I’m 35 and I have been to a ton of weddings. Last year alone I had six! Summer weddings, winter weddings, destination weddings, there were a lot of I do’s. Sometimes I think, by the time it gets to mine will all my friends and families be bored and ‘wedding’d out’? Will their hearts sink when they get the invitation at the prospect of yet another union?*
I am sure many people feel the same and therefore this is a round up post of all the things I have learned whilst attending weddings but with my event planner hat on (which you never really take off, I am sure others will empathise).
Here are some stories of some of the ways I have been made to go ‘oooh’ at a wedding or event, and some other tips and ideas. Note – some of these would be expensive to pull off. But not all of them and you really don’t need a huge budget to make your special day memorable. Put down the solid gold cake stand.
*For any of my friends and family reading this, don’t worry yourselves. My wedding will be epic, obviously.
1. Break with tradition
I was once browsing wedding venues with a friend for her nuptials, and on so many sites they listed out an exact itinerary for the day and I remember thinking…god that’s dull. It’s like a pattern cutter wedding. Exactly the same as thousands and thousands of other weddings. Repetition is boring, break the mould!
Don’t do things in the usual order, why not do some photographs as guests arrive looking suited and booted and then a group shot at the end of the night all disarrayed but showing how much fun they’ve had.
Why not scrap those long hours in between ceremony and wedding breakfast and start your event in the early evening, going straight into dinner?
Why not totally scrap flowers and ask guests to bring their own table decorations, with a competition for the best one?
Why not have the speeches as part of the ceremony rather than at dinner?
Why wear white?
Why separate girls and guys for bridesmaids and groomsmen if you have a mixed friendship group?
So many conventions we are told we must obey, and so many ways to put your own stamp on them.
2. The wow factor
A champagne fountain
A secret jagerbomb bar in someone’s car boot.
A Champony (an actual Shetland pony with a saddlebag containing bottles of bubbly. Yes really.)
These are all examples of things that have popped up at weddings I’ve been to that have made people sit up and gasp, laugh or exclaim ‘that’s brilliant’. For example, the secret invitations to the jagerbomb bar spread around the room (tipi) like wildfire with everyone wanting to know where it was and how they got initiated. It was this fun, exclusive little quirk that got people talking and I only wish I had photos. I was a bridesmaid though and a keen participant in this activity so my hand eye coordination by this point was limited.
As for fireworks, they are expensive and need to be handled carefully as you know, they explode and everything plus not everywhere will allow them but they do really set the evening off with a bang (no pun intended). However, one could say that a jagerbomb bar is equally as dangerous, on the flipside?
A champagne fountain or similar static construction of glasses looks great and will give things a real Gatbsy feel, if you’re into that vibe or whilst you’re thinking of champagne (and your wedding is in a field), why not have an actual pony deliver it to guests? Check out this guy!
Also, confetti cannons. If you can get some rhythmic friends to set them off in time to some music, it looks seriously cool.
3. Make it personal
For me personally, music is such a huge part of my life that on my wedding day a lot will revolve around music and performance. It could potentially end up being more of a concert than a marriage ceremony. Think about what matters to you, and create the day around those things, not around what tradition dictates. Do you and your betrothed actually like dancing and being the center of attention? No? Then why not do something more personal to you for your first dance moment, if you want one. Two friends of mine surprised guests by getting up on stage and performing with the band instead. What matters to you and what is your relationship about? What do you and your partner have in common that you bonded over to begin with. I went to a wedding in a cool little cinema once in Notting Hill as the couple lived nearby and loved going to films there. We all ate popcorn and drank champagne whilst watching them exchange vows on the stage, it was so fun and different.
4. You are what you eat
People will always remember being fed well and having a drink in their hand. Does it need to be Michelin star food? No. If you like fish and chips, serve fish and chips. I’ll bet it will get you remembered a lot more than yet another smoked salmon blini and crème brulee. Fancy food is all well and good but if that isn’t ‘you’ then don’t change on account of your guests. I like the idea of breaking up courses as well to give time for other things. Instead of a starter, serve canapes so your guests can mingle. Instead of a seated dessert, have serving staff come around with cake pops or ice cream cones later on in the evening. Why not serve espresso martinis instead of coffee? Little tweaks on tradition will get you smiles and memories and more opportunity for photos too as there is more of a story to tell
5. Get playful
I once sat down to a wedding breakfast to a little box on my seat containing a songsheet, a personalised shot glass and 4 mini bottles of booze. The bride and groom had Irish, South African, English and Swedish heritage and the songsheet contained lyrics to drinking songs from those countries, and the booze was all local to the areas they were from. At random points during the meal, we were all urged to our feet to sing the songs and do a shot. The headache the following morning was, I’ll admit, severe, but I will never forget the fun. And it all tied into the couple so links back to point number 3.
6. Let your guests bond
One of the things I love about destination weddings is that you get to spend so much more time with the whole wedding party as generally there is more than ‘just’ the wedding itself and events either side.
Over the course of a few days, you’ll be fully immersed in this new community and come away with lifelong friends rather than wedding buddies that you dance with for hours and then leave without even knowing their name. As the bride/groom/planner, it’s a lot more to organise but in my experience, so worth it. Here’s me at the wedding of the glorious Vanessa, also known as The Skulltress in Malta. An amazing holiday filled with beach parties, romance, stunning scenery and new friends.
If you do only have the one event (and let’s face it, that’s enough to organise!) there are still ways to break the ice between your friends and family and get them better acquainted.
A fun way to do this is to create and print your own placemats for the wedding breakfast with the guestlist on them, and a one fun fact or sentence about each person. I went by myself to a wedding once where I only knew the bride and her immediate family and it was such a delight to sit down for a delicious meal alone but then see a helpful guide to everyone else in the room. It was so fun to read, I found my own name and was touched by what they’d said, it was funny and sweet and a real talking point. Also, for the singletons in the room, a very helpful chat up guide.
7. Let me entertain you
Do you have any exhibitionist friends who could stage something for you? I’ve been sat at a wedding breakfast before when fireman have stormed the building (aka marquee) and started dancing and singing, and it certainly breaks the monotony I can tell you. Here are some photos and as you can see they had all the guests on their feet within minutes. Pics by www.danbold.com
Then good music is an absolute must. if you can’t afford a live band or don’t want one it is a good idea to get your guests to submit songs for a playlist and do it that way, and it means everyone will at some point dance when they fave choon starts blaring out. No one will care if it's from an ancient ipod, as long as it's loud.
The phenomena of photo booths has been around for a while now and I do love them, and have many, many strips of photos that I don’t know what to do with. Should I frame them all together? Please comment below and let me know what you’ve done with yours. There are other mementos you can create to give your guests on the night too, and you can have alot of fun with it.
The personalised shot glass from point number 5 is still on my kitchen mantelpiece and I have many tiny bottles of gin, olive oil and maple syrup from weddings (English, Cypriot and Canadian brides). Things you wake up the next day to and think of what fun you had. The contents may be long gone but I keep the bottles as they look sweet all lined up together and let’s not forget: People love free stuff.
So there you have it, I hope this has given you some ideas. I think there are so many ways to put your stamp on an event and make it your own you sometimes just need a bit of a spark to get you going. All of these weddings were so fun and as you can see, memorable! If you're planning a wedding and want some advice from an events expert, visit this page to see how I can help!