One week before the wedding, I had a phone call which almost sent me over the edge. It was my Grandad.
“Hiya love. Guess where your nan and I are now?”
I paused for effect. “The wedding venue, by any chance?” (He’d already prepped me three days prior that he would be visiting the place, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out.)
“Yes. We’re here now, just having a bite to eat.”
“And we’re just wondering, love – ”
Here we go
“ – where do we need to get dropped off in the mini bus? ‘Cause it’s quite a walk you know, from the road to the ceremony? And I just couldn’t get that postcode you gave me to work on the sat nav –”
It wasn’t a ridiculous question. It was a perfectly reasonable question, asked in a perfectly reasonable way. But it was the latest in a whole succession of questions – a barrage of which, never even occurred to me when we started to plan the wedding.
It was one question too many.
I took a deep breath, calmly repeated the instructions I’d given him just a couple of days before, whilst Facebook messaging the fiancé – ‘I need fucking Prozac! Stat!’
He replied: ‘Lol’
Weddings are beautiful. They’re a celebration of two people who love one another so much, that they want to share that love with the whole world. They want to share a name, share legal rights, share possessions – and share each other for their whole lives.
But weddings are stressful too. Man, are they stressful.
“What happens after the ceremony?”
“Do we have to have our picture taken?”
“Have you booked a photographer?”
“What time are you getting married?”
“Will there be food there?”
“What shall I wear?”
“How shall I get there?”
“How will I get home?”
“Who will look after my children?”
“Who’s going to let the dog out for me?”
“Where is it again?”
Myself, as a wedding guest, am quite a simple creature. The invitation arrives in the post. I read it, make a note of the date (in my head) and RSVP in the preferred way. Then, the whole event is forgotten, until I notice Facebook posts from the bride-to-be, citing just how close the big day has become.
Shit – that means it’s time to dig the invite out again. And so I do (after throwing cutlery, receipts and bills all over the kitchen) notice that it’s just a couple of weeks away, double check that we are (definitely) free, and then do a quick Google search of the area to assess taxis, hotels and all the other logistics that go into rocking up at a wedding.
Then, I simply arrive on the day and let the events unfold.
But not everyone has this same procedure for Being A Wedding Guest. Particularly not the people closest to you. The mistake I made was to assume that people would just read the invitation, and turn up. I wasn’t prepared for the constant nit picking of other people’s personal lives, and how your one Big Day will affect them. And because I wasn’t prepared for it – I didn’t know how to handle it.
The fiancé, when we first starting planning, suggested that we include an information pack with the invites. A map of the venue, and where different events would be taking place, a list of hotels in the area, taxi numbers, parking facilities – the times everything would happen.
But I dismissed the idea as silly, and a bit unnecessary – not to mention expensive.
My advice? Unless you’re getting married feet away from your own doorstep, if your guests have to travel even a short way, if you think your venue is even the least bit difficult to access?
Spend the money. Make the info pack. And send it out with your invites.
It will save you months of anxiety, stress and panic. When you have the enormous task of planning a wedding to contend with, the last thing you need is other people’s timescales, travel plans, childcare and accommodation worries to add to the stress.
Maybe you’ll only get one concern per guest. But when you multiply that one question by the number of guests – that anxiety soon adds up.
So how best to deal with it?
Top Tips: Ease Stress and Manage Your Guests Effectively
- Remember your guests are not out to get you.
You chose these people to be at your wedding because they are the most important people in the world to you. Your guests are asking questions because they are excited for your big day. They don’t want to miss anything – they want to see you marry the love of your life. They want to be there to share in your happiness. They don’t want to turn up late, or park in the wrong place and miss hearing you say the ‘I do’s’. They’re not asking questions to stress you out, they’re asking questions because they love you.
- Try to deal with each concerned guest as an individual.
Ok, so you’ve just been asked ‘what time is the wedding’ for the umpteenth time. What you want to do is scream: ‘Just read the fucking invitation, for fucks’ sake!!’ But you can’t – because that would be rude and probably quite upsetting for the poor person who just wants to arrive on time. Smile, answer the question, and remember – this may be the umpteenth time you’ve heard this – but it could be the first time this particular person has asked the question.
- Remember that other people have busy lives.
It is so easy to think the world revolves around your wedding. You’ve been saving for God knows how long, the only thing on your social calendar at the moment is either the actual wedding day or smaller events focused around the wedding (hen party, stag party, meeting the caterers, meeting the photographer, meeting the venue dresser) so it’s little wonder you probably have no idea what is going on in anybody else’s life. But it is important to take a step back and be rational – because you know how busy you feel right now planning the wedding? That’s how busy your guests currently feel, with their full time job, new promotion, running their own business, looking after three kids, running a household or caring for relatives. The world does not actually revolve around your day. And that invitation you sent out? It’s probably gathering dust somewhere, hidden under mounds of kids’ toys and utility bills. Not ideal, but that’s just the way it is.
- Manage logistics early, and plan ahead
If you’re still in the early stages of planning, and you’ve yet to send out your invitations, please, please for the love of God – consider the information pack. Or even create your own website to help with the planning process. Try http://www.gettingmarried.co.uk/ - it gives your guests an online RSVP facility, maps of the venue and surrounding areas, hotel recommendations and forums for guests to chat (and possibly arrange transport and accommodation sharing). This may not be the best idea for the older generation, but certainly the more tech-savvy would benefit. And, it’s FREE.
In short? Don’t presume your guests will simply Google the best means of transport to your venue, and the best places to stay nearby. Some will, others absolutely will not. And the information pack will be like a Holy Grail to them.
- Choose your battles
If you've been clear on your ‘no children’ rule, but you have guests who say they won’t be able to attend unless their little ones come along. Stand your ground. It’s unfair to bend the rules for some, and not others – especially when you may have other guests in the same boat, but haven’t said anything to you. Imagine Guest Number One rocking up with a whole brood, when Guest Number Two sold their liver on the black market just to get a sitter. Guest Number Two will not be happy.
However, on the flip side – you also need to know when to be lenient. If you have a guest telling you they’re allergic to fish (and you already paid up for a sea bass supper) but you didn’t ask about food allergies and intolerances – this is not the time to get tough. Speak to the caterers and ask them to change the main for the relevant guests, no matter how short notice. Pay the extra if you have to. You can’t mess with people’s health.
Second to that – always ask about intolerances when you’re sending out your invites, and ask your guests to include any details with the RSVP.
- Finally - remain calm and be helpful. You’re the only one who can answer these questions.
If it’s already too late, the wedding day is looming and you didn’t think about the logistics in the early days, unfortunately you have to just grin and bear it. Take it for what it is – you didn’t supply the information in the first place, or at least not in the best way for your guests, and the only person who has all the answers is you. Be respectful, and try to help your guests out. If you blow your top, you could end up being a few guests down.
And you don’t want that – wedding food is expensive after all.
Don't you bloody know it.