What do guests really care about?

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guests notice alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Here are a few of the imagined thoughts of some of my wedding guests…
My florist cousin was telling me about how much some brides pay for their flowers, and that flowers are considered to be one of the most-noticed parts of a wedding. I haven't been to many weddings but I can not for the life of me remember ANYTHING about the flowers. I remember the ceremony and the entertainment and of course it's hard not to notice the dress. I'm curious to know what the most memorable parts of a wedding are to guests? What have they been in your own personal experiences?

Obviously every guest's notice-worthy things will be different, but I'll speak for myself based on two things: my opinions as a wedding guest, and my opinions as a wedding blogger.

As a guest, here are few things I have thought to myself at weddings over the past decade:

  • “Holy fuck, they look gorgeous.” Yes, I'm superficial and always notice amazing clothing on the bride and the groom — especially when it's clearly custom work.
  • “Ooh, that's a clever way to get them involved!” I love seeing the special roles/ways that couples invent so that they can include people in their wedding days — e.g. creating a special task so that their community's army of small children can all participate.
  • “OMG, YUM.” Delicious food is delicious.
  • “I'm starving and confused.” If your wedding is remote, welcome bags for out-of-town guests can enter the realm of more than just etiquette. Hangry guests are no fun.
  • “Oh man, that is so THEM. I love it!” I've had this thought equally in response to everything from very fancy centerpieces to wedding invitations that looked like they were assembled by a pre-schooler. For me as a guest, the special ways that the wedding reflects the couple are WAY more impressive to me than the specifics of what the results are. In fact, I'm more impressed by something truly reflective of the couple than I am by the quality/fanciness/professionalness/whatever of it.
  • “Awwww….” I don't always remember the words of the ceremony and I don't always remember the content of any speeches, but I always remember the displays of deep, heartfelt emotion. To me, these are the very most memorable moments of every wedding.

As a wedding blogger (which is a whoooole different thing), here's what I notice:

  • Beautiful photography. The right photographer can elevate courthouse elopements into epic adventures full of dream-spun golden light and glimmering tears thanks to the right photographer. The wrong photographer can reduce an ornate wedding with hundreds of guests and acres of decor into a over-processed nightmare with images that feel more like illustrations than documentation.

Obviously, as a blogger, photography is going to be important to me. But you don't organize weddings for bloggers (…Right?! Because you really, REALLY shouldn't.). You throw a wedding for your community, and only you can know your guests and what they might appreciate. When in doubt, early-on in your wedding planning, ask a few of your guests directly to get a read on your community.

I'd love to hear from readers: what ONE element do you find yourself appreciating the most at the weddings you attend?

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Comments on What do guests really care about?

  1. Reminder to commenters: I’d love to hear about the wedding elements you remembered and appreciated — not ones you want to gripe about. We all have wedding disaster stories… but that’s not what I’m looking for here. 🙂

    • A longtime family friend got married in the backyard of her grandma’s house along a river. They have a zipline that goes from the top of the yard out over the river. So I remember that part of the reception. I also remember that the minister (who happens to be my dad, but I think I’d remember anyway) quoted Shakespeare.

      At a college friend’s traditional Jewish wedding, I most remember how beautiful the temple looked and how much I appreciated learning about his traditions.

      I don’t usually pay attention to flowers, but when my uncle got married in this beautiful courtyard with huge hedge walls, there were hundreds of single flowers stuck throughout the walls.

  2. I think the special touches that reflect the bride and groom are what I take away from the wedding. For example in my best friend’s wedding she and her groom traded sports jersey’s for their unity ceremony. They also purchased a necklace for her daughter that her new husband/stepfather placed around her neck to show their new unity as a family. I thought both of these touches really made the wedding special. As far as flowers, I was her maid of honor and even I don’t remember them at all really, haha.

    • I just happened upon this post, and the necklace gift sounds like SUCH a sweet touch.

  3. Guests tend to notice what’s important to them personally. So it’s understandable that this cousin would notice flowers…because she’s a florist. It’s her job, so to her, of course flowers are important. That’s what she’s paid for. I notice flowers too, but only because I love flowers.

    All guests will notice the usual things:

    – how touching the ceremony was
    – personal details in the wedding (decor, theme, etc)
    – the dress/clothes
    – the food (sometimes) and atmosphere

    Because these are what most weddings consist of (some type of ceremony, all the little touches that reek of personality, the wedding party’s clothes (at least with offbeat weddings), what they get to eat and how much fun it is.

    But if a guest is loves music/is a musician/DJ, they’ve probably notice what music is played/how it’s played. Things like that.

    I always notice decor, flowers, the wedding party’s clothes, the atmosphere and how much the wedding reflects the couple. But even if one of these things doesn’t suit my taste, I sure as heck don’t gripe about it in my head or to my husband like, “OMG, I can’t believe the bride/groom chose that flower arrangement. Don’t they know this is a wedding?!” Instead I think, “It’s not my taste, but they chose it because they love it, so that makes it awesome.”

