Compare Wedding Insurance Guide to Wedding Guests
Tips and Advice on how to get Guests Mingling at your Wedding
Whether you choose a buffet or a five course dinner for the catering or a live band or a DJ for the entertainment, one thing you will be sure of from the outset of your wedding planning is that you want a wedding reception which will leave a lasting impression on your guests.
All brides and grooms want their guests to meet each other, hit it off and have a really great time at their wedding. When you are compiling your guest list you will be inviting all the family and friends that are an important part of your life. Sometimes, with such a variety of age ranges and social backgrounds, it is hard to imagine some of your guests getting on well.
The important thing for you to focus on when planning your wedding is to make every effort to encourage your guests to socialize with one another. That is all you can do! The one thing your wedding guests have in common is you and your fiancé. Guests at your wedding will be in the mindset to play a positive part in your wedding day and to have fun. It is up to your guests to be sociable and try to connect with each other or to avoid clashes with other guests (especially family members!) they do not get on with.
Remember that you are simply the hosts of the wedding. You can create a perfect setting but the rest is up to your guests on your big day - you can’t do more than that!
It is an age old question asked by any party host, not just brides and grooms – how do you transform a room full of strangers into a swinging party atmosphere? Here at Compare Wedding Insurance we have set out some top tips for encouraging your wedding guests to feel comfortable and mingle.
Set a good example
- The first thing to remember is that you, as bride and groom, must set a good example and mingle with your guests. Ensure that at some stage during the pre-dinner drinks, reception dinner or during the entertainment that you take time to visit with each of your guests.
Keep guests posted
- Confused guests will not be happy relaxed guests, so make sure that you provide a schedule for your guests so that they know when and where things are happening during your wedding reception, including the arrival of the bride and groom, the cake cutting, picture taking, tossing of the bride's bouquet and garter and the first dance for the newlyweds.
Wedding reception mingling
- If you are choosing to serve alcohol at your wedding then this is a great ice-breaker! Your guests are guaranteed to mingle if they have had a couple of drinks, are relaxed and have let their inhibitions drop slightly (you don’t want them dropped too much though!). Make sure that you have arranged for the bar at the venue to be fully stocked and, if your budget allows for it, have a free bar. Bars are always a popular area at weddings for guests to linger and mingle. A brilliant idea to make the wedding reception more interactive is to have the venue set up stations where the guests can make their own drinks (it is a good idea to choose one specific themed drink, such as a martini station). This will undoubtedly prove to be a popular point for guests to hang around at and get chatting to one another.
- A unique and fun way to encourage your guests to chat to one another is to have them wear badges either with their name on or their relationship to the bride and groom. The purpose made plastic and metal badges found at Cafepress.com/makemmingle are totally fantastic.
The badges have titles on them for your guests to wear ranging from “Guest of honour” to “Single” to “Travelled the furthest”! Cafepress.com’s claim is that by having your wedding guests wear their badges you will “make every guest feel special, and transform a room full of strangers into a room full of relationships and fun stories”. You can customize the badges to match your wedding colours by attaching ribbons or silk flowers to them. To see examples of the customized buttons, click on the "Co-Worker of the Bride" badge to the left and take a look.
- To keep party chit-chat flowing have the guests at your wedding reception keep moving! When the guests have to move from one part of the wedding venue to another (e.g. move them from outdoors where they might be having a drink on arrival, to indoors to greet the bride and groom and then move into the reception venue for the meal etc.) this presents more opportunities for them to mingle with each other.
Feeding your wedding guests
- The type of catering package you choose for your wedding reception does dictate to a certain extent how sociable people will be during the meal. If your guests are served at their tables then they are only going to mingle with the people on their own table. However, if you choose a buffet-style menu then the guests can chat to each other whilst working their way along the buffet table. If you have chosen to serve food to your seated guests, then to help generate conversation amongst the table you could have the food served to them on large plates which are then passed around the table. This will make the meal more sociable like a traditional family Sunday lunch or an Italian family meal. Your guests will have to talk to one another if they want to be passed a plate of food!
- According to SummitDaily.com the latest food trend is scrapping the three-course plated dinner and having active food stations instead, allowing guests to eat at their leisure throughout the wedding reception. This can be a good way of encouraging your guests to chat to one another as it makes the pace of the wedding more casual and laid back rather than the usual regimented timescale of a wedding reception. The idea behind this is to have food stations, such as a seafood station, a meat carving station, a salad station and a sushi station, which can be mobile so that guests can munch and mingle!
