We get questions all the time about what’s proper etiquette and what’s not when hosting a wedding. So I thought I’d recap the top five wedding faux pas here for your reading pleasure and education. Keep in mind that my opinion is based on 14 years in the wedding business specifically and witnessing the effects of client’s decisions (both good and bad) from a guest’s perspective. Hopefully my insights will allow future brides to understand the repercussions of certain decisions now — rather than after their wedding, when it’s too late! Timing is everything
Think about how the day will play out for you, your wedding party and your guests. If you’re having an evening reception, try to schedule the ceremony for later in the day to keep the momentum going. There’s nothing more awkward and boring than having to “waste away” precious hours hanging out at a local restaurant in your finest attire waiting for the evening festivities. Early morning ceremonies with a lengthy gap in between are also hard on you and your wedding party. Sometimes this is unavoidable if your church only has an 11 a.m. timeslot available. But in a perfect world, you will plan early, book ahead and secure that plum 2 or 4 p.m. timeslot.
It’s not always possible to coordinate your chosen ceremony location with your desired reception venue. The two spots simply may not be in the same area of town. But keep proximity in mind, so that if you do have control over the matter, you can make the occasion that much more wonderful for your guests and the overall flow of the day.
If you’re hosting a ceremony in the morning/early afternoon at the same venue as the evening reception, asking guests to leave and return later should be avoided if possible. I’ve heard guests time and time again complaining about this very scenario. If you have already committed to this schedule, don’t fret. Just make the most of it by making the transition from day to night as easy and fun as possible for your guests. Perhaps arrange some things to do in between, like a city tour, or provide suggestions for local restaurants or activities nearby, or even give guests a coupon for a free drink or ice cream at your favourite coffee shop or parlour. Anything to make your guests’ efforts seem appreciated!
Super-extended cocktail periods are no fun for anyone. Get the party started on a high note and keep the momentum going. Typically, an evening reception will start at 6 p.m. with champagne and/or a hosted bar and maybe some light hors d’oeuvres. An hour is typically a good length of time for guests to arrive, get their bearings, grab a drink and chat with a few friends before heading in to dinner. The maximum length should be 1.5 hours. Two hours is too long — no ifs, ands or buts. If a cocktail period needs to go longer (i.e., you’re on a remote island or hosting a destination wedding), arrange for lawn games, board games, live entertainment, photo booths, interactive guest book stations, etc. This will at the very least allow guests to remain engaged.
Cash bar conundrum
In my opinion (and many others), weddings are no place for a cash bar. If you were hosting the wedding in your home, you would never dream of charging guests for drinks or asking them to pay a cover charge. This is no different. Now, I realize that some people have to invite everyone they have ever met to their wedding (and a few friends of those people just to be nice). So you simply cannot pay for everyone to run amok on your tab for six to eight hours. Fair enough. My first suggestion is to limit the number of guests invited, limit the bar offerings (i.e., no doubles, no shooters, no top shelf, etc.), or opt for a brunch, lunch or late-night dessert reception. For some, cash bars are typical in their social circles; for others it’s unheard of, so you need to do what’s right for you. In any case, there is always room for good manners. Regardless of the need for a cash bar, do right by your guests and ensure that some sort of thoughtful drinks are being hosted at various points of the night.
Perhaps flip over to a cash bar after dinner, once you’ve received your guests and treated them to a drink or two and a nice glass of wine with dinner. Also, it’s never okay to allow your wedding party to pay for their own drinks. Arrange drink tickets with the venue or an all-access stamp for those designated VIP individuals. It’s the right thing to do given all the money they have invested in your day. Typically, a bridesmaid will spend from $500 to $1,000 once the dress, shoes, hair, makeup, gifts, stagette and spa treatments are factored in.
Keep priorities straight
Forgoing proper hosting etiquette so that you can have pretty chair covers and/or charger plates is not a good idea. Yes, a good-looking room is very important and one of the most fun parts of creating a wedding event to remember. But not at the expense of your guest’s enjoyment. Luxury décor and a designer gown will not be remembered fondly if guests had to pay for their drinks and eat rubbery chicken. It’s all relative — so treat yours well. Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.