Sunday, 27 January 2013

Top 10 ways to get your guests chatting at a wedding

This may seem like a very bizarre post for a 19 year old to be writing but in fact I have been working at wedding venues since I was 16 years old and I have become accustomed to wedding trends over the years. In fact I thought about writing this post since friends of my parents' have to decided to tie the knot at one of the venues I work at and they asked me for my advice about how to make their June wedding unique and stand out from everybody else's.
I love walking into work at 11am, and seeing the ideas that the bride and groom have come up with- especially as they make their special day truly individual. I have seen my fair share of weddings: some of them direly boring, others which I have been very tempted to join in with. Whatever you want your day to be like: a typical white wedding; an elegant affair; a 'fete' style summer party or a themed do, the most important thing is that you have a fun time, and so do your guests. Thus the future husband and wife must make every effort to make sure that guests integrate and have something to talk about.

Obviously both have their own school friends, uni friends, parents' friends, grandparents, family members, cousins, step-brothers and sisters etc. etc. The question is how will these people actually merge together and get talking? How does one prevent the dreaded 'jager-for one' situation as no-one else will speak to your guest? My answer to this is to make your wedding as individual as possible with quirky touches in order to get your guests talking!

1) If the catering company offers non-plated meals this is definitely the best option.
This is not to say that I am endorsing the free-for all buffet style which I don't think is a particularly  elegant option for anyone as it means that many come back with food piled high! At the venues where I work, in order to create a fun, rustic, individual touch to weddings rather than plating food individually, the waiters and waitresses will bring out a big wooden board of meat, a big bowl of beans and a bowl of potatoes (for example). As a table you help yourself to food by passing your plate around which will inevitably get your table talking (and not just to the person on one side of you). I absolutely love this system as it is a far more sophisticated version of the buffet style and you interact with everyone around you.
The second reason as to why I think this is such a fab idea is if you really want to inject some fun into your big day you can choose a carver. Tape a chef's hat and an apron under a chosen guest's chair, and before the meal get everyone to check under their seats to see if they've been chosen. If you have a leg of lamb then this selected guest will wear his hat and apron to carve. I can 100% assure you that this is the perfect way to get your guests chatting and is definitely an ice-breaker! The number of times I have been behind the bar, overhearing conversations of "Oh so you were the carver! Nice to meet you I'm so-and so". Proof is in the pud. Which brings me on to my next top tip!

2) Instead of having caterers do the cakes/pudding, get your guests to bring cakes along!
One of the BEST and most individual ideas I have ever seen. The bride and groom had asked every guest (or couple, or table- however you want to organise it) to bring a cake along. They were told that there would later be a competition for the most individual and tasty treat. As all of the guests arrived, they would whip out the most extravagant and beautiful cakes to put on a long bench (we have a mezzanine area) which could be seen from the seating area. It was a very impressive spread!
After the main course the bride and groom went up and tried all of the cakes, judging them on appearance, individuality and taste. They eventually got everyones attention and gave out prizes for who won each section. Each guest would come up and receive a prize which had the bride and grooms name on and the wedding date as well as what they won it for. They had "biggest cheat" which went to someone who had got his mother to make the cake, "most colourful" "most detailed" etc.
This really is a win-win option for anyone. Firstly, you save a great deal of money on pudding supplied by caterers and secondly, guests are more than happy to join in with a wedding as it gives them the feel-good factor as well. Thirdly and most importantly it gets the guests involved and gives those who have come by themselves something to talk about!
I feel that this particularly goes well with any fete- style wedding as the fun factor is definitely there. (Bring out the bunting!!!)

3) Pictures and Pegs
A great touch of decoration which is always a winner for me is when a bride and groom make a sort of washing line of small photos of when they were younger, attached with pegs (you can get really sweet ones with felt hearts on for example- or even make them yourself!). From the left, is the youngest picture of the groom and on the right is the bride. The photos closer to the middle are those of when the couple met. I always think this is such a sweet display and it makes each and every guest feel like they're involved in the day as they obviously knew the couple at some point (from a baby-current times). Once again- another conversation starter!

