Arriving Early: What's a Wedding Guest to Do?

Advice for both couples and guests on handling the possibility of early arrivals.

It's important to arrive on time to a wedding, but what happens if you arrive earlier than expected? Get tips for what to do if you arrive to a wedding ceremony too early.

When it comes to coordinating big events, they say the best plan comes with a backup – and maybe even an extra backup on top of that. Of course, it’s entirely impossible to predict what will go wrong on your wedding day, but getting ahead of the “classic mistakes” is an important part of the process.

Most of these issues are obvious and straightforward, such as asking one person to be responsible for the marriage certificate so it’s not accidentally left behind, but others are occurrences you may miss during planning. Certain problems, such as the DJ not playing your first-dance song when it’s time, a spill while walking down – or up – the aisle, and a bridal party member getting sick on the day of cannot be anticipated, but taking preventative measures to ensure your wedding has its best chance at ultimate success is smart.

One particular, potential problem to keep in mind: the fact that some wedding attendees could arrive at your venue well before everyone else. 

From a wedding guest’s perspective, many factors could lead to an early arrival time. If you are staying at the venue – especially if it is a hotel – or very nearby, it might so happen that you find yourself ready to go quickly and you wish to tour the area before other attendees show up. You may have overestimated the amount of time it would take you to travel to the venue – typically a great problem to have, as that usually means less traffic! – or even just misreading the time advertised on the invitation or wedding website. 

No matter the circumstances, the professionals at luxury hotel wedding venue Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, California (pictured above) recommends the following: “Should guests arrive early, we recommend they explore the beautiful grounds of the reception location. Whether it be lush gardens, an interesting museum, a romantic vineyard, or our location, which features breathtaking views of the sea, it is best to keep yourself occupied until the festivities start.”

For this to be possible, brides and grooms should consider the policies of their venue while asking themselves a few questions: What events might be taking place before the wedding? Are there waiting areas where friends and family will feel comfortable until the venue opens up to them? What kinds of shops, views, or sources of entertainment surround the venue that you might be able to direct people toward?

We don’t recommend that the couple of honor fields a barrage of text messages or phone calls from guests who have arrived early on the day of the wedding, but a simple post on the wedding website a few days before should do the trick.

Brides and grooms: If people do, unfortunately, try to contact you, hopefully a wedding party member or parent can step in as a communications liaison and relay their options to them. After you – or someone else – has made their choices known to the early birds, it’s important to refocus your attention and let attendees figure out how to handle the situation on their own.

Discover how to properly accommodate guests during your destination wedding, find out if you should host your nuptials at an estate, and see photos from a beautiful New Hampshire forest ceremony.

Opening photo by Paige Jones; Planning & Design by Bluebell Events; From Real Wedding: Lively, Colorful Wedding at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

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