Many weddings in Northern Michigan are destination weddings, with guests traveling from near and far to celebrate the big day with you. For those of you planning for guests new to the area, this interview with Angie Whitener of Stafford's Hospitality in Petoskey and Bay View will help you welcome them! Angie has over a decade of experience advising couples who are welcoming their friends and family members to Northern Michigan so we asked her for some of her best advice.
Stafford's is excellent at hospitality! What advice do you give couples who are welcoming friends and family that are traveling from out of town?
The more information the better and provide it to them early! I always recommend sending out a Save the Date notice to guests well in advance (6-9 mos of the wedding date), there are so many cute and fun ways to do this from postcards to magnets to passports, it is amazing how creative you can be. You’ll want to include information in regards to the wedding location and climate, travel accommodations – hotel blocks (rates and cut-off dates), condo rentals, air travel, rental car information, etc… It is also a good idea to create a wedding website where you can host all of the pertinent information your guests need to know when making plans to attend your big day (or weekend). Have the website created prior to sending out the save dates and include the web address on the Save the Date – I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll start to see those little QR Codes for Mobile Wedding Websites, that would be a fun addition!
Do you advise couples on possible welcome gifts?
Guests who have traveled a long way to get to your wedding destination deserve a warm welcome! Creating a goodie basket or bag for them is a great idea and a nice thank you; typically these are delivered by the hotel bell staff directly to your guests’ lodging room – waiting for them when they check in. The best welcome gifts that I have seen are the ones that are themed to the area – here in Michigan and Northern Michigan specifically we have so many wonderful locally made goodies that you can welcome your guests with. Savory or sweet snacks, wine or beer, bottled water, maybe even some essentials they may need throughout the weekend – mints, antacids, headache relief, etc… It is also helpful to include a list of fun things to do in the area, an itinerary and directions for your wedding weekend of events and of course a nice thank you note signed by the bride and groom is the finishing touch!
What about maps to the area?
I think that it is helpful to provide a map of how to get from the ceremony location to the reception site and maybe driving directions to the location from a few points of where most of your guests will be traveling from by car. Honestly most people have a GPS now either in their car or on their phone so the most important thing to do is have the Correct addresses provided for each of the locations your guests will need to travel to. Double check directly with someone on staff at the hotel, restaurant, church, ceremony site, etc.. for the proper address, don’t trust what comes up on your “google search”!
What are the most important things to keep in mind (big or small) when attempting to pull off a seamless event?
Being organized from the beginning seems to be the key to success for all couples planning a wedding. When planning a year in advance you have time to create check-lists and to-dos, start on those tasks early and don’t leave it all for the last three months before the wedding. Those months will be filled with other obligations – showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, dress fittings, etc...
Hiring the right team is essential – professional wedding vendors, event planners, selecting a reception and ceremony site that provides full service amenities in terms of catering, rentals and coordination – will ease the stress that all weddings seem to create!
It is also important to keep in mind what getting married is all about – sure you become involved in creating this entire wedding weekend worthy of it’s own reality TV show feature, but don’t let all of that distract you from the joy of starting a life together with the partner of your dreams – that is what getting married is all about. It is supposed to be blissful, memorable and happy. Leave the stress of planning up to the professionals and your event will be seamless!
I also find it very helpful to have a final meeting face to face or via conference call with all of your vendors – this is that last contact before the big day to make sure that everyone is on the same page and up to date with details. Over the course of a year, plans change – sometimes A LOT – and you want to make sure that you’ve communicated your final “image” of the day to everyone involved. That way you can go into the weekend feeling calm and excited for the happiest day of your life!
Thank you for your insight Angie! I'm sure every person planning a wedding will benefit from these awesome pointers!