    • I think you’re right about guests noticing things that are important to them. As an incredibly immature human, I notice the food, the drink, and whether the music’s fun for dancing (the actual genre is largely forgotten, though). Basically, I remember whether or not I had a good time. Which is perhaps a little childish, but true.

      Having said that, I do think there are a few universal things – the ceremony in particular. I think I remember every ceremony I’ve been to, because that tends to be the most emotionally affecting part of the day. But beyond that, the flowers and favours and colour schemes and centrepieces all blend together.

      • I wouldn’t say noticing food, drink and fun are childish. Then again, I tend to agree.
        I think it has more to do with good memories, being comfortable and enjoying the couple and the day.

        So, I’m with you!

  4. FOOD. Priority one at weddings for me: is the food delicious?

    The space. Banquet halls make me think of quincenera parties I went to as a teenager. They were all awkward.

    Effort. Sometimes, you can just tell how much effort and care went into a shindig. I like the ones that were obviously cared for while being created, no matter how simple.

    • agreeing to FOOD! that’s always what I remember. And to be honest, most of the time I remember the little “quirks” and personality (or lack thereof).

  5. Great points on all counts.

    Bullet points three and five, for sure. Three, because I love food. And five, well, because weddings are too often stiffly formal and you don’t see anything of the bride and groom’s REAL personality, even just in the way many people act. But every so often, even at the most uptight of weddings, one of them will crack up during the ceremony, or do something that says they’re not 100% into the “propriety” that insinuates itself on the day. That’s the stuff I remember. If I’ve traveled to be there for your day, I hope to be reminded of the things that made me love you, respect you, appreciate you…

    (Though, out of a more professional interest as a writer and artist and typography nerd, I am often intrigued by people’s invitations… and how many times I’ve seen the same mass-purchased paper with one embossed silver heart, with the information in a terrible cursive script… )

  6. I always remember the high emotional moments from ceremonies, or the funny & goofy parts.

    My bff got married this past Spring and in particular the ring warming stands out.
    Hearing so many people say such heartfelt and beautiful things – esp. from people you wouldn’t expect- was incredibly emotional.

    And also, I always remember the venue its self and the music!

    Actually I love that this question has been asked because honestly, the things I have been worrying about for my own wedding aren’t the things I apparently pay close attention to! Hmm..

  7. Food!!! It doesn’t have to be fancy, but having something fun/tasty/awesome to eat goes a long way (one of my favorites was my good friend from high school who had an awesome dessert reception). And whether or not I feel like the wedding is “them.”

    Other than that, I mostly just remember whether or not I had fun. As long as I know (or get to know) some cool people and have a good time, the rest doesn’t really matter much.

  8. The main feeling I take home after the wedding was, “Did I feel wanted and welcomed?” The wedding can be simple or sublime, as long as I feel that the couple was sending some love to their guests. I’ve been to weddings where it was kind of clear that the couple didn’t really want to be weddinged at all, or where it was all about them putting on a pretty show.

    I know that weddings are about celebrating you as a couple. (The best compliment I got about our wedding was definitely, “It was all so genuinely YOU.”) But if you’re choosing to celebrate with your loved ones, help them feel loved!

    To me, feeling wanted and welcomed means that the venue is comfortable for guests (temperature, room to move, places to sit), not just pretty. I’ll hang out longer when that happens. It means having decent food (doesn’t need to be fancy) at a decent time. I’ll remember the time I had to mingle with the bride(s) and groom(s) and enjoy their company–the dance we shared or the chat we had during dessert. And knowing that I can’t spend all night at their side, I’m always grateful when the couple helps me enjoy the other wedding guests. It means a lot to be seated with people with whom I have things in common, to be introduced to other fun guests, and to be able to bring a date. I also appreciate a nice heartfelt thank you to those who traveled or sacrificed to be there. As a guest I am totally at home in all different wedding settings, as long as I feel like some thought was put into my presence.

    • The main feeling I take home after the wedding was, “Did I feel wanted and welcomed?”

      Beautifully said.

    • So true! I went to a wedding where they did a receiving line in addition to speaking with EVERY guest, and EVERY single place card had a different little note from the bride and groom, I just felt like we and my hubby where actually wanted there. You could tell they went out of there way just to make everyone feel welcome. LOVED it. Also the food was amazing=)

    • Without a doubt, this is what I remember.
      (I’m slightly surprised by the number of those who seem to remember the food, I can’t recall a single thing about food at weddings I’ve been to.)
      I remember a wedding where activities were planned out for the weekend with ways that both the bride and groom could interact with all the guests through games, dancing, meals, late night talks around a campfire, etc. At another small wedding, every guest was recognized in the program with a little meaningful blurb about how they were connected to the couple. At another, the couple had their friends and family come down the aisle before them, and handed each a flower and thanked them for coming or hugged us before they walked in themselves.
      Writing this makes me realize what amazing friends I have.

  9. Most remembered:
    – Unique things that reflect the couple. I remember the ceremony made of movie quotes *way* more than any one of the six Generic Christian weddings I went to, even though I loved all of the couples involved. (I remember unique things that *don’t* reflect the couple, too, but that’s a different story.)

