Have you ever been to a wedding and thought, "I would never do that at my wedding"? I have, and I'm always left wondering how on earth the couple could have made such a blunder. One of my roles as a wedding planner is to offer advice to my clients (and friends). But if they don't ask, then I don't have the opportunity to weigh in. So here's my unsolicited advice about five things you absolutely should not do at your wedding.
1. Cash Bar
Never, ever, ever, ever charge your guests. When you throw a party, you are acting as host and offering your guests your hospitality. Charging them turns it into a business transaction. If you can't afford to offer a full open bar for multiple hours for potentially hundreds of people, don't. There are many alternatives you can consider. Serve only beer and wine. Serve liquor for a limited time (such as only as cocktail hour) and then switch to beer and wine for the rest of the reception. Serve only two signature cocktails instead of a full bar, which drastically cuts down on the amount of alcohol the bar needs to have on hand. Offer a fun non-alcoholic option, like a juice bar. In short, do anything other than a cash bar. Anything.
2. Schedule Gaps
In keeping with the theme of hospitality, it is rude to your guests to have a long break between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of your reception, unless you are providing an activity for them during that in-between time. Sometimes a long gap between ceremony and reception occurs because the couple want to take photos during that time. This is why first-look sessions became popular. You get the vast majority of your photos out of the way before the ceremony, allowing you to transition smoothly from ceremony to reception without missing the action. If you just can't face the idea of seeing your betrothed before the ceremony, then you'll just have to miss cocktail hour to get those photos. Sorry. If you want to be a good host, those are your options.
3. Starting Late
You've invited your nearest and dearest to witness your marriage vows. These people have planned their day (possibly their weekend) around your wedding. They have perhaps traveled and foregone other activities and events. They spend time getting ready and arrive on time. Show them the courtesy of beginning on time. A five-minute delay is perfectly acceptable and gives everyone time to get settled in their seats. A 30-minute delay is unconscionable. If you are a person who is habitually late for everything, assign one of your attendants to be your time-minder for the day. Your wedding planner will do her best to keep you on schedule, but if the bride or groom arrives at the venue 30 minutes late, there's nothing anyone can do to get things back on track. So don't be late!
4. Registry Information
Your registry information should never appear on a wedding invitation. Everyone knows that when you're invited to a wedding, you should send a gift to the couple. And the registry makes that process significantly easier. But it's improper to include the registry on the invitation because it gives the appearance of demanding (or at the very least, soliciting) a gift. Before the rise of the Internet and the prevalence of save-the-date announcements, registry information was primarily disseminated via word-of-mouth. These days, it's much more common for the couple to create a wedding website, include a page with links to their registries (2-3 at most), and include the wedding website URL on the save-the-date card. The website should also have useful information such as travel accommodations, weekend events, information about the bridal party and how the couple met, etc. The registry information blends right in and is less overt. The only invitation on which registry information should appear is a bridal shower invite. Because the purpose of the bridal shower is to "shower" the bride with gifts, it is reasonable (and practically necessary) to include the registry information.
5. Children & Animals
There's an old Hollywood adage that you should never work with children or animals, because they are unpredictable and uncontrollable. The same holds true for weddings. If you are a laid-back, chill person, then by all means, include children and animals in your wedding. If you can't handle the slightest thing going wrong, you should consider only adult humans as part of your big day. Don't get me wrong, small children and animals (usually dogs) can be totally adorable. You just have to be prepared for, and comfortable with, the unexpected. A short list of things I've seen at weddings: a flower girl vomited mid-ceremony; a dog burrowed under the bride's dress; one flower girl chastised the other (her little sister) for not properly tossing the petals; a ring bearer stopped halfway down the aisle and refused to walk any further; a ring bearer threw a tantrum moments before the ceremony and had to be removed; a canine ring bearer got stage fright and refused to move. I've never seen anyone try to incorporate a cat into a wedding ceremony, but given the general uncooperativeness of cats, I imagine it would be a disaster. Older children do better than young children for obvious reasons. The take-away here is that you should carefully think through whether the children or pets in question are capable of performing on cue. If not, it might be best to leave them out.