Watch any of the popular wedding reality shows – Say Yes to the Dress, My Big Fat American Gyspy Wedding, Four Weddings – and the common denominator is money.
“The focus has always been on saving, borrowing or budgeting so that the bride can have her ‘perfect’ wedding,” says Eric Gulbrandson, a wedding photographer and author of the new book, “Dream Wedding Secrets: The All Important G.S.F,” (www.dreamweddingsecrets.com),
“But weddings now cost more than ever for the guests – the average cost jumped 75 percent over the past two years!”
Wedding guests now spend an average $592 per wedding on clothing, gifts, transportation, hotels, etc., up from $339 in 2012, according to a just-published American Express survey.
“If you want people to actually attend, you have to make sure it’s the perfect wedding for them, too,” says Gulbrandson, whose book is a compilation of tips for doing just that based on interviews with hundreds of wedding guests.
Gulbrandson shares four must-haves for achieving a high G.S.F – Guest Satisfaction Factor:
• Have plenty of food and drink.
If you have to choose between paying for more food versus paying for better food, go for quantity. Nobody will mind if the food’s not stellar, but they will if you run out!
Taste and presentation are important, but having enough food and drink and having it available throughout the event is more important, Gulbrandson says.
“I had one woman who said that, toward the end of one reception, the caterers brought out a nacho bar. She said, ‘It was cheap … and perfect!’ ” he says.
• Have details that show appreciation.
“One woman I interviewed talked about being greeted by trays of hors d’oeuvres and champagne as soon as they arrived for the wedding, and how it made the guests feel appreciated,” Gulbrandson says.
“Another went to a wedding in a foreign country. The bride and groom had a welcome bag filled with helpful items, like a survival translation dictionary, insect repellant and maps of the local area in the hotel rooms for their guests as they arrived.”
When people take the time and expense to attend your wedding, details that show how much you appreciate that go over very well, Gulbrandson says.
• Have on hand whatever’s necessary to make people comfortable while they wait.
One couple Gulbrandson interviewed talked about arriving at the reception venue following the wedding and waiting for more than two hours for the bride and groom. Not only was there no food or drink available while they waited, there was no entertainment or information about when the wedding party would arrive.
“When they finally did arrive, it was clear they’d all been out drinking and joyriding in their limo,” Gulbrandson says. “Many of their guests had left!”
Some delays are unavoidable: Photos taken after the wedding, for instance, can delay the reception.
“Make sure food and drink is available for those waiting, and entertainment,” Gulbrandson says. “It could be an acoustic musician or a disc jockey, and slide shows of the bride and groom growing up.”
• Have entertainment that almost everyone can enjoy.
Usually, the choice is between a live band or a DJ. Since DJs can usually provide more musical variety than a band, they stand a better chance of giving all of your guests a good time.
“A DJ can play music that appeals to different generations and different styles of music,” Gulbrandson says. “One compromise, if you’d really like a band, is to have live music for an hour or two, then switch to the DJ – although that’s not the most economical choice!”
Gulbrandson also recommends taking the time to choose your own music rather than giving the DJ carte blanche. Be sure to choose songs from a variety of genres and styles. If there are some wedding standards you dislike, create a “do not play” list for the DJ.
Can you add to the list? What are your "must haves" for every wedding?