- Your choice of table style for the wedding meal can also encourage mingling at your wedding, depending on which style you choose. Sometimes you may not be given a choice of table size and style by the venue but if you are able to then choose round tables seating 10-16 guests rather than long banquet tables. Whilst long banquet tables may look impressive, round tables are the traditional favourite at weddings because they encourage people to look at and converse with one another. If your guests are seated on long banquet tables they will only be comfortably able to talk to the people directly opposite and sat on either side of them, which restricts them all getting to know one another during the meal.
- Additionally, if you are seating the bridal party at a top table have it arranged in a “U” shape with the bride and groom at the head, rather than a round table. This will ensure that guests are able to approach and chat easily to the bridal party. For example, if you have a wedding where there is just one giant “U” shaped table for all of the guests and the wedding party are seated at the bottom of the “U”. Even though there are limits to the amount of people within easy reach to have a conversation with during the meal, this table arrangement has a sort of bonding effect as everyone will feel like they were seated in one big party – it can create an intimate atmosphere and be great fun!
When you are drawing up your seating plan for your wedding reception meal you will undoubtedly be concerned about which groups to seat your guests in to get them socializing. Here are some tips:
- Traditionally guests with partners are seated side by side on round tables or opposite one another on long tables. It is always good wedding etiquette to seat couples together so that no matter what other personalities they are seated with at their table, they can at least depend on being able to converse with their partner! The decision of whether to split up couples at tables is yours but it can make your guests feel very uncomfortable if they are not able to enjoy the meal with their partner and it could backfire on you and make them less likely to mingle and enjoy themselves.
- Formal seating arrangements dictate that you alternate male and female guests around a table. You should feel free to break with this tradition though if necessary. You might find that you have a guest who would be better suited next to a person of the same sex.
- Although it seems sensible to seat groups of people who know each other together so that they feel at ease during the wedding reception, do bear in mind that this seating arrangement will not encourage them to get to know your other guests. If you do not want little cliques forming I recommend splitting up big groups of friends and family into smaller sections on different tables so that they can become acquainted with people they have never met before.
- Although you want a good mix of guests on each table to keep conversation flowing, don’t try to mix up the age groups too much – an 18 year old is not going to enjoy chatting amongst a group of 70 year olds for the entire wedding meal! To avoid awkward and stilted conversations at the tables group your guests by age groups or guests with similar interests or something in common. A top tip to encourage your guests to mingle is to put an extra seat at each table.
- You should ensure that your guests sit with at least one person that they know on each table as this will make them feel more comfortable and facilitate good conversation. To deliberately seat guests on a table where they do not know anyone is a big mistake. Of course sometimes you are going to find that you have a guest who is seated at a table of strangers but try to avoid this as much as possible.
- If you are inviting children to your wedding reception make sure that you seat them with their parents and try to seat them together with other children too. Parents of children are more likely to be able to chat together during the wedding meal as they have something in common – children! If you seat a couple with a baby amongst a table of drunken revellers they might not feel quite as comfortable as they would with other parents. Always make sure that you have enough activities to keep the children amused, especially during the wedding toasts which can become boring very quickly to young children. During the wedding meal you could provide games for them to play with at the table or a paper tablecloth with crayons which the children can decorate. If it is within your budget organize a treasure hunt or a children’s entertainer, bouncy castle or balloon artist to encourage children to mingle (although they usually have no problems getting to know one another at weddings) and their parents too!
Special duties for shy guests
- If you have a guest who you think might feel awkward and not know anyone at your wedding or who looks uncomfortable on the day you could make them part of the wedding party and give them a special duty. For example, if two weeks prior to your wedding one of your work colleagues splits up with her husband. She might insist that she still wants to come to your wedding but confesses that she will feel uncomfortable being single and not knowing many of the other guests at the wedding. You could ask her if she would like to be in charge of handling wedding gifts on the day and taking the guest book round to each table at the reception. You could give her a special corsage to wear. You should find that she will be much more relaxed knowing that she has an excuse to go and talk to strangers during the wedding reception without feeling awkward.
Give your guests something to talk about
You should create a talking point between the guests by decorating the tables they sit at during the wedding reception. Here are some table decorating ideas:
- If you have plenty of spare time prior to the wedding you could look for photos of each of the guests either alone, in a group, or preferably in a photo of you with them. Find photos for each of the guests at each specific table and place them under a piece of clear plastic which then lies on top of the table cloth in the centre of the table. The plastic will protect the photos from being damaged but if you prefer you could take colour photocopies of the photos and place these on the table instead. This is a great way of sharing your special memories of that wedding guest (and make them feel special too) and the photos will become an interesting item for discussion between the other guests at each table.
