I recently asked some of my followers what topics they wanted to hear about on the blog, and I was so encouraged by the response. One of the ideas that a current bride mentioned was how to take her wedding from good to great as she’s in the thick of her planning. I love this question because it’s so relatable- we’ve all been there. You have the venue, the dress, the bridesmaids…all the big things are covered. And you love them. But what’s going to differentiate your wedding from just another party?
My short answer: personal details.
As both a photographer and a guest, I am most moved by weddings that tell the story of the bride and groom. In planning my own wedding, I wanted to make sure that when guests went home that night they had a small glimpse into our relationship, knowing us a little better than when they first arrived. But I realize that’s a vague answer, so let’s get specific.
The Little Things:
I’m not gonna waste any time here- far and away my best advice for any bride and groom is to take the time to write personal vows. This is the best thing we did for so many reasons. For one, it was really important to us personally. We really cherished our ceremony and wanted to ensure that our words reflected our relationship and the values we wanted to preserve in our shared future. What we didn’t expect was the abundance of compliments we received from guests who felt like they had been let into our story. It helped people to really invest in our not only our ceremony, but also our relationship. (And it’s totally not the point, but the little paper goods also add to your detail shots!)
This is a fun one. Who doesn’t love signature cocktails!? Again, this small detail says something about the bride and groom, and helps your guests know you on a personal level. It’s also a fun excuse for a cute sign and delicious drinks! You can even get creative with the names of the drinks, or take it to another level with custom paper straws and/or cocktail napkins. We did both of those things, and for a small price it added a ton of character to our bar!
Like the first note of a song sets the tone for the piece, your invitation suite is the first interaction a guest will have with your wedding day. That may sound dramatic, but I’ve found it to be really true. Your invitation design and wording should let your guest know if your affair will be elegant, playful, boho, or a combination thereof. It will likely introduce the color scheme, and may even give a hint as to what’s to come. For example, we chose to write “Dinner, dancing, and donuts to follow the ceremony.” Now again, this is a photographer speaking, but your invitation suite will also likely be the first photo in your blog post, and on the first page of your wedding album. (Seriously, go back and look at my blog posts. I always try to include the invitation suite in your detail shots and at the beginning of a blog post). And now you know why! It sets the tone.
It seems like mint candies and matches were the only favors of our parents’ generation, but these days brides and grooms have total creative freedom when it comes to favors (or if they even want to give them)! I love favors because they’re kind of like a bookend to your whole wedding experience. Just like invitations introduce your guests to the mood of your wedding day, favors tie it up with a bow. And there is no shortage of possibilities! I’ve seen couples give out homemade jam, custom soap, little succulents, personal playlists, handmade candles, and everything in-between. A quick Pinterest search will give you a plethora of inspiration, but I recommend working backwards. Consider something that you and your groom are passionate about, and go from there. (My all time favorite example of this is below. Handmade plates by women in Uganda, given to guests as both their dinner plates and their favor. Oh and the bride and groom washed all the dishes. Crying.)
Okay I’ll admit that this one is less about personalized details and more about a good atmosphere, but it’s impactful all the same. I definitely recommend prioritizing good lighting in your venue search if possible, but if not, you can always create your own. Not only will you want natural light in the bridal suite (your photographer will thank you), but if you’re anything like me, then you’ll also want warm lighting as the reception moves into the night. Our venue had Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling, but this could be as simple as a ton of candles or hanging some string lights above the dance floor. I’m not sure I can adequately explain it, but I promise the cozy mood of good lighting will dramatically change the feel of your reception.
I could keep going, but I really believe that the best ideas will be your own. Nobody knows your story better than you do, so now you just have to tell it. Have a favorite quote or meaningful song lyric? Incorporate it into a backdrop. Have a tradition of baking pies together? Make that your dessert. Don’t like the traditional white plates? Collect mismatched china from resale stores. Have a favorite restaurant? Hire their food truck. There are no rules, people! Except for one: it’s all in the details.