Flower sculptures of pets, tropical juice bars, softball games, henna tattoo artists--our panel of celebrity-wedding planners shares ideas on how to make your day so very, very you
PUT IT IN WRITING
Los Angeles planner Jo Gartin asks grooms to write a short note to their brides prior to the ceremony. "Just one or two lines that I print and delicately attach to her bouquet as a surprise," she says.
HONOR LOVED ONES
Santa Barbara planner Scott Corridan had a bride put together a small collection of personal tokens--a grandmother's wedding ring, a handkerchief from a long-lost relative and, in a nod to her Scottish heritage, a piece of thistle--all sewn inside an Irish linen sack from her ancestors' home in County Clare, Ireland. "She carried it down the aisle with her for good luck," says Corridan.
If you have guests coming in from far and wide, it's a great idea to organize daytime activities for them. Not only does it give them something to do but it allows everyone to get to know each other. "For one of my clients, we held a softball game and served hot dogs, hamburgers, cotton candy and funnel cake," says Los Angeles planner Yifat Oren.
"The wildest thing I ever did was for fashion designer Jenni Kayne," says Oren. She created a shadow-box dance floor filled with sand, driftwood and greens to complement the bride's seaside Malibu affair. "It was lit from underneath and then covered with thick acrylic, so you saw these beautiful beach still-lifes underneath as you were dancing," says Oren.
SHOW SOME GLASS
"Glam up a specialty cocktail by serving it in a unique glass and garnishing it with something fun, such as colored sugar or a playful drink stirrer," recommends New York City planner Michelle Rago. By serving signature drinks in vibrant vessels, you can inject some unexpected color into your cocktail hour.
GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
While you're having photos taken, consider providing guests with something to do other than nibble on hors d'oeuvres and drink cocktails before dinner. "The wedding should be an opportunity to have fun or to be fully engaged by the senses," says Los Angeles wedding producer Diann Valentine, who recently set up a variety of activities during one couple's cocktail hour: a caricature artist, henna tattoo artist and craft table.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Before Matt and Annette Lauer's wedding ceremony, guests were asked to light a candle and place it on the altar. The flickering lights provided a romantic backdrop and acknowledged everyone's presence and participation in the union. "Visually it was wonderful, and it was also very touching," says New York City planner Preston Bailey.
Pay tribute to your mother and grandmother by recreating their wedding bouquets. Create a mini exhibit at your reception by displaying them alongside their original wedding photos. "Everybody really responds to it and it's inclusive," says Bailey.
COMPOSE A MEDLEY
If you're a music lover, you don't have to settle on just one song for your processional. For a client who grew up listening to her pianist grandmother perform, Los Angeles planner Lisa Gorjestani asked the couple's band to create a medley of the bride's favorite classical selections. "Music is so personal--it can bring people back to their childhoods," she says.
Incorporate meaningful dates into your theme for a fresh take on the monogram. For a couple who found significance in the number 22, Corridan reversed the first of the twos to create a heart. "That heart emblem was embedded in everything we did for them," explains Corridan, who put the symbol on invitations, thank-you notes and even had it stitched into the bride's veil.
WIDEN YOUR CIRCLE
For Laurence Fishburne's 2002 wedding to Gina Torres, Bailey had a circle of rose petals sprinkled around the bride, which closed completely when Fishburne joined her inside. "It was very symbolic because at that moment it meant they were both inside the circle of love," says Bailey.
VARY THE VIBE
Alternative seating is a great way to set a less stuffy tone for your reception. "For [designer] Jenni Kayne's ceremony last year, we used benches, chairs and some sea-grass pillows on the ground," says Oren.
Rago loves having the hotel turn-down service leave a different gift on each guest's pillow every night, such as a framed black-and-white photo from the day's activities. "Our other favorite is a hangover kit with Bloody Mary mix, Excedrin and a fancy eye pillow," says Rago. (For more gift ideas, see page 156.)
Have the valets at your reception discreetly place a CD sampling of your wedding music in guests' car CD players. Gartin did this for a wedding and asked the bride and groom to record a thank-you message that kicked off the playlist.
If you're planning on having an after-party, use that space to get expressive with color and texture. "Monochromatic use of bold colors creates a more exciting and dramatic statement," explains Rago, who loves the color red for such an occasion.
BUMP IT UP A NOTCH
Secretly slapping a customized magnetic bumper sticker on guests' cars is a lighthearted way to send everyone off with a fun memory. Gartin will be using ones reading "Tony Loves Lisa" for an upcoming wedding.
GET FRESHLY MINTED
A Louisiana couple incorporated some Southern hospitality into their menu by serving mint juleps in silver cups etched with their initials, says Gorjestani.
BE ON THE SAME PAGE
Multilingual unions can embrace both people's cultural backgrounds in the printed elements of their wedding. "We've been printing key parts of readings or a poem in each language," says Corridan.
