Nicole Fields Photography; Jen Stewart photography (2)
The emphasis on party in wedding party is definitely on the rise. “Couples want their guests to feel like they’re part of the celebration, and not just watching as spectators,” says Jen Stewart of Jen Stewart Photography. Here are some ideas to make your special day memorable for all.
Michael Coulter at Party Concierge has seen an uptick in themed weddings. “It’s much more affordable for couples who can’t go on that exotic honeymoon,” he says. “This way, they can bring the vacation home—and share it with their guests.” The world can be at your feet: an African safari with life-size (don’t worry, not real) heads of elephants, giraffes and tigers; an urban experience incorporating the famous New York City or San Francisco skylines; a vintage voyage to Old Hollywood; or a tropical getaway to Hawaiian or Polynesian shores. Coulter mentions one wedding held in a barn complete with a facade of a Western town, including a sheriff’s office and saloon. Guests showed up in Western attire, and the bride and groom rode in on horses. Stewart recalls a Kentucky Derby-theme wedding for which guests excitedly discussed on Facebook the derby attire—massive hats and all—that they planned to wear. “The bride didn’t even realize how interactive it was going to be in the months leading up to the wedding,” she says.
“I never thought I would see a dunk tank at a wedding,” says Linda Boyko of White Orchid Events. But in a creative twist to a traditional money dance, guests at one wedding got to dunk the bride and groom for a fee. “They made a ton of money for their honeymoon.” Bryan Carpenter of Entertainment Team says casino nights are more popular than ever—for rehearsal dinners and bachelor and bachelorette parties as well as receptions. Think “dealers, tables, chips, prizes and funny money with the bride and groom’s names or pictures on them,” he says. “It’s a fun alternative to providing traditional guest favors.”
Renting a photo booth—yep, the kind you see at theme parks—is a great way to create instant memories at wedding receptions, Carpenter says. Guests can put one strip of photos into the bridal couple’s memory book and keep a souvenir strip for themselves. “And think about props,” Stewart adds, such as sombreros for a fiesta-themed wedding. A personalized photo backdrop—whether sincere, scenic or flat-out funny—also can offer a lively opportunity for memorable photos. Another great backdrop? A rock-climbing wall.
Drawing on family tradition is a more subtle, sentimental way to engage your guests. “The vintage look, such as using family heirlooms or wearing your grandmother’s dress, is so huge,” says Aimee Wendell of 2Chic Events. One bride’s mother hand-embroidered poignant sayings onto little handkerchiefs as gifts for every guest. Another wedding featured a photographic collage of every wedding in the couple’s family tree. “There must have been 30 photos—grandparents, aunt, uncles,” Wendell recalls. Speaking of family, Michelle Klaff of Elegant Events has seen a return to family-style reception dinners. “It’s more interactive, with the giant platters of veggies and meats,” she says. “Of course, you will need complementary seating: large tables, and centerpieces that don’t cluster and block your view of the other guests.”
For the Kids
If children will be in attendance, go beyond the boring baby-sitting route and come up with something special just for them: an arts and crafts corner, their own “casino,” puppet shows, face painters, balloon artists or other live performers. If there’s enough space, an inflatable bounce house, arcade games, pingpong tables or even old-fashioned games of freeze tag and dodgeball can keep the kids occupied (and exhaust them for the drive home).
Light Up the Night
Special effects—such as confetti cannons, sparkler send-offs, laser lights or gobo lights—can easily up the wow factor. Carpenter recalls a recent wedding reception that not only entertained guests with cocktails and cigars, a casino and a dance floor, but a memorable midnight show. “The couple had gotten a permit from the city and hired a fireworks company to launch fireworks right off the street,” he says. “We were up on the sixth floor, and the fireworks were exploding right above us.”
Mingling for All
The good thing is, when wedding experts talk about adding multiple levels of entertainment, it can mean anything. Set up a game room with a pool table for the sharks; hire a salsa or swing dance instructor for the dance floor; create trivia, Mad Libs or other interactive games; or provide a small lounge for those who just want to chill and chat. As far as music goes, a karaoke machine will coax performances from your guests, talented or otherwise. Or keep it understated. “The most romantic thing I saw was when the groom went to remove the bride’s garter, and he broke into song,” Boyko says. “The crowd went wild.”
Wedded on the Web
Destination weddings, meet technology. For guests who can’t be there in person, consider a wedding webcast. If your photographer or videographer isn’t equipped to do this, specialized websites can hook you up and help all of your guests tune in to the Big Day.
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