Who says your reception is the only fun part of your wedding day?
There's no reason your ceremony shouldn't be as exciting, meaningful, and inventive as your reception. Our wedding experts have advice on how to personalize your "I do"s from a pre-ceremony slideshow to a wedding time capsule.
1. Have a Drink (moderation is key!)
Start the celebration as soon as guests arrive by throwing a short (no more than an hour) pre-ceremony cocktail party. It will give everyone a chance to mingle and ensure that even your chronically late college roommate will get there in time for the main event. Keep it simple by serving a festive cocktail or two and a small treat like artisanal popcorn in paper cones. As for whether you choose to make a special guest appearance yourself—possibly in another cute white outfit—that's up to you.
2. Thank Your Guests
Make guests feel welcome from the moment they arrive by writing them personal notes and leaving them at the ceremony entrance, recommends Lauren Geissler of San Francisco's Downey Street Events. Another plus: By giving cards, you can skip the receiving line, giving you more time for photos and the reception.
3. Personalize Your Program
Todd Fiscus of Todd Events in Dallas suggests sprinkling your programs with personal details, like factoids about your VIPs ("Father Don baptized Steven" or "Beth's mom makes the best pralines west of the Mississippi!"), photos from your engagement shoot, a hand-drawn map illustrating your adventures together—anything that sets the tone for the wedding ahead.
4. Plan a Group Activity
If you're marrying at a location like a museum, zoo, or aquarium, give your guests the option of taking a fun behind-the-scenes tour before your "I do"s.
5. Provide Flower Favors
Gift your guests with boutonnieres (for the men) and fresh-flower hair clips (for the women). Arrange them on trays near the beginning of the wedding aisle.
6. Screen a Slideshow
Dying to do a slideshow? Play it before your ceremony rather than at the rehearsal dinner. It's a unique way to entertain guests until the vows.
7. Pick an Alternative Bridesmaid Bouquet
Skip the bouquets and have your besties carry a chic clutch instead. (It doubles as a bridesmaid's gift!) Other creative options: silk fans, parasols in your colors, or candlelit lanterns (great for an evening ceremony).
8. Choose a Calligraphic Runner
Ask a calligrapher—or a friend with good penmanship—to emblazon your aisle runner with something personal, using chalk or fabric paint (a line from a favorite poem, perhaps). Or you can have a custom runner created just for you (try originalrunners.com).
9. Make Your Processional Music Meaningful
Meaningful processional music is a must, say Paige Appel and Kelly Harris of Los Angeles' Bash, Please. Is "Sweet Child O' Mine" your song? Play it. Did you grow up in New Jersey? Head to the altar to Springsteen's "Jersey Girl."
10. Get Creative With the Ring Bearer
Have your ring bearer carry your bands on something unique: a felt flower, a mini fishing rod, or a slice of wood that says "Here Comes the Bride."
11. Walk Down the Aisle Together
Buck tradition and walk down the aisle with your guy. It's a poignant way to kick off your new life together.
12. Pick an Altar Backdrop
Place something pretty behind the altar. A flower-filled bookcase, sparkly garlands, and a curtain of ribbons are photogenic options.
13. Sign On An Open Minded Celebrant/Officiant (That's me!! )
Religious, non-religious ceremony? Want your wedding to be themed? Your own added comedy? Costumes? We're here for all your needs/ dreams!!
14. Gather 'Round Your Guests
Seat guests in a circle around the altar. You'll feel surrounded by love.
15. Provide a Passage to Read Out Loud
Print a fave passage in your program and invite everyone to read it aloud together.
16. Make a Time Capsule
Before the wedding, write a letter to your groom. (He should do the same for you.) During the ceremony, put the notes and a bottle of wine in a box and take turns hammering it shut. Open it on your 10th anniversary!
17. Write Mad Lib Vows!
Want to write your own vows but don't know where to start? Fill in the blanks and get inspired!
18. Water a Plant
Another ritual to try: Add a scoop of soil from each of your hometowns to a small potted tree, then water it together to symbolize the merging of your two lives. (You can plant it when you get home from the honeymoon.)
19. Say No to Poems
Forgo readings and ask a few people to stand up and share their marriage wisdom (but tell them to keep the speeches short).
20. Flip for the Vows
Have the best man flip a coin to see who will say their vows first.
21. Slow-Dance at the Altar
Don't wait until the reception for your first dance. Ending your vows cheek to cheek is really sweet.
22. Toast to Your New Spouse!
Or end the ceremony on a celebratory note: Have the ushers pass around your favorite drinks or shots (single-malt scotch, tequila shots and lime, fireball) and make your first toast as husband and wife.
23. Say "Hey" to Your Guests
Share the joy by stepping into the pews for a quick hug from your favorite cousin or BFF.
24. Lead the Way to the Reception
If you're within walking distance, invite guests—and a rollicking band—to accompany you, parade style, from the ceremony to the reception.
25. Throw Them a Twist
Nix the tossed rice and have guests wave ribbon wands or colorful paper pinwheels as you exit the ceremony. Or place party-store tambourines, kazoos, and other noisemakers on seats so guests can jam while you walk out.
Special thanks to: Written by Hillary Quinn for Brides
Will you be branching out and personalizing your wedding?
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