One of the goals of event planning is to never have guests asking each other, “What are we supposed to be doing now?”, or even worse, having to answer each other, “I don’t know.”
Help your guests have a wonderful time at your wedding by reducing the confusion that can creep into the proceedings during transitions. In my previous post I gave tips for easing transitions in space — moving from one place to another. Today, I’m giving you tips for guiding your guests through transitions in time — moving from one part of the event to the next.
During a Jewish wedding — for most weddings, actually — transitions from one part of the program to the next usually involve moving from one room to another. After the veiling ceremony, everyone moves to the place where the huppah stands. When the huppah ceremony is over, everyone moves to the next room, anticipating cocktails. Later, it’s on to the meal. In these instances, the tips that help people move smoothly from one space to another will also do most of the work of easing their transition from one part of the program to the next. But there are still more things you can do to make these transitions as smooth as possible for your guests.
Tips for Managing Transitions Between Parts of the Wedding
- Invite guests to move to the next part of the event. When it’s time to move from one room to another, and guests can’t be expected to know which way to go, don’t just open the door and wait for your guests to figure out it’s time to move. Invite them to do so. When the veiling ceremony is over, have the rabbi or a family member who doesn’t mind speaking up say something like, “Please join us on the lawn / in the sanctary / in the Steinsaltz Room for the wedding ceremony,” and hold out an arm in the direction people should move.” When the cocktail hour is over and it’s time for dinner, have a staff member from the venue, caterer, or wedding planner announce, “Please join us in the Roosevelt Room / terrace / ballroom for dinner.”
- When transitioning from a cocktail hour to a buffet meal, invite one person or couple to begin. When you have a large number of guests, opening up the buffet can create a chaotic rush. When the number of guests is small, no one may feel comfortable stepping up to serve themselves first. The solution: Invite one person or couple to be first: “Will you start the buffet for us?” If the group is small, start with a guest of honor, such as a grandparent or a guest who traveled an especially long way to attend, or the rabbi. Invite the person to start the buffet, escort them to the table, and hand them a plate. If the crowd is large, start with the group nearest the buffet, and let the rest of the guests follow on as they realize the buffet is open.
- Keep written programs short. A printed program can be a useful guide to guests who are not familiar with the ceremony, or to acknowledge people who have special roles, but keep the program short. You don’t want your guests spending a lot of time with their heads down reading. You want them watching and taking part in the ceremony they have come to share with you.
Following these tips will help produce a fabulously organized wedding. They’ll also do much more. The personal interactions that happen when people are welcomed and joyfully invited to the next part of the celebration, and when someone is nearby to answer their questions will impart a wonderfully personal touch that costs you nothing but will make your day more meaningful and memorable for your guests.