The Art of Entertaining, by Emily Shaw – Franke & Co.
Like me, some of us were born to entertain. And I don’t mean sing or dance, I mean host. There is something wonderful about inviting friends and family into your home and giving them a memorable experience – a wonderful spread of delicious food and drinks, styling to set the mood, and music and games to ensure laughs all around. Your wedding day is the ultimate opportunity to unleash you inner host and give your guests a night to remember. Here’s my top tips to keep your guests raving about your wedding for years to come.
Let’s face it, it’s a big day for you and your guests. If, like most couples, you’re having an early afternoon ceremony, many of your guests won’t have eaten since lunch. To keep them happy, ensure you have a carefully thought-out menu of refreshments on hand. You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your guests happy, or plan anything too extravagant. Try water and freshly baked biscuits after the ceremony, and light finger foods or canapés pre-reception.
Generally people don’t make plans between the ceremony and reception, so give them something to do and somewhere to be, even if it means buying their own drinks. When it comes to picking finger foods and canapés ensure, as their names suggests, they’re suitable for fingers! The last thing you want is for one of your guests to end up wearing their pre-dinner snack throughout the reception. Avoid anything that is overly wet or drippy, things with lots of sauce and large items that are more than bite-sized. It’s a great idea to ask your reception venue to provide a tasting prior to the big day just to be sure. If you’re self-catering, whip up some antipasto platters the day before, and have them ready to serve along with some cold beer, wine and soft drinks so your guests can help themselves before the reception with minimum fuss.
A quality beef or chicken option is a sure crowd pleaser – Photography by Lily & Grace Bridal Photography
When it comes to choosing your dinner menu, think about the tastes of your friends and family and what will please the majority. For an alternate drop menu a quality beef and chicken option is a safe bet, and a sure crowd pleaser. Unless all your friends and family are devoted seafood lovers, avoid fish as a main option, and opt to include seafood in your entré or canapé selection as a safer bet.
Setting the Scene
One of the keys to delivering a great experience is to create a scene your guests can immerse themselves in, leaving the ‘real world’ behind. Working with a professional wedding coordinator can really help bring it all together. Pick a venue and styling that work cohesively together, and don’t forget styling extras such as picture frames, cake and gift table displays and ceiling features – it’s not just the tables that should look pretty!
Give some thought to your lighting. Too much or too little can really pose a problem. The last thing you want is harsh fluoro lighting killing the mood, so consider venues with dimmer lights, or opt for a combination of fairy lights, hanging lanterns and candles to soften the look. Make sure there is enough light for the catering team, during meal service and for those delivering speeches.
Beautiful lighting created for an outdoor reception – TaDa Photography
Believe it or not, guests really do like to be educated. I don’t mean lecture-style, rather subtly through stories and tributes. Try including some family wedding photos on display at the gift table, or incorporating your history as a couple into speeches and toasts.
Music is another important make-or-break element. In the lead up to your wedding, pick song lists to suit each stage of the event such as soft and joyful tunes for the ceremony, easy-listening melodies for dinner, and party anthems for later in the evening. Remember, top 40 hits and dance tracks are great, but only appeal to a certain percentage of your guests. Be sure to include all the old rock ‘n’ roll and dance classics to really get everyone off their chairs and onto the dance floor. If you’re on a budget, set-up playlists on your smart phone or music device for each stage of the event, hire an audio system with an auxiliary cable, and ask one of your tech-savvy friends or family members to play DJ. Later in the night guests can plug-in their own device and pick a tune – think of it as on-demand music requests!
If you can, try to include an element of surprise for your guests. This can be as simple as keeping your dress and venue styling a secret, or as extravagant as hiring a bus to take your guests to a mystery reception venue or a fireworks display to end the evening.
Get Hands On
Provided it’s not too strenuous or outside of their comfort zone, your guests will love the opportunity to get involved in your nuptials. Some cute ideas include a balloon, lantern or butterfly release, collecting shells at the beach to include in a keep-sake glass, or being involved in a sand-pouring ceremony. Instead of the traditional guest book, why not have a wishing tree so your guests can write wishes or notes of advice and hang them on display. Later you can go through all the little notes and reminisce about your wedding day.
It’s a good idea to organise something for your guests to do in the time between your ceremony and reception while you’re having your photos taken. Games are an interesting way to keep your guests entertained during this interval. Dress-friendly lawn games such as boules and croquet are easy, cost-effective options.
Lawn games are a great way to keep guests entertained – Photography by Sayher Heffernan
At the end of the reception, the send-off is another opportunity to get your guests involved. Ask your MC to arrange your guests into a large circle or arch so you can personally see them off as you leave – kisses and happy tears are assured!
All the Little Things
Sometimes it’s the smallest details that can be the most memorable. One room which is often overlooked is the restroom. Why not place a matching posy on the bench with a scented candle, and swap paper hand wipes for some fluffy white towels? To really spoil the girls, put together a little pamper kit for the ladies restroom. Include delightful treats such as sweet-smelling hand wash and lotion, hairspray, breath mints, floss and perfume. Presenting this in a charming gift box on the restroom counter will leave your guests feeling extra special and refreshed all night.
When it comes to giving your guests something tangible to remember your wedding, choose quality over quantity. There are so many options for bonbonnieres these days. Pick something that it meaningful to you and yours guests that doesn’t break the bank. I love the idea of a little packet of “love” seeds or seedlings that your guests can take home and plant in their garden. Alternatively, offer something more practical like a drink cooler if you’re having a self-service bar. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a gift either. Setting up a photo booth so guests can take home their happy snaps also makes a great keepsake.
If you’re having a destination wedding, provide plenty of advanced notice and consider choosing a date that falls on a long weekend. It’s a lovely idea to include an information pack with your save-the-date or invitation to help your guests plan their trip. Include details such as places to stay, schedule of events (so your guests can plan other activities around them) and transport information/directions.
I hope these tips have inspired you to think about how you can make your wedding day a truly memorable experience for you and your guests. Here’s to good times and great company!
Wishing you happy planning,
Founder & Director, Franke & Co.