How to Deal with Wedding Crashers

Wedding CrashersPutting together a wedding guest list can be a major source of stress. Unless you have endless resources and a huge venue, there are bound to be long discussions about who gets the invite and who gets cut. After all the compromises and discussion, you finally put together a list everyone can live with. With all that effort, it’s understandably frustrating to have someone show up to the reception who didn’t make the list. Here are a few types of uninvited guest or wedding crashers, and ways to deal with them without wrecking the day.

Children

You can discourage parents from bringing their children in ways subtle or more direct: address the invitation to just “Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne” instead of “Mr. and Mrs. Osbourne and Family;” indicate there will not be child care services; hold the reception later in the evening. But whether it’s inability to find a sitter, ignorance of etiquette, or just plain pig-headedness, there’s a good chance a child or two will end up crashing the proceedings.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead for the inevitable pint-sized crasher; have a few sets of crayons and scribble pads at the ready. Have your wedding planner or friendliest bridesmaid remind the wayward parents that they’ll need to take the child out if they’re being a distraction during the ceremony, then let them be the parents’ responsibility at the reception. If another parent who left their kids with a sitter asks how come the Osbournes got to bring their kids, just tell them they weren’t able to find a sitter and brought the kids without your say-so.

Plus Ones

The only people invited to a wedding are the ones listed on the invitation. If the invitation says, “John Linnel and Guest,” Mr. Linnell is welcome to bring his girlfriend. If it only says, “Mr. Linnel,” he should come solo. It’s a simple rule, but it’s not a rule everyone knows, and you may end up with a few girlfriends, boyfriends, or best friends tagging along.

Try to keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if you have to squeeze an extra chair in at the venue. But you’re not obligated to accommodate an uninvited plus one farther than basic hospitality. Don’t stress if the guest has to make do with a seat far away from his date, or doesn’t have his choice of meal. Whether he has a perfect good time or not is not your responsibility.

Strangers

Finally, we get to the one uninvited guest you’re free to ask to leave. If your reception venue is a hotel or country club, you may get a hotel guest or two wandering in to sample the free food and drink. If you spot someone who you know isn’t on the guest list, ask your most charming groomsman to let them know they’ve been found out and tell them they have to go. If the conversation gets heated, don’t hesitate to involve the venue security, but most of the time a crasher will be quick to dash once he knows he’s been caught.

Of course, if the uninvited guest is charming everyone, keeping the dance floor full, and keeping Uncle Bob from hitting the bar too hard, you might want to introduce yourself, thank him, and let him carry on.

Vendors

Unlikely as it may seem, some of the folks you’ve hired to make your wedding day perfect can start to sabotage it when the reception rolls around. Sometimes the people you’ve hired to work at the party forget they’re not just attending a party. We’ve heard tales of wedding bands helping themselves to the hors d’oeuvres and photographers getting tipsy at the free bar. Not only are these wedding crashers costing you money, they’re also costing you and your guests some valuable fun because they’re supposed to be the professionals.

It’s an uncomfortable situation; it may seem high-handed or snobbish to remind your vendors that they’re working for you, not partying on your dime. But for the sake of your actual guests, it needs to be done. Again, this is something you should delegate to a groomsman or maid of honor–you concentrate on enjoying your evening and let them deal with it. They should gently remind the wayward vendor that the cocktails or the buffet are for the guests, and remind them of the job they’re there to do.

Uninvited guests are one of the many reasons that there’s no such thing as a perfect wedding. As long as you delegate handling the intrusion to your wedding party, there’s no reason an uninvited guest has to bring the ceremony to a screeching halt. With a little forethought and a little diplomacy, your wedding party can smooth out these little bumps in the road.