    – Very good and unusual food. I’m a foodie, and while I enjoy good steak, I remember the butternut squash ravioli or the thirty-flavor choose-your-own-cake bar more.

    – Sentimental and seriously “awww” moments, be they in the ceremony or in toasts.

    – Cool props. I *don’t* notice, generically, any of decor/flowers/etc; but I’ll notice the beribboned swords or the handmade video game character figurines whether they’re the cake topper or the bouquet or the centerpieces.

    – Favors that I can actually use. Cool favors that aren’t usable just make me feel guilty, because I like them too much to toss them but I don’t have anywhere to put them.

    – Unusual and flattering outfits. Very pretty but fairly standard outfits are appreciated at the time but generally not remembered.

    Which really boils down, I think, to “I love weddings, but I’ve been to enough of them that I’ll only remember things as *yours* if they’re different as well as cool, because they start to blur together”. But even if it’s just like other weddings, I’ll appreciate and admire lovely work on the day of. And I’ll awww at all of it.

  10. The menu and the venue! I love eating a deliciuos meal, especially when sharing it with a newly married couple and their family and friends.

    The venue, because it is full of the meaningful emotions of the day, no matter if it is a fancy country club or a simple barn decorated with DIY items. And cake/non-cake alternative. Cake (or equally tasty alternative) is important =0)

  11. I’ve been to so few weddings that I can count them on one hand, but I have to admit, the stuff I remember is the negative stuff. I’m trying to think of what I noticed that I really liked, and I’m having a hard time with it. The one I attended at around age 12, I remember the location (because it was next to a game park) and the food. From my brother’s wedding, I remember the music was awesome and having fun watching my sister hamming it up. That’s about it.

  12. Serving delicous food in a timely manner. Having a completely open bar instead of a cash bar (unless it’s a dry wedding of course!)

  13. For me, I too think the custom, personalized touches always speak the loudest.

    At my wedding, I really wanted people to go, “Yes! That’s SOOO Sandy and Josh!” Afterwards, when people told me that’s exactly what happened, I was thrilled.

    Also, I bawled like a moron the whole time, so people remember that part really well, too.

    I remember different things from each wedding… I don’t simply notice the cake or the flowers, etc just because they’re there. I think if you take time to choose what you want to make yours, your guests will notice whatever it is!

  14. The thing I love most about a wedding is THAT IT’S A WEDDING OMG. I love a wedding. Could care less about anything else.

    Well, I did enjoy one I went to the summer before last, where the color scheme was bright blue and orange and all the groomsmen wore like fedoras and no jackets. But I’ve liked more-traditional weddings a lot, too.

  15. I always remember good food and good music. If the wedding party members are wearing particularly fetching outfits, I notice. Otherwise, it’s all about the food and music.

  16. I loved the wedding where they served cups of tea to all the guests afterwards. I have loads of great pictures of guests with cups and saucers.

  17. As someone who has been many times a wedding guest, I remember:

    * The outfits- especially if it involves a wedding dress that’s not your standard white strapless princess gown. For example, one of my mate’s wore a gorgeous blue medieval-style dress she made herself, and her hubby wore a bright purple waistcoast!

    * The ceremony- not just for the “awwww” moments, but little quirky, out of the ordinary touches as well. Such as one friend’s Mum reading “All The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss, and another friend’s best mate singing a song for the couple she wrote herself. 🙂 Oh, and one groom’s Morris Dancing Guild doing a guard of honour after the ceremony!

    * The food. Especially if it involves baileys cheesecake. Or mille feuilles, or a croquembouche! Nom

    * Different or quirky props, decorations or favours. My dear friend’s (who I was bridesmaid for) beaded bouquets, for example.

    * How happy, in love and just *pefect* the couple look together. Which is hope is what people take away from mine and DF’s wedding. 🙂

  18. Having been a cake decorator both for fun and profit, I always take time to notice the cake, natch. Otherwise, the details that catch my eye differ from one event to the next – this one’s eight-foot-long veil, that one’s hammered dulcimer music, the other one’s cookie favors that turned everyone’s tongue blue.

  19. Food, and whether or not there is alcohol (I don’t mind dry weddings and will attend and support my loved ones anyway, but I do notice).

  20. There are elements here that concern me a little only because I can see some in the midst of wedding planning taking them too much to heart and worrying “Is my (fill in the blank: food, music, etc) good enough?!?” To me, there’s a lot to notice at a wedding and everything mentioned above is valid, but guest comfort and welcome (as perfectly described by Colleen above) go the furthest in creating warm, fuzzy memories long after someone has forgotten what they had for dinner.

    • I agree! Although this worry is better in several regards, I also catch myself worrying “Is my (fill in the blank) reflective of my partner and I enough?!?!?” which is also stressful and scary.

      I really love the focus on comfort and welcomeness.

      • This actually brings up an interesting point:

        I remember weddings where the guests were treated well and had a good time very fondly. I just don’t remember *specifics*. Whereas I remember many specifics in weddings that I *don’t* remember fondly, if they’re individually cool. So I 100% agree that focusing on comfort and welcome is important; I just hadn’t thought that was the question Ariel was asking.

