Talk That Talk: Tips on Socializing At Your Wedding
Whether your wedding is an intimate celebration with just family and friends or an extravagant party with 300 guests, make a plan to socialize
Nathan Abplanalp Photography
WE'VE ALL been there—the wedding you attend where you don’t even get the chance to speak to the bride and groom, only to end up hoping they glance at the guest book post-honeymoon as proof you made an appearance on the most important day of their lives.
We get it. Socializing with 200 of your closest friends and family isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to remember to eat, keep your makeup fresh, bustle your dress, look flawless in pictures, hug your grandmother —oh, and did we mention enjoy time with your new husband? However, one of the most important—and overlooked—aspects of preparing for and enjoying your wedding day is creating a plan to ensure that your guests, many of whom will travel to be there, are acknowledged.
Equally important as your day-of wedding time line is creating a game plan with your husband to socialize with guests.
“One of the biggest questions I get is how brides and grooms can thank their guests for all their generosity,” says wedding planner Ashley Cash of The Graceful Host.
As the day’s honorees, you’ll want to connect with your individual guests and ensure that everyone feels special, loved, and appreciated. The manner in which you reach your guests often depends on the size and formality of your wedding.
Once you and your husband have greeted and welcomed everyone, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the party. (Plus, you’ll love hearing how beautiful you look a hundred times.)
So how do you do it?
For weddings with fewer than 100 guests, greeting and thanking attendees is less stressful. It’s easier to connect on a personal level and offer more meaningful conversation.
As the ceremony concludes and you, along with your attendees, retire to take formal photos, your guests will likely head to the reception location for a cocktail hour or socialization time before the reception kicks off with your arrival. Brides with small weddings often use the cocktail hour after photos to greet guests, give hugs and kisses to extended family members, as well as spend a little time enjoying conversation with out-of-town friends before dinner begins.
Socializing during the cocktail hour is a great way to make guests feel welcome and appreciated; however, making sure you speak to each guest can often get chaotic. People will likely be flocking to you for pictures and questions about your wedding hashtag. To keep from getting cornered by Aunt Rose and her tales of her wedding day, have your maid of honor be responsible for chauffeuring you through guests and making sure you speak to everyone in a timely manner.
If your wedding consists of more than 100 guests, properly conversing with each individual gets trickier. It’s essential to have a game plan to speak with everyone.
One of the most traditional and popular forms of mingling with guests at a large wedding is the formation of a receiving line. A receiving line takes place either immediately after the ceremony (before formal pictures) or at the start of the reception. The line includes the bride and groom and the couple’s parents, though it’s common to have just the newlyweds in the line.
One of the biggest perks of instituting a receiving line is that it ensures at least a few seconds of face-to-face time with each guest. However, hugging and kissing 200 of your closest friends and family does a little wear-and-tear on your makeup and hair, so be mindful of too much contact.
The biggest critics of a traditional receiving line argue that it’s too time-consuming.
“It’s extremely exhausting for the bride and groom,” Cash says. “When you’re talking about shaking hands and chatting quickly with 200 guests, you’re talking about adding an additional 30 to 45 minutes to your time line.”
If you’re set on a receiving line and a guest is lingering too long, a simple, “I can’t wait to talk more during the reception” usually does the trick to get them moving.
An increasingly popular choice for brides looking to greet wedding guests is visiting each table during dinner, and this method works well for weddings of all sizes.
If your reception location allows, have your caterer plan a private dinner for you and your husband after formal pictures, while guests enjoy the cocktail hour. Spend 30 minutes relaxing, eating dinner, and embracing the first few breaths of married life. Once the cocktail hour closes and guests arrive at their tables for dinner, you’ll be able to visit each table while not stressing about getting to enjoy your meal.
If possible, try to visit with guests who traveled the farthest first.
“We socialized with everyone the night before at our rehearsal dinner, but wanted to make sure we spent time with our guests at the actual wedding, too,” says newlywed Lindsay Cunningham. “We went and visited with the different tables during dinner and felt like we really got to spend time with the people there and thank them, as well.”
Helpful especially for large weddings with many out-of-town guests is greeting family and friends with a welcome bag in their hotel rooms.
“It’s a great way to kick off the wedding weekend and show your guests how grateful you are that they’re here,” Cash says. “I’ve put together tons of welcome boxes of all shapes and sizes that include things like the couple’s favorite local treats, treats from their hometown[s], as well as welcome notes and weekend itineraries, so guests know what to expect.”
If you’re operating on a tight budget, you don’t have to spend a fortune to welcome your guests with a heartfelt greeting; often, a handwritten note is a thoughtful expression of thanks that guests will appreciate.
Although welcoming guests with a goody bag upon their arrival isn’t exactly the same as an in-person greeting at the reception, it will relieve you of the burden of feeling like you must talk to each guest.
“It’s important to express your gratitude to guests for attending your special day, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to talk with every single guest to thank them for being a part of the celebration,” Cash says. “Consider sending a thank-you note after the wedding to all those guests who attended.” n
To contact Ashley Cash of The Graceful Host, visit gracefulhost.com or call 704-780-9733.