Arriving at your cocktail hour or reception after a morning filled with so much anticipation is one of the best feelings, but it can quickly become overwhelming, too. If the prospect of trying to find time to spend with each and every person in attendance is already making your head spin, stay calm. To understand how to maximize the time you get to spend with your wedding guests, we called in the experts. Troy Williams of Simply Troy + Lifestyle and Events, Michelle Rago of Michelle Rago Destinations, and Sofia Crokos of Sofia Crokos Events & Lifestyle all chimed in with tips for the bride and groom who want to take advantage of having everyone they love around them—and they're not just talking about during the party.
Understand the "Magic" Number
While choosing the right number of wedding guests is something that's personal to each couple, there is a generally-accepted "magic" number that planners like to keep in mind: 180 guests. "That's your sweet spot in terms of how many people you will be able to see in one night," says Williams. "The evening flies by so quickly and everyone wants their few minutes with you that it'll be really rushed if you start getting a bigger and bigger list." That's not to say that you can't invite more people than that, but if you want to feel confident you'll get face time with all of your guests, keep this number in mind as you put together your dream list.
Consider the Advantages of a Destination Wedding
If spending lots of time with your loved ones is at the top of your must-have list, then a destination wedding might be right for you; these events give you days—rather than hours—to spend with your family and friends. "The beauty of a destination wedding is that everyone is staying in one location," says Rago. "This means, outside of getting ready, brides can spend plenty of time catching up with their guests through organized activities and casual family style meals." Welcome drinks, group outings, dinners, and pool parties are all fun opportunities for quality time with your guests.
While even the best-laid plans can go awry, staying as organized as possible will make it easier for you to spend time with your family and friends. Work with your photographer to lay out the "must-have" photos you want to capture and spread the word to VIPs ahead of time. If family portraits will be taken right before cocktail hour begins, let your everyone know where to be so you can spend less time searching for your cousins and more time chatting with attendees.
Plan a Send-Off Activity
If your wedding isn't a destination, there's still an opportunity to extend the time you have to spend with guests. A morning-after brunch at the hotel or a family member's house is a great way to see your attendees and recap the previous day's festivities. For a little something extra, you can plan a group outing in place of a brunch: A beach day, wine tasting, or a cooking class are all fun day-after trips to send guests off with a smile. "Anytime you can give your guests a meaningful experience during your wedding weekend, you create a lifelong memory that will be talked about at future gatherings for the rest of your lives," says Williams.
If you aren't able to hit every single guest to say hello despite your best efforts, don't let it stress you out and ruin your experience. "Everyone is there to witness and be part of the special day. They are not looking to receive anything more," Crokos says. There will be plenty of time post-wedding to make each guest feel special and included, like getting together to watch your wedding video or sharing photos when they come in. The most important thing to do on the wedding day is to make sure your guests feel as if their presence is appreciated, even if it's in a non-verbal way. Crokos puts it like this: "Guests are going to feed off the couple's energy. How they are feeling is the couple's great gift back to their friends and family."