  21. It’s always really great to see that the happy couple are actually having a blast! Whether it’s the bride and groom really letting loose on the dance floor (especially if they have a combined total of four left feet!), singing their hearts out with the band or dominating the karaoke machine, playing instruments at their own wedding or even letting loose an awesome air guitar solo, nothing sets the tone better than a bride and groom who are totally living their moment to the fullest! That alone always sticks with me as being a great wedding.

  22. My FH says all people want to do is dance and drink at weddings. The little details are for wedding party and the families.

    In saying that we have a good handful of children coming. Often the dears are forgotten about in weddings unless they happen to hold the titles Flower Girl and Ring Bearer. We are having a Halloween wedding were the kids can dress up, given the fear of leg avenue we just allowing the guests headbands, hats ect. My FH and I will have sort of a costume contest and will give them 3 of them the medium sized beanies and the rest of them little ones. Either that or Halloween rubber duckies.

  23. What I remember best from a wedding I recently attended is the thoughtfully arranged seating. The bride was a classmate, and other classmates were attending. I was assigned to a table with my quieter, more mellow classmates. The exuberant, dance-floor-loving folks were on a different table. I thought it was so sweet for the bride to go beyond the “well, they all know each other so it doesn’t matter” mindset and put like personalities together. 🙂

  24. I went to a wedding where the bride was the drum major of my university’s band for many years and was family friends with the band’s announcer (who has a very distinctive voice). The wedding party was introduced by this man and it was so unique, funny, and awesome that everyone flipped! I will never forget that.

  25. If I don’t notice the DJ, they’re usually doing a good job. If I do notice the DJ, it’s almost always bad (gripes redacted per Ariel’s request : )

    As others have said, I’ll remember the times I interacted with the couple and how easy they made that for us. If you’re going to have a huge, unapprochable head table, private hors d’oeuvres with your wedding party and no receiving line, I’m wondering why you invited me. Fortunately, most couples are gracious enough to keep mingling and make sure they spend time with everyone.

    ETA: I’m a different Kate but I agree with kate above : )

  26. The look on their faces when they are together. The vows. The first dance. Ninja photographers. The foodstuffs. And yes, the clothes. The music. But most of all, THEIR FACES GLOWING WITH AWESOME.

  27. The most memorable things from weddings I’ve been to has been the music they choose for their ceremonies, the tone and message of the vows and the way they look at each other after the ceremony. Everything else is filler, at least in my memory.

  28. The thing I notice most is probably whether the bride and groom seem to be enjoying themselves genuinely. I always feel terrible when I notice that the couple has been wandering around all night trying to entertain everyone else instead of eating dinner and cake or dancing.

    I also really like to see how different couples do the ceremony differently–I love when the write their own vows, and when there’s some fun element of the ceremony that involves other people (like their moms or dads or siblings, or even all of the guests). I also love it when there’s some sort of story-telling element, whether in the ceremony or at some point during the reception. Knowing how the couple met or why they chose the venue or why they chose that particular song as their first dance, etc., makes the whole thing feel really personal and sweet.

    An interesting and pretty venue, especially if it has some sort of personal significance to the couple.

    I agree with Carrie above–I love it when seats are arranged thoughtfully. At the last wedding I went to, I ended up sitting with exactly the people I was hoping I’d be seated with, so good conversation abounded!

  29. I’ve been to many a wedding and here are a few favorite things I remember:

    – FOOD. Duh. The most recent wedding I went to had these AMAZING fried zucchini sticks they had catering people passing through the crowd with and I only got one. Which of course has made me lust after them ever since. They also had really great hot corned beef being carved with rye and mustard as an appetizer. It was delicious.

    – Organization. I can truly appreciate a well-oiled machine, especially since I’ve been to a (thankfully) few weddings where things were not clearly explained or obvious. When things go smoothly, we tend not to notice, but I love it when a plan comes together. (Bonus points for those who catch the reference).

    – Music and dancing. The best wedding DJs get people on the dance floor, no matter what the style of music.

    – The sentiment of the ceremony. I love it when couples have really meaningful ceremonies that reflect their own beliefs and values. I went to a very Jewish wedding this summer (I’m not even remotely Jewish) and it was so lovely I pretty much cried through the whole thing and I never cry at weddings.

    • Yes to organization. It is so helpful to have someone grab the mike and tell guests what to do next (head out into the foyer for cocktail hour while we get ready for dinner, stick around because we’ll start playing games at 3:00, whatever). An alternative is to print some post-ceremony info in your program or post a schedule. That way we know how to keep having fun! I really appreciate it when things are so busy and flow so smoothly that I barely notice when the couple is off taking pictures, enjoying some time alone, or whatever else they do. If the event is highly dependent on the couple leading and creating the energy, it gets flat and awkward every time they leave.

  30. I’m going to babble on this post..

    First and formost I always notice the atmosphere of a wedding, which Ithink ties in with the ‘is the wedding them’. My cousin had a traditional, white wedding with the top 20 DJ, but I had a blast because it was awesome and very very her.

