The last thing a bride and groom want is for their wedding guests to spend the reception checking their watches, so here are 10 tips to keep any wedding guest yawns at bay. Attending a wedding may be a privilege, but sometimes it’s not always a pleasure.
1. Make introductions at the rehearsal.
A wedding brings together two families and sets of friends—which usually means a big group of people who don’t know each other awkwardly attempting small talk. The solution? Invite relatives and out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner or welcome party to break the ice, and introduce those who might have common interests. (That uncle who always loved Top Gun? Definitely link him to your fiancé’s fighter pilot cousin). By the time the wedding rolls around, your guests will have met in a more relaxed atmosphere the evening before and (hopefully) keep the conversations going at the reception.
2. Stick to the schedule.
No one expects things to run with military precision (especially when it comes to rushing your older relatives), but you don’t want to force your guests to idle around while you take your formal wedding pictures. This is where the cocktail hour comes in. Set up a lounge or shady courtyard for your guests to mingle, and equip the area with snacks, drinks, plenty of places to sit and even a little music to set the mood and keep the party atmosphere alive.
3. Don’t let guests go hungry.
Two words: hors d’oeuvres. Even if you plan on serving a full dinner at your reception, it’s a good idea to have a few nibbles for your guests to nosh on while they wait for you and your new spouse to make your grand entrance—lest your guests get bored and cranky. Mini empanadas, soup shooters, vegetable skewers, and even fried macaroni and cheese balls are all great options (go for one-bite appetizers so guests can chat while they snack). Your guests will be refreshed from the ceremony—and grateful for the sustenance.
4. Plan an exit strategy.
If you really want guests to be able to enjoy themselves at your reception, arrange for transportation to get them home safely afterward. Some couples choose to throw their reception in a hotel banquet hall and block off rooms for their guests, while others hire a shuttle service to run throughout the night. This extra consideration gives guests the freedom to relax (and drink) without worrying about getting home safely when the party wraps up.
5. Consider your venue.
Of course, your budget will be a huge factor in determining where you throw your wedding, but picking an interesting reception site can go a long way toward keeping guests entertained. Many science museums will let you rent out their exhibit areas, and zoos often have banquet spaces with the animals in full view. Even an otherwise bland reception space can be dressed up with dramatic decor or specialty entertainment (like a photo booth), so talk to your site manager about your options.
6. Work your seating chart.
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being the one couple at a table where you don’t know anyone and everyone else went to high school together—particularly if you can see friends laughing it up five tables away. A well-played seating chart is a cost-free way to make sure your guests spend time with people they like—or even set them up with someone new.
7. Put a time limit on toasts.
Yes, it’s nice to hear words of encouragement and well wishes, but unless your friends are moonlighting as stand-up comedians, an overly long toast can easily go from sentimental to excruciating. Limit the number and length of toasts to a few key guests (think: maid of honor, best man, your parents), and let everyone get back to the party.
8. Bring in the entertainment.
Remember that scary clown/magician from your eight birthday party? Today’s specialty performers are nothing like that. The options for wedding entertainment span from tricked-out DJs to belly dancers and singing waiters—these people are pros at making sure weddings aren’t boring.
9. Think beyond wedding cake.
Wedding cakes are still a staple, but consider expanding the selection for those with a sweet tooth—we’re talking a full dessert bar with everything from whoopie pies and truffles to cupcakes and candies, along with local delicacies like fried Oreos or black-and-white cookies. The dessert bar can double as your wedding favor by setting out plastic bags or boxes for your guests to take a snack for the road.
Planning a wedding can be stressful, but when the day arrives, everyone will have more fun if you can overlook any little mishaps (and there’s always something that goes slightly awry) and let loose. Think about it: Do you have fun at parties where the host is incessantly on edge? To avoid sabotaging your good mood, assign any last-minute tasks to a bridesmaid, relative or your wedding planner—and designate a friend who, if they observe you getting stressed, will ply you with a cocktail or two.