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!!!!

http://www.jasonalmazanphotography.com/

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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Ten Myths About Wedding Planners

Planning your wedding is a complex business.  Sometimes it feels like everyone is just trying to get money from you.  And for the bride-on-a-budget, hiring a wedding planner can seem like an extravagant expense.  The only thing is: most brides-to-be aren’t very educated about what a planner does.  And because of this, some pretty big misconceptions about wedding planners persist.  Below are the top ten myths about wedding planners that I would like to see disappear!

  1. Wedding planners don’t post prices because they want you to give them your budget first so they can charge you more.
    Handmade Tissue Poms and Photo Booth Props

    Your planner may have skills over and above managing your wedding - like making tissue poms at the drop of a hat - or inventory to help defray your costs - like her own arsenal of photo booth props!

    Depending on the type of service your planner provides, she may be basing her price on the overall budget for your event.  However, this practices is typically reserved for full-service high-end weddings.  Why, then, do most planners still not post their prices online?  Simple!  A wedding planner usually won’t quote prices until she’s learned a little bit more about your event!  Since each wedding is different, a good wedding planner will tailor her service to meet your needs.  But a lot of it depends on you.  Do you have a large wedding, a short turnaround time, a complicated setup?  Your wedding planner may need to bring in an assistant or two to help out on the day of.  Do you need extra help making a DIY project, working out a design problem, or finding a vendor?  Your wedding planner may be able to help – but these all take time, so they will probably not be included in her simplest coordination package.  Depending on the individual, your planner may have skills in invitation or floral design, may have an arsenal of DIY projects at the ready, or may stock their own decor items for your use; all of these add value to their base price and may save you cold hard cash in the long run.

  2. If you have to ask, it’s too expensive.
    Due to the complexity of the process of quoting prices for your wedding day (see above), most wedding planners simply don’t post their prices.  But there are planners to fit into every price range.  Nearly every planner needs to learn more about you before she will be able to quote you a price.  But you’d be surprised how many planners are actually more affordable than you think.  And if the planner you like doesn’t meet your budgetary needs, she may be able to suggest a colleague who does.
  3. Anyone can be a wedding planner.
    While it’s true that wedding planners’ education and experience can vary widely, a good planner has skills in organization, multi-tasking, and motivation; as well as the resourcefulness to come up with alternate ideas on the fly and a definite grace under pressure.  This combination is a rarity in the world at large.  Before you “hire” a friend without event experience to be your day-of coordinator, consider this: Your friend may throw a really great party, but a planner will have the ability to simultaneously handle all your vendors, troubleshoot issues, and get your flower girl to walk down the aisle, all while shielding you from the wedding day craziness that is bound to pop up.  Remember, a planner has done this dozens of times (sometimes hundreds).  She knows how to handle even the toughest of problems without stressing you, the bride, out.
  4. I have a site coordinator, so that’s the same as a wedding planner.
    Site coordinators for churches and reception halls represent their employers.  They have the site’s best interests in mind, are always thinking of the next sale or ceremony, and will only offer you a limited choice of options available based on their experience (I once had a church coordinator tell my bride “This is the only way to do it,” about the number of attendants standing at the front of the church when they were taking their vows; every other Catholic wedding I’d seen allowed all the members of the wedding party to line up with the couple, and this was what my bride wanted, but the site coordinator insisted and didn’t back down until I intervened).  Typically, site coordinators for reception sites will be there at the beginning of the wedding, check on the party a few times, and leave, ready to move on to the next event.  Sometimes they’ll even have more than one wedding reception going on at once.  Wedding planners represent you.  They have your best interests in mind.  On your wedding day, your wedding planner is only thinking of you and your wedding.  Your planner will be with you all day; when she’s not with you, she’s tracking down a vendor, setting up a table, or making sure you have food.  You are her number one priority.
  5. Wedding planners don’t actually work.  They just get paid to stand around and tell people what to do.
    Wedding planners are constantly on their feet, constantly going.  Your planner is the first person there on your wedding day, and the last one to leave.  She has to know the intimate details of your wedding timeline like the back of her hand, make sure that everything is in place for all the special moments during your reception, and make it all happen.  She’ll lift, carry, move, kneel, crawl, grab, and schlep.  And that’s just during setup. Your planner is on call for the entire wedding ceremony and reception, ready to do whatever it takes to make your wedding day amazing.
  6. Wedding planners only work one or two days a week.
    While it’s true that most planners tend to schedule weddings on the weekends (that’s just when weddings typically happen), it doesn’t mean that they aren’t working throughout the week.  Usually for lots more hours than a “normal” work week.  You see, a typical day-of-plus wedding coordination job is, for me, 10-15 hours of onsite work and 15-20 hours of work before the wedding day even begins.  Even “simple” day-of coordination usually involves nearly as many hours of work offsite as on.  Why?  Wedding planning involves much more than just showing up and barking orders.  Before your wedding day, your planner will meet with you one-on-one, create a wedding strategy, compile the information from your other vendors, create and distribute a timeline, confirm that everything is going according to plan, run your rehearsal, and take possession of your wedding day decor.  That’s assuming that she hasn’t already put together all your wedding decor herself or helped you to do it, contracted with your vendors, and been to the site four or five times to make sure the strategy works.  Add to that answering your frantic e-mails and phone calls, networking with other vendors to help establish relationships (which leads to the ability to find last-second replacements, excellent service, and, sometimes even deals, for you), and running her own company…  And that adds up to a lot of late nights.  Which brings us to…
  7. Wedding planners with ‘day jobs’ aren’t as good as full-time wedding planners.
    "By day, mild-mannered Student Advisor... By Night, Wedding Diva!"

