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The experience of planning a wedding for the modern bride is about creating a great experience for both you and your guests. Every bride wants their guests to walk away talking about how perfect their wedding day was for years to come. Yes, the goal is to create a perfect day for you and your future spouse, but it can be so fun to watch your closest family and friends have the time of their life.
Talking with brides, I know that everyone is looking for that perfect mix of pleasing guests and family members while also making the day personal and wonderful for themselves as a couple. And believe it or not, you can have both!
Make your wedding day the perfect way to start your marriage. Here are 10 ways you can make your wedding more memorable while staying true to your dream and vision!
1. Choose a unique venue
The venue really is where it all starts as far as experience for your guests go – and there are so many different types of venues out there that it can make your head spin. Barns, parks, mansions, backyards, libraries, Disney World… There is no end to where you can host your special day.
Some of the most unique venues I’ve heard of have been places that are special to the couple. Favorite bars and restaurants, their favorite sports team stadium, a concert venue, or even an amusement park. There are so many ways you can keep it personal while also wowing your guests.
2. Serve unique food
While catering is where some couples decide they can lower their budget, you can really make a statement with the type of food you serve. Find foods that you know you love but that aren’t typical at a wedding (but make sure they are still tasty!).
You could have a pretzel and beer bar, an ice cream cart or truck, cookie bar… these are just some of the ideas I’ve seen floating around the internet. Bride Ashley, who got married in 2021, did donuts for her reception, and it was a huge hit with her guests. “We used a local donut shop that we both love, and everyone loved it! We had fun with the display too, and it was just really fun for the guests to see. Every time it comes up, mouths still drool!”
3. Have fun with your guestbook
Your guest book is another place where you can get really creative. Instead of doing a traditional book, a lot of brides are opting for more creative ways to get people to leave a memory. After the Tone is a popular company that a lot of couples are using where you can ask guests to leave a message for them to listen to later.
Instead of doing a guestbook for her wedding, Ashley, who I mentioned in the last section, bought a Jenga game set and had her guests sign the blocks with Sharpie! Another cool idea is to have guests sign the welcome sign to your wedding, which makes a great piece to hang in your home.
4. Give people a shoutout with a song for them
One of the best parts of being at a wedding is dancing – make it more fun by giving your DJ a list of songs that mean something between you and a few of your guests. Have them dance with you for that particular song.
You could also write a little thank you to that person as a way to personally thank at least a few guests for being there. They get to dance to their favorite song with you and they get a special little shout-out – it can be a really special moment! Pull them on the dancefloor to spend the song dancing with you.
5. Have a signature cocktail
This is one that’s probably already on your list of things to add to your wedding, but it’s worth mentioning. Having a signature cocktail is a really fun way to add a personal touch to the reception. It’s special for guests to be able to order a drink that represents you and your spouse for the first time as husband and wife.
A lot of people choose to have their pets represent the signature cocktails. Having a drink named after your dog is fun and gives you an opportunity to let your dog or cat be involved in the wedding. This is a good idea especially if you want your pet involved, but don’t want them at the wedding in person.
6. Serve a late-night snack
Especially if you and your future spouse are foodies, having a late-night snack delivery can be just what your wedding needs. Most weddings only feature light refreshments at cocktail hour, dinner, and dessert. Your guests will be really wowed with a late-night snack like sliders, fries or tater tots, pizza, or even an additional dessert bar. You can read more about serving pizza at your wedding here.
This can be during the reception or even after. If you’re having an after-party at a different location, that’s the perfect spot to have extra food for your guests to chow down on after a long night of dancing – you’re going to need it!
7. Have a theme
Having a theme wedding can be a lot of work, but it can also leave a very memorable mark on your guest’s minds. Plus, if it’s a theme you really love that is special to you and your future spouse, it makes your wedding day even more special.
Some ideas for a theme could be the 1920s, your favorite movie, or a music theme – you could even center the theme around food. If you’re a DIY bride, this can be fun for you too! Having a theme wedding gives you the chance to utilize all of your creative energy while creating a unique experience for your guests.
I covered some of the most unique themes for your wedding here.
8. Have personalized favors
These days, a lot of the brides I talk to opt for simple favors to make it less stressful. But the favors are actually a part of the wedding where you can really wow your guests. Making something personal or giving them something that they will actually use is a great way to thank them for coming, but also put a spark in their day.
