What Millennial Guests Love and Hate Most About Weddings

The experts reveal the details that this generation tends to enjoy and overlook.

Bride and groom kissing surrounded by millennial wedding guests in patterned dresses and blue suits

Photo by Allan Zepeda Photography

Your wedding day is ultimately a reflection of your own unique relationship with your fiancé. However, it is important to consider your guests’ preferences, too. The most meaningful and memorable celebrations are the ones that cater to your invitees through elements like a well-rounded menu or a crowd-pleasing playlist. Understanding your friends' and family's inclinations can help you figure out where to best spend your time and money while planning your special day. Millennials—anyone born between 1981 and 1996—are a generation that have specific priorities when it comes to the guest experience.

Have sent invites to a lot of millennial wedding guests? We tapped a handful of experts—who plan and attend weddings for a living—to unpack the aspects of a wedding that millennials care the most and least about. Read on for every detail that this generation will love and hate.

Meet the Expert

  • Annie Lee is the principal planner of Daughter of Design, which she launched in 2008, and the founder of Plannie, a marketplace of event planners to hire.
  • Callista Osborn is a wedding planner with 11 years of experience and the owner of Callista & Company, which is based in Seattle and Los Angeles.
  • Laurie Arons is the founder of San Francisco-based Laurie Arons Special Events, which was established in 1994.
A DJ playing at a reception during daytime with palm trees in the background

Photo by Alexandra & Vladimir Nadtochiy

The Wedding Details Millennials Love the Most

From photo-worthy moments to extraordinary after-parties, these are the elements that millennials enjoy the most when attending a wedding.

New Experiences

Millennials are an open-minded group of individuals who enjoy learning and trying new things, which is why this generation loves attending weddings filled with unique experiences they’ve never seen before. “Whether that’s making cocktails in a coffee press or making guests walk through a ball pit to get to the reception, millennial guests love to be delighted with a fresh approach that tickles their entrepreneurial DNA,” planner Annie Lee explains.

Personal Touches

Millennial wedding guests aren’t fond of cookie-cutter nuptials. Instead, they’re interested in learning more about the couple through personal details that capture their love story. For instance, a processional song that reflects the bride’s taste in music, table settings complete with handwritten notes for place cards, or menus that transport guests to the couple’s engagement in Tuscany are all fair game. “It’s less about checking the box on all the details you’re supposed to have at a wedding and more about creating some ‘wow’ factor with the things that feel most important to the [couple], their friends, and their family,” planner Callista Osborn notes.

Instagrammable Moments

Since millennials are active social media users, most of this generation is looking for moments they can capture on camera and share with their followers on Instagram. “Millennial guests are looking to take an amazing photo that conjures FOMO,” Lee says. “Whether it’s the scenic location or surprise after-party performance, they’re seeking that ‘I just went to an epic wedding, aren’t you jealous?’ level of experience.”

Great Music

Music plays an important role in setting the mood and creating the right ambiance during all phases of a wedding. According to planner Laurie Arons, millennial wedding guests are interested in attending a soirée infused with unforgettable musical performances, such as a string quartet at the ceremony, a high-energy band during the reception, or an epic DJ at the after-party.

Fun After-Parties

This generation wants to keep the party going all night. Instead of ending the festivities after the reception, millennials prefer continuing the celebration at an after-party brimming with statement-making décor, upbeat music, and delicious late-night snacks. To plan a talked-about post-reception party, Osborn suggests, “Lean into a theme, switch up the music and mood, and add some creative details that would have felt too non-traditional for the wedding itself.”

A stack of programs featuring a custom crest on a table decorated with a bowl of limes and lemons and rattan decorations

Photo by Janine Licare Photography

The Wedding Details Millennials Overlook the Most

This generation isn’t fond of some more traditional wedding details. Here are the aspects that millennials tend to look past, according to the experts.

Ceremony Programs

Although ceremony programs relay important information about the upcoming service, millennials aren’t paying too much attention to them. “Unless the program contains content about cultural components, unique traditions included in the ceremony, or other special touches, feel free to skip it,” Osborn advises.

Guest Books

Millennials don’t just want to sign their names on paper when it comes to the guest book; they want to leave a lasting impression. Lee says this group is looking for more interactive and gratifying alternatives, such as a polaroid book or a recipe book. 

Money Gifts

This generation tends to think that cash or checks are impersonal gifts. For a day as momentous as a wedding, they prefer finding an item that is unique and meaningful to the couple, even if it isn’t listed on the registry.

A groom reading his vows to the bride while they're standing in front of a floral arch

Photo by Tracy Burch

A List of Millennials’ Top Wedding Preferences

Wonder what details millennials value the most and the least? Ahead, Lee breaks them down based on her experience working with couples from the generation.

The Top 5 Wedding Ceremony Details Millennials Value the Most

  1. The attire
  2. The flowers and decorations
  3. Personal vows
  4. Officiants who are family members or close friends
  5. Pre-ceremony refreshments

The Top 5 Wedding Ceremony Details Millennials Value the Least

  1. Programs
  2. Guest books
  3. Pre-ceremony background music
  4. Items the ring bearers and flower girls are holding
  5. What order the family walks in

The Top 5 Reception Details Millennials Value the Most

  1. Fast bar service
  2. Jaw-dropping photo backdrops
  3. Delicious appetizers
  4. Good music
  5. A fun dance floor

The Top 5 Reception Details Millennials Value the Least

  1. The cake cutting
  2. Signature cocktails
  3. Dinner food
  4. Bathroom baskets
  5. Place cards
A bride dancing with her wedding guests in a circle on a checkered dance floor beneath chandeliers

Photo by Kelsey Halm Photography

The Top 5 Details Millennial Wedding Guests Are Most Excited About

  1. The location
  2. What they’re going to wear
  3. Drinking
  4. Dancing
  5. The guest list

The Top 5 Pet Peeves Millennial Wedding Guests Have

  1. Expensive travel costs
  2. Long lines to get a drink
  3. Too many speeches
  4. Tall centerpieces that block their field of view
  5. A poorly timed reception

Regional Differences Among Millennial Wedding Guests

While most millennials fall into the categories above, there are differences depending on the region in which they live. According to Osborn, millennial guests on the East Coast and in the South prefer more traditional weddings, while those who reside on the West Coast are more open to new experiences and modern elements. For instance, a Massachusetts-based millennial guest might be more interested in sitting down for dinner or watching the couple’s first dance, while a California native might want to see more contemporary additions, like a colorful wedding dress or an interactive pasta-making presentation.

Generational Wedding Guest Differences: Millennials vs. Gen X and Gen Z

While the millennial generation has a few preferences they keep an eye out for when attending weddings, some of their priorities are different than those of Gen X and Gen Z. According to Osborn, Gen X, the generation born between 1965 and 1980, is more likely to request comfortable seating, climate control, and a coat check than millennials. On the other hand, Gen Z, the group of individuals born between 1997 and 2012, are looking for more personal décor and eco-friendly items than their millennial counterparts.

Related Stories