EVOKE THE PAST
For one Chinese-American couple, Corridan turned the reception hall into a period set piece by recreating the forties-era decor of Hong Kong hot spot The China Club, as a tribute to the couple's origins. "We did the whole space exactly like it would've been back then," recalls Corridan.
Instead of tossing grains, choose something more personal for guests to throw your way at a pivotal moment. For an airline-industry executive's upcoming wedding, paper airplanes will be handed out to all the attendees. "Guests will launch them after the big kiss," says Gartin.
ACT LIKE A CHILD
Skip newer, trendier desserts for gourmet takes on child-hood treats like scooter pies and Devil Dogs. "It's such a nostalgic feeling, and that's what weddings are all about: the memories, feeling good--all that warm and fuzzy stuff," Valentine explains.
MARK YOUR TERRITORY
The idea of a dais is quite dated, but you should still have seats of honor, says Oren, who has planned celebrations for Kevin Costner and Jason Bateman. At one wedding she planned, she tied cascades of smilax, garden roses, gardenia and lily of the valley bouquets to the his-and-her seats of honor.
three alternatives to traditional cake tiers
For the foodie bride who'd rather skip a traditional cake, consider a gourmet slant on a dessert bar. For one discerning client, Oren created a chocolate buffet where guests could shave chunks of very high-quality milk and dark chocolate off of larger blocks a la a cheese bar. "It was so different. People loved it," remembers Oren.
BAKE A SENTIMENT
Recall memories of a favorite vacation together by breaking the cake mold. "If the couple got engaged someplace tropical, the cake could look like a big banana or an oversize pineapple," says Bailey. "People remember those fun touches."
Getting your guests to mingle outside their natural cliques is always good. "We had monograms for every guest done on the cakes, and then we mixed up their placement on the table," says Corridan, which prompted the hungry to interact with one another in order to get their designated dessert.
You can choose a pattern to be your wedding signature. Rago created a thematic motif by having the lace detailing in a bride's wedding dress duplicated for the dance-floor design. "The border of the floor was hand-painted with the pattern, and the couple's initials were in the center," she explains.
Swap out monogrammed cocktail napkins for elegant letter-pressed coasters that can be customized to match your invitations and save-the dates. "They're really cute," says Gorjestani.
GIVE A GARDEN
Beautifully wrapped potted flowers like paperwhites and amaryllis that will bloom in a few months are one of Bailey's favorite favors. "They have more life to them than the usual frames or other gifts people give," he explains.
SERVE YUMMY COMFORT FOOD
Incorporating meaningful family foods into the menu is a nice way to pay tribute to a family member and personalize the experience for guests. "When Nas and Kelis were married, we used her mother's macaroni and cheese recipe because it was Nas's favorite dish," recalls Valentine.
PICK FUN NAMES
Instead of having guests sit at tables "One," "Two" or "Three," have them sit at "Beautiful," "Romantic" and "Sexy." Creative naming "immediately gets the conversation going in a really fun, light way," says Valentine.
JUICE IT UP
For a bride who didn't drink alcohol, Bailey created a fresh-fruit juice bar so guests could order virgin tropical drinks. "It was unique--and very her," he recalls, adding, "Guests could get fresh mango, fresh pineapple, fresh whatever. It was really wonderful."
"I'm seeing a lot more pottery being used, which I love," says Oren of recent floral-arrangement vessels. Using new or vintage pottery in lieu of plain glass vases can add interesting texture to an otherwise traditional arrangement.
MAKE 'EM LAUGH
For one canine-loving couple, Bailey flanked the ceremony aisle with two large dog sculptures made entirely of flowers. "It gave people a chuckle because everybody knows how many dogs they have at home," laughs Bailey.
FLY YOUR COLORS
Instead of a monogram, opt for a coat of arms or a family tartan for an unexpected touch. "It's a nice tradition," says Oren. Check out houseofnames.com to see if a coat of arms already exists for your surname; if not, visit a site like makeyourcoatofarms.com to create one that can be incorporated into your guest book, stitched onto linen napkins, or printed on stationery.
FORGET ABOUT THE GUEST BOOK
Ask everyone to sign swatches of mismatched fabric instead of signing a guest book. After-ward, the swatches can be stitched together into a quilt to treasure for years to come. At a recent reception, "We displayed all the little notes on a clothesline, which everyone loved," says Gorjestani.
SHARE YOUR FEELINGS
When guests attending the wedding of NBA player Eric Williams and Jennifer Lauren Guyton took their seats at the reception, the first thing they read wasn't the menu card. Valentine had asked Williams to write a surprise love note to Guyton, which she then had calligraphied, printed and placed at each guest's setting. "It was very sweet," says Valentine.
KEEP BLOOMS ON ICE
Add interest to your ice sculptures by freezing some of your flowers inside. "I've done it with petals; I've done it with lavender; I've done it with all kinds of flowers," says Oren.
