How to Streamline Your Guest Experience

When planning your day-of timeline, it’s easy to get caught up in the couple’s activities. But it’s important to consider what your guests’ timelines look like as well. Things like getting ready or taking portraits all take, and if your guests' experience isn’t carefully planned, you can leave guests in an uncomfortable position.

wedding decorations
Photo: Stories by Victoria

We’ve all been there —you’re at a wedding or event you’ve been really excited about, but instead, you find yourself just... waiting. Maybe it's too hot, or too cold, or your feet hurt from standing for too long, or you were promised food an hour ago and you're nervous everyone around you can hear your stomach rumbling. And that's all if you managed to make it to the right place at the right time — which can be an issue at many weddings with confusing venues.

We asked top wedding pros for their best advice to streamline your guest experience and avoid uncomfortable situations for your guests: from when you start planning to the end of the night.

Communicate With Your Guests

"Save-the-dates are going to be your key point of contact for most (if not all) of your guests as you begin planning your wedding. This is where you'll be announcing the actual date of your wedding, and it's an easy way to incorporate your wedding website where all of the other information can call home. Invitations are also important, but save-the-dates are a good starting point to gauge an informal headcount and share some priority info with your guests such as location, timing, dress code, etc." —Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

"When my wedding guest counts began to rise and logistical challenges started to increase, such as changes in transportation meeting locations, an impromptu poolside cocktail party at the future-in-laws home, and weather updates or time adjustments, utilizing a digital tool that had a management component was key to helping streamline communication either with a distinguished group of individuals or mass groupings. Apps like Appycouple allow easy updates and notifications to guests, eliminating the need for physical stationery or signage." —Jacqueline Vizcaino, Tinted Events Design and Planning

"During the wedding, proactive communication from the DJ or wedding coordinator is helpful to streamline guests to their following location. Likewise, signage at the ceremony's entrance giving guests a sequence of events, sometimes including time estimates, helps the guests understand the expectations of the event." —Sarah Anderson, Twickenham House & Hall

"The wedding party are guests, too! When trying to maximize the guest's experience, streamlining the photos of the wedding party will help the wedding party take photos more efficiently and get back to the party. Before the wedding day, have a meeting or send out a communication to the wedding party about the photography plan. This could include the time they need to be ready and where they should meet. Making the expectation clear should help reduce the common issue of missing family members during portrait time. Include a hard copy of the timeline for each of the family members and wedding party, outlining when and where they need to be for portraits." —Mary Angelini, Key Moment Films

Keep Guests Fed and Entertained

"The unsaid rule of all weddings and events everywhere — food and drinks! The last thing you want is hungry guests. If there's a gap in the wedding day, or maybe the schedule is running a bit behind, make sure you work with your planner to have food and drinks flowing. They won't notice a thing, and you're the real hero for providing those delicious hors d’oeuvres and specialty cocktails!" —Megan Lentz, Vida Events

“When guests have too much downtime, much of that feeling of waiting doesn't have as much to do with time as it does with the guest experience planning; at Tinted Events, we have a rule that the guest experience should change every forty-five minutes to an hour so that they have to focus on a new element and not on what’s not happened yet. For example, they are transitioning to a different area that has to complement but different designs, lighting transitions, music or entertainment variations, staggered but simultaneously during dinner speeches and toast versus separate occurrences. Downtime will happen, but the guests should have experienced the event as a flow that when they think back to nitpick, they genuinely can't recall a moment." —Jacqueline Vizcaino, Tinted Events Design and Planning

Prepare for Delays

"Expecting the unexpected is essential when coordinating the wedding day. Rain delays, underestimating cocktail hour photos, or vendor miscommunications cater to the occasional schedule shift. Having various activities for guests to participate in or creating organic pockets of space for mingling with one another, along with snacks and drinks, will make guests feel comfortable and likely unaware of any diversion in the schedule. The most important element is snacks to ensure the guests are not uncomfortably hungry during any delay." —Sarah Anderson, Twickenham House & Hall

"If you're running behind schedule and the guests have already arrived, communicate with your planner or emcee to make a quick announcement. Try to nail down a close estimate of how long folks will be waiting; that way, they can make a quick bathroom trip or grab a drink. Outdoor weddings have a little more pressure in this area, as you don't want to keep your loved ones waiting out in the sun (or cold) while you try to catch up. If possible, try to keep everyone in the loop during cocktail hour so that they’re able to wait in a comfortable space." —Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

Remember that at the end of the day, your friends and family won't care as much about how your centerpieces looked or what material you printed your stationery on. But they will remember how they felt throughout the event. Putting extra time and consideration into your planning will ensure that they feel appreciated and give them something good to talk about after the event.