    I guess what I really take away from the wedding is the personal touches – I will notice and love anything that seems to be an extension of the couple – be it clothes, place cards, activies, or food.

    As I am a makeup artist, I always notice the bridal parties makeup – not in a judgemental POV but just seeing how different people like their makeup.

  31. What I remember most from weddings is all the little things. How many personal touches were added to make the ceremony/reception reflect them and their love. It can cost 1$ or 100$ doesn’t matter as long as it fits them and makes my heart turn to mush I’ll remember it.

    The second thing I remember are all the warm fuzzy moments, for instance my best friends recently got married and as the bride reached the end of the isle the husband just got this HUGE grin and said “Hey! I know you.. what are you doing here?” it was just really cute and after the giggle you could see how much her nerves calmed down, or during the speaches how they held hands and kissed and were so snuggly cute! I forget most of the words that were said, but seeing the love pour out of them was just too wonderful. That’s what I took away from it 😛

  32. As an adult, I’ve attended a whooping total of 2 weddings and what stood out was:

    1st wedding, a French-Chinese couple: the fact that the couple succeeded in mingling both cultures, with Chinese touches here and there in a very French wedding. That was very “them”.

    2nd wedding: Japanese wedding: the letter the bride read to her parents. I don’t understand Japanese so most of it was lost to me, but tears caused by emotion are intercultural.

    And in both cases, the venue and the many dresses of the bride. Strangely enough, I have no memories of the food, except for the funny heart-shaped Japanese carrots!

  33. I’ve been to so many weddings. The things that are important to me are:

    1) the food – I have a restricted diet (not by choice) so food is really important to me.

    2)the entertainment – I really like dancing, so if the music the good to dance to and keeps me on the floor for most of the night then I’m happy!

    3) The dress – I love wedding dresses! If I could, I’d have two or three for my own wedding!

    4) the feeling of how in love the couple is. The look on their faces when they are saying their vows and walking up the aisle. Just how happy they are. It gets me everytime. 🙂

  34. I remember all the weddings I attended as a kid where I was able to meet my cousins! Even when they weren’t my direct cousins (second step cousins?), I loved being able to call some new kids my age “family!” I think it was really great of our relatives to stick all the kids together, so the youngest generation could bond. 🙂

  35. As a wedding guest, there are four things I remember:
    1. The overall feeling of the ceremony (was it sweet? romantic? laughably cliche?). How well did it encompass what I know of the happy couple’s personalities?
    2. The quality of the food (less food of a higher quality has always won over portion size or selection) and whether there was a cash bar, open bar, or a combo of the two. Receptions are for partying.
    3. THE CAKE. (or other wedding dessert) Not only “is it pretty or interesting?”, but “does it taste amazing?!”
    4. Whether or not anything was an unnecessary pain in the ass – like if there was a ridiculously long wait between ceremony and reception, with no guidance as to where to spend that time or what we could do.

    After our wedding, many guests have complimented us on how fun and easy our wedding was, and on how beautiful/heartfelt our short, traditional Moravian ceremony was. We put a lot of thought into small touches to express ourselves and let our guests know we wanted them to enjoy the day, and I think that paid off for everyone involved.

  36. I am a sucker for DIY and time investment. I know that’s not up everyone’s alley, but I love it when I see it. The idea that this centerpiece/favor/program/dessert/seating card was hand-crafted just for me gives me the warm fuzzies. Not everyone’s good with their hands, but if they’ve invested the time to orchestrate a wedding that speaks to who they are, that’s just as good.

    If there’s no DIY and we’re just talking your average wedding, I like to dance and I like to eat. Yummy food and a good DJ/band/ipod list, please!

  37. I have been to (and planned) a good number of weddings– and I thing my most favorite thing in the history of EVER was the couple that nixed the Unity Candle in favor of a “Unity Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich”. The bride smeared the peanut butter, then groom smeared the jelly, and they shared a bite once it was made.
    It was silly, adorable and perfectly fit them. They also chose their florist based on the fact that he was willing to create a floral centerpiece to hold the peanut butter and jelly jars.

  38. I can’t believe I’m only the second person to mention alcohol! I think many people are excited to eat, drink, and dance at weddings. I remember one wedding for the special alcoholic drink they offered immediately after the ceremony (with a virgin option for those who don’t drink). In fact, this is the number one thing I would change about my own wedding — open bar, not just beer and wine. (Though I have no problem if there’s only beer/wine at the weddings I attend.)

  39. Unique locations! That is always the first thing that stands out for me. Like your parents backyard or a cool bar or club or church or whatever. The location fit the couple so well.

    But what I really remember forever and EVAR is the food. haha To me, food is family and food is love. When your food is good, it to me shows how much you care and love each of your guests. Cooking is how I show I care at home…so why would that not roll over into a big community thing?? ^_^

  40. I’ve been to a LOT of traditional Christian weddings, and two stand out, both because of the unstoppable joy and wonder of the couple. They weren’t just there to get through it: this was a moment out of space and time for them. To be invited to witness it felt like a very high honor. I notice the emotion they have in the ceremony the most, I think.