Polaroid pictures, jam jars, hot cocoa packs, succulents… brides really like to get creative with their favors! I talked to bride Sarah, who got married in 2021, about her favors and she had a really clever idea. “We got married in the summer, and we love summer cocktails! So I decided to send everyone home with a small bottle of a mojito mix that we made ourselves. All they had to do when they got home was add rum. Everyone loved it!”
9. Entertainment at cocktail hour
Cocktail hour is usually the same at every wedding. Drinks, mingling, and snacks. But you can make it fun with a little bit of entertainment. That can mean having a live band or musician play for the hour, or having some fun things for the guests to do.
I have an article about how much it costs to hire a violinist for your wedding here.
Bride Carlee, whose wedding is set for 2023, is planning on having karaoke at her cocktail hour! “My family loves karaoke,” she says. “And my fiancé and I actually want to be at cocktail hour instead of spending a bunch of time taking pictures. So we’ve decided to use it as a time for some karaoke!”
10. Have a champagne welcome
Getting to the wedding, guests enjoy the ceremony but they are anxious for the reception. Some people might want to get to the festivities as soon as possible. To help, you can get the party started before the ceremony with a champagne welcome! This is a fun way to get your guests in the party mood without letting things get too crazy before the ceremony.
You could also offer another fun cocktail or beverage to liven things up. If you’re getting married in the winter and the ceremony is outdoors, this is a great time to offer hot cocoa or apple cider. In the summer, some punch or an ice-cold lemonade can really hit the spot. You can also provide a small bottle of something at every seat for the ceremony, that way they can also take it home as a favor if they want to.
11. Give every table a get-to-know-you game
Having your guests interact with each other is a fun way to get the party going! To get the mingling started, you can offer the tables each a unique get-to-know-you game. This could be anything from questions, to letting people offer fun facts about themselves.
This is especially great if you’re having a wedding with a lot of people who might not know each other. Pairing your college friends with your high school friends or your family with your soon-to-be-spouse’s family can get awkward. Giving them an ice-breaker makes everyone feel more comfortable.
12. Take a fast food trip after the reception
Similar to the idea of a late-night bite, you could take a trip with your bridal party and new spouse to your favorite fast-food joint after the reception. Spend some downtime after a long day just filling your stomach with your favorite food as you enjoy being married for the first time.
Getting a party bus to take you there could be fun if you’re going with a group. Walking there from the reception could be a great opportunity for some nighttime pictures or, if it’s close enough, it could be a really long send-off with your guests.
13. Arcade games throughout the reception
Was your first date at an arcade? Do you and your future spouse just love arcade games? Have it at your reception! It’s possible to rent arcade games like ski ball, basketball shooting, and other classic games for your reception.
Not only does this give you and your guests something to do, it also makes for great pictures. Having games there can also serve as a fun way for guests to mingle without awkward conversation.
14. Mix family traditions
A wedding is celebrating the coming together of two families – so you should show off your silly family traditions! If you and your fiance have different religions or wedding traditions, this is a great time to intertwine them and find a harmonious way to bring them together for the ceremony. If your families have a silly tradition for parties or weddings, in particular, now is a great time to show them off.
Traditions can be small, like playing your family’s favorite music or doing a special dance. This can also be shown through the food by serving dishes that are important to your family as dinner. Everyone loves to see two cultures coming together, especially when there is so much love involved.
15. Involve your dogs
If you are dog people, invite them to the wedding! Have your dog be the ring bearer or dog of honor at the ceremony. You could even involve them in the reception by having them dance with you and your spouse for the first dance.
Some dog owners want their dogs there but don’t have a way to get them home after the reception – there are companies out there that offer services for taking care of dogs at weddings specifically, but you can also hire someone off of Rover or Wag to care for them during and after the wedding.
Whatever you choose to do at your wedding, the most important thing is that it’s fun for you and your spouse. You’re only planning on doing this once (or one more time), so make it memorable for you and your guests. Whether that’s playing up the games and activities at your reception or doing something creative for the ceremony, it should reflect who you and your soon-to-be spouse are as a couple.
The truth is just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the wedding of your dreams. Check out this list of myths that are holding you back from having the wedding of your dreams.
Have fun, and good luck!
Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club