GIVE A LOVE TOTE
Show you care about the environment by sending guests off with a customized grocery tote bag, such as the one Gorjestani created for a recent wedding. "It's something to give guests that has a personal stamp on it but also serves a purpose," she says.
STAMP YOUR APPROVAL
Keep the continuity going by using customized stamps on your thank-you notes, suggests Gartin. Reuse a photo from your save-the-date, choose a black-and-white print or pick a close-up of the cake--just make sure the image will hold up when reduced to a wee size. To order, head to Photostamp.com.
USE LOCAL FLAVORS
Draw inspiration from the city where your reception will be held. "A lot of cities have different flavors that are very unique to them," says Bailey. "Boiled peanuts in the South, saltwater taffy in Florida--I'm always looking for local treats that people can take with them and eat later on."
UNCORK SOME FUN
If you and your fiance are amateur oenophiles, turn your cocktail hour into a wine-tasting session. Provide customized wine journals so guests can note their favorites. Two of Gorjestani's clients tried it out at their recent Malibu reception. "People loved it," she says. "They could go through and taste all this great wine and write notes in this journal, which was also a great keepsake."
"Guests should always know where to go," says Mindy Weiss, a wedding planner based in Los Angeles. Instead of letting them wander where they may, post an escort at the reception's entryway to assist everyone in finding their table numbers. "It's helpful, and it always makes things look so much more organized," she says.
PLAY IT AGAIN
As a nod to your parents, include their first-dance songs in your playlist. Gorjestani says, "Having those songs be a part of your wedding is a very sweet gesture."
SHARE YOUR KITCHEN SECRETS
"As a take-home treat for guests at Tim Allen's wedding, we printed a cookbook that the caterer consulted on," says Gartin. The book included recipes of the meals served at all four days of the couple's celebration and was "bound with love."
SAVE THE FORESTS
Show your eco-awareness by requesting tree-free papers and soy-based inks when designing your invites and save-the-dates. "More and more people are asking for soy-based ink," says Oren. "Isn't that fantastic?"
PRINT A TREE
"Putting a family tree in the program going back to your great-grandparents is kind of fun," says Gorjestani, who suggests including the ancestral arbors as a unique way to acknowledge your family members.
SING YOUR LIFE
For his 2007 marriage to Tameka Foster, Usher wrote a song called "Here I Stand," about weathering life's trials and tribulations with the one you love. For those less musically inclined, Valentine suggests your first dance not be to a popular song but to one with lyrics that "really reflect your relationship."
If you're concerned about waste, scrap having flowers altogether and opt for a verdant tableau instead. "What I've been loving to do lately is to create tabletop still lifes with different elements that can be made fairly green," says Oren. She cites moss, candles and driftwood as her favorite substitutes for blooms.
IN STYLE WEDDING PLANNING PANEL MEET OUR A-LIST
Lisa Gorjestani runs the Los Angeles company Details Event Planning and has thrown bashes for Halle Berry and Dustin Hoffman.
Mindy Weiss is a Los Angeles planner who has organized the nuptials of Eva Longoria-Parker, Avril Lavigne and Heidi Klum.
Preston Bailey is a New York City event planner who has thrown fetes for Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Michelle Rago of New York's Michelle Rago, Ltd., is the author of Signature Weddings and counts Mariska Hargitay as a client.
Jo Gartin of Love Luck and Angels in L.A. counts Courteney Cox Arquette, Brooke Shields and Tori Spelling among her clients.
Diann Valentine runs the Los Angeles company D.R. Valentine & Associates and has planned the nuptials of Usher and Tameka Raymond.
Yifat Oren is a Los Angeles planner who has thrown weddings for Kevin Costner, Jason Bateman and designer Jenni Kayne.
Scott Corridan is a Santa Barbara event planner who has overseen parties for Steve Martin and Priscilla Presley.
See more fresh new ideas at InStyleWeddings.com/planners
Pinning a surprise love note on the bride's bouquet is a heartwarming touch from the groom.
Incorporate a family heirloom to make your day more meaningful.
For an extra hit of personalization, match your cocktails to your color scheme.
A favorite number, 22, is turned into a heart logo.
For a more laid-back ceremony, settees trump pews.
Now serving ... individual cakes personalized with each guest's monogram.
A single pattern can work anywhere from the canopy to the cake.
Hundreds of dahlias were used to create this canine.
A coat of arms is a regal touch.
Save the environment: an eco-friendly favor.
Saltwater taffy is perfect for seaside celebrations.
Oren's Tiny Pine Press has great green options.
Source Citation:Muirhead, Jennifer. "48 Ways to Personalize Your Wedding.(In Style Weddings)(Planning)." In Style (Summer 2008): 163. General OneFile. Gale. Alachua County Library District. 19 Oct. 2009
(Album / Profile) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10035&id=1661531726&l=f3f19215d0