Unique Wedding Invitations

Woodstock PosterWedding invitations can take a major chunk out of a wedding budget if you go for professionally-printed invitations with all the bells and whistles. A professional printer will show you sheets of paper that cost more than you could ever imagine wood pulp would, and will try to convince you that if your invites don’t have gold leaf embossing they’ll be chucked into the trash like a sales circular.  The truth is, the advent of good inkjet and laser jet printers means that you can print your own invitations without them looking like–well, without them looking like you printed them yourself. Instead of virgin goatskin vellum and other fancy stuff, make your invitations eye-catching with an imaginative design. Here are a few possibilities.

Faux boarding passes

For a destination wedding, or just for a bit of visual interest, design your invitations like old-school boarding passes. All you need is the right form factor, some blue stripes, and a sufficiently dot-matrix-printer-looking font to create the illusion. Tuck them into a little envelope with a pretend airline logo on it and they’ll look fantastic.

Dossier

Sometimes planning a wedding can seem like an impossible mission. That’s why we love the idea of doing wedding invitations as though they were a briefing dossier for a secret agent. You can include profiles of the bride and groom with their known aliases, prior convictions, and current whereabouts. Your guests have been recruited to bring the couple in, and the dossier contains intel about where they’ll next be seen together. It’s a great way to include a schedule, map, and hotel info in a fun way; and those are all the most important elements of properly designed wedding invitations.

Old-Timey Poster

With vibrant colors and fun fonts, a concert or circus poster invitation is more likely to end up stuck to the fridge than forgotten in a desk drawer. For a really old-timey feel, you can go for the classic Victorian poster, with its big bold fonts and superlative text. Or take the style of the iconic Woodstock poster, with the bride and groom names listed as though they were performing at the show. Depending on your sensibilities, though, the DIY-grunge of a punk poster might fit the bill. Whatever you choose, just make sure you have all the crucial info sandwiched in with the neat design.

Balloon

The next two are less DIY, but they’re still inexpensive, and they’re definitely memorable. There are tons of companies online who do custom-printed balloons for pennies a balloon, in lots as small as 25 all the way up to 500. You can have all your crucial wedding details printed on the balloon, and then tuck the balloon in an envelope with a bit of cardstock that repeats the information (in case of popping). The recipient can inflate the balloon to see the design, and then have a bouncing, battable reminder of the upcoming ceremony.

Plantable Invitations

For a rustic or green-themed wedding, plantable invitations are printed on paper infused with wildflower seeds. After copying down the details (or bookmarking your wedding website), guests can plant the whole thing in their garden and watch flowers bloom. It’s a beautiful way to make your invitations zero-waste.

A wedding invitation doesn’t have to be some staid, traditional, and expensive part of your wedding planning. With a little imagination, your invitation can introduce your theme and be as fun for your guests to read as they were to create. Like everything about a modern wedding, traditions about invitations can be discarded if they don’t fit the couple’s personality. If you’re into the globetrotters, secret agents, rock stars, clowns, or hippies, let your wedding invitations have as vibrant a personality as you do.

10 More Signature Wedding Cocktails

Coco SnowballWhen you’re planning the bar setup at your wedding, it’s tempting to offer a couple of different beers and a few wine selections and call it a day. Even if you want to offer a few cocktails, it’s tempting to grab a few old standbys to make ordering less of a hassle and avoid putting strain on your bartenders. And sure, martinis, gin & tonics, and mojitos are all fine drinks, but shouldn’t your wedding cocktail be as much a part of your theme as the decorations and flowers?  Here are a few ideas for dynamite signature wedding cocktails.

The Purple Rain

Tell your guests that you never meant to cause them any sorrow or any pain, and you only wanted to see them laughing, by serving up this deep violet concoction. The fruit juices mask the alcohol taste, making it a potent but palatable drink.

The Coco Snowball

The name and icy blue color indicate a winter drink, but the orange and coconut flavors are pure summer. The coconut-rimmed glasses add an extra fun element to this groovy tropical drink.

The Ginger Gold Rush

With its spicy ginger liqueur, bite of bourbon, and rich gold color, this drink oozes class. Your guests will have clear sinuses and a spring in their step after a couple of these.