    "Wedding Diva"... Okay, actually, this was last year's Halloween costume. Don't judge! 🙂

    As a superhero wedding planner myself (“by day, mild-mannered student advisor, by night, Wedding Diva!”), I really hate this misconception.  Many, many planners (and photographers, and videographers, and other wedding vendors) have day jobs.  It’s how we pay the bills.  It’s what allows us to run around all weekend, schlepping equipment, in order to make your wedding day spectacular.  It keeps us from having to charge ridiculously high prices to keep from starving.  Which means we can keep our prices low.  Often times, wedding planners with day jobs will be just starting out in the industry, but not always.  Weddings don’t bring steady paychecks, even for the most seasoned of planners.  Which means that your planner-with-a-day-job might actually be able to focus on you more than your full-time planner (who might be looking for the next client already).  There are plenty of awesome, super-high-service, full-time wedding planners out there.  Just know that there are also plenty of awesome, super-high-service, part-time wedding planners out there too.

  8. If I am going to hire a wedding planner, I need to go with the cheapest one I can find, period.
    The thing is, wedding planning is about relationships, not bottom lines.  Every wedding planner has her own style, every one will build her relationship with you and the other vendors at your wedding in a different way.  You’ll need to make sure that your style meshes well with hers before booking.  That usually means meeting with her, discussing your wedding day and yourselves as a couple, and making sure that she can provide everything you want/need, in a way that makes you feel good, for a price you’re comfortable paying.  The worst mistake anyone could make when hiring a wedding planner is to simply hire the cheapest one before having a real conversation with her and getting to know how she does business.  How does she handle stressful situations, or changes, or other vendors?  How does she put together your wedding day?  What does she offer in addition to simply being a warm body on the day of your wedding (see #1)?  This goes for “gut” feelings too; sometimes people don’t really hit it off – it happens, and it’s not personal.  But if you don’t feel comfortable with your planner, how can you trust her to make the right decisions and handle all the pieces of your wedding day?
  9. I need to haggle with my wedding planner in order to get the best price.
    Wedding planning is a serious profession that requires education and expertise.  I love to haggle for good deals with the best of them, but a planner is nothing like a flea market vendor.  I’m not saying that you should take out a second mortgage just to pay for your wedding planner.  But wedding planners’ prices are based on a lot of factors, including their hard costs (for web hosting, materials, permits, taxes, space, and advertising) and the costs of living.  Your planner will have spent many hours coming up with exactly the right balance for her pricing so that she can continue to provide you great service.  If your mechanic or your doctor quoted you a price for a service you needed them to perform, you wouldn’t lowball them, would you?  A wedding planner has a set of professional skills too.  Granted, in certain circumstances, planners may be willing to negotiate, especially if a real connection and relationship is made between you (see #9).  But usually a planner has quoted you the best price she can to meet your service needs and stay in business.
  10. I don’t need a wedding planner.
    With a wedding planner, you can enjoy your wedding day.

    ...you'll be getting married, enjoying your new husband, and partying at your reception.

    Here’s the bottom line: No one needs a wedding planner.  Everyone would benefit from having one.  Your planner will keep you sane through one of the most stressful times of your life.  Instead of worrying whether the DJ has the music, or your engraved cake cutter is on the cake table, or your Aunt Mildred will ever find her table, you’ll be getting married, enjoying your new husband, and partying at your reception.  Your planner will keep you organized, making sure your timeline makes sense and all of your wedding-day details are in place.  She’ll be your representative with the other vendors, your surrogate mother, your coach, your emergency diffuser, your support on your wedding day.  And who couldn’t benefit from that?

All photos copyright Events by Elisa.