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4) Something for the ladies
Although I have never been a guest at many weddings, I have worked at a fair few and I definitely know from my university experience what it is like when it hits about 12am. You have been drinking all day, chatting all day, physically knackered and probably need a touch up on makeup. Some brides I have met have evidently experienced that feeling numerous times in the past, so decided to help their friends by leaving out firstly, a big wicker basket of flip flops and a sweet little basket of girly things in the ladies loo. Let me start with the flip flops. Whoever first came up with this idea is an absolute genius. It is very infrequent that you see a lady on the dance floor at 1am who still has her 6 inch heels on. They are a rare breed who must have calves of steel! For many of us, those heels are chucked to the side relatively early on in order to carry on dancing. However, we are then faced with the problem of those rowdy men, buttons undone, tie tied round their forehead who are wielding their bottle of wine like a medieval knight, smashing glass on the dance floor left, right and centre. Hmmm. Solution? Prevent trodding on this glass by putting a large basked (preferably tied with a bow) in the corner full of flip flops of all sizes so that us ladies do not end up in A&E with glass in our foot. Problem solved.
Secondly, another lovely touch is to have a basket in the loo. This can be full of deodorant, dry shampoo, makeup, makeup wipes, tissues, hairspray etc. whatever your friends use! It means your girlfriends are looking gorgeous 24/7!

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5) Photo Booth
SO MUCH FUN. There are so many great photo booth companies around nowadays who can come to your big day at any time (probably best when meal has ended) to set up a photo booth which has lighting inside/fan/fancy dress box. This genuinely looks like so much fun and is the best way to document any after-party of a wedding! Pile your friends in to the booth, add some with feather boas, a sprinkle of masks and and a handful of funky hats, take a few photos and glue them into an after-party wedding book as it's probably the only way a lot of people will remember what's happened past 12am!

6) Make individual party favours
As I have said before, the best weddings are those with individual touches. After speaking to many guests, they all say to me that it's difficult to make your wedding stand out amongst so many which are all happening at the same time. Best solution is to find a way to make them always remember your special day. Some people make sloe gin in a small bottle and tie a name tape around it (2 birds with one stone as works as a great name place too) others find companies who bake cakes in small jam-like jars, some even make the jam/chutney/marmalade themselves! This extra effort that you put in is firstly a money-saver and secondly really brands your big day as you and your husbands. Producing something which was made by both of you! Fab idea. And finally, the more personal to the couple these gifts are, the more things your guests will find in common with each other. Therefore more chit chat amongst your friends! Click here to find out how to make homemade Sloe Gin or Limoncello as the perfect party favours.

7) Band rather than DJ
I have this time and time again. You've got a bit of Rihanna 'Only Girl' blaring out of the speakers. I personally feel like I'm back at university. I think to myself- this is a wedding! Surely pull your finger out a bit and differentiate yourself to a student union. It's especially tragic when I see the grannies dancing to Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' together. To prevent this audacity, make sure that you start your party off with a band. I have never seen a DJ single handidly get the guests up on the dancefloor. After your first dance, get the band to interact with the guests by singing along and dancing. I think that psychologically when you see a big band playing to yourself, guilt kicks in and you get up and dance. When you see a man sitting behind a DJ booth on his phone, guilt is definitely not the first instinct that you feel! Obviously bands are more expensive than DJs and perhaps I have expensive taste but don't feel that you have to hire them for the whole night. Many couples have a band to get the party started and then play music from an iPod or get a DJ in when everyone has much more dutch courage to show off their take on the Gangham Style.

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8) The Power of the Blackboard
This simple tool is such a small/cheap way to decorate your venue. Scatter little/big blackboards around your venue and write your favourite quotes/lyrics/stories/drawings on them. Most importantly many couples forget to inform everyone of what the plan of the day is and menu. Once again, having these special touches makes it memorable and gives guests common ground to chat about! It also looks great. Simple/rustic and informative!

9) Couple Quiz
The worst weddings I have worked at are those where I walk in serving the food and it is absolute silence and everyone turns to look at you. Embarrassing firstly for me, but more importantly for the bride and groom. Banish this silence by creating a quiz about the couple to put on each table. Whichever table wins gets a prize e.g. a £20 tab at the bar or something. This way the tables get competitive (although remaining friendly of course!) and it injects a little fun into the evening. Especially as small talk gets a bit much sometimes. It's a great way to start conversations about how you know the bride and groom and funny stories etc.

10) Happy Campers
Obviously this depends on what your venue permits and I guess it has to be in the countryside but where I work, because there are fields all around the barn, we allow campers to stay overnight and leave the next day. This could be disastrous if it's a wet, windy and cold night but in the summer I would say GO CAMPING! It is so much fun because the party carries on, you are with all of your friends and my venue offers (with special request) big brunches in the morning. It means you don't have to worry about booking taxis/paying ridiculous prices to get back to a hotel. Win win?

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