It’s definitely not the escort cards.
We can all agree that weddings are all about the bride and groom. However, wedding guests play just as big a role in the big day as the décor and venue. Which explains why couples go to such great lengths to plan a ceremony that their guests will remember long after they’ve exchanged vows. Considering all the expenses the bride-to-be has to pay for, including the cake, wedding favors, food, and flowers, are these things of importance to guests?
This is the very question that WeddingWire, an online marketplace bridging the gap between engaged couples and merchants, sought to answer with their Wedding Guest Survey. The survey revealed what guests pay attention to at the ceremony and reception, and the results were also broken down by age demographic (millennials vs. Generation X) and region.
For example, you’ll be surprised to learn that those surveyed said they focus less on the flowers at the reception. But what shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone is that 64 percent of respondents said they really care about the food. In addition, Southerners (40 percent) are more excited about the prospect of meeting new people at a wedding than guests from other regions. Obviously, we're a charming, hospitable bunch—and you know what they say, a Southerner has never met a stranger.
If you're in the process of planning your own nuptials, hopefully, these survey results will allow you to narrow down the wedding details for those in attendance. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you plan an unforgettable celebration that will truly wow your guests.
1. Gen X guests in the South are all about people-watching.
During the ceremony, you’re more apt to find Mama paying attention to the other invited guests than the actual décor and aesthetics. According to WeddingWire trend expert, Anne Chertoff, millennials are social, but’s it in the form of social media, where they’re often looking for something pretty to photograph, pin, share, or post.
"Generation Xers are more social in an in-person way," wrote Chertoff in an email. "They have smart phones and use social media, but they didn’t grow up with it and were raised in a different way, where face-to-face communication took precedence. They’re more likely to use their phones for people shots—the bride walking down the aisle, the ceremony, the toasts, etc."
2. Here comes the...groom.
Per the WeddingWire survey results, 41 percent of guests from the South, as opposed to Northerners, pay more attention to the look on the groom’s face as the bride walks down the aisle.
"In the South, first looks often happen in the ceremony aisle, so when looking at the groom you’re seeing his reaction the first time he has seen the bride on their wedding day," said Chertoff. "Southerners are very friendly by nature. A wedding is a great place to meet new people and reconnect with old friends and relatives they may not see often. After all, it’s a melding of the two families."
3. Food (as you might imagine) is the most popular element at the reception.
It’s not just any food at Southern weddings that reigns supreme. Chertoff said it’s all about seafood and other regional fare.
"We see a lot of interpretations of foods in a way that highlights the region, such as steak with a side of fried green tomatoes, or a pimiento cheese butter sauce, or risotto cooked with long grain rice in a Lowcountry way," Chertoff explained. "For drinks, you may see a bourbon bar with a variety of bourbon cocktail options."
As for the least popular detail at receptions, guests are less than impressed with escort cards. Approximately 2 percent of those surveyed said they actually focus on the cards telling them where their tables are.
4. For Southerners, it’s less about the venue and more about family.
Wedding guests in the north are more concerned with the location, whereas those in the South focus on family and mingling.
"Weddings in the South tend to have a lot of details and DIY elements, so there are more items to focus on," said Chertoff. "The trend of interactive details allows guests to mix and mingle with each other in new and fun ways that keep guests’ attention on more than just where they are, but on what they are doing and who they are doing it with."
Chertoff also suggested that couples getting married today want to include their guests more in the pre- and post-wedding events.
"In the South, you’ll have a larger rehearsal dinner with a guest list that includes more than just the immediate family," added Chertoff. "Out-of-towners will be invited too. The same goes for the post-wedding brunch the morning after."
5. Southerners aren’t shy about giving money as a wedding gift.
"Giving a check or cash is a cultural and regional tradition [in the South], where more couples in the northeast receive monetary gifts at the wedding and registry items for the engagement party and/or shower," suggested Chertoff. "I think that’s the nature of the communities in those specific regions. For example, it’s very common for Italian and Jewish families to give a registry item at the engagement party or bridal shower. But for the wedding, they bring a cash gift or write a check."
6. When it comes to wedding trends, Southern weddings are big on monograms.
"Southern weddings are all about family and heritage, so we’re seeing a lot of wedding details that incorporate elements that reflect the couple’s backgrounds," said Chertoff. "Monograms are huge, and are being featured on anything and everything from the invitation to floral backdrops."