What do guests really care about?

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Here are a few of the imagined thoughts of some of my wedding guests…
My florist cousin was telling me about how much some brides pay for their flowers, and that flowers are considered to be one of the most-noticed parts of a wedding. I haven't been to many weddings but I can not for the life of me remember ANYTHING about the flowers. I remember the ceremony and the entertainment and of course it's hard not to notice the dress. I'm curious to know what the most memorable parts of a wedding are to guests? What have they been in your own personal experiences?

Obviously every guest's notice-worthy things will be different, but I'll speak for myself based on two things: my opinions as a wedding guest, and my opinions as a wedding blogger.

As a guest, here are few things I have thought to myself at weddings over the past decade:

  • “Holy fuck, they look gorgeous.” Yes, I'm superficial and always notice amazing clothing on the bride and the groom — especially when it's clearly custom work.
  • “Ooh, that's a clever way to get them involved!” I love seeing the special roles/ways that couples invent so that they can include people in their wedding days — e.g. creating a special task so that their community's army of small children can all participate.
  • “OMG, YUM.” Delicious food is delicious.
  • “I'm starving and confused.” If your wedding is remote, welcome bags for out-of-town guests can enter the realm of more than just etiquette. Hangry guests are no fun.
  • “Oh man, that is so THEM. I love it!” I've had this thought equally in response to everything from very fancy centerpieces to wedding invitations that looked like they were assembled by a pre-schooler. For me as a guest, the special ways that the wedding reflects the couple are WAY more impressive to me than the specifics of what the results are. In fact, I'm more impressed by something truly reflective of the couple than I am by the quality/fanciness/professionalness/whatever of it.
  • “Awwww….” I don't always remember the words of the ceremony and I don't always remember the content of any speeches, but I always remember the displays of deep, heartfelt emotion. To me, these are the very most memorable moments of every wedding.

As a wedding blogger (which is a whoooole different thing), here's what I notice:

  • Beautiful photography. The right photographer can elevate courthouse elopements into epic adventures full of dream-spun golden light and glimmering tears thanks to the right photographer. The wrong photographer can reduce an ornate wedding with hundreds of guests and acres of decor into a over-processed nightmare with images that feel more like illustrations than documentation.

Obviously, as a blogger, photography is going to be important to me. But you don't organize weddings for bloggers (…Right?! Because you really, REALLY shouldn't.). You throw a wedding for your community, and only you can know your guests and what they might appreciate. When in doubt, early-on in your wedding planning, ask a few of your guests directly to get a read on your community.

I'd love to hear from readers: what ONE element do you find yourself appreciating the most at the weddings you attend?

Comments on What do guests really care about?

  1. Reminder to commenters: I’d love to hear about the wedding elements you remembered and appreciated — not ones you want to gripe about. We all have wedding disaster stories… but that’s not what I’m looking for here. 🙂

    • A longtime family friend got married in the backyard of her grandma’s house along a river. They have a zipline that goes from the top of the yard out over the river. So I remember that part of the reception. I also remember that the minister (who happens to be my dad, but I think I’d remember anyway) quoted Shakespeare.

      At a college friend’s traditional Jewish wedding, I most remember how beautiful the temple looked and how much I appreciated learning about his traditions.

      I don’t usually pay attention to flowers, but when my uncle got married in this beautiful courtyard with huge hedge walls, there were hundreds of single flowers stuck throughout the walls.

  2. I think the special touches that reflect the bride and groom are what I take away from the wedding. For example in my best friend’s wedding she and her groom traded sports jersey’s for their unity ceremony. They also purchased a necklace for her daughter that her new husband/stepfather placed around her neck to show their new unity as a family. I thought both of these touches really made the wedding special. As far as flowers, I was her maid of honor and even I don’t remember them at all really, haha.

    • I just happened upon this post, and the necklace gift sounds like SUCH a sweet touch.

  3. Guests tend to notice what’s important to them personally. So it’s understandable that this cousin would notice flowers…because she’s a florist. It’s her job, so to her, of course flowers are important. That’s what she’s paid for. I notice flowers too, but only because I love flowers.

    All guests will notice the usual things:

    – how touching the ceremony was
    – personal details in the wedding (decor, theme, etc)
    – the dress/clothes
    – the food (sometimes) and atmosphere

    Because these are what most weddings consist of (some type of ceremony, all the little touches that reek of personality, the wedding party’s clothes (at least with offbeat weddings), what they get to eat and how much fun it is.

    But if a guest is loves music/is a musician/DJ, they’ve probably notice what music is played/how it’s played. Things like that.

    I always notice decor, flowers, the wedding party’s clothes, the atmosphere and how much the wedding reflects the couple. But even if one of these things doesn’t suit my taste, I sure as heck don’t gripe about it in my head or to my husband like, “OMG, I can’t believe the bride/groom chose that flower arrangement. Don’t they know this is a wedding?!” Instead I think, “It’s not my taste, but they chose it because they love it, so that makes it awesome.”

    • I think you’re right about guests noticing things that are important to them. As an incredibly immature human, I notice the food, the drink, and whether the music’s fun for dancing (the actual genre is largely forgotten, though). Basically, I remember whether or not I had a good time. Which is perhaps a little childish, but true.

      Having said that, I do think there are a few universal things – the ceremony in particular. I think I remember every ceremony I’ve been to, because that tends to be the most emotionally affecting part of the day. But beyond that, the flowers and favours and colour schemes and centrepieces all blend together.

      • I wouldn’t say noticing food, drink and fun are childish. Then again, I tend to agree.
        I think it has more to do with good memories, being comfortable and enjoying the couple and the day.

        So, I’m with you!

