1. Allover Lighting
Revolutionize your venue with creative lighting. Project falling leaves or snow to add drama to a boring, beige wall; add a funky geometric pattern or your monogram to the dance floor; or get basic up-lighting for the perimeter of the room to instantly transform the space. Your guests won’t be able to stop staring (in a good way!).
2. A Decked-Out Entryway
We’re not saying you should spend a gazillion dollars on a 20-foot-tall floral arrangement, but first impressions are important, so take time to think out the entrance to your reception. Add a couple flower arrangements to the escort card table or have your stationer create a stylish seating chart display. A table topped with your engagement photos, your parents’ wedding albums, and any other from-the-family artifacts would make meaningful additions.
3. A Showstopping Ceremony Exit
If you play it right, your ceremony exit will be one of the most heavily photographed moments of your wedding — so forget the rose petals and birdseed. Jazz up your exit by passing out small bags of colorful confetti, paper airplanes, mini beach balls, or even lavender buds for everyone to toss your way. Even better: Stage your own mini parade by passing out noisemakers and asking your guests to escort you to your getaway car.
4. Unexpected Wedding Music
Sure, a string quartet is nice, but you’ll blow guests away with a jazz trio or a Spanish guitar player. To get the party going during the cocktail hour, look into hiring a mariachi band, a bluegrass group, or even a barbershop quartet for some seriously memorable melodies.
5. A Wedding Dress Change
All eyes will be on you, so it’ll be a huge shocker when you go from a classic wedding dress for the ceremony to a shorter, flirtier dress at the reception. Whether it’s a cocktail dress you bought (but couldn’t find an excuse to wear) or a sparkly, white dress that’s just too short for the aisle, have fun with it! If you honestly can’t imagine changing out of your wedding dress, make other changes: Let down your hair, switch your shoes, or add a few new pieces of jewelry.
6. Cocktails Served Differently
Grab guests’ attention as soon as they arrive at the cocktail hour by having drinks and hors d’oeuvres displayed on colorful trays or even placed along the shelves of a makeshift bookcase-turned-bar. Or, have a fleet of waiters standing at the entrance, drink trays in hand, ready to greet guests at the door. The message will be clear: It’s time to par-tay.
7. Extra Signage
If it’s an outdoor wedding, create rustic, wooden signs in your wedding colors as pointers for guests (“this way to the cocktail hour” or “wedding this way!”). For a more formal wedding, make beautifully scripted table numbers, monogrammed cocktail napkins, and even bathroom-door labels that read “ladies” and “gents.”
8. A Photo Booth (Rented or Handmade)
Having a photo booth is a surefire way to capture memories a photographer might miss. For an extra-special touch, outfit your booth with themed props (snorkel gear and an under-the-sea backdrop for a summer wedding, opera masks and monocles for a formal affair, etc.) to get your guests in the mood; then be sure to send them a copy of their photo in your thank-you note.
9. Wedding Favors With Entertainment Value
Think of your wedding favors as an accessory to your reception. Want a packed dance floor? Distribute kazoos, maracas, or even rally towels for a good time that just won’t quit. Or use wedding favors as a way to up your guests’ comfort level. Set out baskets of comfy flip-flops for guests who love to shut down the dance floor, or cozy wraps to fend off the chill of a seaside wedding.
10. A (Really) Creative Groom’s Cake
How could your guests not take a picture of that? Find the right cake baker and go nuts with your groom’s cake for a unique photo op. We’ve seen everything from elaborate guitars to football stadiums to armadillos to library book cakes. Other non-cake ideas: a table decked out in donuts, an ice cream bar, or a giant Rice Krispies Treat cake.
11. A (Surprise) Choreographed Dance
Take a few dance lessons before your wedding, but instead of the standard waltz, kick it up a notch by learning a sultry tango or a high-energy swing routine, and then surprise everyone during your first dance. For an unexpected surprise, get your dad or even your grandpa in on the act. Imagine the looks on your guests’ faces when you and your pops break into a hip-hop routine mid-father-daughter dance. (Bonus points if he can do the worm!)
12. A Luxe Reception Lounge
Give guests a place to mingle between dance breaks by creating a lounge area at your reception. Fill the space with couches or chairs and plenty of pillows to sink into. It’s the perfect way to keep everyone in on the party even when they’re resting. Really want to wow ’em? Close off the area with curtains to create a VIP vibe.
13. Killer Midnight Snacks
Just when everyone thinks the fun is winding down, liven up the party with late-night nibbles that will leave everyone ready for an after-party. Think about it: crinkle French fries, fresh chocolate chip cookies and milk shooters, a fully loaded taco bar, or even a waffle truck!
14. Decked-out Transportation
Come up with a transportation plan that’ll get guests talking. Maybe your car-obsessed uncle would be willing to play driver for the night in exchange for showing off his ridiculously cool Mustang. Your oversized clunker from high school might actually look pretty cool decked out with streamers and a “just married” sign. Even your bicycles — tied off with fresh flowers — would create a memorable exit.
15. A Genius Wedding Website
Start the party long before your wedding day with a brilliant wedding website (computer science degree not required). Upload vlogs (aka video blogs) of your bridal party, poll guests on the reception music, add animated elements, or even create a “wedding guest of the week” spotlight column. Start your web page on (ahem) TheKnot.com or get the souped-up version on WeddingTracker.com ($30, but so worth it!).