Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Will your guests look forward to and remember your wedding?

A dear friend of mine was passing through Houston on Wednesday on her way home to Baton Rouge. We walked our dogs to a nearby cafe and settled onto the patio for some yummy vegetarian sandwiches on ciabatta bread.

Conversation eventually went toward the wedding (she was both a guest and the person who read that wonderful poem during the ceremony). She confessed that she hates weddings. She says they tend to be very trite and predictable. She said, however, that she hasn't been able to stop talking about our wedding. (Editor's Note: I do realize that the things she says to my face may not be the same things she says behind my back.) She said it was wonderful.

Then this morning, I read something on another wedding blog that got me thinking more. Guilty Secret (over on What Guilty and Baddie Do Next) expressed the following hope for her wedding: that her guests "will look forward to it, and dress up for it, and remember it."

Her hope seems like a pretty common one (although the extent to which I care whether my guests dress up is debatable). Even though a wedding should ultimately be about the couple making the commitment to each other, we also care about our guests--our dearest friends and family. We want them to look forward to it and remember it.

But what do we spend our time obsessing about? Flowers, our dress, shoes--oh my! There are entire blogs devoted to the "style" of a wedding.

Now, I'm not one to bash aesthetics. When I first move into a house, I have to get it organized right away because otherwise I feel completely out of whack. I even buy sticky notes with beautiful, crafty designs because I like looking at pleasing things and making people smile with beautified notes.

And I get the idea that decoration and design evoke feelings. And those feelings will affect our guests, too.

But I think we need to increase the conversation on how to plan a wedding that guests a) look forward to and b) remember.

I think part of the discussion needs to center on how to turn your wedding into an event, not just a ceremony and a reception. In my mind, "an event" means guests have many opportunities to connect with each other and have fun.

I've traveled to weddings where they provide you with a list of "Things to do" in their city. It's a nice touch, but it doesn't turn your wedding into an event. If you already have friends attending the wedding, then you hang out with them. You eat with them. You stay in the same hotel room. But no new connections are formed. You don't feel any closer to the couple or their other friends/family.

On the other hand, I was invited to a Louisiana wedding that included several activities to allow friends and family to mingle and form new connections. There was a swamp boat tour and a crawfish boil and some other things I can't quite remember.

Matt and I also wanted our closest friends and family to come together and get to know each other. With that goal in mind, we made several decisions that were designed to authentically build community.
  1. We looked closely at our guest list and tried to make sure that everyone knew at least one other person. We didn't want people to feel isolated.
  2. We booked an entire B&B and filled it with our friends and family. That way, if someone passed by someone else on their way to the main lodge, they knew it was one of our friends or family members. It also meant that we all ate breakfast together. Further, people were around when we started setting up, and they pitched in to help. They got to genuinely contribute to the experience and help make it happen.
  3. We purposefully picked a location that would appeal to people. The Colorado mountains are beautiful in the summer. Even though my family isn't particularly outdoorsy, they made a vacation out of it. They hiked and went horseback riding. My grandfather almost made it to a square-dancing lesson! Our friends took day trips into Rocky Mountain National Park to look for elk and waterfalls (see photo).
  4. We had a Welcome Picnic on Friday night instead of an exclusive reception dinner. We wanted everyone to be able to mingle before the wedding day. We also asked everyone to wear a name tag that listed three interesting things about them, in an attempt to spark meaningful conversation among guests. There were many different entertainment options (e.g., board games, a swing dancing lesson, volleyball/football, hot-tub, s'mores around the campfire, etc.) and many places to hang out (e.g., a living room, the kitchen, a patio, a deck, chairs outside, etc.).
I'm not saying everyone was friends by the end of the weekend (and, no, we didn't break into a round of Kum Ba Yah). There were still natural divisions between friends and family, between his friends and my friends, between his family and my family. But people definitely felt more comfortable and connected at our wedding, which goes a long way in making people "remember it."

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Autumn said...

I loved this post because it captures a lot of what we're also trying to do with our wedding (admittedly with a much bigger crowd, so it will be tougher). I just sent out save the date postcards, which includes mention of our "welcome supper" on Friday hoping to let people know early on that we want them to join us for the whole weekend if they can. I ran into a pal and her mom last night. The pal introduced me and said, "Autumn is having this whole wedding weekend in a park and it sounds like so much fun!" I hope most of our guests feel the same :)

Meg said...

Agreed, we are doing much of the same. I'm finding it's a ninteresting balance though. I was inspired by your wedding to go back and look at my original plan of renting out a amazing hostel and having everyone stay there (potentally for free, we could afford the rental) that way people could hang out during the weekend. We asked around to make sure people were into it, and everyone very nicely said "Thanks, but we have other plans." IE, San Francisco is a great place to be, and people plan to spend part of the weekend exploring, doing their own thing. So, we're balancing. We'll have some wedding events people can take part in (Welcome dinner, whee!) but we know people want to spend a good part of the time doing there own thing. Thats part of what they want from our wedding experance, it seems, freedom.

But, that said, when it comes to the wedding, we're trying to think about what the geusts will experance. Yes, I want a cute dress and cute flowers, but I know that only contributes a tiny bit to my geusts experance of the day.

Mrs. Andi said...

I am so scared to think of our families meeting for the big event. Our mom's have even met yet!! & our families are SO different (mine is Southern & his is very New Jersey). I would love it if they could get together in a community location, but we'll be staying local & most of our immediate family is local. It is something to think about, that's for sure!

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