’t hurt that he lived in Illinois while growing up (as did I; the couple lives South of Chicago, so it was kismet!).

As full planner, I also helped the couple manage their budget, designed the details for the day, created the Out-of-Town bags (which included San Diego treats like Chuao Chocolates and Stone Beer!), and attended tastings with the couple when they came out to San Diego for a visit in January (oh yes, it’s a hard life!!). By the time that the wedding day rolled around, I felt as much love, responsibility, and care for their wedding as I did for my own.  And seeing the photos of the day that I had intimately planned was as fulfilling as seeing the photos of my own!

Of course Michelle and Dave were not only totally in love, they didn’t only place a ton of faith in someone they’d met only for a few hours on a weekend in person before their wedding week, and they weren’t only totally adorable in their wedding photos.  They were also incredibly sweet and generous (seriously, the entire vendor team was treated like family!) and ridiculously fun.  I have to admit – I’m sad I don’t get to talk to Michelle nearly enough now that the wedding itself is over!

I not only had the chance to do all the planning for their wedding, I also did all the design – including stationery.  From the wedding and even bridal shower invitations to the menus and programs to the place cards and table numbers to the vows and readings, I was able to make sure that every part of their wedding day reflected their style.  I am so proud of the results.

So without further ado…  Part 1 of Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel!

I’m trying not to narrate these fabulous photos too much…  But of course this is the first look.  I love how happy they are!!!

Of course, no First Look in the world can replace the sight of your bride walking down the aisle.  These next two photos blew me away when I saw them.  I was in the back, where I always am, cueing the bride, so I didn’t see this moment in person.  But it makes my heart full to see this love.

Michelle and Dave had a beautiful ceremony by Rev. Christopher Tuttle.  His advice was straightforward and from the heart: Love each other.  A lot.

This was a real treat – toes-in-the-sand beach wedding.  Just what you’d hope for in a Destination affair.

And of course, they shared a tender kiss at the end!

I’ll be sharing more of this beautiful wedding with you soon! 🙂

Michelle + Dave’s Classic Beach Wedding at La Jolla Shores Hotel Wedding Details:

Ask The Planner: What Do You Wear?

I’m starting yet another series today…  I find that most of the posts that are partially written (often in my head, but I currently have 22 drafts sitting in my WordPress queue) can be categorized into groups.  Today’s series is one I’ve been meaning to create for a while, since I get a lot of questions that seem to be asked over and over – or great questions I think everyone should hear the answer to.  I’ll be taking question submissions via e-mail, too, for future posts…  But for now, I’ll start off with my first “Ask the Planner” post… “What do you wear?”

There are certain questions that always come up, in every consultation.  One of them is “Do you have a little earpiece, like Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner?”  The answer is no – BUT I’m seriously considering getting long-range walkie talkies for my assistant and me after being at a venue where our phones were stuck trying to get service all night long and eventually both died.  A dead phone does not a happy planner make.

Anyway, the other is “What do you wear to our wedding?”

And that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

It’s pretty simple, really.  I am always professionally dressed, generally in black.  I like to wear black slacks and a black jacket, but sometimes will switch it up with a sweater or (on very hot days) just a nice shirt.  On particularly cold wedding days I might wear a sweater and a jacket, or a scarf.  I usually try to match any colors in my outfit with the wedding colors (I love the bridal party’s reaction when I come in wearing the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses – it also makes me feel more of a part of the celebration!).  I wear flats.  Always.

 

You see, I’m on my feet for anywhere between eight and fourteen hours on a wedding day (my average is ten and a half).  Even if your wedding, from beginning of ceremony to end of reception, is only five hours (a fairly short one), I will have been there for setup several hours beforehand and will be there breaking down/cleaning up for at least an hour afterward.

Back when I was a gala planner for a nonprofit, my required dress was a skirt and heels.  For the first month I worked on staff (during our grueling yearly summer music festival), I worked from 9 am to 11 pm five days a week and 1 pm to midnight one or two additional days, except the day of our gala, when I worked from 8 am to midnight.  In heels and a skirt.

Here’s the thing: on your wedding day, you want me to be able to bend, grab, pull, push, move, twist, crawl, and climb on ladders (and, occasionally, tables and chairs) along with walking an average of five miles per wedding day (yes, I’ve worn a pedometer) and standing for several hours at a time.  I don’t believe I can do the best job possible in any other clothing.

But my assistants and I are always dressed professionally.  The idea is for us to fade into the background (the reason we tend to wear a lot of black) while still looking nice.  The last thing you want is for your wedding planner (or any vendor, really) to stick out like a sore thumb amidst your dressed up guests, drawing a ton of attention to him or herself.  That’s why my staff and I never wear jeans or shorts during your wedding ceremony or reception.

Do you have a question that you’ve always wondered about weddings or wedding planning?  I’d love to answer it!  Send me an e-mail at elisa {at} eventsbyelisa.com with the subject line “Ask the Planner Question!”

Photo credit: Bryan N Miller Photography (from Michelle + Dave’s wedding, which I can’t wait to share with you later this month!!!!)