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"10 Tips for Maximizing Your Wedding Program and Making Every Moment Count"

Updated: Apr 14

Wedding programs can be perilous if not managed properly.

I am speaking from the point of view of an emcee, a supplier, one of the focal points of a wedding event. Coordinators are the ones running it from the background, but as a host, I am at the forefront and the orchestrator making sure the program is an overall experience.

Getting married is a long process. It looks glamorous with how it is portrayed on social media, all the beautifully curated photos and videos, but little do we know the chaos behind it. The time you have to manage, the expectations that you have to meet both for your client and your guest.

So this writeup is all about how we can help maximize everyone's time and enjoy it without the hassle of worrying about the time, fatigue and even maybe expenses.

To start off, programs should not be long. It shouldn't hold the guests' attention for more than 2 hours. We don't really have an accurate perception of time when we're planning. From an attendee's point of view, nothing seems too long until you sit through something that drags on beyond a person's attention span.

Some points to consider:

  1. It shouldn't be a variety show unless it's intentional. Guests are expecting a dinner-celebration more than a variety show. Gauge your guests according to their collective interest and what can entertain the majority.

  2. Your main goal should be to entertain the people you invited to be part of that special day, to show them gratitude by celebrating through a good meal and a fun time.

  3. It's completely okay to try to impress your guests with your event elements to say thank you for being part of their lives individually and that you want them to be part of your married life.

PART 1. Time it.

Average run time - programs should ideally run for about 2-2.5 hours including dinner. Dinner depends on the number of guests, the more guests, the more to entertain and accommodate.

Guests won't feel comfortable sitting around through a lengthy program unless there's something in it for them. If they're there for support and appreciation, they'll finish the event, regardless. If there's no incentive, whether it's a show they want to see, or prizes they might want to have, it can easily sway them to leave as soon as they've shown their support one way or another. That said, you'll want to keep your event brief and straight to the point.

There are a few things you might need to know. Let's skip the details of the ceremony because it's mostly standard. What is important to understand is the timeline, and let's start with the gap between the ceremony and reception.

PART 2. Mind the Gap.

The shorter the gap between the ceremony and the reception will always be good for the guests, but there are also things that happen in between that your guests don't know that prolongs the wait. Being aware of this should help you become more time-conscious.

1. After the ceremony, when you've taken  photos with everyone who came, your photo and video team will take you around to take more fashionable photos and videos to take home or include in your same day edit.

2. Once the shoot is good and all possible photos and videos have been taken, you'll be sneaked in to your reception venue. The key here is for your guests not to see you so they wont be prompted that a program is starting. This trend that started a few years ago is called - the empty ballroom shoot. Taking photos and videos in an empty venue (while guests are held elsewhere) will ensure you get to appreciate the event styling made, enhanced with spectacular lighting from your lights and sound supplier too. You'll be doing it intimately with your partner, and the photo and video team. You should enjoy this, but be wary of the excessive time you might burn because the guests are waiting.

3. When you're done with that shoot, you'll be taken to your holding area to freshen up so that you get a reset from all the activities throughout the day. You get to take a break and maybe eat which is important since meals are impossible to squeeze in a tight schedule. This also takes more time so be sure to manage your it for the sake of your guests and the rest of the timeline.

PART 3. Go Time.

1. Just like any event, we have to prep everyone including the celebrants. I highly recommend not starting the program unless the celebrants are behind the entrance for their grand welcome.

Just a short story on why this became a highly-critical insight was because I used to have programs where coordinators would ask me to start while the bride and groom were on their way to the reception venue. It takes a few minutes from my opening spiel up to the grand entrance, and when the time came, I set-up the grand reveal. As the coordinating team opened the door, the couple was not behind it, only to find out after a few ad libs about where they were (not behind the door), that the couple was asked by the photo booth supplier to pass by and take their souvenir shot at that moment.

Fingers can be pointed to the involved suppliers,including myself on who was responsible at that moment, but as much as possible, we don't do this to keep the synergy between colleagues, and debrief after for future learning. The bottom line is, and what I learned the hard way, was to make sure the celebrant is ready and queued.

Now back to our tips...

2. As we begin, we ask your guests to settle down. you can play a video to set the mood and gather their attention, something brief, not any more than 2 minutes. you don't want to keep their attention too long or what comes next may not be well received.

PART 4. Welcoming.

1. The program should always start with welcoming the audience. acknowledging who came and setting their expectations with what the program has will get them to warm up. get a good host to set the mood and get them excited. get a host that reads the crowd well and knows how to connect. Entertainment is a big plus.

2. Introductions come up next, this also acknowledges the whole entourage from the parents and family of the celebrants and the sponsors. Your entourage's entrance will help hype up the crowd before you make your grand welcome. They don't always have to dance or make a production number, sometimes it gets cheesy unless your squad is really up for it. Don't make the mistake of putting your entourage on the spot if it's not their personality, or they'll ending up feeling embarrassed, and reversing the hype.

