Sharing Your Day

By Kristen Castillo

April 25, 2012 5 min read

Sure, it's your big day, but you're also the host. Whether you have 50 guests at your wedding or 200, they all want to feel welcome and appreciated.

"Going the extra mile as the host for your event will leave a lasting impression on your guests," says wedding and event planner Matthew Robbins, author of "Matthew Robbins' Inspired Weddings."

Be gracious and let every one of your guests, locals and out-of-towners, know how much you value them.

*Welcome Bags

One way to win over your out-of-town guests is to give them welcome bags.

"I think the old saying that 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression' really applies here," says Dana Karlov, founder of Bagable Gifts, a custom gift bag company. "When your guests have traveled in from out of town, they have gone to great lengths to be with you on your big day and have most likely incurred significant travel expenses, as well.

"When you have a special surprise waiting for them when they arrive, it makes a fantastic first impression."

Guests love the bags, especially since it prevents them from having to raid the hotel's minibar.

"Snacks usually make up the majority of the bag contents," explains Karlov, who recommends including "something sweet, something salty, something minty, something healthy and something to drink."

Jessica Klein, event manager? at Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, says many welcome bags also include sunscreen, pain relieving medicine and travel items such as luggage tags.

"It can be as elaborate or as simple as the bride and groom like," says Klein. "Guests really like the gesture."

Use your gift bags as a way to help your guests get a sense of who you and your groom are as a couple.

"You can design a bag around the city you live in, how you met, shared interests, the season or your favorite foods," says Karlov, who notes bags can be personalized with custom labels and wedding colors.

When packing a welcome bag, minimize the filler, such as tissue paper, which guests usually don't keep.

*Keep Them Informed

Whether you start a wedding website to keep everyone in the know or simply call or email them with the details, give guests as much information as you can.

Tell them about nearby hotels and restaurants, letting them know whether you have arranged a discounted rate for your guests.

Include information about transportation options and rates for cabs, buses and car rentals. Some couples host transportation to and from the event by providing a ride for guests in a party bus, for example. If guests are driving their own vehicles to your wedding, consider paying for their parking.

Don't forget to appoint a contact person, like a sibling or a family friend, for guests to call or email in case of questions or problems.

*Invite Guests to Activities

"It's nice to have a balance of planned activities and unplanned time," says Klein, who finds that guests like having options during their stay.

"Make itineraries so guests can spend time with you," says Klein, whose brides and grooms have included activities such as "go for a swim with the bride" to "go for a jog with the groom."

Invite guests to join you for a sightseeing trip in the host city. Check out museums, parks, sporting events and other activities such as hiking a local trail, taking a fishing trip or enjoying a boat cruise.

Schedule a "meet and greet," which could be a hosted event with cocktails and appetizers or an informal, "come have a drink with us" gathering.

"If you are hosting a destination wedding or if most of your guests are coming from places far away, do consider inviting everyone to the rehearsal dinner," says Robbins.

You also could host a day-after brunch for guests.

*Be Respectful

Try to respect a guest's dietary needs, too, by providing them with suitable meals, such as gluten-free or low salt.

"Too often I see clients choose something terribly boring and uninspired for the vegetarian friends and family," says Robbins. "This should be a filling, delicious and beautiful meal option even if your menu focuses on meat-based dishes."

*After the Wedding

Find a simple way to thank family and friends for sharing your wedding experience.

"Give something edible and delicious such as your favorite cookies from a great local bakery, or create a candy and treat buffet for the end of the night," suggests Robbins.

One of Klein's couples shot photos with each guest on the wedding day. The couple then turned those photos into magnets, which were sent as a thank you to the guests.

However you decide to thank guests, be genuine and your gratitude will shine through.

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