Be Our Guest

Be Our Guest: Avoiding Wedding Purgatory

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Continuing with our series on how to be more concious of one's guests... today we will address the cocktail hour entertainment, or rather lack there of.  I would say that about 50% of my brides, regardless of budget,  often overlook designing an entertaining cocktail hour experience.  In fact, I would venture to say that most of my brides see any money spent on this element as frugal.  Guests have just sat through the ceremony, and while they will enjoy the time to wind down (and will undoubtedly appreciate a cocktail or two) the full hour can feel a little like wedding purgatory- a limbo of sorts where eventually everyone is standing around anxiously anticipating the arrival of the main courses, the couple, and the party. 

One of my favorite ways to bring a little life to the cocktail hour is by engaging guests with a playful and unexpected element.  Before you assume that this is yet another evil ploy from the "wedding industrial complex" understand that such an element does not necessarily mean spending a ton of money.

Perhaps you are having an outdoor cocktail hour on a grassy knoll?  Consider adding a little croquet, badmitton, or bocce ball for good measure. 

Have a little extra change in your budget?  Consider hiring an interactive entertainer like a card musician, fortune teller, cigar roller, silhouette artist, caricature artist, etc.  Having someone either work the crowd, or provide a station, can really loosen up the mood of the evening. 

Beatles on Youtube

Looking to stay traditional?  Go ahead and get a little cheeky with a string quartet that plays strictly Beetles and contemporary selections.

The greatest benefit to providing cocktail entertainment is that your guests will soon forget that your photos are running over time or that they're starving.  Those guests who are not familiar with anyone else will find common grounds to start conversation over.  Let this hour set the stage for the rest of your evening... as the more comfortable that your guests become during this hour, the more apt they are to engage the rest of the evening and stay until the end.


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Be Our Guest: Musical Chairs

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Recently, I have noticed that brides are being more attentive to their guests' comfort levels.  This can be as simple as  providing an alternative to dancing, a welcome bag for out of town guests, or flip flops at a beach ceremony.  It's these thoughtful touches that really make an event special and memorable.  Thus, I've decided to author a weekly editorial here on the blog called "Be Our Guest" where I'll share some of my favorite ideas on how to make a wedding more approachable for your guests. One difficulty that brides often overlook when planning their wedding, is how they will make time for EVERY ONE of their 300 guests.  While being the center of attention can be flattering, it is also a little overwhelming.  After an 8 hour plane ride, two nights in a hotel, a $50 wedding gift, and an hour long wedding mass... your guests are going to be more than anxious to chat with the happy couple.  Enter the difficulty.  Somewhere between the avande garde photoshoot after the ceremony, seated five course dinner, rigorously scheduled reception, and sparkler exit... there just doesn't seem to be a whole heck of a lot of room to spend a quality minute or two with each guest.  What is a bride to to?

In the past, this was the reasoning for a receiving line after the ceremony.  It gave the bride, groom, and their parents time to formally receive each guest and make them feel acknowledged and appreciated.  However, these can be rather time-consuming and will eat a huge chunk of your 4 hour reception.  And, truth be told, it can feel a little awkward to have a quality conversation while 150 guests are behind you waiting their turn... thus I come bearing a few modern alternatives to the receiving line:

1. See Eachother Before the Ceremony

I know, I know.  You've pictured that intimate moment where the doors to the chapel fling open and you are there looking at your groom from afar.  His eyes well with tears of pride and happiness and it is all captured on film forever.  But, and hear me out, imagine this same senerio a couple of hours before the ceremony - in a secluded, picture perfect spot.  You can eliminate post-wedding photo taking by having ALL formal photos done before the wedding begins.  This leaves the cocktail hour open to mingle with guests one on one.

2. Eenie Meenie Miney Mo

If you are having a buffet, consider going from table to table as your Master of Ceremonies dismisses them.  It will give you time to say hello to guests as they are waiting for their table to be called... and timing it just right with your dj will mean that your conversation will end just as they are invited to the buffet. (Have a member of the catering staff make you a plate as you are nearing the last table being called.  This will also ensure that everyone is done eatting by the time the toasts and dancing begin.)

3. Musical Chairs

If you are opting for a seated dinner, consider having two additional place settings at each table (i/e seat 8 guests and have 2 extra chairs making 10).  Start at one side of the room and set your watch.  Every 7 minutes or so, pick up your plates and move on.  This relieves the need for a "head table" and makes every single guest feel like a VIP.

Agnes Lopez Photography

Here's what Kristen, a recent bride had to say about her expierience:

"...the wedding day, she had the idea of my husband and I talking to all the guests at their tables, avoiding the typically line at the Bride & Groom's table. We went to our guests tables while each table was being dismissed to the buffet. This was the number one thing that we received feedback on from our guests. Most guests said they had never been to a wedding where the bride & groom did not start eating FIRST and then talked to a few guests. "


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