Want guests to have a great time at your wedding? Manage transitions.

Oxon Hill Manor garden gate

A wreath marks the entrance to the garden ceremony. Location: Oxon Hill Manor, Maryland. Wedding coordinator: Pavaune Pearson.

As you plan your wedding, keep in mind this idea: Your guests will enjoy themselves most if they always know where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do. It sounds obvious, but as the event organizer it can be easy to forget that the guests don’t know the venue and the program as well as you do. Put yourself in your guests’ place; feeling confused or being afraid of doing the wrong thing or going the wrong way is not fun. Help avoid confusion and make way for joy.

The big idea here: manage transitions.

You need to manage transitions in space — moving from room to room — and transitions in time — moving from one part of the program to another.

Managing Transitions in Space

  • Mark entrances clearly. Give guests an indication of where the entrance is from as far away as is reasonable, given the space. Even if you think that the entrance is obvious, a large or colorful gesture tells guests that they are headed in the right direction and sets the tone for the celebration. The gesture can be as simple as having someone standing near the door or some decorative element. For weddings, hanging a garland above the door or a wreath on a garden gate are great ways to say, “Wedding this way!”
  • Let people know they’ve arrived. Station someone at the entrance to each new space to say “Welcome” and hand guests a program, or offer a drink from a tray, invite guests to the hors d’oeuvres station on the far side of the room, point them in the direction of their dinner table, or just be available to answer questions.
  • When the event moves from one space to another, station people along the route to point the way. Even if people are only moving through a small vestibule between the chapel and the social hall, have someone standing in that space to gesture in the direction people should move. Some people will still be looking for direction and assurance. Seeing someone point the way will put their mind at ease let their thoughts return to enjoying themselves. Using staff from the venue or the caterer for this role can be expensive, so if your wedding coordinator doesn’t have enough staff to do this, consider asking an outgoing friend or family member to do it.
  • Signage, signage, signage. Good signage eliminates guests’ anxiety and helps the event run smoothly. One of my proudest event planning moments came when I lived in Kuwait and planned a large formal dinner attended by a large number of military personnel. As a protocol officer who was widely appreciated for his superlatively organized events arrived, he told me he liked my signage. I do pride myself on good signage.

    As you approach the final weeks of planning your wedding, think through how guests will move through the event space, what they will be looking for, and where they might get confused. Create signs, preferably in a style that fits the venue and your wedding, to show people where to go or give them information they will need:

    • “Bride’s reception in Dumont Room.—>”
    • “Additional ladies room in upstairs lobby.”
    • “Please have your coat check ticket ready.”
  • Give special consideration to people with mobility issues. If you know that some of your guests have difficulty walking or need an elevator, be sure to scope out the ramps, elevators, and other accommodations that the venue offers for people with mobility issues. If you can, provide details about the location of these features to guests who will need them before the wedding. Advise your staff and vendors to be on the lookout for these guests, and make sure the staff can point guests in the direction of these features and know how to get any additional help the guests need.

Next post: Managing transitions in time…

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Filed under Wedding Decor, Wedding Reception

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