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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Happy Anniversary Alex + Allen!

Oh my goodness, this is EXTREMELY belated!!!  I thought I’d hit “schedule” on my post (to post on November 19th) but apparently I didn’t…  So this is a month and a half belated!  Alex + Allen, I still wish you both a lifetime of happiness and love!

It’s yet another anniversary around here… Last fall I was SO BUSY…  The week before this gorgeous wedding I had a baby shower and a 1st birthday party; the day after, I participated in a bridal show! 🙂

I met Alex + Allen through a referral; a friend of mine worked with Alex across campus from my day job.  We joked it was the official University wedding, since both Alex + Allen work on campus, as does Jason Almazan, their photographer.  The music at the ceremony was provided by one of the campus’ a capella groups, and the sound equipment was provided by another one of the couple’s coworkers.

Alex + Allen are SUCH a joyful, loving couple.  They’re both very reserved and quiet, although I wouldn’t say “shy” is the right word to describe them.  Both were extremely open, warm, and caring.  I’d never done a wedding without dancing before, but none of their guests missed it – they were having too much fun in the photo booth area and giggling and telling stories!

You’ll definitely recognize some of their photos from my website too…  Love the energy these two had and this picture of them giggling at their ceremony is still one of my top photos I’ve ever seen of one of my couples.  SO much love!!!

http://www.jasonalmazanphotography.com/

Check out more photos from Alex + Allen’s wedding on my blog and website, and while you’re there, look at the amazing review Alex wrote!

Alex + Allen’s Modern Rustic Wedding at Olivenhain Meeting Hall, 11*19*2011 Vendor Details:

What to Look for When Choosing Wedding Vendors

This post has been inspired by some conversations I’ve had over the last few months, both with other vendors and with clients and potential clients.  Every single point addressed here has come from more than one source, so I hope no one feels singled out!  I’ve been meaning to write something like this for a while!

Ah, wedding planning.  The fun! The joy!  The feeling of balancing on a tight rope with hundred-pound weights on your feet.

How do you know where to go?  For advice?  For support?  For recommendations?  After all, Aunt Mildred might have known all about wedding planning when she got married in 1943, but things have changed.  Drastically.  Even in just the last ten years.  Even in the last five.

With the advent of the internet, it’s incredibly easy to do research on your own.  And it can be incredibly overwhelming too.  How can you decide what you want when everything starts melting together after hours of searching into a big puddle of jewel-encrusted, lace-embellished, rose-scented goo?

Budgets are important of course – and it’s certainly not a good idea to spend more than you feel comfortable with.  But having been both a budget bride and a wedding vendor who works with brides who have budgets of all sizes, I think there are some other really important – and often overlooked – points to keep in mind when you’re choosing the vendors who will make your wedding day special.

  • How does the vendor talk about his or her clients? Client reviews are obviously the number one way that potential clients find their vendors.  If a vendor has high ratings, chances are that you’ll be more inclined to check them out.  But check to see, too, how a vendor talks about his or her clients online – in blog posts and comments, on Facebook and Twitter, and anywhere else they might be interacting with other vendors and clients – and to you specifically.  Are they excited?  Engaged?  Interested?  Helpful?  If a vendor consistently has a whiney, pushy, snobby, or complaining tone, it’s a big red flag.  I’m not a big fan of vendors who bash their clients.  And if a vendor ever tells you “Well, you don’t know, because you’ve never been married, but I’m an expert at this, so listen to me…”  Well, let’s just say that it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  To clarify: I know you’ve probably never been married before, and I try to be an expert.  But I will never ever tell you that you must do something my way, just because I “know” what to do.

  • How does the vendor present him or herself? How do they come across online? On the phone?  In person?  Do they type in complete sentences or netspeak?  Do they answer e-mails promptly?  Do they dress professionally?  Do they have an informative website?  This is not to say that a vendor has to have the prettiest, flashiest, or most up-to-date website (goodness knows it took me long enough to have one I was proud of!).  But if they consistently come across as unprofessional, uneducated, or unprepared, they probably are.
  • Does the vendor’s work come across as high-quality? Please don’t confuse “work” with “photos of work,” unless you’re talking specifically about photography/videography.  Even then I have a caveat (see below).  High quality work doesn’t always mean high-quality photos or high-budget items.  Just like any foodie can tell you, the most authentic and best-tasting food can often be found in less-than-picturesque locations.  When you’re looking for a talented designer (florals, invitations, dresses, or weddings in general), look for thoughtful details, carefully placed.  Often, the most creative styling goes into the event with the smallest budget – it takes an out-of-the-box designer to stretch a few decoration dollars!  Instead of looking for exactly the details or the design you’d want, and instead of judging a wedding vendor by the budget of their last wedding, look for a vendor who puts thought into everything they put out, whether or not they have the best photographs.  By the way, this same principle can be applied to photographers too – don’t judge a photographer by the details in his or her photographs, but rather on the quality and composition of the photos themselves.

