Most weddings in the Washington DC area have wedding guests from out of town. Did you know that? This means that many – if not all – of your wedding guests are not from DC, Maryland or Virginia and will be traveling to this region just for your wedding. In addition to being a major city, DC is also a hot tourist destination, so translated into weddings, this means out of town guests! (Guests decline less to weddings in a location that they personally want to visit!) We know that welcome bags are a great way to welcome your guests to the DMV. But what else? What are some other things that you can do to create an amazing experience for your wedding guests?
Are there any things – beyond just spending more money, because I think that’s too easy! – that you can do to make your wedding guests feel special? If keeping your wedding guests in mind and making sure that they are taken care of, then today’s post is for you! I asked some of the best wedding planners in the DMV for their advice about “wowing” wedding guests. Beyond fabulous decor, delicious food and an open bar, what are some unexpected ways to really care for your wedding guests and make sure that the know you appreciate them for traveling all this way to your wedding? Here is what they had to say…
“It’s easy to get caught up in the wedding planning where the couple is the focus of everything. When you keep in mind your guests’ perspective and create intimacy no matter the size, convenience no matter how close to home it might be, and thoughtfulness so everyone feels how fortunate they are to share in this special moment with you, that is a truly extraordinary experience.” – Elizabeth at Elizabeth Duncan Events
“I’m all about intimate moments! If you are having a small or moderate sized wedding, hunt down photos of you and your guests from any point in your lives. It’s a great ice breaker for guests who don’t know each other and will take your guests down memory lane. You can have these photos on a PowerPoint on a projector during cocktail hour or create a memory wall to have at the wedding. Its a great way to show your guests how instrumental they were in your life and the costs are minimal to none!” – Sonia, owner of Clarity and Class
“Be present on your wedding day. Trust the plan that you have in place and let go. Some things might not be exactly how you thought they would, but the important part is enjoying the celebration with your new spouse and closest friends and family. Thank all of your guests for coming to your wedding. A lot. It is an honor for your guests to spend the time and money to come to your wedding. Don’t forget that. Also you must try to speak to each wedding guest. This can mean a receiving line or walking to each table. This is not optional. Focus on the older guests tables, as you will naturally interact with the young people on the dance floor.” — Aimee and Cindy at A. Dominick Events
“From a guest experience, think about the logistical details that will make your family and friends comfortable. Choose a wedding venue that can comfortably fit all of your guests. Make sure there is enough seating for the ceremony and reception. If you pick a wedding venue with an outside ceremony in mind, make sure there is a back-up plan. Even if you have dreamed of an outside wedding, if it’s raining (even a little bit) your guests will be much happier inside. When planning your own wedding, it’s a great idea to think about the details you remember from being a guest at your friends wedding. Chances are the food/beverages, music and ambiance stood out, as well as the personal touches. It could be as simple as making sure the DJ plays a song your friends will love, or serving your favorite childhood dessert.” – Margo at Bright Occasions
“We may be biased, but the best way to create an awesome wedding experience is to focus on the flow of the event. Most guests want to enjoy you and the night, so stopping every 30 minutes and trying to get their attention is likely not the best way to organize your wedding. Event planners are pros at this type of organization. They will gather all of the items you want to include in your night and lay out the night so that it flows from item to item and it doesn’t feel disjointed.” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events
“To create an amazing guest experience, just think about all the times you’ve attended a wedding and what made you feel special and taken care of as a guest. Those are the same areas your guests will likely enjoy. If you have a lot of out of town guests, maybe you provide transportation to and from your venue(s). Try to plan your weekend of activities that will allow you to spend as much time with your guests as you can and want to. Remember to spend a few minutes with every guest at the wedding. Acknowledging and thanking them will make them feel appreciated.” — Vicky at Event Accomplished
Anticipate Their Needs
“The most memorable weddings are the ones that are created around the couple’s personalities and love story. Think of ways to express yourselves at your wedding — your guests will notice it and love it! To make your guests feel special, think through the wedding from your guests’ perspective and meet their needs before they arise. For example, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, then try to situate the guests’ seats so that their backs will be to the sun. If that’s not possible, then have baskets of cute sunglasses waiting for them so they won’t have to squint painfully during your wedding ceremony. If you’re having a ritual-filled wedding ceremony in a house of worship, then briefly note the significance of each element in the program so guests who aren’t members of your faith will be able to follow along and understand. Have handheld fans and cold drinks available during hot weather, and cozy wraps and warm drinks available when it’s chilly out. Be as hospitable toward your guests as you would be if you were inviting them to your home.” – Stephanie at Pretty Entertaining
