So much wedding advice stems from the idea that it is YOUR day, so you should do what is most important to you. However, it's important to consider your guests when you are making your wedding decisions as well. You're inviting all these people to celebrate with you because (hopefully) you love them and they love you. You want to make sure they have not only a good time but are also left feeling valued and cared for.
The guest experience is a hot-button topic this year in the world of... weddings, so we've reached out to a group of vendors and wedding industry experts to find out the most unique and creative ways to surprise and delight your guests, making their experience at your wedding a memorable and personal one. Check out the advice from our trusted experts below. We hope that it will help you to plan an unforgettable wedding day!
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Share a Grateful Greeting
First thing's first, you want to nail the greeting. It's becoming very common for couples to leave gift bags or welcome baskets for their guests when they check-in to their hotel for the wedding weekend. This is a really wonderful way to greet your guests upon arrival as it will be their first impression of your event. Welcome bags are a great way to make your guests feel pampered and appreciated. You can fill them with items that will be helpful for them to have on hand throughout the... weekend, such as bottled water, mints, snacks, pain relievers and more. It's also fun to add more luxe treats like fancy chocolates, mini bottles of Champagne, or local delicacies such as organic homemade jams or local honey.
"We love to say that the wedding weekend begins at check-in so consider starting there," says Amy Green of Where Will They Stay? Although a gift bag is common and definitely appreciated, Green suggests trying something different to make a bigger impression like a surprise turndown amenity each evening.
Want to go for something a little more active and experiential rather than a physical token of your appreciation? Consider a chartered city excursion that takes your guests from their hotel lobby to tour the area and discover some local flavor. You could also consider bringing a yoga teacher to the hotel for a morning workout for the guests.
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Make a Grand Entrance
Fabrice Orlando of Cocoon Events suggests making a memorable entrance to surprise and delight your guests. Whether that's something that your guests experience themselves or seeing the bride and groom making a unique or surprising entrance to the reception, it is sure to make for an unforgettable moment.
"Nothing speaks to guest experience more than a dazzling entrance that will take your breath away," says Orlando. "Greet your attendees with a red carpet, dynamic lighting, and... memorable entertainment - it's the perfect way to start the celebration!"
Perhaps you'll set up a really unique entryway for your guests to walk through to get to your reception space, or maybe you and your new spouse will pop out of a fake wedding cake to enter your reception. Many couples are opting to enter their receptions by jumping right into a choreographed dance routine for a fun and exciting entry to their celebrations. Whatever you decide, you'll be sure to make an impression with a grand entrance for your guests to experience.
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Focus on a Few Key Items
Just like with your wedding budget, you need to make priorities. Choose a few key places to implement unique and surprising details or experiences. Fabrice Orlando of Cocoon Events recommends focusing your efforts on two places in particular. "Generally, there are two aspects that guests appreciate and remember the most - the food and the entertainment. Invest in the very best catering and high-quality entertainment and you can't go wrong!"
"Event entertainment isn't just... about getting people on the dance floor - it's also about instilling that 'wow' factor in all of your guests throughout the celebration," says Orlando. "In addition to prioritizing the reception entertainment such as a band, consider including regional performers to keep people engaged throughout the night." You could hire any number of interesting and unique performance groups, from acrobats to fire twirlers, to sleight-of-hand magicians to entertain your guests throughout the evening.
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Performers and Artists
One way to really give your guests a memorable experience is to offer them the chance to participate in an interactive activity. Joe Volpe of Cescaphe Event Group shares that one trend that's growing in popularity is Live Cake Art, due to the way it surprises and delights the wedding guests. Your loved ones will watch in awe as the wedding cake is created and designed right in front of them. "A team of pastry décor experts begins decorating the cake during the cocktail hour before moving... into the ballroom to complete the design. It is a wonderful way to give guests an insider look into all of the work and talent that goes into creating your custom designed wedding cake." It's part performance art, part dessert -- sounds pretty memorable!
Don & Lindsay Mears of Don Mears Photography suggests bringing in additional interactive activities to keep guests engaged, saying, "We had a couple offer custom cigar rolling. What was nice is that it was both an entertainment piece for guests, who enjoyed watching the cigars be made, and then there were those who got to smoke them on site if they wished as well." Another unique idea? Hire a caricaturist to sketch your guests as they celebrate your big day.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Incorporate Fun and Games
Who says that the performers have all the fun? Incorporate some games into your wedding reception for your guests to engage with and play. Think about including a word search or crossword on your wedding program or include a notebook at each table for your guests to impart their words of marital wisdom.
Paula Ramirez of Historic Mankin Mansion adding a fun twist to your garden reception with lawn games like over-sized Jenga, life-size chess and jumbo connect four. You could even have custom... cornhole boards made for the occasion, something you can enjoy in your backyard for years to come.
Want to keep the kiddos entertained and happy? Arrange a children's area with arts and crafts at a special kids' table decorated just for them. Have custom wedding coloring books, crayons or markers, and other simple crafts for your smaller wedding guests.
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Consider including your guests into your wedding in a truly meaningful way, by incorporating them into your ceremony! You could have them take a vow with you or recite community vows. You could also have your guests bless your rings by passing them throughout the audience. Of course, one way to let your guests know their presence is appreciated is by greeting each of them personally in a receiving line after the ceremony.
It's common at weddings for there to be fun little games where the... guests can encourage the happy couple to kiss, such as by tapping your silverware on your glassware. It's a simple and sweet way to get the crowd involved in the celebration.
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Interactive Catering Stations - Food You Can Play With
In addition to interactive activities and performers, another really engaging wedding trend is interactive catering stations or food displays. Mike Busada of Mike B Photography says, "I was hired to photograph a wedding where the food stations were opened at different times, each about an hour apart, throughout the evening."
Some of the ideas for interactive food stations Mike has seen include a pasta bar where guests chose the type of pasta, protein, veggies, and sauces they want. The... pasta chefs make a bit of a show out of tossing the pasta with sauces over portable gas cooktops.
One popular food station idea is the Mongolian Grill, where guests can select their vegetables, protein, and sauces and put it in a silver bowl which the chefs then cooked on a large flame fired grill. The chefs then serve each guest their order in a Chinese carryout box along with a set of chopsticks.
Another fun interactive food station is a custom glazed donut dessert station where guests can pick the donut type they want as well as the type of glazing or topping. You could also consider a late night custom slider station featuring Angus beef and chicken sliders. An old-time ice cream cart, lemonade stand or popcorn trolley also makes for a fun addition to your wedding reception. S'mores bars are also incredibly popular and a fun way to treat your guests to something sweet in a unique format.
Busada says the food stations were "a huge hit with the guests and created an air of anticipation waiting for the next surprise station to open, and most guests stuck around through the end of the reception. That was the third time I have seen similar "staged opening” interactive food displays at weddings this season and the results were the same at every one; guests were thrilled with the presentation of each new station and remained engaged throughout the evening!"
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Make a Mark
Giving your guests a memorable experience is about so much more than giving them cute wedding favors. We hope these ideas inspire you to add some extra unique details that will give your wedding that special "WOW" factor. Taking a cue from these expert suggestions will help you make a mark in your guests' minds so they remember your wedding for years to come.