How to keep your guests smiling in your photos all day long – without booking Mr Bean as your MC

February 23, 2021

I photograph all sorts of weddings. 

Formal church affairs, chic civil ceremonies, festival style unions, raucous tipi raves, intimate garden parties, relaxed rustic receptions…

And whilst each one is totally different, they all have something in common:

The couple’s main intention is “for everyone to just have a great time”.

Because we’ve all been there. 

And by “there” I mean a wedding where you:

  • Wish you’d indulged in that second helping of avo on toast as your tummy gurgles just as the officiant asks if anyone has any objections
  • Eke out your drink and make polite small-talk while wondering when the couple will return from having their photos taken
  • Sneak out to the nearest shop to stock up on sugary snacks
  • Go home feeling deflated because you barely spoke to the couple you went to celebrate with

Hmmm. Not much fun.

You don’t want any of that at your wedding.

No.

At your wedding, everyone will:

  • Raise the earth’s vibration to a new dimension with huge hugs, countless kisses and fifty-miles-per-hour chatter
  • Be so busy partaking in your suitably splendid afternoon that they forget they even have a phone
  • Party like lockdown just lifted 
  • Conga home whilst singing a rousing rendition of “I’ve had the time of my life….”

Yes.

That sounds much more like it.

Seriously though, your friends and fam mean a lot to you. It’s your day, but it’s also a celebration for everyone. And a chance for you to show how much you appreciate them being there for you. They deserve it.

And of course, the more fun everyone has, the more there is for your resident photographer to capture. Happy guests, happy photos. That’s how it works.

And I revel in photographing wedding guests who are having an absolute ball. (It’s almost as good as a sound-bath.) And, because other people’s weddings are a treasure trove of ideas, I’ve pulled together some of my happiest guest photos so you can see how other couples gave their faves a permanent smile.

Wanna see?

Here you go…

Wedding ideas that’ll make your guests – and your photos – happy

Create an atmosphere with background music. At a wedding, it’s always the right time for music. But even if it’s just for a short while, it can bring life (and relaxation!) to the transitional times, like when your guests are waiting for the ceremony to start or for dinner to be served. Live music, in particular, sets a wonderful tone (literally). 

Surprise your guests with something unexpected. People love to experience new things, especially at weddings. So anything unusual will go down a storm, particularly interactive entertainment that encourages your guests to get involved. The highest energy entertainment I’ve seen includes: singing waiters, mariachi bands, and roaming magicians.

Prevent a post-dinner slump by getting everyone moving after dinner. The post-lunch speaking slot at a company conference is hard, right? So before your speeches start, make it easy for your speakers and make sure everyone feels refreshed. A game of ‘wedding guest bingo’ is ideal. Each guest has to fill out a bingo sheet with the names of 10 people they don’t know. (A great way to get people to meet each other!) A nominated person then draws the names from a hat and calls them out, and your guests tick off the names on their sheet as they’re called out. The first person to cross off all their names… you know the rest. Just make sure you remove your seating plan to prevent cheating!

Set-up an alternative to the dancefloor. Not everyone enjoys a loud environment, and some of your guests will value quiet time to catch up with people they don’t often see. So create a quieter zone with comfy chairs, board games, hot drinks, and maybe an acoustic singer or pianist.

Keep everyone comfortable with creature comforts …especially if you’re having an alfresco wedding. Blankets, umbrellas, paper fans, flip-flops for dancing, bottles of water…

Prevent hanger setting in with a constant supply of snacks. Because there’s nothing worse than being hungry or thirsty and there being nothing available. The fastest disappearing snack ever? Iced doughnuts.

Refresh the travellers. If you have people travelling a long way on the day, turn your order of service into a welcome bag with a drink and snacks (extra points for personalising them with each person’s fave treats). Or how about a tea and coffee (and biscuits) station at the back of the church?

Show your guests you care. They’ve made an effort to be there for you. So show them how much you appreciate that by spending time with them on the day. Make time for your guests by keeping your formal photos to a minimum during your drinks reception and visiting each table between courses of your meal.

Erase travel worries. Stressing about traffic, travel, and logistics – especially when you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before – takes the edge off the fun. Take away that concern by organising overnight stays and arranging transport.

Make waiting fun. With dozens of people around, there will be times when your guests simply have to wait. Like when people are finding their seats for dinner. Give them something to do to stop the boredom setting in. Perhaps a drawing competition for the kids, a ‘how well do you know the newlyweds’ quiz, or props for selfies. 

Get the conversation flowing by giving your guests something to talk about. You can buy packs of ice-breaker cards. Or you could DIY it… James and Jude used polaroids of special moments they shared with each of their guests. While Fred and Sasha printed a personalised memory on each person’s place-card. Your guests will love the nostalgia and have fun telling the story to others on their table.

Make every moment purposeful. There’s a fine line between hanging out and hanging around. And that’s never more obvious than in the transitional time between the end of the wedding breakfast and the ‘official’ start of the evening festivities, which can feel disconnected from the day. But give that time a clear purpose, and it’ll feel fun. Maybe reserve this time for your guests to check into their hotel rooms or explore your venue. Other ideas include a cocktail hour with flair bar staff, coffee and cake and croquet on the lawn, rounders, a sweet station, a selfie wall…

Keep your guests occupied while you’re having photos taken. Give your guests something to get stuck into, like garden games, and they’ll barely notice you’re missing.

Hungry for more relaxed wedding ideas?

Grab some tea and chocolate hobnobs, and indulge in this little lot.