I can hear bells – wedding bells, that is! It’s definitely that time of year, isn’t it?
Without wanting to sound arrogant, I’m pretty sure that, by now, I have a fair idea of what makes a great wedding, speaking from the perspective of a guest.
Because of course all brides and grooms will say that their wedding was the greatest (myself included).
And I don’t speak only as someone who has watched a LOT of episodes of Four Weddings.
What makes me so qualified to judge a wedding?
You see, at the ripe old age of 31, I have attended over 30 weddings. My first was as a 5 year old (I think) flower girl. And the most recent happened a couple of weeks ago.
I even have a great achievement as a wedding guest. And that is; successfully attending two weddings in one day. My husband and I managing to be in attendance for the speeches of both receptions was a great cause for a quiet fist bump of celebration. We even battled post-football traffic on Punt Rd in Melbourne (stupid GPS) and came out trumps. Yep, pretty proud of that one.
Weddings have two sides: practical and emotional
So, what makes a great wedding for a guest to attend?
When two elements combine to create a fantastic guest experience, as well as everything the bride and groom were hoping for, then you have a great wedding. That is, the event needs to successfully marry together the emotional and practical aspects of the day.
Emotions run high, as they should
Emotionally, it’s hard to get wrong for me. For starters, weddings are in and of themselves one of the most joyous events one can attend in life.
The bride is radiant and always beautiful. The groom is expectant and then, upon seeing his bride, emotional.
I love when Christian weddings stress the example of Jesus’ love for his church. It is a lofty ideal to live up to – completely selfless, sacrificial, costly love was demonstrated by Jesus. And it’s this kind of love that is to be mirrored in marriage. I love being reminded, and challenged, of the vows I have made and the responsibilities I have taken on as I’ve committed to living in unity with my husband, with Jesus at the centre.
The best speeches make it seem like it’s easy to do. It’s not.
Another emotional aspect of weddings is the speeches. And, to be honest, they can end up a bit hit and miss. Fair enough, not everyone is a born public speaker. Nor does a quick Google often yield a helpful result of a speech that is warm, personal, appropriately funny (and maybe a tiny bit embarrassing) and focusing on the couple.
I’ve attended a few weddings where the speeches would not have been out of place at a 21st party, as they focused purely on one person out of the couple, with a “welcome to the family” thrown in on the side. They’re still great, and from the heart, but as a guest, I love hearing about the couple and how each individual brings something to the marriage that makes them better together.
Practically speaking, just tell me what to do
On the practical side, as a guest, I love information. Can’t get enough of it. Just tell me everything I need to know, and I’m a happy camper.
The best invitations I’ve received have little extras, like a card to tell me whether there’s a wedding registry, a wishing well, or other gift option.
Those great invitations even go the extra mile to provide a map or special instructions for getting to the venues (and bonus: parking info!)
And for the absolute pros: if you want your RSVP in the mail, a pre-addressed, stamped envelope with a tick-box card is an absolute treat! Heck, I don’t even mind RSVPing via a text message. Just make it easy for me!
In a similar vein, on the day, providing helpful things like signs or instructions to get to the venue, if the parking is far away. Perhaps even ideas for what to do during the pre-reception gap (if there is one) would make any guest feel at ease – especially if they’re not familiar with the area they’ve come to for the wedding.
Planning a wedding from a guest perspective is really helpful
There are heaps of details to be sorted out at a wedding. I remember being slightly overwhelmed by it all. I think the best way to go about planning is to keep coming back to it from the perspective of a guest. Help people know what to wear, where to go, what to bring, and they’ll be relaxed enough to melt into the emotional soppiness and joyous fun that a wedding should be!
Planning for a wedding – but don’t forget the marriage too!
Most importantly, it’s important that the bride and groom don’t lose sight of what happens after the wedding, which requires far more thought and planning than one single day. A lifetime together, loving, growing, serving, encouraging and sharing, to bring out the best in one another and become stronger in unity than could ever be done individually.
Sarah Urmston is a follower of Jesus whose current season of life sees her fully occupied by raising two gorgeous young children with her husband Stephen. In moments when time allows for pursuits of the heart, Sarah loves to keep in touch with friends (especially thanks to Facebook), sing and play piano, and enjoy a good cup of tea.
Sarah Urmston previous articles may be viewed http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html