“When planning a wedding, we go by “I-C-E” (Interactive, Considerate and Entertained). Interactive: Provide activities to involve your wedding guests and keep them moving. A few examples are a photobooth, tandem bike rides, dancing, and wishing or advice book for them to sign. Considerate: Be considerate by making sure that your wedding guests are comfortable. For example, if you are hosting your wedding in the city or metropolitan area, make sure valet parking is available for your guests, so they don’t have to search for parking. If your wedding reception will be ending late at night, hire a babysitter, so your guests don’t have to worry about caring for their children. Entertained: Keep your wedding guests entertained by hiring an awesome DJ or live band who can read the crowd and keep the guests on the dance floor.” — Shawn at TreBella Events
Simple + Thoughtful
“Keeping things simple, but thoughtful is really important. Providing information to your wedding guests upon arrival is always helpful. Welcome bags set a first impression and are also a great way to relay information to guests about timing, transportation and to give some simple comforts. Let your guests truly be guests and don’t rely on them to clean up at the end of the event, breakdown ceremony decor, and more. This is where having professional vendors pays for itself in ways you can’t imagine. Fun things like a photo booth or interactive cocktail hour stations are more memorable than. for example, monograming everything in the room. Think back on events you have been to and what has made those experiences fun or a drag. For example, transportation to and from the hotels and church and venue and back is a great way to make sure your wedding guests feel better, lets them enjoy themselves, and is safe.” — Laura of Events in the City
“One thing we always suggest that our couples do is to address their wedding guests and say ‘Thank you’, it costs nothing, but is worth everything. Weddings are fun but often feel busy for the couple. Everyone wants to hug, kiss, bless, talk to, and/or take a selfie with the couple, and it’s hard to ensure that you give everyone face time. By taking the mic at the end of the night and thanking your guests, family, and anyone who made the day special, you’re making an effort to make each one feel special.” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events
“Creating a wedding experience is all about having interactive activities at your wedding -not necessarily just pretty flowers and cake. Why not have a dessert station that is interactive like an ice cream bar in the middle of the summer or a s’mores station in the middle of October? There are all sorts of way to get your wedding guests involved – even from the save-the-date announcement all the way through to the farewell brunch! The main thing is to keep your guests captivated and wanting more. Obviously, the more of your personality that your interject into the experience – the better!” – Katie, owner of Elegance & Simplicity
Consider All Guests
“Think of your wedding guests’ comfort as you plan your wedding. If your ceremony is outside, try to time it before (or after) the sun’s hottest times. If parking is hard to find near your wedding venue, consider hiring a valet parking company. And, if your wedding guest list includes non-dancers and/or introverts, have lawn games, crosswords, or other games available for them. They will feel so welcome!” — Kay at Howerton + Wooten Events
“If the majority of your wedding guests are from out of town, suck it up and do the welcome bags. I know they’re a pain, but guests really do feel so welcome – and they don’t have to be expensive!! Things like a heartfelt welcome letter, Metro maps, and more are free! Add a couple bottles of water (No, they don’t have to be personalized), some snacks (these can be homemade!) and put them in a kraft bag, and you’ve created an inexpensive welcome bag that people will love. My other tip is to please consider your guests’ comfort when choosing your wedding venue. I’ve done outdoor weddings on 104 degree days, and guests are miserable. If you’re planning on an outdoor ceremony, please be equally happy with whatever the indoor option is. And don’t just think sun vs. rain. A sunny 72 degree day is a lot different than a sunny 104 degree day, right? And keep in mind the angle of the sun too! You don’t want your guests runing for the 10 shaded seats, and the rest of the guests are left to get sunburn! Provide parasols, umbrellas, hats, or even just sunscreen to protect your guests. And, conversely, tents are not magic — if it’s 50 degrees outside, it’s going to be cold in there! So, consider getting the heaters.” — Rebecca at Blue Canary Events
Loads of information in today’s post for you and all of you wedding guests. Thank you to the incredible Washington DC area wedding planners who helped us out on this post with great advice for keeping our wedding guest happy and comfortable. Be sure to check out their websites if you are looking for some more help with your wedding guests or a wedding planner in the Washington DC area.
Looking for more wedding out of town guest advice? Be sure to read:
- How To Create A Wedding Guest List
- Cutting Your Wedding Guest List
- Do’s and Don’t’s of Wedding Welcome Bags
For even more locally helpful advice, you may look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.