5 Reasons Why Wedding Guests Leave Early and How to Fix it

Hi friends, thanks again for joining the blog. I recently had a great question from a couple that booked me up in the NOVA area and they were asking me about their wedding guests and how to combat them from leaving early at their reception.

While anyone can leave whenever they want, some have legit reasons to leave early, such as having small children or guests that are a bit older need to get back to home at a more normal time for them, it’s completely understandable. But for the rest of us that do stay typically, you can help keep a fun, enjoyable evening and let your guests relax in the process.

Today, I’m going to share with you 5 things that I’ve observed over the last 20 years as a wedding filmmaker to help identify some common things that you can easily address, keeping your guests longer and having more fun!

The DJ

Perhaps the biggest thing that keeps people at a wedding reception is the DJ and how they work the wedding reception. Many times, I’ve been to weddings where the DJ doesn’t have a great personality, or they tend to have “dead” air when they are doing things like giving wedding introductions.

Having a DJ with a great personality and having them keeping the music and the flow of the evening going is one of the best things you can do for the reception.  

I’ll be honest with you; it boils down to experience and them knowing how to “feel” a crowd. Being able to play a various of music types for different generations also plays an important role in keeping people out on the dance floor, enjoying themselves.

Many times, couples will give the DJ a playlist of songs they want at the wedding, but they don’t realize is that by telling them what to play, they are holding back what the DJ can do. Don’t get me wrong, if there is a type of music or band you simply don’t like, just tell them, but my advice is to get input from the DJ beforehand, so they’ll be able to help keep things going.

When the DJ has a set list they have to play from, it keeps them from feeling out the crowd and being able to keep things going. That’s when guests want to leave, there’s nothing for them to enjoy themselves. The best DJ’s will have a sheet with a list of songs that you’d like to hear but it’s only a limited number, say 10, the rest will be up to the DJ and they’ll be able to play to mood of the crowd, fast, slow, romantic or wanting to grind the night away.

Food & Drinks

Couples tend to overlook this many times, but having more than just alcohol at the reception helps in many ways. While many want to have a cold beer or glass of wine in their hands, offering water, tea or lemonade will help keep guests hydrated while dancing hard on the floor. Another thing, guests tend to get “snacky” (I think that’s a word, lol) so try having left over dinner plates made up, just smaller for guests, better yet offer something like a popcorn bar with various type of popcorn or a evening-snack bar with yummy treats, such as a smore’s station where you can cook them or a pie table with various pies to try.

In either case, having food and drinks throughout the evening goes a long way and it will help keep your guests at the reception longer.

Dead Spots

A major killer of the evening is having what I call dead spots. For example, you do your wedding introductions, then literally nothing happens for 15 minutes and people are just sort of sitting and trying to figure out what’s going on, then you have your first dance.

Sometimes the wedding photographer might take a bit longer to finish up their photo session with the family and the couple but more times than others, it’s the lack of keeping the night moving along.

My advice to you is after the dinner service, keep things moving along and adjust the schedule depending on how the crowd is. The more that there is that dead space, the more people will leave early and not be at your exit. Make sure you, the planner and the other vendors (like DJ, videographer and photographer) all know what’s going on beforehand.

Traveling Back

Sometimes couples must leave early to travel back, if they live far away or need to get back to their hotel room.

Hey, I get that.

But, that’s where you get transportation, via a limo or shuttle service in order to allow your guests to stay longer. There are many benefits to this, first being if they drink lots during the reception. Allowing your guests to have fun and not drink and drive is a very smart thing, especially if they’re at a venue where they are not familiar with. The other great benefit is that the bus or shuttle service that drops everyone off can be scheduled to come back about 20 minutes before the end of the night, so it helps keep everyone together, thus helping to keep the evening going too!

Think strength in numbers if you will.

Quiet Areas

I know this may sound strange, but venues where there is little to no quiet areas may get some people to leave early. Many times, old friends and family members will want to catch up on life and they’ll want an area to just sit and relax and chat.

This is an area where couples tend to forget, many times people will sit near the dance floor, but they will not be able to carry on good conversation because there is not an area or two they can hear each other very well. Not everyone wants to stand next to the dance floor and try to carry on a conversation about life and not be able to hear very well.

I recommend that you make sure the venue has a couple areas where people can simply relax and hangout if they choose to do so. Those that don’t like to dance can still hear the music from a bit of a distance and see the action without being at arm’s length from the dance floor.

And there you have it friends, 5 things to consider when wanting to keep your wedding guest going and keeping the reception alive throughout the evening.

Finally, if you or someone you know is needing a wedding film, please consider me as my 2020 wedding season is about 40% full at the moment.