Advice from a Wedding Planner | Three Ways to Enhance Guest Experience
“WE JUST WANT OUR GUESTS TO HAVE FUN.”
When I ask my new clients what’s important to them on their big day, I usually get some variation of the quote above. I find couples are thinking about guest experience just as much as their own. They want their event to leave a lasting impression. To put it simply- they want to throw a good party.
However, I also see couples feeling guilty over the amount of money they’re spending on the wedding. It’s important to stick with a budget and be wise with spending. I definitely do not advise racking up credit card debt for your wedding. But I’m here to tell you: do not feel guilty about spending the money you do have in the budget to make your guests feel special. Not only are you and your partner celebrating your new marriage, you’re also celebrating and thanking the people who have supported you along the way. Marriage, family, and friendships are all beautiful gifts from the Lord. They are worthy to be celebrated. It’s okay to splurge (within reason) on them!
So, how should a couple use the money in their budget to ensure their guests’ have a stellar time from start to finish? A few key ways to splurge on enhancing their experience below!
Providing clear communication for your guests makes a world of difference. From the moment they receive a save the date, to the moment they light their sparkler and send you on your way, guests should know exactly what’s going on.
During the planning process, I advise couples to put themselves in their guests’ shoes. Will guests know where to park when they pull up to the venue? Is there an immediate place for them to drop off their gifts? Is it obvious how to get from the ceremony site to the cocktail hour? Is the cake table in a different room? Is the restroom around the corner? My rule of thumb is this: if it’s not 100% intuitive or already clearly marked, consider procuring signage for it. Think about things like parking, restrooms, food descriptions on your buffet, and anytime guests will be asked to change location during your event (ceremony to cocktail hour to reception to send off.)
Furthermore, guests might need a friendly reminder to actually read the signage you’ve displayed for them. Oftentimes they’re so busy mingling that they miss some of the cute signs you’ve worked so hard on. For example, you might have your planner walk through cocktail hour to remind guests to check the seating chart ahead of time. That way there isn’t a big rush to read the chart when guests are asked to head to their tables for dinner.
Clean communication keeps your event flowing smoothly and allows guests to enjoy the party without wondering where they should go next or what they’re supposed to be doing. And plus- signage can be another design element! An acrylic welcome sign with a sleek font? It’s functional AND gorgeous!
2. Make Sure Your Event is Well Staffed
It’s not the most glamorous thing to spend extra money on, but an understaffed event can quickly turn into a nightmare.
In my early days as a planner, I worked a wedding that had this great little barbecue restaurant cater the reception. The food was delicious, but this restaurant was not equipped to handle an event of that size. There were only 3-4 servers, so food items were constantly running out causing a major backup as guests waited for the food to be replenished. Dirty plates, napkins and empty cups quickly built up on tables while there was no one to bus them, which is super unfortunate when you think about the thought and money that went into table decor. Just imagine if the tablescape to the right filled up with crumpled napkins and empty beer bottles within minutes of the reception beginning and stayed that way until the end. What a shame that would be! If my team and I hadn’t spent extra time taking the trash out at the end of the night, the venue would have fined our client for leaving the place a mess. That would have cost them more than adding extra servers!
Take the time to review your catering and bar contracts and consider adding extra staff. Make sure your caterer will be bringing enough servers so that food comes out efficiently and tables are continuously bussed. That way your centerpieces and table decor can be properly admired! As far as bar service, for every 50-75 guests you will need one bartender (beer and wine bars need less maintenance than full bars). This keeps lines short so guests can quickly grab a drink and get back to mingling.
That pesky line on your bar and catering contract that says “service charge?” That covers the staff and equipment needed to ensure that your event runs smoothly. Give your guests the gift of short lines, quick service, and clean tables. It is 100% worth it!
3. Pick a Fun Extra
This is where couples can get really creative in designing the guest experience. Whether it’s a welcome basket in guests’ hotel rooms, a late night snack, a cocktail cart, a champagne tower or a homemade cookie at each place setting, having a unique “extra” will wow guests and make them feel spoiled. This is a great way for your and your partner to add a personal touch that shows off your personalities while also giving guests a one-of-a-kind memory.
When you invest in your guests’ experience, they’re able to be fully present. Instead of wandering around looking for the restroom or waiting ten minutes for the chicken to be replenished at the buffet, they’re enjoying the event and most importantly - they’re able to enjoy the people at the event.
The photos you see in this post are from a springtime shoot called Love in Bloom that was featured on Magnolia Rouge.
Photography: @thehappybloom | Planning: @slauerevents | Venue: @shipsofthesea | Florals: @grayharperflorals | Rentals: @eventworksrentals | Ceremony Backdrop + Paper Goods: @lairseypaperco | Watercolor: @strokesofsunshine | Catering: @currentcatering | Hair + Makeup: @pamperedandprettyxo | Vintage Car: @lowcountryvalet | Bridal Boutique: @bleubellebridal | Suits: @theblacktux| Welcome Box: @asignaturewelcome | Ring: @trumpetandhorn | Cake: @vintagesoulcakes | Shoes: @bellabelleshoes | Bridesmaids Outfits: @shopmorninglavender