1. Offer a helpful guide to their travel arrangements, but don't try to take control.
Wedding websites are fantastic in communicating info to your guests, so having one for them to refer to is the first step in being a good host/hostess. Within the website, you want to provide helpful information for their travel, such as hotel room block details, recommendations for sightseeing, restaurants, and other activities, as well as logistical information such as transportation, parking, maps, etc. However, since many guests tend to make their trip a vacation, they may have other plans for accommodations and transportation that best suits their itinerary, so don't mandate that they must stay at your hotel room blocks, or to take the buses that you provide (unless your venue requires it).
2. Greet your guests with personal Welcome Bags at the hotels.
After traveling long hours, who doesn't love a little TLC when arriving at their hotel? For guests that are staying at your wedding room blocks, we recommend leaving Welcome Bags in their rooms. Though we call it "bags", the container for the gifts can be in boxes, baskets, tote bags.....whatever your preference is. Include items that your guests would find useful, such as bottled water, mints, area maps, aspirins, sweets, etc. It's always fun to have a few local items in there, and for San Francisco weddings, we love including Recchiuti or Ghiradelli chocolate! Make sure you include a personalized note welcoming them to town, and letting them know how excited you are to see them at the wedding.
For Welcome Bag ideas, check out our pinterest board here.
3. Say hello to your guests before the wedding day, and bid them farewell after the wedding.
If budget allows, it's always a great idea to invite all of your out of town guests to a pre-wedding and post-wedding event. It doesn't have to be a full blown reception, but even a short happy hour gathering, or a post-dinner drinks the days leading up to the wedding, will allow you the opportunity to personally welcome your guests into town in a more casual, intimate environment. An informal post-wedding brunch to say goodbye to your guests will also make them leave feeling good that they were able to see and talk to you beyond the wedding day itself.
4. Leave a day-of contact number for your guests.
This may sound trivial, but guests need a point of contact to reach on the wedding day if they have questions or concerns. This point of contact needs to be someone other than the couple themselves, and it should be someone who knows a lot about the wedding details, and will likely pick up their phone throughout the day. When we work with our clients, we always provide our hospitality team's cell phone numbers for guests to call, should they have any questions on the wedding day. You'll be surprised at the many calls we get from guests who have missed a flight, had last minute childcare issues, lost the address to the venue, etc. The point is, guests need to know that they have someone reliable to call and to address their questions/issues to, so that they feel well taken care of.
5. Keep guests' comfort in mind when planning all aspects of the wedding.
When we plan a wedding with our clients, we like to understand the demographics of the guests early on, so that we can be particularly mindful of guests' comfort level during each part of the wedding. Have a lot of elderly guests? We would be sure to have more seating than normal during the cocktail hour. Wedding to be held outdoors? This information needs to be communicated to guests in the invites so that they can plan their attire accordingly. You can also provide shawls for the ladies in case it is chilly, or a cold drink for guests upon arrival to stay hydrated on warm days. Thoughtful little details like that go a long way!
6. Hospitality matters.
This really ties back to #5, making sure your guests are well taken care of throughout the day. There's nothing worse than waiting in lines or feeling clueless as a guest at a wedding. We put in a lot of thought into the staffing at a wedding, in conjunction with the caterer. The moment your guests enter your wedding venue, they should be greeted by someone, preferably a catering staff with a nice drink! Although you may have friends and families act as ushers and greeters, they can easily get tied up in mingling with guests that they personally know, so we always recommend having a few catering staff present to greet and direct guests upon arrival. During transitions from ceremony to cocktail hour to dinner, our hospitality team circles around to make sure all the guests are well directed from one space to the next. It makes a big difference to the overall guest experience when guests do not have to continually question "what's next?" or "where do I go now?" Our hospitality team's motto is to always be one step ahead of the guests so we can anticipate their needs before they know it!
Have you ever arrived a gorgeous, 5 star hotel, in awe at how beautiful and grand it is....only to then be frustrated because there was no valet attendant to greet you, the line at the front desk was 15 minutes long, and you were given a room key that didn't work? It doesn't matter how beautiful the space is, or how excellent the food is, if the overall guest experience is a bad one, so be sure to plan for great hospitality for your guests! Everyone loves to be taken care of, especially at a wedding!