How to Keep Guests Happy at Your Wedding

Everybody wants their wedding day to be one they’ll remember forever — but what about your guests? It may not be one of the most important days of their lives, but it is one you want them to look back on thinking: That was a really great wedding.

Fortunately, making your wedding awesome for your guests isn’t about having the fanciest or most expensive party. It’s about knowing how to keep your guests happy with thoughtful and unique touches throughout the day.

In this guide, we’ll cover 12 simple but impactful ways to host a wedding your guests will truly enjoy attending.

Quick Takeaways

  • Provide clear day-of itinerary details and group transportation (when needed) to make the day run smoothly for guests.
  • Don’t overthink the seating chart — seat guests with people they already know and enjoy being around.
  • Never let your guests get hungry. Plan a great menu from cocktail hour to dinner to dessert (and even after-party snacks!).
  • Spring for the open bar — it’s a worthwhile investment and one that guests appreciate.
  • Ensure you and your guests have fun on the dance floor by creating must-play and do-not-play song lists in advance.
  • It’s best to keep the formal program (speeches, first dances, etc.) to a fixed time frame.
  • Hashtags and photo booths help guests document memories from your wedding.
  • Avoid favors that aren’t useful to guests. Instead, be simple and practical.

Be Clear about Event Details

Start by making your wedding day’s itinerary clear for your guests and helping them navigate it as easily as possible. Include time and location details for each part of the day.

Thanks to GPS, written directions aren’t as necessary to provide as they were in the past, but it’s a nice touch to include the most convenient routes to your wedding from various areas your guests are traveling from, or even recognizable landmarks to help them find it easily.

It’s also helpful to include travel times from one location to the next (ex: Noting that the drive from the church to the reception venue is about 45 minutes.). If there’s a big block of time between your ceremony and reception, consider also including recommendations for places to hang out and grab a drink between events.

Pro tip: Don’t clutter your invitation with too much information. Instead, include a vanity URL for your wedding website or a simple QR code guests can scan to get details. You can make them easily and for free using sites/tools like Zola or RSVPify.

Below is a great example of a couple’s wedding website built to provide helpful details as mentioned above. As you can see, it’s too much information to add to an invitation, but the site provides convenient details and links for guests to plan transportation.

Example wedding website that includes transportation details for guests.

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Provide Transportation When Needed

Speaking of transportation — you can keep your guests happy by providing it throughout the day, especially if they’ll be moving to multiple locations.

This doesn’t have to be super expensive. I know many couples who have rented regular school buses to transport guests, and they’re a total hit. In fact, traveling from one location to the next all together can be a great way to get your guests socializing and into the celebratory spirit.

Best of all, providing transportation ensures your guests can enjoy a few cocktails throughout the day and night without ever being unsafe by getting behind the wheel. You’re also saving them on an Uber ride, which is another special way to thank them for joining them for their wedding day!

Nail Your Seating Plan

Seating plans don’t have to be complicated — I promise.

Your wedding guests want to sit with people they know and enjoy spending time with. Resist the urge to play matchmaker by using seating arrangements as a blind date opportunity for your besties. Don’t sit friends together if they’re strangers just because you think they’ll hit it off. 

Being a wedding guest is an opportunity to have a fun, stress-free night out. Make things easy on you and your guests by seating them with company they already love to be around.

Need help putting your seating chart puzzle together? Tools like Wedding Wire’s drag-and-drop seating chart can help.

Screenshot of Wedding Wire’s drag-and-drop seating chart tool.

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Never Let Guests Get Hungry

Food is one of the things people remember most about weddings they attend. Keep your guests happy by planning an awesome menu, from cocktail hour through to after-party snacks. For cocktail hour, think about bite-size appetizers and/or small-plate options that keep guests from getting too hungry but don’t spoil their dinner appetite.

Though your ultimate decision depends on many factors and your venue might call all of the shots, some of the best weddings I’ve attended have a wide (and abundant) variety of small plate hors d’oeuvres being served by the staff. By that point, everyone’s worked up an appetite for food (and alcohol). 🙂

For your reception dinner, worry less about sit-down vs. buffet (guests enjoy both, so do what works for you) and be sure you have options for everyone. Most couples aim for a beef and/or chicken option and a vegetarian option. Some include a seafood choice too.

In addition, make sure your guests actually enjoy your wedding cake for dessert by cutting it and serving it directly to guests’ seats or on a very accessible table where guests can see it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guests skip out on cake — not because they don’t want it, but because they don’t realize it’s there!

Another route you might want to go is a dessert assortment beyond the wedding cake. Couples have opted for a smaller cake, but decided to allocate dessert budget to an ice cream sundae cart, churro station, and tons more. (For my wedding, my dream is to have a cinnamon bun tower – feel free to steal the idea).