- If it is within your budget and if you are sure that you will be able to organize their distribution, you could go one step further and have the abovementioned photos laminated and use them as placemats for each of the guests at the wedding reception. This would be a lovely keepsake for the guests too.
- Create a humorous centrepiece for each table that will become a great focal and talking point during the wedding reception. For example, you could place small glass fishbowls containing a fish in the centre of each table. This will add a colourful and fun element to the tables and give the guests something to talk about when there is a hiatus in the conversation. We should point out that the bride and groom should arrange in advance for one of the ushers to be responsible for making sure the fish are either distributed to guests or removed from the reception venue at the end of the night.
- A popular way to get guests talking amongst themselves is to place disposable cameras on the tables and ask them to take photos of each other in spontaneous poses. You can organize to have these collected at the end of the wedding reception and have them processed for a fun keepsake of your wedding day.
- A good way to capture the guests’ attention and get them talking to each other during your wedding meal is to have Personalized Instant Photo Guest Books. What you do is ask someone to volunteer (or simply nominate someone!) to circulate with a Polaroid camera from table to table and ask the guests to take a photo of one another, stick the photo in the guest book provided by you and write a message alongside their photo.
- You can either buy a package to help you with this, or the cheaper option is to organise it yourself. You can purchase a Polaroid camera from Amazon.co.uk and a wedding guest book (these are available everywhere nowadays). Not only do instant photo guest books provide the bride and groom with a unique personalised memento of their wedding day, but the spontaneity of taking the photos at the table will help your guests to have a laugh with each other - it brings a fun element to sitting at the table during the wedding reception. If you don’t like the idea of the photo guest book then you could have a signature mat, wish tree or ceramic platter which the guests could decorate and write messages on whilst being seated at the table.
Create a fun atmosphere during your wedding reception
- A fun wedding tradition is for the guests to clink their glass to force the bride and groom to kiss during the wedding reception. Usually one guest starts the glass clinking and the other guests join in so that the cacophony forces the newlyweds into kissing. Updated versions of this tradition could help your guests to join forces and have some fun during the wedding reception. One popular idea is to have one guest or a couple of guests from each table stand up randomly and sing the lyrics to a song. Or even get a whole table to stand up and sing – it can be very entertaining and will certainly help the people who do not know one another at that table bond!
- Using an ice-breaker is a way to combat wedding guests feeling awkward around one another. Remember though that good wedding hosts do not try to embarrass their guests but do try to get them talking! Ask your guests to participate in a game or competition - nothing bonds adults quite as much as working as a team for a reward! Buy a couple of door prizes in advance for these games. Here are some suggestions:
- Have someone distribute sheets of paper and pens and ask each table to come up with an amusing anecdote about the bride and groom. You can either have one person from each table stand up and read it out aloud during the wedding meal or have them hand their efforts in to the top table to be read by the bride and groom. Working on this together should get conversation flowing between guests at the table.
- Leave instructions for this game on the table and ask that one person at each table read the instructions aloud to the other guests seated at their table. What they must do is go around the table and introduce themselves and tell everyone one funny fact about themselves (e.g. "I can do the splits," or "I hate pizza with mushrooms," etc.). The bride and groom should then randomly select one person from each table and ask them to describe each of the guests sitting at their table to the best of their ability. A prize should be given to the funniest table.
- Put the names of your female guests on a slip of paper and put each slip of paper inside an inflated balloon prior to the wedding. During the evening reception have a nominated member of your wedding party throw all of the balloons up into the air and have the men at the wedding catch one balloon each and pop it! The men must then walk around the room and find the woman whose name they have and both people must introduce themselves to each other. Then after chatting for a few moments the person whose name was not in the balloon must introduce their "balloon friend" to another person at the party. Continue to introduce yourself and your "balloon friend" to people until both of you have met everyone at the party.
- A similar game to the one above can be organized with a bit of extra effort. Lay out on a table at the wedding reception inexpensive floating candles inside home-made organza bags with a tag on each bearing every guest’s name and a thank-you message from the bride and groom. Guests can be told to choose one favour each (obviously avoiding choosing their own name or that of someone with whom they were already acquainted) and walk around the reception trying to find that person. When they find them they hand over the favour and introduce themselves to each other. It provides a great excuse to chat to other people and can be a lot of fun. You could do this game with any type of wedding favour. It is easy to organize and is also a simple way to ensure that each of your guests receives their wedding favour.
