Real Guests Tell All
Think you're planning the perfect party? Not so fast. We know what guests really think about cash bars, waiting for the bridal party to arrive, late-night drinking, and seating arrangements. To spare your friends and family the kinds of things that make guests grit their teeth, some veteran wedding-goers graciously agreed to tell us what you need to know to make your wedding rave-worthy.
Receiving Line Traffic Jams
"I hate long receiving lines. I once went to a wedding with over 300 guests and I sat in the last row of the church. Therefore, I was also the last row to leave the church. I had to wait for more than an hour to get to the receiving line and to exit the church."
--Heidi, 25, Blacksburg, VA
"I dread those receiving lines with about ten people in them, including the entire wedding party. I suppose it's great for the very few guests who know the bride and groom's families and all of their wedding party pals. But most of us just want to congratulate the couple and their parents. Unfortunately, you always get stuck making chitchat with a stranger in a bridesmaid dress who doesn't particularly care who you are, either, while the people in front of you hug the bride."
--Margaret, 42, Sarasota, FL
We're Not Going to Maui Tomorrow
"My wife and I recently went to a wedding on a Sunday evening, and we had to be at work the next day. The ceremony was at 5 p.m., the reception wasn't until about 6:30, and dinner wasn't even served until 8. The meal was finished around 9:30, and most of the guests were not from the area where the wedding took place. We left before the reception was over, and still didn't make it home until midnight."
--John, 35, New York, NY
Shall We See a Movie?
"I don't like long pauses between the ceremony and reception, as it is terribly inconvenient for out-of-town guests."
--Jocelyn, 27, Austin, TX
"If your ceremony ends at 5 p.m. and the reception starts at 6 p.m., you can assume that guests will be heading for the reception hall immediately following, so maybe it's best to book the location from 5:30 on. It's so awful to feel like an eager beaver and just be waiting in the reception hall lobby until the party officially 'begins.'"
--Amy, 25, Middletown, CT
A Little Mystery Never Hurt
"One thing I didn't like was seeing the bride before the ceremony. It was totally anticlimactic when she came down the aisle."
--Sarah, 24, Brooklyn, NY
"I hate when people decorate the pews and altar in their church after guests are already seated. I have been to two weddings where I watched the attendants or friends attach flowers and bows to the pews and set up candles at the altar while all the seated guests watched. It looked so disorganized and informal."
--Danine, 46, Miami, FL
"I hate it when the bride and her dad or the bride and groom stop halfway down the aisle for a photo op."
--Frank, 31, Ann Arbor, MI
Nowhere to Run
"I don't like it when there is no place to sit during the cocktail hour. My family tends to eat a lot of hors d'oeuvres, and they need a place to set down plates, drinks, cameras, purses and gift envelopes.
Also, I went solo to a friend's casual wedding in Atlanta, where I didn't know anyone but the groom. Since there were no table assignments, I had literally nowhere to sit. All the seats were in use or were 'reserved' with jackets and bags."
--Domenica, 27, Kinnelon, NJ
Am I a Cheap Date?
"Guests should never be expected to pay for drinks. You would never host any other private party and expect your guests to pay for their own alcohol."
--Elizabeth, 25, Frederick, MD
"I hate cash bars. It's like sending your wedding present COD."
--Susan, 28, New Fairfield, CT
"I'm sorry, but limited bars are generally a bummer. Ditto for wine drawn from a tap."
--Liza, 25, Cincinnati, OH
We Like to Party, But...
"My brother-in-law was so drunk when he gave his best-man speech that he started an argument with his younger brother, yelling obscenities over the microphone in front of the entire reception, including my extremely conservative family. My advice is to get the speeches over with early, or ask those giving speeches to refrain from drinking until they have spoken."
--Susan, 29, Charlottesville, VA
"I went to a wedding with my boyfriend and I didn't know his family very well. I knew they liked to party, and so do I, but I was really shocked at this reception. They held it at a nice country club, but people were dancing on the tables, they were so drunk. They should have closed the bar. I can't imagine how those people got home."
--Michelle, 36, Raleigh, NC
Don't Strand My Man
"The worst is when you're in the wedding party and your date doesn't know anyone at the wedding, and has to sit at a different table than you."
--Jennifer, 28, Chicago, IL
"My husband was the best man in a wedding, and I was seated at the opposite end of the room while he was with the wedding party. It felt really strange and awkward."
--Julie, 34, Los Angeles, CA
The Not-So-Great Smoke Out
"I went to a wedding recently, where, after dinner, the waiters passed out cigars. About one quarter of the guests took them, and within fifteen minutes the place was filled with smoke. It was disgusting, and I left."
--Andrew, 46, Los Angeles, CA
Okay, Break it Up
"Cake-smashing, by far, is so replete with subliminal messages that I'd so rather not bear witness to during a wedding that I think it best be banned. This ritual is uncomfortable to watch, totally passive-aggressive, and not at all the zany, jocular show the couple thinks it is."
-Amy, 25, Middletown, CT
"The whole cake-smashing-in-the-face event makes me wonder if the couple is just getting out their aggressions from all those pre-wedding quarrels."
--David, 51, Atlanta, GA
The Most Dreaded Dance
"All cheesy music, including interactive songs like the Macarena and the Electric Slide, should be banned. Grandma and Grandpa should be spared the humiliation of having to dance to these musical abominations."
--Elizabeth, 25, Frederick, MD
"I hate that dorky Chicken Dance. It's not a nice thing to put your guests through. I have never heard someone say that they liked everything about a wedding but missed doing the Chicken Dance; but I have heard people speak with dread about the impending possibility of being subjected to this 'tradition' at some point in the night."
--Laura, 30, New York, NY
Who's Running This Show, Anyway?
"I went to a wedding where we guests were given birdseed when we left the church to toss at the bride and groom when they made their grand exit. The trouble was, the couple spent 30 minutes in the church having their pictures taken, and we were all standing around in the hot sun holding fistfuls of birdseed. Once the ceremony starts, I don't think the photographer should stop the action for more than a few minutes for the rest of the day."
--Ben, 36, Syracuse, NY
The Good News
"I really like it when a wedding is unique and doesn't follow a 'How To' manual. It leaves me feeling like I really experienced something, and will walk away with a memory."
--Vikki, 30, Greensburg, PA
"I love being asked to take part in making a special guest book. I went to one wedding for which we were each mailed a page to write in and decorate however we wished, and then to bring to the wedding to be put in a book for the couple."
--Jessica, 38, Seattle, WA
"The best weddings are the ones that make me cry during the ceremony. If I cry, I know I have been touched by the couple, and after that I am just really happy to be there sharing the whole event."
--Lisa, 33, Philadelphia, PA
"I absolutely love the day-after-the-wedding brunch tradition. Nothing fancy is necessary, just a chance to see the happy couple and wish them well without all the fanfare of the wedding day."
--Beth, 52, Chicago, IL
"I love when the couple welcomes children to the wedding. It's the biggest family-oriented event of your life, and the kids of close family and friends should be there. It makes for a happier occasion."
--Susan, 31, New Fairfield, CT
"Nothing makes a wedding better than a bride and a groom who are smiling and clearly enjoying themselves. It's completely contagious."
--Mark, 51, Reading, PA