It’s a universal truth – wedding planning is stressful. With an endless list of decisions to be made, from the décor to the dress to the catering and everything in between, the stress can pile on at lightning-fast speeds. One minute, you’re trying to choose between roses and ranunculus, and before you know it, you’ve fallen down the Pinterest hole, scrolling between 19 slightly different shades of pink petals while stress eating wedding cake samples. That said, there are more than a few items on your wedding checklist that guests pay far less attention to than you think. Instead of driving yourself crazy over the teeniest details, save yourself the headache (and probably a few bucks, too) by knowing what really matters to your guests, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
1) The Invitations
I hate to break it to you, but these little suckers end up in the recycling bin faster than you can say, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Sure, it’s the very first introduction to your wedding, but a beautiful invitation is a beautiful invitation. No one is judging your choice of paper stock, ornamentation or font (just trust me on this one).
The Solution: The average couple spends $445 on their wedding invites. Don’t stress about your invites and instead find an affordable option that fits your budget. There are tons of retailers that would surprise you with their collections of wedding invitations, such as Costco, Target, Walmart, Shutterfly, or Etsy. On Etsy you can even pay a flat rate for an instant download, and then print as many as you need. The invitations featured below are super affordable while also being super cute so you can definitely find a middle ground here.
2) The Programs
The Solution: Programs are super cute, but if you want to skip them and save the money your guests won’t care. Instead create a few DIY chalkboard or wooden signs that have your schedule or other necessary details listed on them. Have a few of these around the ceremony and reception site and your guests will get the general idea.
3) The Guest Book
Ah, the thumbprint tree. Such a creative idea in theory, but it can get real messy, real fast. The anniversary wine, the Polaroid station, the wishing tree… Super cute, but super unnecessary. Guest books can get pricey, and the cost can really skyrocket once you start piling on the works. Do yourself a favor and keep it simple, or go ahead and nix it altogether. Your guests won’t miss it, and in the age of digital photography, you’ll have tons of tons of snaps of your family and friends sharing your special day. If that doesn’t beat a scrawled name on a page (or a smudgy thumbprint), I don’t know what does.
The Solution: If you decide to go with a guestbook, create something simple. A cute DIY board like the one pictured below is cute, cheap, and something you can actually display after the wedding. Your guests won’t care that you made it yourself. I once attended a wedding where the couple had one of their engagement photos framed and then removed the glass so we could sign the paper matte inside of the frame. It was super simple, and they have it hanging in their living room now.
4) The Flowers
Now don’t get me wrong; floral arrangements are almost always a welcome addition to your chosen venue, and can inject the space with a bit of your personal style. But while no one will argue that golden dip-dyed roses aren’t totally gorg, they’re also a total waste of time and money. Trust us, no one will notice the lack of designer blooms, and your artfully arranged farmer’s market flowers will be just as striking – at a fraction of the price. Guests will appreciate the thoughtful, fragrant flourishes no matter what, regardless of whether you’ve chosen exotic blooms from far-flung corner of the world or locally grown greenery.
The Solution: Instead of spending a fortune on fancy designer flowers, visit your local farmer’s market or florist. Your guests will literally have no idea where your flowers came from, so why spend all the extra money? On the morning of my cousin’s wedding she had her bridesmaids pick up all her flowers from Costco. And you know what? They looked great!
5) The Linens
As a wedding guest, I just don’t pay much mind to your tablecloths. As long as I don’t have to eat my halibut off of a dirty old burlap sack, I’ll be just fine, thank you very much. Specialty linens can get costly, so save yourself the buck and choose something simple and functional that blends seamlessly with your décor – no muss, no fuss.
The Solution: Save the money and choose something simple.
6) The Dress
This one may be a bit controversial, but personally, I think that blowing your bridal budget on a fancy-shmancy gown just to wear it once and never again is less than practical. It’s not what you wear but how you wear it, so as long as you’re comfortable and feel like your best, most beautiful self, well, that’s good enough for me. That’s not to say that guests won’t remember an outlandish or ill-fitting dress, but if the bride is rocking a beautifully tailored gown that makes her look and feel like the goddess she is, guests won’t bat an eyelash at the lack of designer label.
The Solution: Before you panic, let me clarify and say that your guests obviously care about your dress. What they won’t think twice about is the price or designer of your dress. So don’t take out a small loan to buy a dress with a fancy designer label that you hope will impress your guests. Instead, find a dress that fits you and your personality well. Shop sample sales, clearance, and online to find a perfectly beautiful dress that won’t break your bank. You could wear a second-hand dress and no one would know the difference. Check out our large selection of bridal gowns under $1,000!
Picture by: Mili Gonzalez, GGG Photography
7) The First Dance
Short of a live performance by Adele to provide the soundtrack, no one will remember your first dance. In fact, a nervous, shaky, overly choreographed routine may be what sticks with them. Instead of the weeks of rehearsal required to try and fix your two left feet, it’s more important to just be yourself and enjoy the moment. Tackle a few moves that you feel 100% comfortable performing, no matter how simple, and watch the pressure just melt away. Great for you, great for your guests and great for your wedding photos… Everyone wins!