The Lavender Collins

This one requires a bit of work ahead of time to make lavender-infused simple syrup. But if that delicate purple hue is part of your wedding palette, this fun and fruity drink will definitely class up your wedding reception.

Strawberry Moonshine Julep

The juicy goodness of fresh strawberries and the chill of mint take the bite out of this moonshine-based drink. Just make sure to warn your guests to sip, not guzzle–it may taste sweet, but it definitely packs a punch.

Cherry Sake Cocktail

Since it’s base is sake, which is about as alcoholic as wine, this drink is a little less of a heavy hitter. The fresh cherries and cherry juice give it a light, refreshing flavor, perfect for late summer or early fall.

Cucumber Gin Cooler

For a sweltering summer wedding, you can’t go wrong with the cool, refreshing taste of cucumber riding atop the juniper kick of gin. It also has a healthy dose of tonic water, which means it glows under black light–what you do with that information is your own business.

Tinto de Verano

The name of this drink translates roughly to the “red wine of summer.” It’s a fizzy take on sangria, using lemon-lime soda instead of fruit juice to really make it pop. It’s perfect for quenching guests thirst after they’ve been sweating on the dance floor.

Frozen Ginger Lemonade

More ginger, and for good reason: ginger lemonade is delicious. The lemon tames the bite of ginger while the ginger dials back the acidity of the lemon, making a thirst-quenching combo that’s hard to beat. Rent a few margarita machines, stock them up, and your guests will love it.

Maple Vodka and Espresso

Wake up your guests with this coffee-based cocktail. It’s similar to a White Russian, but adds a shot of actual coffee in with the coffee liqueur, and maple vodka for an extra layer of complex sweetness.

No matter the season or time of day, a wedding reception is a good excuse for your guests to get tipsy in style. These signature cocktails will add a touch of class to your bar service, and some of your guests may find a new favorite drink in the process.

5 Fun Wedding Themes

Western WeddingThe bride in a flowing white dress, the groom in a smart black tuxedo, and the front steps of a cathedral: we all have a specific image in our mind when we hear the word “wedding.” While the elegant classical wedding is the ideal for some, though, it shouldn’t be thought of as a one-size-fits-all option. Each wedding can be as unique and inspired as the couple getting married. Those guidelines and traditions shouldn’t be thought of as unbreakable rules. Here are a few wedding themes that are less traditional, but can be a lot of fun for the right couple.

Rustic

A rustic wedding trades glitz and glamour for handmade, down-to-earth charm. For a perfect rustic wedding venue, consider a converted barn, apple orchard, winery, or park. Flowers like bluebells, daisies, and other wildflowers take the place of roses and carnations. For décor, think handmade and simple: candles in mason jars, rope, and horseshoes. The bride can wear a simple homespun dress; the groom will look great in a chambray shirt, suspenders, a bow tie, and chinos.

Western

If a down-home rustic wedding still isn’t down home enough, go all out with a Western theme. Bridesmaids and groomsmen alike will look sharp in matching cowboy hats and boots. Put the groom in (well-fitting) jeans and a cowboy shirt with mother-of-pear snaps. Even the bride can get away with jeans with a Western theme, provided they’re matched with a white blouse and Stetson. Western themes work best with an outside ceremony, where you can decorate with hay bales and lanterns without worrying about a mess or fire hazard. You could even barbecue for the reception dinner–but serving hardtack and beans might be going a little too far.

1920’s

If the rustic and Western styles seem a little too homespun for you, go for it full-on with the glitz and glamour of the roaring 20’s. You’ll want to book a fancy venue, preferably one with some art deco architectural style. The groomsmen can wear sharp tuxedoes, the bridesmaids in flapper-inspired dresses and finger waves in their hair. Let the champagne (and the gin rickeys) flow at the reception and teach your guests how to Lindy Hop and do the Charleston.

