The bride’s ALWAYS late, so while the guests wait…

When you’re a guest at a wedding, you know you’re in for a fair amount of waiting around for the next thing to happen: The guests must arrive before the bridal party, and the bride is traditionally late, so you’re practically guaranteed a hurry up and wait from the get-go.

Waiting for the bride’s arrival is usually not so bad – there are other guests to catch up with, or introduce yourself to, and the small frissions as each stage unfolds – the groom arrives, the bridal car pulls up, and so on.

It’s the waiting that comes after the ceremony that’s harder to bear. If the newlyweds have followed mainstream tradition, you’ll be waiting to get out of the venue [while they pose for photos in the doorway] then waiting while they have family and formal group photos. And then, they’ll head off with their photographer for the rest of the photo shoot, leaving you with a huge chunk of time to fill.

As a guest, you may be stuck in limbo, uncertain of when or where you can go for the time between the ceremony and the reception. Though many will troop off to the pub, it’s not such a great start to what is often a long night of steady drinking, so a little forward planning isn’t a stupid idea, especially if you’re an out-of-town guest not closely related to the bride or the groom’s families.

When you get your invite, try to judge how long and how far it will be between the ceremony and the reception. Even the latest bride with the most sermonizing minister won’t keep you more than 90 minutes – for most ceremonies, you can expect the formalities to be well over 45 minutes after the posted start time. The invitation should give you an idea of when you’re expected at the reception venue. Depending on who you have with you, and what you think is fun, you might  take yourself off for a walk down the beach, curl up somewhere with a trashy novel or 40 winks, check out the local museum or art gallery, or even just arrange to meet some of the other guests at a coffee shop rather than the pub. It’s not a silly idea to pack a pair of comfortable shoes [or even a total change of clothes], even if you’re not planning on going anywhere else. There’s not much worse than watching strangers drink themselves into idiots, unless it’s doing it from an uncomfortable seat, wearing shoes that pinch.

If you’re the bride or groom, or have any say at all in the planning process, may I make some polite suggestions to help plan a wedding day timeline with guests in mind?

Timing is everything: Obviously, it makes no sense to plan a midday ceremony with a supper and dance reception. So why would you plan for 3 or more hours of photographs while your guests are waiting. Wedding photos are incredibly important. But so are your guests. So a compromise may need to be reached. Consider having the bulk of your formal photos taken before the ceremony. A good photographer will be able to preserve the ‘aha’ moment when you first see each other on the day, if that’s important to you, and you can even still have the traditional walk up the aisle to your groom. The advantages of photos first are that you’ll be more relaxed and connected with each other for your wedding ceremony and the rest of the day, PLUS you don’t have to go away and miss out on any time with your guests.

If you just can’t face the idea of photos before the ceremony, consider booking a ‘fashion photo shoot’ for after the honeymoon, where you can go to as many locations as you wish, and take time over getting really stunning wedding photos for the wall. Trash the Dress/Drown the Gown photo shoots often start out quite formally, but have the luxury of being able to climb into a tree, or whatever, without worrying about getting your hair mussed, or dirt on your gown.

If the time lag is unavoidable, make some options available for your guests – perhaps a party bus sightseeing tour from the ceremony venue to the reception, a bouncy castle or other entertainment for the kids, live music or other performing artists, or even something as simple as setting out some couches at the venue for guests to relax on – your guests will spend hours sitting at their tables, and it’s such a relief to sit somewhere different for a while.

If your guests are already at, or will head directly to, the reception venue, you might provide some nibbles and drinks – but in the end, this can end up costing more than a second photo shoot or a tour bus would – and can sometimes mean that guests are too full [or tiddly] to appreciate the wedding meal you’ve put so much thought, time and money into.

Don’t be afraid to try something different – A wedding recently had a NZ edition of Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, and Pictionary set up on tables – the guests quickly set up locals vs tourist teams and had such a great time getting to know each other, that it was hard to get them to stop for the arrival of the newlyweds! I’ve seen guests playing petanque and minigolf, relaxing on couches under the trees, building lego towers, even getting fake tattoos, courtesy of the bride and groom.

It sounds kind of odd, but when you think about it, why wouldn’t you do something that’s fun for your guests – after al, presumably, you like these people enough to invite them to be part of one of the most important days of your life. It makes sense to follow through and make sure they’re glad they made the effort to be with you, to help them celebrate, and to create a truly memorable occasion!

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