Ask Team Practical: Disappearing Guests and Vendor Expectations

Ya’ll, it’s Friday. Amazing spring-is-finally-here Friday (we’re having a heat wave in San Francisco, which is so rare here that the whole city practically grinds to a halt and we all eat outdoors nonstop). But that’s not the only reason to rejoice! It’s also Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa, and she is rocking it out today with three questions (I love when she does three questions). Plus, I’m answering questions too (and not just by sneaking in sentences when I edit, like I usually do). So let’s get on this.

My wedding is long over, but there’s one thing about the otherwise fantastic day that still bothers me. I briefly saw several people before the ceremony who seemed to disappear before the reception started, and I never had time to chat with them or thank them for coming. When I asked my mother later about one family in particular, she said that they were under the impression that they were only invited to the ceremony. What?!? The ceremony and reception were in the same room, and the invitation said “Reception immediately following.”

I’ve since learned that a number of people left immediately after the ceremony. I didn’t really notice not seeing most of them, but I do remember thinking that there were a lot of empty tables at the reception. I’m totally confused. Did I somehow make a mistake when writing my invitations? Is it common for some guests to leave after the ceremony? Did I just have a really boring reception? I’ve been torturing myself for months with thoughts that my guests think I was rude enough to only invite them to the ceremony. Some of those who left are people I had really hoped to see and celebrate with. Also, we had so much leftover food and cake, which means that we spent far more money than we needed to. I’m hoping that you’ll have some insight into where I went wrong, so that the wedding undergraduates out there can learn from my mistake. Also, I want to finally stop worrying about this. Thanks!

-Worried About A Cold Reception in Kentucky


You’re lucky, because you get two answers for your question! One from Meg and one from Alyssa. You win. Maybe because you have a fun sign-off to your letter. Achem (get on that people!)



I’m at a loss here. I realize that etiquette rules are not always as clear as they may have once appeared, but “Reception immediately following” is pretty darn clear. I can only think of a couple of reasons for your disappearing guests.

1. Your guests are liar-liar-pants-on-fires. They had other plans that day and are too chicken to tell you or admit it to your mother.

2. Your guests are morons.

To find out, your only recourse would be to actually get ahold of the people who left and ask them what was up. You can either say, ” I didn’t get a chance to see you at my reception, did you have fun?” or “HEY. Why’d you bail on my reception, yo?” But what kind of answer would satisfy you? The kind where they go back in time and go to your wedding reception? So. Right. Maybe don’t ask.

Just remember the good times that you did have. And that you didn’t commit any breach of etiquette or make a mistake. Your guests did come to your ceremony and saw the most important part of a wedding. They missed out on an amazing time and that’s their fault, the losers. And now I’m going to kick this to Meg, because she knows a thing or two about this.


My dear WAACRIK,

I’m going to clue you into a closely held secret of wedding planning: some wedding guests are dicks. It has nothing to do with you, or your kick-ass wedding, or the clarity of your invitation. Some people just don’t get that weddings are important, don’t care, and can’t be bothered.

How do I know this? Well. We had some wedding no-shows. Here is the sum up: we had people who skipped the ceremony and just showed for the free food and booze. (Unluckily for them we were taking pictures at the entrance when they walked in, so they had to walk right by us to get in. So, awkward for them, but kind of hilarious for us.) We had people who skipped the whole thing because they “had a day” (seriously). We had people who went to the reception, ate as fast as they could, and then stood up and announced (announced!) that they were leaving. Excellent.

You know what that means? That means some people are *ss-hats. In some cases we learned things about our friendships that we were not sure we wanted to know (which oddly, was ok, because we learned that other friends are so much more awesome than we’d ever imagined). In other cases we learned that some of our friends are sh*tacular at weddings, but are still awesome at being our friends, and we’re ok with that. In some cases we learned who was lacking in social graces. But in no case did we learn that our wedding was boring, or we were bad hosts, or even that we shouldn’t have invited these people. Because with something as big as a wedding (or a family, or a circle of friends), things just go wrong.

But fundamentally? People skipping your reception and making idiotic excuses (or your ceremony, for that matter) doesn’t mean a d*mn thing about you, or how clear you were in your invitations, or how awesome your wedding was. So I absolutely refuse to allow you to spend one more second worrying about that. Go back and look at an awesome wedding picture. Something like this:

{Me dancing at our wedding! By One Love Photo! Forget jerky wedding guests!}

And remember how it felt, and let the rest go. The end.


am considering asking my caterer if she would be willing to barter her services. Not all of them, just perhaps a reduction in the cost in exchange for free labor on my part. Originally I didn’t think I’d want a caterer, or be able to afford one. I just assumed we’d get people to help us put it together. Our budget is tight. But it seems to be more efficient (and easier for all of us!) if we can find a caterer who we could work well with to come up with budget friendly food. We can maybe squeeze a little more out of our budget but not much. Which is why I thought I’d ask her about bartering. I would like to trade my services as a waitress, set up person, bartender, or whatever she’ll have me do so that I could get a reduction in part of the catering cost. Obviously I don’t want her to lose money on the deal but I’d like to save a little if possible. I am the type of person who often looks at something and says “I could make that instead of pay XX amount for it.” And generally I can. I would rather work than pay almost 90% of the time. And I have waitressing/bartending/cooking skills. I’ve been working part time as a waitress for a year and worked at restaurants through college and beyond. I guess what I’m asking is: Have you ever known anyone who bartered with someone (not originally a friend) successfully? Have you heard of someone doing this for their wedding and how did it turn out? Is it even rude to ask? Any advice or tips?


