No, I will not just put down what time you “think” or “want” guests to arrive at your reception when I’m your Reception-only Coordinator and have not been involved with planning your entire wedding. I need to see exactly what your guests see, and this is why I ask for a copy of your actual ceremony and reception invitation. It guarantees that I will view it as your guests will and what they will inevitably end up doing as a result of what you told them. This is also so we as the event supply partner team can be ready to meet this expectation. And for most of us, we not only want to “meet” the expectation, but we want to exceed it.
Many clients with a “split” (that’s industry jargon for a ceremony and reception at two different locations), will have printed up for their guests “Reception Immediately Following” but then tell me that they don’t plan to have guests arrive for the reception until two hours after the ceremony is over. This creates a huge problem. What they have in their minds as their “vision” and “wish” could have been attained if they had consulted me in the full planning prior to the “month of” and we could have re-worded the invitations a bit differently to manage the guest expectation and event success up front. Unfortunately, once the invitations have been sent and are read and responded to by guests, we have no choice but to batten down the hatches and prepare for what guests will be expecting and more importantly: when they will be expected. This generally means we have to add on additional time for the vendors (because now they will have to start earlier to be there for when guests arrive) and by this time, there are little (or no) funds left in the wedding spending plan (budget) to allow for the overtime or extra time that this new earlier start time will require. Sometimes, a venue is not even available earlier, so when a bride does not take this into consideration, it can mean an epic fail.
You see, here is what happens: bride prints “Reception Immediately Following” but didn’t hire her venue, catering or any other service provider to actually begin their service for two hours after the ceremony because that’s when she “wants” it to begin. The reality of what actually plays out: guests will arrive, as directed in their printed invitation immediately after the ceremony to the reception site while vendors are running around setting up. There is no bar, there is no food, boxes and cords are laying around everywhere while set up is happening, there is no music and there is utter chaos. It would appear to the guest that perhaps it is the caterer or vendor’s fault (which doesn’t make anyone look good) and worst of all, the guest arrives to no gracious reception of being prepared for them. Unnecessary awkwardness ensues and no one is happy. The event is off to a miserable start and this down energy permeates the rest of what should be a joyful celebration. Inevitably, some poor wedding service provider is blamed when in fact, they were doing what they were contracted to do based on what the inexperienced, first time bride told them to do.
Now, there are remedies to reconcile an invitation that says one thing and an actual reception whose vendors start at another time, and that’s what a professional wedding coordinator can help do when she steps in to handle “month of” duties, which is largely detailed crises-prevention review and so much more. A truly seasoned professional has many tricks of the trade that can make it all work. But not unless you provide her with everything- and I mean everything- that you gave your guests so the professional knows how to manage and guide what will really happen. That said, one of my required items for all clients for my “month of” involves my brides actually scanning in and sending along the invitations as their guests will have read it. It is only from that I can successfully prepare for a seamless wedding day and take care of our clients, their guests and ensure the success of all the event supply partners working the event.