  4. FOOD. Priority one at weddings for me: is the food delicious?

    The space. Banquet halls make me think of quincenera parties I went to as a teenager. They were all awkward.

    Effort. Sometimes, you can just tell how much effort and care went into a shindig. I like the ones that were obviously cared for while being created, no matter how simple.

    • agreeing to FOOD! that’s always what I remember. And to be honest, most of the time I remember the little “quirks” and personality (or lack thereof).

  5. Great points on all counts.

    Bullet points three and five, for sure. Three, because I love food. And five, well, because weddings are too often stiffly formal and you don’t see anything of the bride and groom’s REAL personality, even just in the way many people act. But every so often, even at the most uptight of weddings, one of them will crack up during the ceremony, or do something that says they’re not 100% into the “propriety” that insinuates itself on the day. That’s the stuff I remember. If I’ve traveled to be there for your day, I hope to be reminded of the things that made me love you, respect you, appreciate you…

    (Though, out of a more professional interest as a writer and artist and typography nerd, I am often intrigued by people’s invitations… and how many times I’ve seen the same mass-purchased paper with one embossed silver heart, with the information in a terrible cursive script… )

  6. I always remember the high emotional moments from ceremonies, or the funny & goofy parts.

    My bff got married this past Spring and in particular the ring warming stands out.
    Hearing so many people say such heartfelt and beautiful things – esp. from people you wouldn’t expect- was incredibly emotional.

    And also, I always remember the venue its self and the music!

    Actually I love that this question has been asked because honestly, the things I have been worrying about for my own wedding aren’t the things I apparently pay close attention to! Hmm..

  7. Food!!! It doesn’t have to be fancy, but having something fun/tasty/awesome to eat goes a long way (one of my favorites was my good friend from high school who had an awesome dessert reception). And whether or not I feel like the wedding is “them.”

    Other than that, I mostly just remember whether or not I had fun. As long as I know (or get to know) some cool people and have a good time, the rest doesn’t really matter much.

  8. The main feeling I take home after the wedding was, “Did I feel wanted and welcomed?” The wedding can be simple or sublime, as long as I feel that the couple was sending some love to their guests. I’ve been to weddings where it was kind of clear that the couple didn’t really want to be weddinged at all, or where it was all about them putting on a pretty show.

    I know that weddings are about celebrating you as a couple. (The best compliment I got about our wedding was definitely, “It was all so genuinely YOU.”) But if you’re choosing to celebrate with your loved ones, help them feel loved!

    To me, feeling wanted and welcomed means that the venue is comfortable for guests (temperature, room to move, places to sit), not just pretty. I’ll hang out longer when that happens. It means having decent food (doesn’t need to be fancy) at a decent time. I’ll remember the time I had to mingle with the bride(s) and groom(s) and enjoy their company–the dance we shared or the chat we had during dessert. And knowing that I can’t spend all night at their side, I’m always grateful when the couple helps me enjoy the other wedding guests. It means a lot to be seated with people with whom I have things in common, to be introduced to other fun guests, and to be able to bring a date. I also appreciate a nice heartfelt thank you to those who traveled or sacrificed to be there. As a guest I am totally at home in all different wedding settings, as long as I feel like some thought was put into my presence.

    • The main feeling I take home after the wedding was, “Did I feel wanted and welcomed?”

      Beautifully said.

    • So true! I went to a wedding where they did a receiving line in addition to speaking with EVERY guest, and EVERY single place card had a different little note from the bride and groom, I just felt like we and my hubby where actually wanted there. You could tell they went out of there way just to make everyone feel welcome. LOVED it. Also the food was amazing=)

    • Without a doubt, this is what I remember.
      (I’m slightly surprised by the number of those who seem to remember the food, I can’t recall a single thing about food at weddings I’ve been to.)
      I remember a wedding where activities were planned out for the weekend with ways that both the bride and groom could interact with all the guests through games, dancing, meals, late night talks around a campfire, etc. At another small wedding, every guest was recognized in the program with a little meaningful blurb about how they were connected to the couple. At another, the couple had their friends and family come down the aisle before them, and handed each a flower and thanked them for coming or hugged us before they walked in themselves.
      Writing this makes me realize what amazing friends I have.

  9. Most remembered:
    – Unique things that reflect the couple. I remember the ceremony made of movie quotes *way* more than any one of the six Generic Christian weddings I went to, even though I loved all of the couples involved. (I remember unique things that *don’t* reflect the couple, too, but that’s a different story.)

    – Very good and unusual food. I’m a foodie, and while I enjoy good steak, I remember the butternut squash ravioli or the thirty-flavor choose-your-own-cake bar more.

    – Sentimental and seriously “awww” moments, be they in the ceremony or in toasts.

    – Cool props. I *don’t* notice, generically, any of decor/flowers/etc; but I’ll notice the beribboned swords or the handmade video game character figurines whether they’re the cake topper or the bouquet or the centerpieces.

    – Favors that I can actually use. Cool favors that aren’t usable just make me feel guilty, because I like them too much to toss them but I don’t have anywhere to put them.

    – Unusual and flattering outfits. Very pretty but fairly standard outfits are appreciated at the time but generally not remembered.

    Which really boils down, I think, to “I love weddings, but I’ve been to enough of them that I’ll only remember things as *yours* if they’re different as well as cool, because they start to blur together”. But even if it’s just like other weddings, I’ll appreciate and admire lovely work on the day of. And I’ll awww at all of it.

  10. The menu and the venue! I love eating a deliciuos meal, especially when sharing it with a newly married couple and their family and friends.

    The venue, because it is full of the meaningful emotions of the day, no matter if it is a fancy country club or a simple barn decorated with DIY items. And cake/non-cake alternative. Cake (or equally tasty alternative) is important =0)

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