If you want to go the extra mile, you can also provide an after-party snack, like soft pretzels or any other grab-and-go food guests can pick up on their way out. 

Spring for the Open Bar

Keeping your wedding guests happy definitely doesn’t have to break the bank, but an open bar is one expense that’s definitely worth the extra money. 

Your guests are already coming out for a night totally dedicated to celebrating you, and it’s nice for them to not have to worry about the cost of drinks while they do it. An open bar is a gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed by guests — they appreciate the generosity and enjoy the night more because of it.

Keep the Formal Program Short and Sweet

Bridal party introductions, best man and maid of honor speeches, first dances — these are all so important to making your day special for you. But we’ve all been to weddings where the program ends up going way too long, and by the time they wrap up the night seems almost over.

Avoid this problem by setting time frame guidelines for your wedding party and others who are helping you execute (like your wedding planner). 

Be sure reception introductions start on time. Ask your best man and MOH to keep their speeches to a few minutes. Have your special dance songs ready to go and know the order in which you want them to happen. Your MC / entertainment company will surely be there to help.

A well-planned and smoothly executed formal wedding program means that you get the special memories and your guests get ample time to hit the dance floor and have fun!

Build a Killer Playlist

Every wedding guest list is different, and you know yours best. What will get them out on the dance floor? The most likely answer is that you’ll need to include a few different genres on your wedding reception playlist to make everyone happy.

When you build an awesome playlist in advance, you can include something for everyone. Dad and Uncle Joe love The Rolling Stones? Got it. Your Mom and aunts love 70s Motown? Check. You and your friends want nothing more than to hear every Rihanna banger in existence? They can all go on the list.

Many couples are letting their guests get in on the playlist-building action by asking them for requests on their invitation or wedding website. This is a cool way to include songs your guests love that you may not have thought of otherwise.

Wedding guests celebrate on the dance floor at the reception.

In the end, you should make a list you will enjoy most of all. Yes, vary your selections so that everyone has a good time. Include special favorites you know VIP guests will want to enjoy on the dance floor. But it’s your day. Make it a list of songs you want to hear.

Equally important, communicate with your band or DJ so you’re on the same page about songs that should be played.

A final pro tip: This may not affect your guests, but it’s still important to identify DNP — do not play — songs that you absolutely don’t want to hear at your reception. Hate line dances? Sick of belting out Don’t Stop Believing? Have that one song that reminds you of your long-ago ex?

Whatever it is, if you want to avoid it, tell your entertainment providers beforehand to eliminate unwelcome surprises and enjoy an uninterrupted night of feel-good partying on the dance floor.

Help Your Guests Document Memories

It’s easy nowadays to help your guests document their experience at your wedding and create photo keepsakes to share. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Hashtags — Decide on a hashtag for your special day and display it prominently at your wedding and reception so guests know to use it for photo sharing. Can’t think of a hashtag? No worries — hashtag generator tools can help with ideas.
  • Photo booths — Traditional booths or photographer-staffed photo stations are both popular and give your guests a take-home photo keepsake from the night.
  • Disposable cameras — How retro! These require you to share the photos later on (if you want), but are a fun way for guests to share their experience with you.
Couple pose at the photo booth station at a wedding reception.

Stock the Restrooms

Stocking the restrooms is a thoughtful way to make sure your guests feel their best all night long and avoid common night-out faux pas turning into big problems (think hair or makeup mishaps, spills, headaches, minor scrapes, and the like). Some items to think about including:

  • Hairspray
  • Gum or breath mints
  • Bobby pins
  • Stain removing sticks
  • Bandaids
  • Sanitary products
  • Pain reliever
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Tissues

Sometimes your venue will provide some of these supplies, so be sure to ask them about it before you buy your own.

Give out Useful Favors

Favors get mixed reviews from couples and guests alike — and for good reason. They can be expensive and, as much as we hate to admit it, sometimes end up never being used at all. But a good favor can be the perfect parting gift for your friends and family.

So what kinds of favors work? I recommend sticking with favors your guests can enjoy right then and there — ones they won’t inadvertently toss to the side and forget about later. Some ideas: a snack they can eat on the way home, lottery scratch off tickets they can try their luck on right away, or small bottles of wine or liquor they can use for a nightcap.

Some couples make donations to charity in their guest’s name, a nice gesture especially when you have a particular charity that’s close to your heart.

Still others choose to ditch favors altogether if they don’t have an idea they love or need to save on budget, and that’s okay too. Your guests really won’t mind — they’re much more focused on having fun celebrating your special day.

Let Perennial Capture Every Moment

I hope you feel extra prepared to host a wedding you and your guests will love. And if you want to be sure you capture all the fun and laughter that results, Perennial has your back. We make it our mission to photograph moments in their truest form so you have genuine memories of your day that last forever.

Get in touch today to learn more about our wedding photography packages.

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