Handcrafted rice paper circle "sculpture" table runners by Events by Elisa

  • How do they work? This can sometimes be hard to determine from websites alone – you usually need to ask your potential vendors this question when you meet them. First and foremost, it’s important that you have compatible working styles (if you expect constant communication and they expect to not have contact with you after your contract signing, you might not work well together!).  But more than that, learning about their working style will help you to know whether you can trust them to really give your wedding special attention.
  • Value is not the same as cheap.  You’ve probably heard that you can have either low cost or high quality service.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to that idea – I think that it’s very possible to get a good balance of both.  But the best value service is usually not the lowest cost service – it’s the best mixture of quality and price.  Couples will often get so focused on the bottom line of their wedding that they overlook a vendor’s lack of experience or expertise.  I even made this mistake when planning my own wedding (despite my years of planning events for other people – it’s an easy trap to fall into!).  A good value vendor will be one who goes above and beyond the minimum, who offers you consistently good service and communication, and who knows how to make things happen.  Think of wedding vendors like purses – the ones who offer you the most value are not usually the least expensive.  Low quality purses can be expected to last a week or a month before breaking.  But high quality purses will easily last for years, and often buying a single high-quality purse can end up saving you money in the long run over buying low-quality pieces.  The same principle applies to vendors – if you’ll have to provide your DJ with a CD of all of the songs you want played at your wedding, or your florist requires constant attention, or your coordinator shows up an hour before the wedding ceremony and hasn’t even glanced at the timeline she didn’t help to make, you might be paying rock-bottom prices, but what are you really getting?  Look for vendors who go above and beyond the minimum, and your dollar will be well-spent.

Beautiful Handmade Guestbook

  • Book early! It’s never too early to book a high-quality wedding vendor.  For one thing, good vendors are in demand.  Waiting until late in your process can mean that you miss out on your favorite vendor because he or she is already busy on the day of your wedding.  For another, prices can go up (sometimes several times a year) as vendors find the best pricing structure for them.  And for a third, the earlier you book a vendor (particularly a coordinator/planner, but any vendor, really), the more value they can add.  From referring other quality vendors to adding on extras to helping you to create your design vision, good wedding vendors, when brought in early, can actually save you money, time, and hassle.
  • Do you LIKE this person? Your wedding vendors are going to be spending a lot of time making your wedding great.  It doesn’t make any sense to hire them if they don’t seem like someone you’d enjoy being around.  Coordinators, planners, designers, DJs, photographers, and officiants are integral to the success of your day.  Florists, graphic designers, and bakers won’t actually BE at your wedding, but you’ll still be trusting them to make your wedding day vision happen.  TRUST is key.  Don’t hire anyone you don’t like!

Photo credits:

Alex + Allen’s Modern Rustic Wedding at Olivenhain Meeting Hall, 11*19*2011

Alex was referred to me by my old coworker Tanya.  She had worked alongside me for over a year back in my former life as a gala planner, and she now works in the same office as Alex.  It turned out that over half of the vendors involved in her modern rustic wedding (held in a building over 100 years old!) are connected to my alma mater (which also happens to be where Alex and Allen both work)!  Go Tritons!

Alex is gentle and graceful.  She moves softly, like a cat, but has a sparkling smile.  And she brought all her vendor contracts, plus a layout of the venue, to our initial meeting!  Mind you, there was only a month to go before the wedding, but I was super impressed!

Jason Almazan took some great photos of the day (especially in the challenging lighting conditions of the century-old meeting hall), including one of my favorite photos of any of my clients (which we’ll get to in a bit).  Organic Elements created the most amazing sculptural pieces from driftwood and flowers, and Classic Party Rentals provided the backbone – tables, chairs, linens, and lighting (I *heart* festival lights!).

I think after last week’s especially long-winded post, I’d rather let the photos of this elegant, modern rustic wedding speak for themselves…  So without (much) further chatter…  The pretty photos!!!

OMG – look at that SMILE!  And Alex made that brooch bouquet herself! 🙂

Alex and Allen wanted to incorporate seven traditions for marriage (from different cultures) into their wedding, so they drank wine together and smashed a glass, among other things.

And the bridesmaids surprised Alex by coming to the venue early the morning of the wedding to decorate the ceremony space with chalk!

 

Can I just pause for a second and say how much I adore these two?  And how absolutely the two of them together radiate love?  They are so open, so giving, and so generous.  I didn’t even meet Allen until the day of the wedding (they chose to go rehearsal-less), and by the end of the night he gave me a huge bear hug.  Just seeing these photos makes me so happy.

And this next photo?  This is one of my favorites.  Ever.  Of any of my couples.  I just adore the expression.  The pure happiness.  The couple who is so at ease with each other.  Bliss.

The ceremony was over – and now it was time to party!  This reception was pretty relaxed, since the venue won’t allow dancing on its antique floors.  But we did set up a DIY photo booth using my props.  Everyone enjoyed it!

A beautiful reception it was, too.  It’s an incredibly small venue, but Alex and Allen made great use of the space available, including the benches along the walls, for seating.  Each table was decorated with flower-dotted driftwood and battery-operated candles (open flames aren’t permitted inside the old structure either).

What a great group of guests this was – they didn’t mind not dancing one bit…  Instead, it felt like a party at someone’s house, with everyone talking and laughing until long after the official party “ended.”

One of my favorite things that Jason did was take photos of the vendors.  So instead of my usual vendor roundup, I present you with photographs!

Alex + Allen’s Modern Rustic Wedding at Olivenhain Meeting Hall, 11*19*2011 Vendor Details:

(not pictured; they only dropped off!)