Watch any of the popular wedding reality shows – Say Yes to the Dress, My Big Fat American Gyspy Wedding, Four Weddings – and the common denominator is money.
"The focus has always been on saving, borrowing or budgeting so that the bride can have her ‘perfect’ wedding," says Eric Gulbrandson, a wedding photographer and author of the new book, "Dream Wedding Secrets: The All Important G.S.F," (www.dreamweddingsecrets.com), "but weddings now cost more than ever for the guests – the average cost jumped 75 percent over the past two years."
Wedding guests now spend an average $592 per wedding on clothing, gifts, transportation, hotels, etc., up from $339 in 2012, according to a just-published American Express survey.
"If you want people to actually attend, you have to make sure it’s the perfect wedding for them, too," says Gulbrandson.
Gulbrandson shares four must-haves for achieving a high G.S.F – Guest Satisfaction Factor:
• Plenty of food and drink. If you have to choose between paying for more food versus paying for better food, go for quantity. Nobody will mind if the food’s not stellar, but they will if you run out.
• Details that show appreciation. One woman went to a wedding in a foreign country, Gulbrandson says. "The bride and groom had a welcome bag filled with helpful items, like a survival translation dictionary, insect repellant and maps of the local area in the hotel rooms for their guests as they arrived." When people take the time and expense to attend your wedding, details that show how much you appreciate that go over very well, Gulbrandson says.
• Make people comfortable. One couple Gulbrandson interviewed talked about arriving at the reception venue following the wedding and waiting for more than two hours for the bride and groom. Not only was there no food or drink available while they waited, there was no entertainment or information about when the wedding party would arrive. By the time the wedding party arrived, many guests had left. Make sure food and drink are available during unavoidable delays, such as photos taken after weddings.
• Have entertainment that almost everyone can enjoy. DJs can usually provide more musical variety than a band, they stand a better chance of giving all of your guests a good time, Gulbrandson says.
(Eric Gulbrandson is the author of "Dream Wedding Secrets: The All-Important G.S.F," www.dreamweddingsecrets.com)