3. The grand entrance can be any way you want it to be. These sequences are always suggestive and not set in stone nor should there be a standard way of doing it. make it appropriate and just choose the best way to introduce those key people. Just like the entourage, you also don't need to dance or do anything tacky, you be you. Celebrants should be presented in a way that's comfortable for them. If a little gimmick works with how you envisioned it, do it, otherwise, just be as genuine as possible. It's a celebration, be happy about it and accept that for a night YOU are the center of attraction, the grand reveal.

PART 5. The Meat of the Program.

1. You want to pull off the traditions just because - they are traditions. I personally would want to get over with these ceremonial parts which it might be significant to you, but for the rest of the guests, it's a show.

2. The dances are great moments to spend with your parents or those who are significant to you. give it a chance and indulge yourself, you might only get to do it once, I hope. Dance with mom, fathers, dance with the bride as he gives her away (nicely) to the man that should take care of her from that point. So give that chance to your dad, unless there sensitivities to consider.

When it comes to your first dance, no matter how many left feet you have, take that chance too! Be in the moment. Take the time to realize that you are now officially...married. Let that sink in and enjoy it, if you do, so should everyone else.

3. The cake cutting and toast is also a tradition, but to some, not as significant. I would always make this an option to do it early on in the program or just do it over dinner while everyone's eating so that they wont stop just to watch this overly-done tradition. what is it actually for? It's a ceremony symbolizing your first task with your significant other. In the early days, it's just the bride cutting the cake, symbolizing the half that prepares the meal for the family, but as we evolved to modern times, the husband now joins in as it is now a shared task. that's about it.

Quick trivia: In ancient Rome, the groom would smash the wedding cake on the bride’s head. The tradition was done to symbolize male dominance and encourage fertility. The guests would rush in to scoop up the crumbs of the smashed cake for their good and fertility.

Obviously not a good sight to see if we do it now. You'll ruin the hair, the dress, the cake and the whole scene.

PART 6. Speeches.

1. Speeches are never mandatory, but it is an opportunity to say meaningful things to and for the newlyweds. In other parts of the globe, it's the best man who says something about the groom just because the whole day is mostly about the bride. This includes a little roast, a little boast and ends with a toast.

Having the maid of honor say something too is a bonus. I would even say for symmetry - say something about the bride, say something about the groom. Having anyone else say something is not really necessary, but a choice. Try not to obligate someone or anyone to say something for you, it's awkward if they're not into public speaking or at the very least, nothing to say. You can ask them if they could share something for you. If they agree, it must be because they're eager to accept. They'll even present to do it themselves if they really want to.

We also give an opportunity for parents to say something to express their joy (or whatever else they could be feeling at the moment). Again, if they freely oblige, then good, if not, there's no reason to force them. Also, this might be a good chance for them to say and profess their feelings in public which could possibly never happen again for most of us.

PART 7. Dinner

Marriage is a universal thing, but religions differ. Respect for one another's religion is important, but whatever it may be, it's best that we get into the mood and space for a thanksgiving prayer, say it as open as possible for all types of religion present. What's important is the content of the prayer. while feasting, its best to accompany it with good mood music. if your theme is party vibe, get to that.

This a good time to stop by and mingle with your guests and say hi per table.

PART 8. Entertainment.

It was suggested earlier that your program shouldn't be a variety show, but there's no reason not to entertain your guests through performances, a video or even games might be a good incentive for guests to stay.

Around this time, guests are waiting for the SDE. It takes a while to create a masterpiece so best not to hurry the artist, but time is of the essence.

There are a lot of ways to buy time, but this wait should still be managed.

I don't recommend more speeches because this is entertaining only to the people who knows the one giving the speech and those who these speeches are for. one or two should be enough and should be done as briefly as possible.

PART 9. The Masterpiece.

The best ending of a program should be watching a recap of the whole day in beautify crafted videos from your suppliers. At this point, you shouldn't be bothered by guests who are bidding to go home, that's just rude since you're enjoying something that you waited and paid for.

I would play these videos back to back to avoid guests from standing and saying goodbye to the newlyweds, It's almost at the end of the program anyway.

PART 10. Closing.

Make the guests feel that the program has ended but the evening hasn't. if they stayed until the end, stay a little more to spend time with the people you came for. end the program nicely and help them remember the good points of the day, so that they'll remember this occasion. bid them a safe trip and don't forget to thank them again for being there for you. Don't forget to thank the suppliers that worked hard to make this program memorable, and be responsible enough to settle everything that's needed before you let your hair down and start to party.

Know that whatever or however you decide your wedding reception to go is yours to make. Just make sure you also listen to suggestions or advice from your suppliers on the best and most efficient way to run it because sometimes the best intentions get ruined by overplanning and not considering all factors. Seek those who have experience and have encountered the challenges and difficulties.

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