FETE FAUX PAS DON'T MAKE THESE MISTAKES
Photograph by Carlos Alejandro
After watching the bride and groom declare their love to the world, there’s nothing better than having a drink, sitting down with friends and family then enjoying a tasty meal.
But imagine waiting six hours for the reception to begin.
Where do guests go for that long? What can they do to kill so much time?
Making reception guests wait, for any reason, is one of the biggest reception faux pas couples make.
And the six-hour scenario may seem unrealistic, but it happened to Tuesdi Kelly, of Soiree, Etc., an event planning firm in Newark. “People remember the bad things,” she says. The wait—and the empty stomaches—will be all some guests remember after the wedding is over, even if everything else was perfect.
Waiting too long to start the reception is bad, but losing track of time and not sticking to a schedule is a mistake, too.
Planner Bobbie Yarrusso, owner of Creative Event Designs by Bobbie, knows couples whose photo session lapsed into the reception. In the moment, couples lose track of time, or, sometimes, the photographer gets lost because no one gave him directions. Either way, it’s bad to keep people waiting. Even a couple of hours might be too much. Kelly recommends taking photos before the ceremony.
That prevents the too-much-time-to-kill problem for guests and lets the newlyweds enjoy the cocktail hour.
Not being clear about the start time of the reception is another gaffe, Yarrusso says. If the reception isn’t immediately following, be clear on the invitations. An hour-and-a-half later is not immediate. Make sure people know. “Have some place they can go, or just let them know so they can kill the time,” she says.
If seats aren’t assigned at the reception, tell people. Have an usher or sign at the door directing people to seat themselves. You don’t want them looking for place cards if there aren’t any to find.
Samantha Munda, president of Secretariat, an event planning firm in Wilmington, says interrupting dinner too many times is a mistake. Let the best man and the maid of honor make toasts and move on. “You really don’t want to interrupt people too much,” she says. “Just do the toast and the first dance. Making people stop and having everybody be quiet more than that is a mistake.”
Munda says it’s best to limit the number of courses, too, because people don’t like to sit for too long.
That’s assuming, of course, your guests arrived at the reception site.
If the party is in the same location as the ceremony, that’s not a problem, but be aware of how many times guests will have to move. They won’t want to shuffle between rooms too much. Clear them out of the ceremony area, then get them to the reception area as soon as possible.
If the reception is at a different location, provide the complete address and directions. Drive the directions yourself because computer map sites can be wrong. Getting lost is frustrating and can create unhappy guests.
Making sure your caterer or banquet facility is experienced with the kind of function you want will avoid unhappy attendees, too. Kelly encountered that problem at a wedding where the bride wanted a sit-down dinner, but the caterer wasn’t used to offering those. The wait staff that day featured a few guest stars: Kelly and her staff. Having been hired to coordinate the day but not plan the events, she had no idea that would happen and did what was necessary to avoid a disaster.
“We had to, to make the day go smoothly and not keep the guests waiting,” she said.
After that experience, Kelly advises clients do homework. Make sure everyone knows exactly what you want and what everyone’s job will be. Confirm that the company or facility you’re using does what you’re looking for on a regular basis, too.
Even if the facility is experienced at serving wedding meals, a staff member or two who aren’t careful could create awkward moments. Make sure that the location staff follows your directions and enters or serves on your cues.
Ask to meet the people who will be working your reception, and be clear about what you want, Kelly says. Make a schedule, and give a copy to every vendor. Once that’s done, just let it go. Brides worry about every little detail of the ceremony and reception, but most people don’t really notice.
“The only things people remember are what the bride wore and how the food was,” Kelly says.
What food you served—or didn’t—may linger on guests’ minds. Experts disagree on what dining etiquette calls for. Yarrusso thinks offering only one meal choice is bad. Let guests pick either pasta or chicken, or beef or fish. Because you can’t please everyone, she prefers buffets, which eliminate the need for choices. People can sample a variety of items. Either way, ask your caterer to have vegetarian options ready.
“Most caterers, especially at banquet facilities, always have something they can fix up in a pinch,” she says. “Just ask. In most cases, you can be accommodated.”
But in the end, you can’t please all palates. “No matter what, you’re not going to feed people what they want to eat,” she says. “So go with something a majority would like. It’s your wedding, and you want to choose things that reflect your tastes and desires, but keep others in mind.”
Cocktail receptions, which feature drinks and hors d’oeuvres only, eliminate the “which meal” decision. Advise guests that only hors d’oeuvres will be served, says Robin Souter, wedding specialist at Harry’s Savoy Ballroom in Wilmington. Otherwise, they might refuse them because they think they’re waiting for a larger meal. This is especially important for receptions with a lot of seniors, who aren’t used to the more modern cocktail-only receptions, she says.
Another example: If you decide to have a cash bar instead of an open one, let guests know to bring money with them, through word of mouth of family members and the bridal party.
“People will be very unhappy if they do not have cash with them and can’t get a drink,” Souter says. All of the experts agree: Don’t play the music too loudly, and don’t put elderly guests near the speakers.
Munda recommends planning the room arrangement with older folks in mind. Seat them so they don’t have to walk too far to dance or go to the restroom or bar. And consider the noise level especially during dinner.
“Most people like background music then,” she says.
Also, consider the location’s setting. Sure, the restaurant atop the hill was lovely in spring when you picked it, but in a winter ice storm, the only thing your guests will remember is how difficult and treacherous it was to get to your party.
Remember: No matter how much planning you do, things can and probably will go wrong. “There’s no such thing as a perfect wedding,” Kelly says. “Things happen that we can’t foresee.”