    In general:
    – The couples who thought through the reception and made it an invitation to celebrate with them in the way they most enjoy celebration throw the best parties, whether that’s a dance party that goes way late or a really elegant dinner with a small group of friends.

    – I don’t notice flowers, rarely notice cake, but I notice personal touches that are meaningful. I photographed a wedding where the table decorations were candles and the couples’ favorite books from different times in their lives with small framed excerpts instead of place cards. People were delighted by that.

    – I notice organization or lack thereof. Someone running things and herding cats makes all the difference in a relaxed, happy atmosphere. That may be because I’ve spent a lot of time being the person herding the wedding cats…

    – I notice cohesive vision/atmosphere and how well it’s carried out. I’ve seen it done exquisitely at both ends of the budget spectrum, and when it happens, it’s awesome.

  41. I always remember the smiles! I love watching other guests at weddings and seeing the expressions on their faces during the ceremony and dances. It’s really rare in adults to get a look at the smiles that just “happen.”

  42. Music. I always notice the music. A good friend of mine recently got married and it was like there was a movie soundtrack with tunes picked to perfectly accompany every moment. The prelude music was a string quartet playing all beatles songs. As soon as they were pronounced husband and wife, the bells from the Flaming Lips “Do you realize?” kicked in and that’s the song they walked out to. They made sure that the music at the reception sounded like a playlist that one of them could have created on their own iPods. Nothing was canned or hokey, and it was absolutely a representation of the couple. I guess my feeling is, if you wouldn’t want to listen to the hokey pokey any other day, why would you want to dance to it at your wedding?

  43. I remember going to a wedding as a very small child, and the bride showed me her dirty, beat-up, super comfortable favorite sneakers she was wearing under that gorgeous Cinderella dress. I still love the idea that she said “Screw tradition, I want to be comfortable!”

  44. I have to go against a lot of these comments because I never notice food. Yeah, maybe at the time it crosses my mind if I like it or not but weeks or years later, I couldn’t tell you much about the food, and that includes desserts and appetizers.

    Like one poster pointed out, we notice what is important to us. I’m in that category for sure. I always notice how traditional or offbeat people are. I went to a wedding where a friend wore a red dress. It was amazing! And five years later I still think about it. I even though about it when I wore a blue dress for my wedding.

    I know we tend to put our own preconceptions on to things but when every wedding is like every other wedding (white dress, tuxes, seating charts, big hall, church, etc.) there isn’t too much that makes them stand out.

    So when people make unique choices that make you gasp, “O my goodness. That is sooo them” well that is what I notice and adore.

  45. About most wedding, I remember the atmosphere and where they took place, the dress of the bride. I remember the food only from a binary perspective (did i like it or was i hungry :D). I remember if we had fun or not – be it dancing, conversation, etc.

    I remember speeches or songs the wedding party/family organizes for the couple – or some aspect of them. My favorite is from a Swedish-Italian wedding in Sicily. The parents of the groom learned Italian and had part of the speech in Italian. His sisters had a funny version of an ABBA song about the couple. I remember being happy for her and thinking she enters a fantastic family.

    Another moment I remember is the ceremony of some friends who got married on a tiny island in the Stockholm archipelago. I am not a very romantic person, and this is one of the few moments in my life when i thought “damn, this is romantic and I would love to have such a wedding”. The view with the edge of a cliff, the sea and the happy couple was amazing.

    I do not notice the decor usually, but this who I am – notoriously bad at this, good at remembering dresses and hairstyles.

    In general, though, the weddings I attended were fantastic because it was my friends getting married and i never expected them to be memorable for any other reason. Sometimes, even weddings I did not attend became memorable from photos, such as the wedding of my best friend from primary, that i missed. Her mom died shortly after the wedding and it is fantastic to see the photos and how happy they were together.

  46. First let me say, your florist cousin said that flowers are often most-noticed because in a lot of traditional weddings, that’s where most couples put the majority of their wedding decor. Their color palette is hugely represented by the flowers for a lot of couples, particularly at the ceremony. So even though you may not remember the flowers (or other elements of decor), you probably remember purple!

    And so with that, I’ll say–I notice the color palette! I think it says interesting things about the couple and I like to guess who picked it and why.

    I always remember the order of events of the reception. I really want to feel like the couple planned the reception with the guests in mind, allowing time for everyone to enjoy the events without feeling rushed–and without feeling forgotten.

    I’m a huge wedding cynic, so I always remember whether the couple participated in wedding rituals that I dislike. I don’t even remember the wedding in a negative light because of that, I just remember clearly that best man speech that I’ve heard a hundred times or little rituals that recall gender issues that I take exception to. This is me being a Scrooge. 🙂

    Oh, and I always remember the couple as they turn to go back down the aisle. Favorite mental picture.

