How to throw a great party for your wedding guests! (A professional's opinion)
Updated: Apr 28
One of the most important aspects of wedding planning is making sure that your guests have a good time! SO--the golden question arises: how can you make your wedding an *AWESOME* party where guests go home raving about the fun they had on your special day and will remember it with you for years to come?
We've got a few ideas for you!
One of the best ways that you can make sure your guests are taken care of from start to finish on your day is to offer valet parking for their vehicles. Many guest will be wearing uncomfortable shoes or long dresses that are difficult to walk long distances in. If you can offer them the ability to be dropped off very close to where your ceremony is, they will love you for it!
Shuttles to and from where they are staying
No couple wants their guests to feel concerned about getting home safely after a fun night of celebrating you! One of the best ways to ensure the safety of your guests on the road after the consumption of alcohol is to offer a shuttle or car service from where your out of town guests are staying. Sometimes venues even offer this to you as part of their packages. Be sure to check with them and see if this is an option for you.
Comfortable seating / enough seats for every guest
For guests, part of an be at an enjoyable wedding is certainly having both comfortable seating and no "standing room only" situations. If you have older people on your guest list, you'll especially want them to have a comfortable place to sit. Also, consider whether or not your guests might be cold depending on your venue, and if so it's a great idea to provide blankets. If you are getting married in a hot place, you might want to provide fans on the sides of your venue to blow cool air on your guests or at least give them hand-held paper fans.
Never keep your guests waiting around for too long
As photographers, there will be many moments throughout the day where we will have to steal you away for a photo moment or you will be busy elsewhere. (For photos, these include but are not limited to photographs of family, bridal party, or couple's photos.) It is highly important that you plan for your guests to always be doing something when you're not around to entertain. This is one of the most complained about parts of a wedding day, so have a cocktail hour or games available to them during those moments!
Do I need to say more??? In our experience, this is certainly one of the most preferred items on the menu for wedding guests. Having an open bar gives your friends and family the ability to enjoy their evening without a paid-for drink limit or having to pay for drinks themselves. Not to mention that having this in the mix of the party can make for an awesome time where everyone can really let loose and enjoy themselves! For photos and video, it will definitely make for some interesting dance moves as well. ;)
Indoor / outdoor atmosphere
Some of the best venues that we have done events at have great indoor and outdoor atmosphere. Before you ask, "What does that mean?" Let us explain! All of your guests have different personalities and preferences about being in large crowds or feeling overly stimulated. Whether it be because they are extremely COVID-19 conscious, they are just very introverted, they need to take a smoke break, or they have social anxiety, you will have people present at your event who will appreciate being able to get away from the main part of the party while feeling like they are still a part of your event. We highly encourage having options for them around the venue such as more than one bar when they can order a drink, nice outdoor lighting, or perhaps even a bonfire and s'mores station!
On your invite, ask your guests to arrive 15-30 minutes before the ceremony
You don't want your guests arriving in the middle of one of the most important moments of your life, your ceremony, and they also don't want to do that and embarrass themselves. Make sure that your guests do not think that their arrival time is actually your ceremony start time.
Don't let your guests be hungry or thirsty
To piggyback off of the section about not keeping your guests waiting, another highly complained about element for wedding guests is hunger. The best weddings the Papillon Visuals team has been to have food available at various times aside from the main meal. A few times where you might offer food and drinks are when guests first arrive to the ceremony, a cocktail hour for them directly after the ceremony, and then coffee and snacks around when you will be serving your cake later in the evening.
Have a coat check
This one is pretty straightforward! Your guest will love both the "fancy" feel of this and also not having to carry their stuff around with them all night.
Hire a DJ or live band with a great reputation
One of the worst things we see a lot are weddings where couples have chosen to just have a Spotify playlist on shuffle, or they hire a DJ who just flat out doesn't have the personality for the job. If you want good atmosphere for the "party" half of your day, you will want someone very charismatic to make your announcements for you and who truly understands good party music. The Papillon Visuals team always recommends reading online reviews from a vendor's past clients before making a hire. A number of times during wedding receptions, our team members have been snapping photos and doing our thing, only to hear the DJ say something really weird that makes everyone in the room cringe. We also have encountered DJ's/emcees that do not listen to the needs of the couple and run the night on their own schedule, or play music that the couple specifically said they do not like. We know you don't want either of those things to happen! Finally, the absolute best weddings we have been to had live bands that played upbeat music. While this is certainly an added expense, it's very worth it!
Choose an easy-to-find venue
Guests and vendors will enjoy traveling to a venue that is not in the middle of nowhere/easy to find! Make sure you are selecting a location for your event that will not cause many of your people to get lost on the way and/or show up late. If this occurs, it can throw everything else off for the rest of your wedding day.
On your invite, give your guests a dress code
It is highly important that your guests wear clothing and shoes that will not hinder their ability to enjoy your wedding. If you and your partner are getting married in a colder or hotter place, if your venue is very hill-y or rock-y and heels are not ideal, or if you have a specific dress code in mind that is more casual or more formal--communicate this to your guests. (And your vendors) You also do not want a guest to feel embarrassed because they under- or over-dressed!
Hire a photo booth company
We think guests really enjoy this part of a wedding, and it will give you and your partner a lot of really fun candids from your day that are different than the type of photos that we will take. We can offer suggestions for this if you are on the search!
As always, we're here to offer any suggestions on vendors and answer any questions you might have for us.
Owner | Papillon Visuals