If we have worked together, or if you have ever just talked to me about weddings, you know that I mention the Guest Experience frequently. Yes, it is the couple’s day. And yes, it is a special day for their families too. But a party is being held, and guests are being invited, and as hosts, you want them to feel welcome, at home, and cared for.
Here are some ways that you can enhance the guest experience at a wedding:
° Shop for your venue with care. Make sure that it will hold every guest you invite, even if you think some won’t attend. I will never forget, years ago and before I was planning weddings, when I was at a guest at a wedding where just one couple declined the invitation! And, unfortunately, the ballroom was so packed that it was almost impossible to get to the dance floor. And that’s what I remember most about that wedding.
° Send a save-the-date. This lets guests plan their transportation and stay.
° Start with a wedding website, and share as much information as you can so your guests know what to expect. It’s all about expectations!
° Have a room block. This lets your guests rent rooms at a discounted price. And make sure that they know that the room blocks typically end a month before the wedding, so they should book sooner rather than later.
° Have a welcome bag (box, or other container) for your guests who are staying at the hotels in which you have blocked rooms. It is fun to include something from the area in which you are holding the wedding, something from your hometown, something personal (favorite candies?), and/or something to make your guests smile. Bottles of water are particularly appreciated, since hotels sometimes charge large fees for them. Most importantly, though, include a guest letter. Let guests know just what to expect… where to be and when, and what they are expected to wear. No one likes to feel out of place, and the more information you can provide, the more comfortable your guests will feel. Include a map and a list of some activities in the area so that guests can enjoy your wedding city.
° Travel instructions and information are crucial. How far is the airport from the hotel, and how can guests get there? Provide driving directions or at least full addresses so guests can find where they are going and where to park. If you are providing transportation at all during your wedding weekend, let the guests know on your website and in the welcome letter… and where to meet for the transportation and at what time.
° Let your guests know what YOUR expectations are. Do they have to come to a rehearsal dinner? Is attendance an after-party an absolute requirement or can they see how they feel at the moment? Do you need them to help with something? In general, guests are happy to help, so feel free to let them.
° Have escort cards with legible writing so guests can find their own. And have table numbers at the reception in clear view and in some sort of order if they are not numerical. If you name a table “Liberty Bell,” for example, how is the guest going to find it in the room?
° Think about having a gift table and a card catcher in a spot where your guests will find it as they immediately enter the (cocktail) reception. That way they don’t have to keep looking for it or carrying around your gift.
° Think about providing an amenity basket in the “ladies’ room.” It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but an emery board, mints, hair spray, bobby pins, safety pins, and a sewing kit may fix minor emergencies. And for the men’s room, a bowl of Life Saver mints is always appreciated.
° At the end of the night, think about a little treat as your guests depart. A Philly soft pretzel for the road, maybe? It’s just another little thoughtful touch.
° And this is what means most of all, even if you choose to do absolutely none of the ideas listed above: a heartfelt thank you. It means everything. Your guests have come from many places to honor you. Let them know (repeatedly) how genuinely happy you were to share this special time in your lives with them.