Yours won't be just another cookie-cutter wedding. Here are top ideas to make your wedding a standout celebration.
1. A Luxe Reception Lounge
Give guests a place to mingle between dance breaks by creating a lounge area at your reception. Fill the space with couches or chairs and plenty of pillows to sink into. It's the perfect way to keep everyone in on the party even when they're resting. Really want to wow 'em? Close off the area with curtains to create a VIP vibe.
You may already be planning to have your ushers escort guests to their ceremony seats, but consider having reception ushers. These "live escort cards" walk guests to their tables for an upscale restaurant experience. Ask your reception venue or caterer if its waitstaff can do this double duty, or assign a few ushers to the job.
3. Upgraded Welcome Bags
Make your guests feel like VIPs with welcome bags that go beyond a map and a few snacks. Stuff personalized tote bags with mini bottles of bubbly or a six-pack of a local microbrew, a gift certificate to your favorite local coffee shop and an individual "Welcome!" note from you.
If you're planning on shuttling your guests from the ceremony to the reception, make the journey part of the fun by renting some seriously cool mass transportation. Take wedding transportation to new heights with a hot air balloon ride. Or, if it'll suit your wedding style, get nostalgic with some charming yellow school buses. And for extra flair, customize the ride by playing fun music or decking out the bus with a sign that reads, "Sarah and John's wedding or bust!"
5.A DIY Flower Station
Let guests know that it's not just the wedding party that's special to you (it's everyone!) by letting each one stand out with their own corsage or boutonniere. Ask your florist about setting up a make-your-own-flower station: Put out some sturdy blooms like spray roses or mums, supply lots of colorful ribbons and pins, and add labels with easy-to-follow instructions.
6."To-Go" Valet Gifts
Send guests home feeling taken care of by having your valets place small favors or end-of-the-night snacks in guests' cars before handing over the keys. No valets? Set out baskets of the gifts -- such as soft eye masks with notes that say "Sleep tight!" or even hangover kits -- for guests to grab on their way out of the reception venue. If you’ve arranged bus or shuttle transportation, have a favor waiting on board for guests.
7.Convenient Child Care
Hire a babysitter (or two) and set her up in a room so your youngest guests have a place to go when they tucker out. If it's possible, pick a room near your reception location so parents can stop by to check in on the tykes and then return to the party easily. Stock the room with snacks, games and a portable DVD player to keep them entertained, and make sure there's a soft sofa and blankets for those inevitable naps.
8.A Bubbly Bar
Make toast time delicious by letting guests customize their champagne. Dishes full of fruit purees, lavender sprigs, citrus twists and flavored ice cubes that can be spooned into glasses of bubbly will make the toast that much more fun.
9.A Friends and Family Tree Seating Chart
You worked hard on figuring out that seating chart, so get the dinner conversation started by showing guests how they're connected. Create a sign that shows the relationships between the guests who will be sitting next to each other -- it'll help break the ice for those who haven't already met.
10.A First-Dance Confetti Drop
Your first dance will be one of the highlights of your wedding, so add this extra-special touch to up the entertainment factor (and make for some serious photo ops!). If your song is slow and romantic, have fresh flower petals instead of confetti dropped from the ceiling. Your rental company and florist can work together to make this happen -- and don't forget to make sure the reception waitstaff will be standing by to clean up.
11. A Video Confessional BoothFor a fresh twist on the hot photo booth trend, rent a video booth where guests can record a quick on-screen message for you. Ask your videographer to edit some of the best clips into your wedding video. Then, post your other favorite video “confessions” on your wedding website and encourage guests to check them out in your thank-you notes.
12. A Hip After-Party
Instead of just hitting the bar next door when your reception venue closes, plan a true postwedding bash for you and your hardest-partying guests. Book a space with a completely different vibe from your reception (like a relaxed patio bar or a karaoke club to offset a formal ballroom) to keep the party going.
13. A Decked-Out Entryway
It doesn't mean that you should spend a gazillion dollars on a 20-foot-tall floral arrangement, but first impressions are important, so take time to think out the entrance to your reception. Add a couple flower arrangements to the escort card table or have your stationer create a stylish seating chart display. A table topped with your engagement photos, your parents' wedding albums, and any other from-the-family artifacts would make meaningful additions.
14. Unexpected Wedding Music
Sure, a string quartet is nice, but you'll blow guests away with a jazz trio or a Spanish guitar player. To get the party going during the cocktail hour, look into hiring a mariachi band, a bluegrass group, or even a barbershop quartet for some seriously memorable melodies.
15. A Wedding Dress Change
All eyes will be on you, so it'll be a huge shocker when you go from a classic wedding dress for the ceremony to a shorter, flirtier dress at the reception. Whether it's a cocktail dress you bought (but couldn't find an excuse to wear) or a sparkly, white dress that's just too short for the aisle, have fun with it! If you honestly can't imagine changing out of your wedding dress, make other changes: Let down your hair, switch your shoes, or add a few new pieces of jewelry.
16.Wedding Favors With Entertainment Value
Think of your wedding favors as an accessory to your reception. Want a packed dance floor? Distribute kazoos, maracas, or even rally towels for a good time that just won't quit.
17. A (Surprise) Choreographed Dance
Take a few dance lessons before your wedding, but instead of the standard waltz, kick it up a notch by learning a sultry tango or a high-energy swing routine, and then surprise everyone during your first dance. For an unexpected surprise, get your dad or even your grandpa in on the act. Imagine the looks on your guests' faces when you and your pops break into a hip-hop routine mid-father-daughter dance.
Come up with a transportation plan that'll get guests talking. Maybe your car-obsessed uncle would be willing to play driver for the night in exchange for showing off his ridiculously cool Mustang. Your oversized clunker from high school might actually look pretty cool decked out with streamers and a "just married" sign. Even your bicycles -- tied off with fresh flowers -- would create a memorable exit.