There seems to be some debate over who a wedding (more specifically, a reception) is intended for. To be fair, this isn’t a debate I see happening often… In part, I think, because I tend to engage more with those who share a similar mindset to my own. But every so often, I’ll see someone sharing an opinion or an argument favouring one side or the other.
Now, I’m very firmly on one side of this particular fence. But in an effort to explore the issue, I’m going to try writing two arguments here. The first will be from the point of view of a wedding guest, and the other will be from the point of view of a spouse-to-be. Regardless of my own personal views, I’m going to genuinely try to compose these next paragraphs with as much objectivity as possible. It likely won’t be perfect (it may not even be good), but I’ll make an effort to construct both items with as many points as I can:
“Hi- I’m one of the guests attending your wedding this month. And I believe that, as a guest, the reception should be about my comfort and my enjoyment.
Historically, the purpose of the reception has been to thank the guests for coming. It’s right in the name: Reception. You’re receiving your guests.
That being said, it’s likely costing me money to be here at your wedding: I may have had to purchase clothing, buy a wedding gift, or pay for transportation here. How is it fair that I should have to spend that money to attend an event that isn’t fun for me?
During the day, you and your partner(s) will likely be too busy to actually take part in a lot of the festivities… Cocktail hour, music, dancing, and games may all have to be put aside so you can do what needs to be done, like getting your photos taken. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things… But I am saying that you aren’t the ones who will be enjoying the reception. We, your guests, will be.
Ultimately, I have other things I could have been doing today. I didn’t need to come to your wedding. But I did. So why shouldn’t the reception act as a “thank you” to me?”
“Hey! I’m getting married next month and you’ll be attending my wedding. Which, by the way, is about me and my partner(s).
A wedding is an extremely intimate and personal event in a person’s life. This day means a lot to my partner(s) and I, and we specifically invited you to be a part of it. We aren’t inviting just anyone… To be included on such an important day is an honour.
Seeing as we are likely paying for this event, we want it to be a reflection of who we are and our relationship.
We are inviting you to a lovely place, to take part in our wedding, giving you a nice meal and/or hors d’oeuvres, providing you with drinks, and offering you entertainment in various forms. These things are almost always expensive, and we may have been saving up for a long time in order to pay for them.
Ultimately, this is an event that we are hosting. We should have every right to make the calls, and create an event that speaks to us and what we like. We are celebrating the beginning of our marriage in a way that appeals to us.
As long as we are happy, it isn’t your place to complain.”
…Well, I tried.
As for my own opinion, I am absolutely in agreement with a wedding being about the Spouses-to-be. Not the guests.
As always, I feel it’s important to mention that this is written in a very Western wedding context, and does not explore how different cultural dynamics might affect who the wedding is “intended for”.
All that being said: Do I think that the spouses-to-be should completely disregard the comfort and accessibility of their guests’ experience? No, absolutely not. However, I DO believe that they should never feel guilty about making a decision about their wedding that their guests just “don’t really like”.
It can be difficult for some people (especially people who have a difficult time saying “no”) to avoid exercising restraint or over-extending to make other guests (including family members) happy. Ultimately, I like to use this guideline: It’s not okay if your guests don’t have everything they need. It is okay if your guests don’t have everything they want.
DO make sure your wedding is accessible to disabled guests.
DO make sure your guests have access to bathrooms.
DO make sure your guests are fed and/or hydrated, and DO accommodate food allergies and dietary restrictions.
DO make sure your guests have adequate space, and that they’re able to move around comfortably.
DON’T refrain from playing the music you want to play because your guests might not enjoy it.
DON’T choose not to do something or incorporate something into your wedding because you’ve been told it’s “tacky”, “silly”, or “over the top”.
DON’T be pressured into paying more for a food package, bar package, or décor package because you feel like you’re “supposed to” or because someone else told you that they wanted it.
DON’T forgo an aspect of your wedding (eg. Interactive puzzles/games or dress code*) because someone told you it’s “too much work”.
*If someone does not want to get adequately dressed up because they don’t feel like it, then by all means, tell them to deal with it. But if they aren’t able to pay for appropriate clothes, or if the dress code is inaccessible to them, that is a very different conversation.
At the end of the day, this is your wedding.
Read that again.
How often in life do you get the chance to create an event that is so completely and personally you? If not your wedding, then when?