Holding Your Guests Hostage

Posted by mallen on Sep 15, 2009

There are so many elements to consider when planning your wedding day itinerary.  The time to consider the comfort of your guests and extend your hospitality to them comes when pre-planning the flow of the day.  The last thing you want to do is hold your guests hostage to an over-extended timeline.


  • Consider travel times and routes. Will your guests be invited to arrive at the ceremony on a Friday at 5pm – when rush hour is at its highest?  You’ll probably want to plan to start the ceremony 20-30 minutes after invitation time to give your guests plenty of time to battle traffic.  But what about those that arrive earlier than your invitation time?  That will be an extra long wait for them, and they shouldn’t be penalized for early arrival.  Why not plan on pre-ceremony refreshments (fruit skewers, sparkling ginger lemonade, and citrus-infused waters) for those guests that arrive early to beat the traffic.  And those guests arriving road-weary will appreciate the cooling treats.

  • Consider down times. Will your ceremony conclude at the church by 3:30pm but the cocktail hour at the reception site isn’t scheduled to start until 6pm with travel time no more than 20 minutes drive?  What will your guests do for nearly two hours?  Even if your venue is a hotel, the service staff will not be ready to welcome your guests two hours earlier than stated in the contract.  Consider listing in the ceremony program nearby attractions, malls, restaurants and coffee houses so guests not familiar with the area will have a place to go, to hang out or to explore.  Or for an unexpected “wow!” arrange for a double-decker bus tour of famous landmarks, waiting for your guests as they exit the ceremony site.
  • Avoid keeping guests waiting. While taking photos during cocktail hour is a fantastic use of that time, do not plan on extending your cocktail hour any longer than 50-60 minutes.  Guests start to get antsy – they’ve been standing a while in new high heels and warm suit jackets, and after an hour they are ready to move on to the next phase.  If it is unavoidable to have an extended cocktail hour, consider lots of seating, plenty of hors d’oeuvres, and perhaps something entertaining to hold their interested.  Balloon animals, anyone??
  • In regards to toasts… Though traditionally, toasts during reception are typically conducted by the Father of the Bride (welcoming guests) and the Best Man (honoring the Bride), it’s not uncommon to have additional loved ones wishing to raise a glass to you.  Have your coordinator kindly remind them that a toast takes less than 3 minutes.  Anything more is a speech and will have stomachs grumbling if Cousin Mike waxed on (and on and on) about that one time at band camp.  Rather than stack four or five ‘toasts’ before the first course is served, schedule a few toasts between courses, too.  Or ask some of the would-be toasters to speak at the rehearsal dinner.

J. Pollack Photography

J. Pollack Photography

  • I had my cake, and I’m leaving, too. You may have heard that once the cake is cut, the reception is over.  That’s not necessarily true.  There will be certain guests that are looking forward to that dessert course so they can retire, sure (unless Grandma wants to cut the rug with you, she’ll be pretty tired by the time cake rolls around – it’s a long day!) but generally, cake cutting is the last “formality” and just as many of your guests will want to get out there and dance!  The bride and groom set the tone – if you are on the dance floor, your guests will join you there.

When visualizing your wedding day, keep the comfort of your guests in mind, too.  Being thoughtful of their experience makes the whole day an unforgettable one (for all the right reasons!)