The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
In my humbly short time working in the wedding industry, I have already begun to notice trends in wedding guests. There's the "intense dancer" who quickly clears a 6x6 section of the dance floor with his or her unpredictable (and probably intoxicated) self inflicted whiplash maneuvers; the "dine and dasher" who arrives just before the first kiss and leaves right after the first course; and the infamous "invited uninvited monologue", thrown immediately in a prose parade after hearing the words, "anyone else want to give a toast?" (seriously, I'm running out of hard drive space and this guy has been talking into the mic about baseball for 10 minutes). But that all ends here! There are good wedding guests, and I intend to do my part to increasing their number, rehabilitating them back from near extinction and lifting them to a place of expectancy. With a few simple principals that can easily be encouraged amongst your guests, you are well on your way to a well behaving guest list.
💡 Principal #1 - put your phone away!
Speaking specifically from a wedding professional's perspective, there is no faster way to ruin a special moment than to stick your phone into the videographers field of view, ruining the shot that he or she only has one opportunity to get. Thankfully, none of my shots have been completely ruined (yet), but it has come close!
Don't take pictures during the ceremony because the photographer will be taking better ones. Don't take pictures during the cake cutting because the photographer will be taking better ones. Don't chase down the bride and groom for a selfie, they probably need to be moving onto the next thing. Don't pull out your phone to... you get the point. The only time to take out your phone is if the bride or groom suggests it.
-ACTION STEP: HAVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER SET UP A GALLERY PRIOR TO THE WEDDING THAT CAN BE SHARED WITH GUESTS ALONG WITH A REQUEST THAT GUESTS DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS OF THEIR OWN.
💡 Principal #2 - the only time to arrive is on time
I haven't worked a wedding yet where everything is on time. Something is always being pushed back, postponed, or prolonged. Family photos take too long and have to be split before and after dinner, a groomsman forgot his corsage at the airbnb and now wedding party photos have to happen after the ceremony, I've even seen the DJ loose the first dance song and turn a first dance into a last dance! It will only make things worse if you arrive late or early. Believe it or not, arriving early may not be as good of an idea as you think! If you arrive late to the ceremony, and it is happening behind closed doors, too late! You missed it!
Don't be that guy that opens the screechingly loud sanctuary door during the unity ceremony! I've seen it happen, and trust me, so did everyone that arrived on time. And please, for the love of all that is good and holy, don't arrive late and also walk in front of the cameras!
If the ceremony has already started when you arrive and it is behind closed doors, the best you can do is hope that the couple is getting a full ceremony video and would be willing to share the link. If the ceremony is out in the open, or it appears there is a non-intrusive way for you to enter the venue, do so, but don't expect to get a prime seat. When my best friend arrived late to my wedding (don't worry, he had a good reason), he didn't walk across the open field to get to the seats, he stopped just within earshot of the speakers and just within viewing distance. Be like Ben!
On the flip side, if you arrive extra early, that would be the perfect time to catch up on the big game or to read the next chapter of that book that has been in your glove box for a year, it is not the time to find the couple to tell them how you got an extra roller dog because it was five past the hour! You may be right in saying "I'm only going to talk to them for a minute", but one minute turns into three and then five more guests show up early and now the couple is 15 minutes behind schedule. It is always helpful to remember that you are there for the couple, the couple is not there for you, and what the couple needs is help sticking to their schedule!
-ACTION STEP: HAVE A CLEARLY MARKED AREA FOR GUESTS TO CONGREGATE PRIOR TO THE WEDDING, YOU MAY WANT TO PROVIDE SOME SNACKS AND MINIMAL ENTERTAINMENT SUCH AS A PHOTO ALBUM OR A DOCUMENTARY STYLE VIDEO OF YOUR LOVE STORY FOR THEM TO WATCH.
💡 Principal #3 - who's where for who
-you are there for the couple, the couple is not there for you-
It is a common phrase to hear during wedding prep, "remember, this is your day, not theirs", or "this is about you, not about them", and this is exactly the point. It is not selfish to want things to be a certain way on your wedding day, and it is not selfish to focus more on your own experience of your wedding than on your guests. For one, care for your guests can be delegated to a hired professional or family member. It is not your job!
Speaking to the guest for a moment, you need to remember this too! I know you may have traveled a long way, you may be making a significant sacrifice to be here, and for that, the couple is incredibly grateful! However, we ask one more sacrifice of you; from when you arrive to when the couple takes their exit, focus on being exactly what the couple needs you to be. If you are at a small scale wedding, this may mean helping with set-up and tear down or distributing bubble wands for the send off but if you are at a large scale wedding, this may mean sitting quietly with a smile on your face until your 10 seconds to talk to the couple come around. Your sacrifice is not unnoticed!
-Action step: acknowledge the sacrifice your guests have made to be there for you. This could be attached to your party favors, or you coordinate with a family member to make a point of thanking every guest.
💡 Principal #4 - Be careful what you wear
I know! I'm not telling you anything you don't already know with this one, and I'm am well into the territory of opinions, but listen for a moment, I just want to offer a photographer's perspective. Color is key, and by "key" I mean, to be kept to a minimum! If the bride asks for shades of blue, by all means, go for it! But if all you are given is "semi-formal" and you show up in bright red, know that you might be the first thing everyone sees when they look at the photos on the couples wall, and that is not how it is supposed to be.