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The Wedding Guests Guide to A Stress Free and Fun Wedding

Most brides become obsessed with throwing the perfect wedding. The bride-zilla persona takes over and can cause incredible pressure and strain on all involved. What most brides fail to realize is that the majority of details they fuss over, go unnoticed by guests and are forgotten by the bride and groom during the excitement of the big day.

Over the past five months I have attended six weddings, and in the past three years nearly twenty. My husband and I are in our early 30's, and wedding bells have been ringing simultaneously for all of our friends. My own wedding was well orgainzed but also incredibly fun and stress-free. I went swimming in the ocean the day of the wedding, and except for a few details only we noticed, the event went off without a hitch. Five years later, we still have guests commenting on how much fun they had, and how relaxed everything was.

Almost all of the weddings we've attended reflected the personality of the couple getting married, with simple details that made an impact. However, a few were extremely inconvenient for guests and a nightmare for the bride and groom. To avoid the last scenario, here are a few tips to streamline the planning process, reduce cost, stress, and hopefully provide some ideas for memorable wedding.

1. Size Matters: Keep the guest list as small as possible. Editing the guest list will most likely cause the most headaches of the entire wedding process. The size of the wedding will affect everything from overall cost to how much time you get to spend with friends and family. Between 100 and 150 is a reasonable and manageable number, but I've been to weddings much smaller and they were lovely. A 300 or 400 person wedding is more like a convention and will be outrageously expensive. Make some tough decisions, and remember you don't have to invite every cousin or allow guests to bring dates just to pair them up.

The size of the wedding party can also elevate stress levels. I had one bridesmaid and my husband had two groomsmen. A large wedding party can increase costs, personal conflicts, and make the wedding seem cumbersome. Unless you have a great wedding coordinator, keep the number small to avoid clothing issues, wedding day logistics and multiple thank-you gifts.

2. Location, Location, Location: A convenient and beautiful location will be remembered and appreciated by guests. Access to good, reasonably priced accommodation is key. I have been to a few weddings at boat clubs and they were wonderful. It's nice for guests to have an outside option if the weather is hot. A nice deck overlooking water can't be beat. One wedding I attended even had an old fashioned trolley car take us from the chapel to the reception, which I thought was a great touch.

The location of the toilets is also something to consider. With all those toasts, a bathroom should be handy. Convenience is what a wedding guest remembers, and the more bathrooms the better. Stock each bathroom with a few essentials like: gum, floss, hairspray, mints, small sewing kit and toothpicks. It's a small gesture that people notice and appreciate.

3. Eat, Drink and Be Married: You must feed and water your guests. There is no way around this. However, depending on the time of day, it can be done inexpensively but with class. An afternoon wedding can lend itself to cocktails and appetizers or a basic buffet can be great. A buffet allows guests to move around and there seems to be more room for negotiating a price. Make sure that fresh, quality ingredients are used no matter what the meal style.

Do not have a large gap between the ceremony and dinner. If you plan to take photographs, have a cocktail hour for your guests. No need for a lot of food, but a simple and elegant cheese tray with fresh fruit and crackers will do. A friend of mine also had a bowl of chocolate truffles for guests to snack on. Always provide a non-alcoholic option for guests. A wedding I recently attended had a wonderful bright yellow old-fashioned lemonade dispenser surrounded by exquisite glasses. A great treat on a hot day.

Also, best to start speeches during the meal. No one likes to be trapped after eating and spend the next hour or two listening to long and sometimes bad speeches. No one remembers speeches, but they remember being kept hostage at the table. Also, under no circumstances do you open the mike up to the room. I've seen what can happen and it's not pretty. If possible, choose an organized and funny MC. This can take so much pressure off the bride and groom and really sets the mood for the rest of the evening.

4. The Devil is in the Details: All of the extras such as the cake, flowers, decorations, music, and guest favors can break the bank and create a lot of work for the bride. You need to simplify in this area because most of these details are not remembered and sometimes add little to the wedding. For my wedding I actually did away with a wedding cake, garter and flower toss. I don't regret it but if you choose to stick with tradition, use flowers judiciously and opt for a very simple but beautiful cake. Centerpieces can be one flower or candles and lanterns, use your imagination. Fewer flowers and decorations can reduce cost, transportation issues and wedding day set-up time.

If you have dancing, make sure you hire a great band that understands the audience demographics, or a DJ that will play requests. I had a wonderful DJ that actually referred to himself as a 'dance motivator', and he wasn't exaggerating.

Two months ago I attended a wedding where the bride personally made her own favors. Individual cakes, thank you cards, and place markers for each place setting. At the end of the night, most of these were left on the tables and no one really understood the amount of work she put into them. One of the nicest weddings I attended simply had box of high end chocolates per couple and I thought that was great. Personally made CD's made nice parting gifts too, but take much more work. Guests only require something little as a thank-you, as they will receive a note from you later on.

5. Memories: I think this is an area where couples make the biggest mistake. Skimping on a professional photographer should never be done. I can say this from experience. We had a family friend take photos and they just didn't turn out. I can't stress enough that you will be happy about this investment, and a videographer isn't a bad idea either. Having a professional in this role will give you piece of mind and they will make sure that Aunt Minnie wasn't left out, saving explanations down the road. Just be sure to meet with the photographer to let them know what style you're thinking of.

In closing, pick and choose your battles. Sometimes it's better to save feelings and relationships than have a particular color or food. Know what you want and let all the other distractions fade away. Use these tips as a guide and your wedding can be fun, stress free, and memorable.

Jane Arnold is a freelance writer and part-time wedding guest. Check out more wedding resources at her website It's a girl's guide to health, beauty, love and leisure. Also feel free to sign up for the free newsletter at at the website for more articles, tips, and advice on a variety of fun topics.

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