Gothic

It takes a certain kind of theatrical mindset to really pull off a gothic wedding, but the results can be quite striking when it’s done properly. Modern gothic style is a combination of Victorian fashion with an elegiac sensibility and just a smidgen of fairy-tale romance. Think black lace, red candles, skulls and ravens for the décor. The bridesmaids can carry black lace parasols, and don’t forget the eyeliner for the groomsmen. Makeup for the whole wedding party should be generous and messy. Make sure the signature drink at the reception is a blood-red concoction: a Bloody Mary or sangria, perhaps. Fangs are optional.

Fairy Tale

Bring a touch of the fantastical to your wedding with a fairy tale theme. An outdoor venue like a park–or better yet, your local Renaissance Festival–will give the proper atmosphere. Look to your old copy of Pierrot’s fairy tales for design cues: for example, you could have the bridesmaids wear red hooded cloaks and carry baskets of flowers.  Hand out bags of magic (jelly) beans as wedding favors. The décor should be all natural–garlands of branches, chains of flowers, vibrant greens, yellows, and reds as the colors.

If you and your significant other share a particular interest or aesthetic style, don’t hesitate to make it part of the wedding plan. Whether your reception is a hoedown or a Gothic poetry reading, your guests are sure to enjoy a non-traditional ceremony.

5 Alternatives to Glass Clinking

Glass ClinkingAs soon as the bride and groom sit down at the reception, it starts. Every wedding guest seems to succumb to a fever, the only antidote to which is banging on their glasses with a spoon or a fork. The racket starts with one guest, then quickly spreads throughout the venue until the bride and groom kiss. There are loud “WOO!”s and thunderous applause, and then silence for a few minutes…until the whole thing starts up again.

If there was ever a tradition to discourage at your wedding, the glass clinking ritual is the one. We’ve seen couples try to thwart it by having plastic cups instead of goblets, or not putting out silverware until the meal arrives, but someone will always find a way to make noise until they get that kiss. The only way to thwart it is to provide a clear alternative and tell your guests at the beginning of the reception, “we’re not doing the glass-clinking thing. If you want us to kiss, you need to…”

Sing a Love Song

Have a microphone tied to the P.A. system and tell guests they must sing a snippet of a love song instead of banging on cutlery. The number of guests willing to embarrass themselves at the mic means you’ll have more time in between interruptions to enjoy your day, and the few star performers among your social circle can go crazy with it.

Give Advice to the Couple

Here’s a cute alternative to the constant interruption and noise of glass-clinking: have happily-married guests share a bit of advice for the bride and groom. That way, each kiss at your reception can be a memory of hearing some advice or a well-wishing from a dear friend or family member.

Share a Memory of the Bride or Groom

Much like the advice-giving, this alternative replaces an annoying intrusion with a welcome sharing among friends and family. Those happy memories can lead to great conversations around the table, friendly competition as people try and top each other’s memories, and the revelation of embarrassing secrets that will entertain everyone for years to come.

Bring the Couple a Drink

Look, if your guests are going to constantly interrupt your dinner and conversation with demands that you kiss while they watch and applaud, why not make them earn that kiss with a useful service? To earn a kiss, your guests have to go to the (hopefully cash) bar, pony up a few bucks for a drink, and bring it to your table. If you get too many drinks, just distribute them among the wedding party.

A Kiss for a Kiss

This is it: the nuclear option. In order to get the bride and groom to kiss, guests will have to bring their partners up to the table and kiss first while YOU watch and go “WOO.” The hardy folk that aren’t deterred by the embarrassment will provide a fun reflection of your love. And if anyone’s too embarrassed to kiss on demand in front of a room full of people, well…then you’ve made your point.

If these tips for alternatives to glass clinking don’t quite fit the bill, I’m sure you can imagine some other way that guests can “buy” a public kiss between the bride and groom. But whether you use these ideas or one of your own, there’s no denying the elegant joy of a clink-free reception.

How Big Should Your Bridal Party Be?

