It’s all about you — and them. Today’s wedding receptions are styled as individually as the couples who plan them: No one wants to throw a prepackaged party. And with a growing focus on celebrating the guests who attend the reception, engaged couples are working in fresh, fun ways to make their night stand out.
“Couples aren’t putting on airs — they’re focused on the guests,” says Julian Severyn, founder of Wedding Artistry in Broadview Heights. He says this attitude of creating an environment to entertain, to encourage conversation, and to promote families and friends getting to know each other is actually a return to the way weddings were when our grandparents were saying their vows.
The difference is couples who opt for traditional touches do so because they want to, not because they have to. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and creating a personal stamp on one’s wedding reception.
“The real driving factor is that the couple wants to have their own reception,” Severyn says.
We’ve asked some local celebs and experts about ways they’ve made theirs and other weddings become a night everyone else will remember. Go ahead, make one of these ideas your “something borrowed.”
Center of AttentionEarthen branches from manzanita trees grown in Napa, Calif., make an interesting centerpiece Kristy Lawrence of Westlake can personalize with momentos and wedding theme colors. The branch art, which Lawrence sells on Etsy, can also be used as a wishing tree at a guest sign-in table, where friends and family write and hang happy wishes for the bride and groom.
“Most people will go with flowers,” Lawrence says. “If couples want to set themselves apart, these centerpieces really say something about your taste, and they are really unique.”
Lawrence has adorned manzanita branches for a farm house themed wedding, incorporating hanging votives and personalized wine corks. At the other end of the style spectrum, she is currently working on centerpieces for a punk rock wedding that will be held at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
The bedazzled branches range in size from 12 inches to 6 feet, and Lawrence ships them to brides across the country by carefully packaging all of the adornments and branches separately. “Everything arrives ready to hang, so it’s like decorating a small Christmas tree,” she says, noting that she includes a step-by-step video of herself decorating a sample along with photo instructions so assembling the branch centerpiece is pretty much foolproof.
Something Blue UnderneathWKYC television personality Maureen Kyle didn’t want to force the “something blue” tradition — though she had the something old, new and borrowed categories covered. “I didn’t want to do a garter toss, so I couldn’t even hide something blue underneath my dress,” she says.
But Kyle thought of a way to sneak some blue into her wedding day ensemble. She asked her bridesmaids and mother to sign their names on the bottom of her dress shoes using a blue marker. “No one saw the bottom of my shoes, but it was a little sign of support as I walked down the aisle,” she says.Since the marker was permanent, the signatures didn’t scuff off, even after a night of dancing. So Kyle has a sweet pair of soles to remember her big night.
A photo booth was a last-minute addition at Q104 drive-time personality Jen Toohey’s wedding to Nate Lyons — “and worth every penny,” Toohey raves. Guests loved it. “People were in and out of it all night, and we were able to create as many photos as they wanted,” she says, adding that since the wedding, she has noticed the photo strips displayed in friends’ homes.
Throughout the evening, a scrapbook filled with photo booth snapshots was created. “Instead of a guest book, all the photo strips were put in a scrapbook with handwritten messages from our guests next to them,” Toohey says. “We still leaf through it to relive that night quite often.”
A Cocktail State of MindA traditional, multicourse meal at a wedding generally means guests are parked at their tables for a couple of hours. To promote more mingling, a couple can opt for a cocktail-style reception instead. (This does not mean only apertifs and appetizers are served!) Meal stations encourage guests to move about, and high-top tables that seat four to six people (with no formal assignments) give friends and family the freedom to migrate from one area of the reception hall to the next at their leisure.
“Wedding receptions styled like this are more fluid in that people are moving around, and plates are smaller — a plate is not going to hold your entire meal, so you’ll get up and go from one spot to another,” Severyn says, adding that meal stations generally have a theme: Asian, Italian, cheese and fruit, seafood, pasta, etc.
Picture-Perfect Guest BookA blank guest book with a thick pad of ruled pages rarely solicits spirited remarks from guests. Sure, they sign their names — along with, perhaps, a quick “Congrats!” But you probably know who attended the party since you helped plan the table seatings.
To give guests a picture of their journey from dating to engagement and down the aisle, Kyle created a hard-bound photo book using Blurb.com. She included a photo from the night Mark McDougall first said “I love you” (they asked a server to take their photo that night during dinner), and pictures from events such as Indians games and wedding showers.
Because there were lines next to the photos on every page, guests could flip through the book and sign next to any snapshot. This sparked more than just signatures. “People were writing on the pages and on the pictures and including messages — more than just their names,” Kyle says.