The Solution: Smile, relax, and have fun. If you don’t feel confident in your dancing skills, be able to laugh at yourself because your guests will appreciate that way more than a nervous, awkward dance. This is a moment for you and your new spouse, so enjoy it!
Picture by: Milan Vasovic, Milan Photo Cine Art
8) The Cake
Towering layers, handcrafted sugar paste designs, 24-carat gold motifs… The painstakingly detailed wedding cake is certainly gorgeous, but guests won’t miss those details if you opt for an elegantly simple confection instead. As long as it tastes delicious, you’ve got a guaranteed crowd pleaser (and let’s be honest, it will, because CAKE). Speaking of tasty treats, a dessert bar is a great option as well. Swap the cake for an array of equally delish (and comparatively affordable) cupcakes, macarons or ice cream sundaes, and guests will be just as pleased.
The Solution: Get creative. I once attended a wedding that ended with DIY cake slices. To this day, I haven’t a clue whether I opted for yellow cake, chocolate icing, or sprinkles. What I do remember is the fabulous time I had making my own unique spongy treat and sharing the fun with my dear friends – and all it took was a simple sheet cake and a couple of tubs of creamy frosting. However seemingly crazy the idea, don’t be afraid to shake things up!
9) The Bouquet Toss
This tradition has become somewhat archaic in recent years, with many brides opting to skip it altogether. Do it or don’t do it – it all depends on your vision – but rest assured that if you opt out, it’s likely that no one will miss it. Besides, less time assembling the masses for the ceremonial pitch means more time on the dance floor!
The Solution: Do it or don’t, but have fun and don’t stress about it.
10) The Wedding Favors
An edible sweet treat that guests that can enjoy in the afterglow of the wedding as they share memories of your spectacular soirée – well, I can’t argue with you there. But engraved champagne flutes, customized candles, and other novelty items are forgettable for guests and an added expense for the bride and groom. A fancy soap might seem like a great idea for the fancy soaping-loving couple, but for most of your guests it’s basically the adult equivalent of getting raisins on Halloween. One in 50 will love it; the other 49 will dump them on your lawn.
The Solution: Take the money you had set aside for favors and donate those dollars to your charity of choice. A sweet note will let guests know that a donation has been made in lieu of those take away gifts, a gesture that any wedding guest would be thrilled to support. If you still want to give out favors: pick something sweet and simple. Food is always a great idea here. Otherwise I’ve seen couples skip the favors and opt for just the photo booth instead. Guests usually love these things and taking the pictures is a fun memory for everyone.
So what do guests care most about?
1) The Ceremony:
It goes without saying that guests will be overjoyed to watch the happy couple proclaim their love and be joined in wedded bliss – I mean, it’s kind of the whole point – but the crowd may start to get restless during a long, drawn-out ceremony. One of the most common guest complaints is having to sit through a too-long production, so keep it short and sweet (roughly 30 minutes or less) for a happy clan.
Picture by: Gaston García, Punta Cana Photographer
2) The Food:
Enjoying a decadent meal with loved ones is a treat for guests, so make sure your food choices are crowd pleasers. A fantastic meal will keep those good vibes going, but a bad one could really bring down the mood. In addition, be sure to offer options for vegetarians or those with common allergies, like gluten and nuts.
3) The Drinks:
Weddings and booze go together like peanut butter and jelly. Bottom line: Keep the drinks flowing, because there’s nothing that wedding guests hate more than the liquor well running dry. Forgoing the fully stocked bar is fine; an edited menu of Champagne, wine, beer and one or two specialty cocktails will keep guests in high spirits all night long.
4) The Music:
The tunes will be going strong from the first arrivals through the last dance, so make sure your music list is on point, especially once guests start hitting the dance floor. Skip the chicken dance and opt for fun, contemporary tunes that everyone is sure to know and love to unite the crowd and get people moving.
5) The Venue:
Common sense is the key here. Skip the outdoor venue during the hottest, most humid days of summer, and likewise, choose an indoor spot during the fall and winter months when temps may be chilly. Outside of the climate, a unique venue is something they’ll also care about, particularly if the journey to your wedding is a trek for some of your far-flung guests. A seriously cool spot is much more of a draw than, say, Hotel Ballroom #3, don’t you think? For instance this is The Palms Villa in Punta Cana:
So Take a Deep Breath…
Hopefully this guide was able to put some wedding planning details into perspective. Wedding planning is SO stressful that being able to brush aside some of those worries can be a huge relief. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your wedding day is exactly that: YOUR wedding. Instead of stressing about what you think your guests want, do what you want. Remember that your wedding day is above all about you and your spouse and the love you share, so take a deep breath and think about what is actually important. Good luck!