Big Bridal PartyThe size of your bridal party is something that can’t be left until the last minute. The choice of how big your bridal party is can affect what venue you choose, your budget plans, even the size of the reception. It’s worth thinking about as soon as you start your wedding planning.  What size wedding party works best with the ceremony you want to have? Here are some considerations when you’re thinking about the size of your wedding party.

Small weddings: Just the maid of honor and best man.

If your wedding has under 50 guests, you’d be best off with just the maid of honor and best man, possibly one more attendant on either side. Any more and it will start to feel like there are more people in your bridal party than are watching the wedding!

Medium weddings: 1-6 bridesmaids and groomsmen

If your wedding has a hundred guests or so, anywhere from one to six attendants on either side is traditional for a normal bridal party size. If you have a venue in mind already, imagine the logistics of your attendants: is there enough room for them all to stand? Are there facilities for them to get dressed? You’ll have to fit the wedding party to the space or vice versa.

Large weddings: 6-10

For an extremely formal ceremony like a large Catholic wedding, with 200 guests or more, you can go all the way up to ten or even twelve attendants on each side. If you’re considering twelve, though, keep in mind that means there will be 26 people standing in front of the congregation on the day, and only two of them will be getting married. That also means 24 significant others of your wedding attendants will also be attending, which makes the final guest count even bigger.

Not everyone has to be in the party

Sure, you only want three bridesmaids, but you have two best friends and two sisters and your maiden aunt who’s like a third sister and… and before you know it, you have five bridesmaids. Don’t be afraid to limit the size of your wedding party and give those who didn’t make the cut other positions of honor. They can be ushers, man the guest book, deliver a reading, or sing a song. It’s possible to keep people from feeling left out without having a huge bridal party.

Gender swaps are okay

If your best and oldest friend, the one you would choose for your maid of honor, happens to be a man, that’s okay. And if the groom’s eldest sister is his choice for best man, that’s lovely as well. There’s nothing wrong with having a Man of Honor (wearing a suit or tie to match the bridesmaids) and a Best Woman (wearing a black dress or even a tux to match the groomsmen).

They’re not rules. They’re more like guidelines

If you have twenty guests at your wedding but you really want five attendants, or you have 300 guests but you only want two attendants, do what makes you happy. These guidelines are intended to help those who really aren’t sure what they want, or those who are concerned about traditional etiquette rules. As long as you and your partner can agree on the number of attendants, there’s no need to bring anyone else into the decision.

10 Wedding Cocktail Ideas

SangriaBeer and wine are the mainstays of a wedding reception bar. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and a couple of inoffensive American pilsners. But a signature wedding cocktail provides a little class to the proceedings, encourages your guests to try something new, and can augment your overall wedding theme. Here are a few ideas for that one great drink to serve at your reception as wedding cocktails:

Ciroc Lola

For a summer or spring wedding, you can’t go wrong with this delicate pink drink garnished with an exotic flower. Here’s the recipe.

Rosemary-Citrus Punch

One bonus for this refreshing herbal concoction is that you can make a big batch and let guests serve themselves. Here’s the recipe

Godiva Chocolate Martini

For a winter wedding, this the adult version of cocoa. It’s served cold, but the heat comes from the surprising amount of booze in this sweet delight. Here’s the recipe.

Sangria

Sangria is a kind of sweet punch made with red wine, fresh fruit, and fruit juice; and it makes for one of the best wedding cocktails imagineable. This recipe adds champagne for extra sparkle.

Bourbon Fizz

Bourbon and amaretto form the sweet but stiff backbone of this brunch-perfect drink. Here’s how to make it.

Starlight Royale

This sparkling wedding cocktail is like a gin-and-tonic with champagne for added sweetness. A dash of grenadine gives it a lovely springtime blush, and you can serve it in sugar-rimmed glasses for an extra pop. Here’s the recipe.

