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Tips From An Expert Wedding Guest – Jan. 25, 2012
2012 Bridal Guide
by Leah Carey
As you plan your wedding, one of the things you’re probably considering is how to make it an enjoyable experience for your guests.
Jill Brewer is an experienced wedding-goer. In the past seven months, she and her husband Adam Nyborg have been to eight weddings spanning the globe, from Bethlehem, N.H., to Philadelphia to Jamaica. The wedding styles ranged from casual outdoor events to a very formal affair in a Boston landmark.
With so many weddings packed into such a short time, Jill has formed some solid opinions about what makes a wedding enjoyable for a guest.
For a wedding that was held inside the Boston Public Library, the fun started long before the wedding ceremony. “The save the date card and invitation were so different,” Jill said. The save the date card was a library check-out card stamped with the important dates from the couple’s courtship, ending with the date of the wedding. The invitation was similarly library-themed. “We had it on our fridge forever because it was so cool.” The cleverness factor was a big hit, as was the fact that it spoke to the personalities of the couple.
In October, Adam and Jill went to California for an outdoor wedding that was held in a park near San Diego. “It had a cool carnival theme, which made it really neat,” said Jill. “When we were waiting for the bride to come out, there was a guy they hired to make popcorn and give it out.”
Because the wedding was outside in a park, Jill wondered if it would feel weird to have strangers walking by the private ceremony. “It was actually really nice because people walked by and stopped to watch. You could tell they really enjoyed it. Rather than feeling like they were invaders, it really felt like they were validating the wedding and enjoying it.”
Although the destination wedding in Jamaica took extra time, money and planning to attend, it ended up being the most fun. “Everyone had been there for two days and was in vacation/relaxed mode and was having fun,” Jill explained. “At most weddings you don’t get to interact with the bride and groom very much, but because it was a destination wedding, we were all there and staying at the same hotel. I really got to see people a lot. It was nice because during the wedding you could really relax. You don’t feel like you have to see people before they leave. It meant we could really enjoy ourselves.”
The couples marrying in California and Jamaica also understood that people were making an effort and spending money to be there for the special day. “They made it very clear that the wedding gift was you traveling to the wedding, which was nice and relieved a lot of pressure.”
One other unexpected pleasure for Jill was an 80s cover band that played at a wedding on the Jersey Shore. “It was so fun because they just played all this 80s music and people had a great time dancing!”
What didn’t work
Along with the hits, there were also some misses.
Jill was struck by the wedding gown one of her friends wore for her second wedding. “It was a different dress than she wore to the first wedding, but it was extremely similar. When I saw her come down the aisle I thought, oh this gives me goose bumps.”
At another wedding, there were guests who were invited to the ceremony and dinner, and then there were guests who were only invited to the reception after dinner was finished. “It was clear that they had just been invited to the post-dinner reception. It felt weird like there was an A list and a B list. It was kind of uncomfortable.”
Casual vs. formal
Jill and Adam are casual people by nature. Their own wedding happened with a justice of the peace and their two dogs in a field and they didn’t tell their family and friends until after it was done. “It made us sad that we didn’t have it with family and friends, but at the same time it felt like [weddings] get so big and out of control. We felt like once we started to invite people we would lose control of the whole thing and become something that wasn’t us at all. It was such a wonderful day and I’m really glad we did it the way we did.”
With that background, it’s not a surprise that the couple especially enjoyed the casual, outdoor weddings. Because they took their toddler with them, the outdoor weddings were also easier. “You feel like you can escape if you need to because you can remove yourself easily. As new parents we really appreciated that.”
Although the formal atmosphere at the Boston Public Library had its perks (“It was amazing and beautiful,” Jill said), it was harder to relax and have fun. “We didn’t know a lot of people,” said Jill. “You had this very brief window to interact with people, so if you don’t know people there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to go up to people and get to know them. It was fancy and restrained.”
Making it your own
Of all the ceremonies she’s witnessed in the last year, what stays with Jill are the instances where couples created a wedding that was a reflection of themselves.
In Jamaica, the couple wrote their own, very personal, vows. “It wasn’t just generic,” said Jill. “It was so personal and so beautiful and they were both crying. … After the ceremony I really felt like I understood the couple much better. They really allowed people to see inside their relationship. It was really beautiful and inspiring.”
Another couple had a casual wedding at a farm that involved their dogs. “They were doing what they wanted to do,” explained Jill. “And you got a feeling that everyone really appreciated that.”
“Even if it means that you’re going against tradition, you find a way to do it because it’s important to you. The ones where I felt like people were most able to be themselves and authentic were the ones that I really enjoyed the most and felt like I could relax and have a good time.”
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