  47. OK, first, I’m a wedding blogger, so as the writer said, I adore photography, but one thing I do notice is if the photographer is in the way. Photos are great, great photos are better, but it’s a wedding day, not a professional sytled photo shoot, so photographers/videographers who block everything are one thing I remember. What do I love? I love the toasts…when the dad talks on and one and you can tell he’s so excited for his son/daughter that he just can’t stop talking, or when a brother did a great toast that had all of us laughing and rolling in the aisles. Or a minister who has taken the time to really know the bride and groom. Food that I notice? I notice if it’s not the same old prime rib/chicken choices, my favorite was a vegetarian wedding I went to(Not even close to being a vegetarian) where they had some great tabouli (ok I know it’s probably spelled wrong). At the same wedding which in the walled garden at a historic home, the string quartet/trio, not sure how many there were, but I really enjoyed the music at that wedding. It was a little different, very much a reflection of the bride and groom, which is why today when I write wedding blogs I try to encourage brides to have weddings that reflect the couple!

  48. For the majority of weddings I’ve attended, I was a child, when my mom & dad’s many, many cousins got married. All of their weddings followed a pretty tight script: 150-300 people, white dress, Catholic mass, barbeque or chicken or lasagna buffet at the church hall or community hall, live band (in the 80s) or DJ (in the 90s).

    Weddings were a time to practice my dancing with my dad and little sister. I remember working up the courage to make a song request (for Red, Red Wine which was my favorite song in the world when I was 5…and totally inappropriate for a wedding, but they played it any way), which was a big deal for a shy 5-year-old. I remember the chicken dance, the YMCA, the grand march, the waltz, the polka, the two-step, line dancing. I remember watching my mom sashay to disco and having no idea myself how to move anything I owned in a curve rather than a straight line (this eventually led me to 5 years of belly dance lessons).

    Now, my cousins are getting married, and the script is only slightly changed.

    Cousin C let my immediate family help set up and break down the reception hall, which was a fun way to be involved.

    Cousin L had her reception in a lovely old-fashioned lounge.

    Male Cousin A had a cake with the smooth, elegantly simple look of fondant, but it was actually delicious white chocolate.

    Female Cousin A had the most gorgeous dress; basically a fancied up version of a romantic ballet getup.

    I couldn’t attend Cousin A’s (uh, another one) wedding, but the photography was gorgeous.

    Cousin S…umm, well the only parts of Cousin S’s wedding that I remember being unique to her wedding were bad (not enough seats at the reception, the best man’s speech that went off the rails into inappropriate territory)…but the grand majority of the wedding followed the script, and the script is fun. Yay, pretty white dress! Yay, religious elements that are meaningful to the bride and groom! Yay, lasagna! Yay, talking to relatives! Yay, dancing! Yay, happy bride surrounded by people who love her!

    Friends R & C had the simplest wedding I’ve ever been to, a courtroom affair with a homemade backyard lunch reception in scorching July and no music, entertainment, or decorations. Nothing about the wedding was particularly comfortable, well-designed, or delicious, but it was one of the most touching weddings I’ve ever been to. Every element of the wedding was provided by someone who loved the bride and groom, and that made the day very, very special, and a memory to treasure.

    Cake and DANCING!!!!!!!

    At any wedding I attend…I know MY personal level of fun and good times is heightened by the good food, laughter and the crazee dancing on the dance floor. Oh yes.

  50. Wow, I almost feel guilty saying this, but I notice effort. If it looks like the couple put forth some real work (be that personal labor, time, or other resources) to provide a nice experience for themselves and their guests, I dig it. I’ve been to more than a few weddings where it felt like someone had just tossed cash at a crappy rec hall and took whatever wedding popped out: when I show up to an event like that, I really feel like I was only invited to add one more present to the pile, especially when there isn’t any attempt to make the experience fun!

  51. I will say what a lot of others have said: FOOD. Generally, I can’t remember exactly what was served, but I have general good or bad feelings about the food.

    Strangely, I also remember favors that were given out. Not that it’s super important, but I seem to always remember that.

  52. I remember the clothes of the wedding party, but actually I like them BETTER when they are a bit different and clearly accommodating of people who are different sizes rather than making them all matchy-matchy. I never remember details of the ceremony unless something was funny (especially if it went wrong but turned out OK), but always whether or not I liked it.

    As a chef and a foodie, I naturally remember food; hot foods hot, a decent amount of it if people want seconds, good selection in case of allergies, and even whether the “kiddie table” food is done well–sure, you’re just doing chicken strips, but are they good?

    As a former brewery employee I remember the booze, but as long as it’s an open bar I can’t say much negative about selection. Always though I remember when people who enjoy brewing or making mead or something have brewed their own concoction for the affair. Those have always been the best weddings for me.

    More than anything, I remember whether the guests were considered. If you have a lot of guests from various walks of life, it might be better to do a seating chart so that you can seat similar personalities together (my partner and I made some great friends at the last wedding we attended purely due to this tactic where a lot of guests didn’t know each other). If you are hoping to introduce the two families, seating charts are good. If most of your friends are 20-somethings who know each other and one family is devout catholic while the other is buddhist, you can probably let people self-segregate and mingle as they feel comfortable without any drama.