I’m going to have to say that this is probably a no-good-very-bad idea. Maybe the readers have heard of this working, but APW’s editorial staff has not. Bartering can work, but only if it is with a business in need of your skills or it is a business that would welcome the practice. (Small boutique caterer with hippie leanings and short on reliable waitstaff? Probably. A larger business that more than likely hires out their servers, and probably at an insanely cheap rate? Not so much.)  Bartering needs to benefit both parties and be an equal exchange of labor. The bottom line is this: if you know someone who says, “Hey, I would love to do your wedding for cheap in exchange for me helping you out,” you should jump on that. But, it’s not cool to approach a small business who hasn’t offered any kind of discount, and ask them to do your wedding on the cheap in exchange for you working for them. They have mouths to feed, rent to pay, a staff to support, and you need to respect that. Or as the awesome Cate Subrosa once said about her own wedding planning, “if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it.”

So what will work? Try finding a caterer in your general price range, and being upfront. Say, “I have X amount of money. I love you guys, but I might need a small discount. Do you ever barter?” Mention your waiting and bartending skills, but I wouldn’t hang your hat on that alone. Talk to them about ways to reduce the cost, including cutting delivery, choosing something that is off-menu and lower cost, or the possibility that they provide only the food and you take care of all the plates, utensils, serving dishes, etc. Some caterers will cut a deal in exchange for them doing less work, even if they won’t cut you a deal when the deal is you working for them. And other caterers won’t. Most businesses have an amount they need to make for every weekend with a wedding, to cover their expenses. And that’s understandable too.


I’m having a tough time knowing what is reasonable to expect from vendors and what isn’t. For example, yesterday I had a phone consultation with a florist (we are getting married about 4 hours away from where we live, so I’m doing most of the bookings over the phone or by email), and I felt like I clicked really well with the florist. She suggested that we meet with her in person to sort out details in June when we travel to our venue. That works for me, however, when I asked about a quote, or some ballpark figure, she told me that she doesn’t give quotes until she has a deposit because if she gave a quote then people could go to another florist in town and that florist could low-ball her. However, the deposit is $100 and it’s non-refundable. The website doesn’t give me any idea of prices either. I’m not sure if this is standard in the wedding industry, but I’m just not sure how to proceed. We’re on a pretty tight budget, so I don’t want to wait till June then put down a deposit only to find out that she’s way over our budget for flowers. On the other hand, if this is how it works, than I’ll just suck it up… At this point I don’t want to be going insane interviewing dozens of vendors.

Is it reasonable not to get any idea of prices until after you’ve put down a deposit?


Again, a no-good very bad idea, but in this case, it’s the florists bad idea. Dear Lord…

No one on the APW staff had heard of this practice before, and it wasn’t until I googled it that I realized how prevalent it is. Regardless, I don’t think it’s standard business practice, nor do I think it should be.

A deposit is a way for you to ensure you will be provided with the agreed upon service and for a business to recoup their loses if they fail to get their full payment or suffer damages. But refusing to give even ballpark figures before you receive a non-refundable deposit? That means that if she isn’t able to provide you with services that meet your budget, you just paid $100 for her to put together a quote. Even if the quote sings and dances and then makes you tea, I don’t think it’s going to be worth $100. (Editors note: It’s one thing if you agree on a ballpark range, and a florist charges $100 to give you a super detailed twelve-blue-flowers-and-two-hundred-red-flowers that will be $2,788.93 quote. Not sure I adore the practice, but fair enough. But if the florist is like “Maybe I charge $5 maybe I charge $5 million dollars pay me $100 and you’ll find out”? Bat-sh*t. Let’s carry on!) Quotes are a comparison of cost so that you can figure if they fit into your budget. While she may have had issues with other florists under-cutting her business, that’s not your problem.

That being said, the florist can run her business any way she sees fit. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to go along with it. Meg’s favorite quote is from Marie-Ève (who funny enough is also a florist) who said, “You don’t have to spend money in ways that does not feel right to you, or that makes you feel financially uncomfortable.” And if you were comfortable with this, you wouldn’t be writing in to ATP. There’s no need to be combative with the florist, but explain that you are not comfortable with her policy and while you are not trying to hurt her and her business in any way, you won’t be paying for a quote. And then let her take it or leave it.

Maybe she’ll give in and give you a quote. Maybe she won’t. Either way, definitely still check elsewhere. There are plenty of people who will be able to give you an estimate before you give them money or sign a contract.


Alright, Team Practical! What advice can you give our ladies? Have you had a mishap like WAACRK? Make her feel better and share, and tell her that her wedding was RAD. Have you ever been a bartering bandit? (With, you know, someone who wasn’t family or a friend?)  What about vendors that hold quotes hostage until you give them a deposit; how did you deal with being flummoxed by a florist? Let us know in the comments! Your best advice! Go!

*If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa a askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously. We love sign-offs. Make your editors happy.

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