Viennese Coffee Float

For a brunch reception or a late-night pick-me-up after dinner, this espresso-based drink is just the thing. It features hazelnut whipped cream for sweetness, but it’s fortified with a shot of spiced rum. Here’s how to make it.

Planter’s Punch

For a hot summer wedding, you can’t go wrong with a huge iced punch bowl filled with this heady concoction. It packs a serious wallop, but the alcohol’s all but hidden in a mix of sweet and refreshing fruit juice. Just make sure you have a non-spiked version for the kids. Here’s the recipe.

Double Apple Sidecar

For a fall wedding, bring back memories of strolling through an apple orchard with this cider-based drink that makes one of the best wedding cocktails you’ll ever taste. Add a stick of cinnamon for stirring and it couldn’t be more seasonal if it were pumpkin-spice flavored. Here’s the recipe.

Bloody Mary Bar

Everyone knows that morning-after classic, the Bloody Mary. But there are as many different ways to make it as there are people in the world, and everyone’s got their own perfect recipe. So why not set up a bar with several different mixes and types of tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, soy sauce, hot sauces, and a salad bar’s worth of garnish? Give your guests something to drink and something to munch on while they wait for the meal.

Whether it’s fruity and sweet or boozy and dry, your wedding cocktail can be as much a part of your theme as the flower decorations. With a little bit of searching and a little planning, your guests can celebrate your nuptials with a touch of class. Just make sure it’s a drink you and your spouse will enjoy, too–why should your guests get to have all the fun?

Five Bars for an Unforgettable Reception

Waffle BarWhen most people think of the word ‘bar’ in association with a wedding reception, it’s in terms of an open bar or cash bar. But what we’re talking about here isn’t (necessarily) booze; it’s more about loading up buffet tables with food fixings and letting the guests create their own masterpieces. Some are dessert, some are a main course, but they’re all a fun and delicious way to get more out of your wedding reception.

Waffle Bar

For a brunch wedding, you can’t go wrong with a waffle bar. Rent a few of the waffle irons and batter dispensers–the kind you’ll find at continental breakfasts in hotels–and you’re set for the main course. Then add plenty of topping possibilities: fresh fruit, jam and jelly, different flavors of syrup, whipped cream, peanut butter, even chocolate sauce. The kids will be delighted, and the adults will have fun eating like kids again.

Baked Potato Bar

I recently attended a wedding that was mid-day; it was a little too late for lunch at the reception, and a little too early for dinner. The bride and groom instead had a baked potato bar set up for the guests to stuff themselves, and nobody went away hungry. You can really go crazy with potato toppings: butter, sour cream, and chives are must-haves, of course. But then add bacon bits, cheese, chili, red bell peppers, even avocado. Since they’re gluten-free and can be vegetarian they make a great dish for kids and adults alike. Add a few side dishes, and it can stand in for your entire reception dinner!

Beer Bar

Most receptions have a bar that serves beer, but in this case we mean a wide selection of beer for sampling, rather than one or two kegs for general consumption. Odds are your city has a homebrewers’ club or two that might be up to the challenge of providing several craft beer selections for your reception guests. All you need in addition are plenty of 4 oz tasting glasses, and your guests can make their own beer flights.

Candy Bar

A great punny way to give your guests a memorable wedding favor is to stock a buffet table with dozens of different types of candy and let each guest create a custom mix. All the brightly-colored candy makes for a fun display, and the bags themselves will be a sweet reminder of your special day.

Ice Cream Bar

Nothing will take your guests back to childhood like a fully-stocked sundae bar. Whether you go for banana splits, cones, or simple scoops, make sure to have several flavors they can choose from and all the toppings you can think of: hot fudge, whipped cream, cherries, graham crackers, marshmallow fluff, sprinkles, and more. Let your guests indulge in a decadent dessert and they’re more likely to get up and dance when the music starts.

It’s all well and good to do a fancy table-service meal at your reception. But with any of these bars providing an option for fully personalized face-stuffing, your guests are sure to leave stuffed and satisfied.