Ways to get them talking
- Another way to smooth things along for guests getting to know one another is, when there is a hiatus in proceedings (e.g. when the tables are being cleared to make way for the dancing to begin or whilst the guests are waiting to go into dinner), keep them amused by playing a video, DVD or a slide show on the wall of the bride and groom with family and friends through the years. You could put this together prior to the wedding and have it set to music. It can be a really moving reminder for wedding guests of those that have been lost and those that may have been forgotten. You could even have a simple slide show of photos of the newlyweds as they each grew up, as they first met, and when they were engaged.
- A sure conversation starter is to decorate your wedding venue with old photos of you and your fiancé with family and friends through the years. You could even include photos of your parents on their wedding day.
Make your evening reception guests feel included
- If you were unable to invite everyone you wanted to the wedding ceremony (sometimes the ceremony venues are so small that you have to restrict numbers to close family members only) you could ask someone during the ceremony to take some still digital photos or camcorder footage. A nominated “helper” could then set up a laptop computer in the entrance hall at the reception so that the guests joining you for the evening reception can look at either the video footage or digital photos taken earlier in the day. That way those guests will feel included in your special day too and it will give them a perfect topic of conversation to discuss with other wedding guests.
Get them on the dance floor!
- An important aspect of your wedding reception, which can make or break whether your guests mingle or not, is your wedding entertainment. The musical choice you make, whether you choose a live band, a string quartet, a DJ or even do it yourself with an iPod, will set the mood and the pace for your wedding day. You want your guests to feel comfortable enough to get up and dance in front of each other and hopefully with each other! A good mix of music at your wedding reception which appeals to all tastes is a definite ice-breaker.
- If you are concerned that your wedding guests might not “gel” on the dance-floor then you might want to consider arranging a dance lesson for them once the evening entertainment kicks off. You could try swing, salsa, ballroom or Scottish country dancing. This would be a fun way to encourage all of your family and friends to get up and dance with one another without the usual embarrassment of being the first guest onto the dance floor!
Opportunities to mingle before the wedding
To help kick-start the mingling process for your guests organize a pre-wedding bonding event the day before your wedding. Usually your guests will have already met at your wedding shower or hen/bachelor parties but there are always some guests who cannot attend these parties (e.g. out of town guests). For example:
- You could organize a day trip to a local attraction for everyone. For the men you could have a golf competition complete with winner’s trophy, organize a clay pigeon shoot or book tickets to go and watch a sports match. There's nothing like team sports to bond a group of men! For the women, how about a spa session where you can all lie back in a jacuzzi or steam room and get to know one another. Whatever the activity you choose, any group gathering is sure to bring your wedding guests closer together. It’s definitely a good idea for everyone to take time off the day before the wedding, including you! Having a pre-wedding event can help people who have travelled long distances to get to the wedding a chance to unwind and relax into the party spirit in time for your wedding and it gives everyone an opportunity to meet each other before the wedding rather than just meeting for the first time on your wedding day.
- Having multiple events also gives you and your fiancé a chance to spend quality time with your friends and extended family, some of whom might have travelled great distances to attend your wedding.
- You might prefer to leave the “getting to know you” session to the rehearsal dinner which is traditionally held the night before the wedding. This used to be an intimate dinner party to which only immediate family were invited, but nowadays many couples are opting to expand this event to include out-of-town guests and in some instances the entire guest list.
Ensure that out-of-town guests feel at home
- Help out-of-town visitors who don’t know anyone attending the wedding feel more comfortable by appointing an in-town buddy! Ask one of your friends or family to help a visiting guest get oriented with the local area and offer assistance if they need rides to hairdressers, beauty salons etc. prior to the wedding.
- Once all of your out-of-town guests have RSVP’d and confirmed where they will be staying during your wedding you could put this information into a document and send the guests a copy. This will encourage your guests to look out for one another and mingle if they are staying in the same hotels or other guest accommodation. Additionally, if you have guests staying at the same hotel they might be able to car pool or share a taxi on your wedding day. A sure-fire way to get to know someone at a wedding is to have them helping you into a taxi and making sure you make it back to the right hotel at the end of the night!
We hope you’ve found these tips useful. Understandably you want happy memories to be created at your wedding reception and you want to throw a party which your guests will not forget in the years to come but please do remember to relax and have fun.
Whatever you decide to do for your wedding reception, don't forget to get a quote so you can reduce your Wedding Insurance Costs.
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