Answer: Not having a cookie-cutter day
During wedding planning, soonlyweds always wonder which part of their preparations will really be noticed by their guests, which things will make a good impression, and what guests will remember from the day. I thought it might be interesting for other soonlyweds to know what things got noticed at another couple’s wedding, for better planning out their own. There are loads of things I desperately hope our guests enjoyed, but from going through and totaling up what we actually received unsolicited compliments on, I noticed a trend: the things people said they liked are things we did a little differently from every other wedding, or where we allowed our personality to shine through.
My groom and I absolutely loved our wedding day. We didn’t want the night to end, and spent most of the week afterwards gushing together over how well everything turned out, how much we enjoyed X, and the awesome compliments we got on Y. My groom’s brother also joked to his girlfriend that they can’t get married now as our wedding is too tough an act to follow. We’ve even had several guests say that ours was the best wedding they have ever been to!
So here’s what our guests told us they liked. Anything not mentioned, you can assume we (sadly) got no feedback on:
• The location: My groom and I are from different countries (we live in his country, on the other side of the world to mine), and we had discussed holding a wedding in each country before he said he’d prefer to just host one in mine. My hometown is a beach town and major tourist destination. Many out-of-towners raved about the location, the relaxed feeling, and what a great spot it was for our nuptials. (I was asked several times why I’d left my hometown at all!) The guests from my groom’s country were very happy with our choice of location, and many have jokingly asked if we want to renew our vows so they have an excuse to go back.
• The social feeling: Several guests told us what a great idea it was to host a welcome drinks event ahead of the wedding, and also hold a farewell breakfast the following day. They said they enjoyed the social feeling of all the wedding festivities and liked that the celebrations lasted longer than just one evening. Guests commented that they appreciated being able to meet different groups of friends and family before the wedding day – whether for the first time or to catch up (my mother was practically in rapture seeing all my high school friends again) – and even the nametags I thought might be lame at the welcome drinks were a big hit.
• The hotel: Our wedding reception was held at a five-star resort, which offered a discounted accommodation rate to our guests as part of the wedding package – especially handy with 90% of our guests coming from out of town! As such, most of our guests stayed at the resort, and we got lots of compliments on it. The resort is only two years old so very clean and modern, and the decor style is very casual and fitting with the vibe of our beach town. (Okay, my groom and I didn’t build the hotel or anything, but I’ll still take it the positive feedback as a compliment on our choice of venue. :D)
• The ceremony venue: The ceremony was held in the grassy area just behind a beach. We had considered ceremony venues closer to our reception venue, but my (very wise) groom persuaded me that we couldn’t have our wedding in a beach town without a beach wedding, and it would be something amazing and unique especially for the one-third of our guests coming from his country – since all weddings there are held in churches, and ours would be something completely different. And it was! Guests raved about our beachside location.
• The officiant: Although the Reflective Groom and I were not super happy with our officiant (she was a bit copy-paste with her writing of the text, and called my groom the wrong name once during the ceremony), several guests gave a lot of positive feedback about her work! They said they really liked how she guided the ceremony, shared our story as a couple, and created a nice atmosphere for the proceedings. (And everyone claims they didn’t notice that she’d called the groom the wrong name.)
• The vows: As explained in last week’s blog post, my groom and I wrote personal vows as well as reciting the traditional vows, and we also added humor in our vows to each other. It was the humor that was the biggest hit! Several people quoted those jokes back to us later in the day (and even months later). A few guests also commented that they shed a tear or two during the vows.
• The reception venue: Guests complimented us on our reception decor, and – much as I’d love to say it was our painstakingly-decided centerpieces or homemade name cards that sealed the deal – it was the fairy lights strewn across the ceiling for a starry night feel that made the biggest impact. One couple commented that previous wedding receptions they’ve been to at resorts have just felt like conferences – with dull, blank-canvas rooms that felt too corporate for a wedding. However, those guests continued, the fairy lights is what really what lifted our reception room up to be something extra special.
• The food: Okay, this is one that bucked the trend and that we really can’t chalk up to doing something different or making things personal: we just got lucky with our choice of food appetizer, main and dessert. Luck was very much key, as we didn’t do a taste test of the different menu options in advance. (So we really can’t take credit for it!) A good lesson though is that guests very much do notice the food: do a test dinner if you can, and also find out how big the portions will be – otherwise hungry guests will remember your wedding dinner for the wrong reasons.
• The dinner music: My mother raised me on music from the 1950s and 60s, and I am a big fan of Frank Sinatra and that genre of tunes, and I thought this music would be perfect for during the dinner portion of proceedings. And it was! Several people came up to us during the dinner and gushed, “This music is awesome! Did you guys make the playlist or is the DJ making it up?” I was pleased to report it was us. 🙂 Think “Beyond the Sea”, “Da-Do-Ron-Ron” and Elvis Presley.
• The first dance: Our first dance was a fully choreographed and very showy swing and slow foxtrot to “Come Fly With Me”. I think these days couples either slow dance or do a humorous “evolution” boogie (where it starts dull but suddenly transitions into a funny dance to a boppy song), so this kind of dance was actually a big surprise for everyone. There was a loud roar of approval when people realized what kind of dance we were doing, and every lift, dramatic dip or series of spins (again, all “something different” arising) got whistles and claps. There was huge applause at the end of the dance, and many people came up to us later wide-eyed to say how awesome our dance was and ask us how long we’d been practising.
• The grand finale: As we’d heard in advance of the wedding tht a few guests planned to leave early, we arranged a grand finale for the final half-hour to give people an incentive to stay. It began with a joint thank-you speech to helpers from the groom and me, the bouquet toss (to get half the crowd on the dancefloor), the final three songs (we strategically chose big hits from my and the groom’s countries that had everyone singing along at the top of their lungs), and then our grand exit with a sparkler send-off. Many people said they loved this final stage of the party, the atmosphere and the great note things ended on. And, although I’d got the impression from wedding blogs that everyone does sparkler exits these days, everyone who spoke to us said they were blown away by it and never seen one before.
So if you’re wondering how to make an impression on your guests and an unforgettable wedding, think about how you can do things a little differently from the norm and how you can add your personality to the day. As you can see from our wedding, you don’t need to do something completely wacky to get guests’ attention… but a little original thinking will take you a long way. Happy planning!