The key to an amazing wedding that your guests will love and talk about all season isn't the perfect favor. It's not the clever decor. It's not even the right signature drink (although making sure you have enough booze is definitely important.) The key to a great guest experience is, well, thinking about the guest experience. Put on your Suzie Cruise Director cap with these 5 crucial tips for elevating your guests' experience and hosting a fete they'll love!
1. Get Creative with Your Venue
Mountain settings offer a variety of venues from rustic ranches to Gilded Era estates. Choose a venue with architectural character, history, or local charm. And don't forget to look for stunning mountain views. Even a run-of-the-mill hotel, or ho-hum event space can leave a positive impression when guests are treated to signature mountain views.
Elevate your venue: If you're getting married at an historic house, museum, or botanical garden inquire about docent tours for your guests.
2. Make Them Feel Welcomed
A welcome bag in your guests hotel room can instantly make them feel welcomed and introduce them to the delights of your mountain destination. Welcome bags don't have to blow your budget, they just need to be useful and offer a little treat or tool for helping them enjoy their time in the mountains. Item to consider including:
- Wedding day or wedding weekend timeline and any important telephone numbers.
- Local map (usually found for free at a Visitor Center or Hotel Concierge.)
- Travel information including local attractions, suggested itineraries, transportation options, and directions to the ceremony and reception sites.
- High altitude survival items: lip balm, a mini tube of sunscreen and a few bottles of water. (Optional)
- Hangover kit: A homemade breakfast treat like a muffin or cinnamon roll, some Advil, Alkaseltzer and maybe even a hair-of-the-fog nip of your favorite liquor. (Optional)
- Local's Favorite kit: If your mountain destination has a signature dish or a local brew, include a sample. Consider a Mammoth Brewing Company beer in Mammoth Lakes or Yosemite, mini BBQ sauces in western North Carolina, or Maple Syrup for a fall wedding in the Berkshires (Optional.)
- Personalized treats: Have a signature cookie everyone asks you to make? Or maybe you want to honor your grandmother by making her famous Easter Petit Fours. Include personalized treats with a little note card or custom label sharing their meaning with your guests. (Optional.)
Remember, your welcome bags don't have to be elaborate, they just have to be thoughtful. Include information that will orient your guests for your wedding day and things to do during their stay, and include a special treat or two. Assemble everything in a tote or a paper gift bag and complete the package with a note welcoming them and thank them for celebrating with you.
3. Make the Ceremony a Delight
Many mountain wedding ceremonies I publish are outside. It makes sense. There's something so magical about gathering your closest friends and family to witness you saying your vows amid stunning, panoramic mountain views.
But being outdoors in the mountains can be a harsh experience. The high altitude sun can quickly wilt the hardiest guests, and a muggy summer day in the Southern Mountains can leave guests feeling parched. Talk to your planner about typical weather conditions for your area and consider offering the following during your ceremony:
- For any location, offer a hydrating, non-alcoholic, “signature drink” like lavender lemonade, or basil infused water in the summer and hot salted caramel hot cocoa in the winter. Be sure to have regular water on hand for guests who prefer that.
- In the Western Mountains, offer inexpensive paper umbrellas and sunscreen to protect from the high altitude sun. Even 20 minutes of exposure can leave a guest burned.
- Eastern mountains can be humid. Offer fans.
4. Keep them comfortable
Guest comfort should extend beyond the ceremony an into the entire evening. Again, check with your planner for local conditions.
- A basket full of inexpensive flip flops are always a relief for the ladies who have been wearing heels all day.
- Remember, it can get chilly in the mountains, even in the summer. Consider renting heat lamps and having inexpensive shawls or cozy blankets on hand.
- Afternoon storms are typical in mountain regions across the nation. Ask your hotel, venue, or planner if they have guest umbrellas available. If not, consider buying a few for guest who may get caught outdoors during an afternoon shower.
- As the party starts to wind offer late-night snacks and treats, like pulled pork sliders, mini bison tacos, or mini milk shakes to guests who have burned off dinner on the dance floor. The extra food also helps absorb all that alcohol!
- Lastly, make sure to have a shuttle or a list of local taxi companies on had to get guests who partied a bit to hard back to their hotel safely.
5. Remember: Guests Follow the Bride
One of the best pieces of advice I got about weddings is: “The guests follow the bride.”
This means that no matter what catastrophe, malfunction, or disaster you encounter at your wedding, and no matter how big or small, your job is take a nice deep breath, to put and smile on your face.
You see, if you are stressed out and unhappy, your guests will feel that and become at best uncomfortable and at worst stressed out and unhappy with you.
The best and most talked about weddings are those that had something happen but the bride didn't panic: rain, hail, missing wedding rings, or a father who broke three ribs the day before the wedding in a mountain biking accident…
Rather, the bride, her party, and her family put the guests at ease with laughter and assurances not to worry.
You could hav ethe most detailed and fabulously elaborate wedding in the world, but if you;re not having a good time, neither will your guests.