    Mostly, I remember whether the guests were accommodated. I notice when the couple makes sure there are seats for everyone, a “quiet” room where parents can go if they have a fussy baby or loud child but still see/hear the ceremony. I notice when people consider the weather and whether or not they have told their guests that the late October wedding could be outside in a muddy lawn so their guests can dress appropriately.

    Honestly I can’t say I have ever “noticed” the music, but that’s likely because every wedding has had similar, slightly-older mainstream music (like motown and lite rock) that most parents would not disapprove.

  53. I think what I notice most is how natural and easy-going does the wedding feel, which I think has a lot to do with whether or not it fits the couple’s personalities. Regardless of the level of formality or tradition, do the bride and groom seem happy, is everyone at ease and having a good time? Is there sort of a comfortable, organic quality and flow to the day? The best weddings I’ve been to transcend any awkwardness that sometimes comes along with formality, tradition and ritual. It’s like the wedding doesn’t just fit the couple, it fits their whole village.

  54. The thing I am always telling people:

    People remember food for one of three reasons. 1) It was amazing. 2) It was terrible. 3) There wasn’t enough of it. As long as the food is good enough, saving money there is fine. It’s not memorable enough.

    What people remember is atmosphere, and at a traditional Jewish wedding a lot of that is supplied by your band. That is the place to spend, not save.

  55. I have only been to about 4 or 5 weddings (one of them being my own 2 months ago). What I remember most about the other weddings was how much fun I had. I don’t remember what the food was, but I do remember that I liked it in all cases. I also remember the offbeat things I saw. For example, at the wedding of my mom’s friend, if you wanted the couple to kiss you had to get up and sing a song with the word love in it (I messed up the words to BOTH “Love Me Tender” by Elvis and “All I Want is You” by U2). I also remember that instead of throwing rice, everyone blew bubbles at the end of the ceremony. And I always remember the dress.

    My own wedding was, well, a rock and roll themed wedding that included lightsabres. All of the other weddings I have ever been to were either very traditional or offbeat-lite. Mine was neither, but everybody loved that we did our own thing. We had compliments on everything from the food (we had a huge buffet) to our “first jam” (I play drums and my hubby sings really well, so we did a White Stripes song together at the reception with a friend on guitar) to the bouquets we made (which were made using drumsticks, guitar pics, crystal beads, buttons of bands we like, and random stuff we found at the craft store). Even our hardcore Christian relatives were donning fake tattoos by the end of the night (and yes, we have the pictures to prove this!)

  56. I remember the things that aren’t like weddings from the bridal magazines. Colorful dress, or simple dress, instead of big white dress. Tiramisu or pie or cookies instead of cake. Unusual footwear (or bare feet). Potluck dinners.

    I remember the stuff I hadn’t seen before, or don’t see often: heartfelt religious, cultural, or family traditions that were unfamiliar to me. First (and so far only) photo booth I’ve seen at a wedding. Edible centerpieces from a local farmstand. The couple giving their guests gifts. A puppet show put on by the couple. A small wedding with a kids’ table. DDR first dance.

    I remember how the couple seemed to be feeling – excited? stressed? overwhelmed? relaxed? I remember the focus – drink and dance with friends? sipping lemonade in the yard with the grandparents? food food and more food? tons of activities for the kids?

    And I love that comment about guests feeling wanted and welcomed – that.

  57. I haven’t been to many wedding as an adult (excluding distant relatives when I was a kid). I remember :
    *the mood (as someone said, do I feel welcomed and wanted, as opposed to do I eat just because I’m bored and I have nobody to talk to)
    *the venue
    *the fun parts (wooden games for an outdoor wedding, the first photobooth I ever saw, a singing contest )

    I won’t notice the food unless it is a total discovery (unicorn steaks?) or really awful. I will notice the clothes but I will forget them quickly. I usually am bored during ceremonies and don’t remember them (in France it usually is in the town hall or in church, nothing extraordinary).

  58. The maple tree at our friends wedding in Canada that lit up the pictures even tho. it was a damp day. The pumpkin centerpieces.

    Dancing with bride/bridesmaids to Queen.

    Watching the bride dance to Combine Harvester by the woolpackers.

    From 3 different weddings.

  59. Predictions for what will be noticed and/or whinged about at my wedding:

    1. No flowers. I honestly don’t see the point in spending that much on something that I don’t want, makes FH feel like crap (yay hayfever!), and will be chucked in the bin the very next day.

    2. Red dress. I don’t wear white for a very good reason…

    3. Mismatched bridesmaids. One of whom has called wearing white. I just don’t want to try to conjure a dress and colour that will suit them all…

    4. Not remotely religious. We don’t go to mass, so why bother?

    5. No cat. Tiger Odinsson Halfwhisker, our one-eyed tabby, is a minor celebrity among my friends and some of our family. I’d like him to be there, but health and safety/venue rules come first.

    6. “Bouncy castle??”/”No bouncy castle???” I really want one and have expressed this many times, but we’ll see how the budget works out…

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