Ultimately, your wedding day is about celebrating the love between you and the person you're about to marry. But there's another goal at hand: throwing one seriously epic party that your guests will talk about for years to come. But how do you make your big day stand out amongst the throngs of weddings your family and friends have attended in the past? While there are many ways to upgrade the standard nuptials. We made a list of 20 easy ways you can get the party started (and continuing!) right.
1. Keep Your Ceremony Brief
Don't get us wrong, your friends and family are present at your big day to see you get married — but no one wants to watch a drawn out ceremony. Keep the actual proceedings (not including entrances and exits) around 20 minutes so you won't lose anyone's attention.
2. Choose a Personalized Program
While we're on the topic of the ceremony, don't forget about creating a wedding program. By personalizing this piece of stationery with interesting details about you and your groom, a breakdown of the ceremony's proceedings, and any important information they should know (like a translation of traditional vows or that you'd prefer photos aren't taken) you'll capture their attention and get all of those key details across. Plus, it will keep them busy if the event runs a little late.
3. Use a Wedding App or Hashtag
There are many great wedding apps to choose from for your big day. Some interactive apps allow guests to upload wedding photos into one curated place, while others keep your friends and family up on any wedding-related news. Want something even easier? Create clever hashtag and ask guests to tag all of their photos using it.
4. Give Out-of-Town Guests a Welcome Basket
Whether you're hosting a destination wedding or a hometown bash, some of your guests had to travel to be a part of your big day. To show your appreciation, give welcome bags for guests staying at hotels. Include a few snacks, bottles of water, and a list of local resources, like the nearest drug store, restaurants and coffee shops, plus any nearby attractions. If you're able to splurge, throw in a bottle of wine, tasty local treats like an artisanal cheese or candy, and a guidebook.
5. Greet Each Guest
It may sound obvious, but it's important to personally greet each and every guest at your wedding. Once the celebration is underway do your best to spend time with each person — whether that means chatting over a cocktail, visiting their table at dinner, or letting loose on the dance floor.
6. Create a Well-Planned Seating Chart
It doesn't matter if your reception dinner will be a buffet, plated meal, or family-style servings: A smart seating chart is vital to ensuring your guests have a good time. Try to group people together with similar backgrounds and interests, so they'll have something to talk about even if they've never met before.
7. Splurge on the Open Bar
While open bars can be pricey, there are ways to make it work on any budget. Consider offering just beer and wine or a few cocktail options if you need to cut back, but don't ask family and friends to open their wallets.
8. Have a Signature Cocktail
Speaking of cocktails, serve one or two delicious customized drinks. It'll offer you a huge savings if you forgo a full bar, and it makes your reception feel so personal. You and your groom should each pick a concoction, but try to select drinks that are palatable for a wide array of people.
9. Make Sure Your Guests Are Comfortable
No matter what time of year you're tying the knot, it's important to think about what your guests might need to stay comfortable throughout evening. That may mean offering wraps, parasols, or flip-flops.
10. Design a Lounge Area
Not every guest will want to dance all night. In fact, some may not want to hit the dance floor at all. Although reception tables are a fine place for friends and family to chat, offering a designated seating area is a nice touch. Lower the music, provide comfy chairs, and this will be a detail many guests will love.
11. Keep Speeches Short
Speeches are a necessary component of any wedding, but it's important to ensure they don't drag on for too long. Keep the toast brief — no matter than a few minutes per person — and have your DJ or bandleader prepared to make tasteful cut-offs.
12. Ask for Song Requests
Want to know the best way to get your guests out on the dance floor? Play the songs they actually want to hear! Have your DJ make an announcement that they'll be taking requests and watch the dance floor fill up when a crowd-favorite comes on.
13. Create a DIY Bar
Whether it's an outdoor cigar bar, a build-your-own-biscuits bar during cocktail hour, or a sundae bar at dessert, your guests will love making (and eating!) their own treats.
14. Have Phone Charging Stations
Sure, the whole point of your wedding is for guests to be present with you, but technology is a necessary evil we can't avoid. Offering charging stations is a very kind way to show guests you care about their personal needs. Plus, if you want to see tons of Instagram photos of your amazing reception, your friends and family will need battery life! Tuck them away near the bathroom or entrance. (Don't forget to include a sign with your hashtag, too!)
15. Play Wedding Games
When guests need a break from dancing, what's more fun than an interactive game? Options like bocce ball, oversized Jenga, and backgammon are fun ways to get your friends and family to interact with each other.
16. Serve Late-Night Snacks
Yes, you're serving dinner and dessert, but those are typically devoured hours before the reception actually ends. And with couples extending their parties later and later, it's likely that more than just a few of your guests will be thinking of a tasty late-night snack. Have your caterer bring out hand-held options like sliders and fries, mini grilled cheese, or coffee and donuts about an hour before the reception ends to revive revelers.
17. Give a Favor People Will Use
Trust us, people don't want a framed photo of you and your new husband. If you're going to spend the money on favors, select something that your guests won't leave on the table. Mini bottles of bubbly, a yummy snack like cookies or popcorn, or a treat they can enjoy once back at home like jam or syrup are all crowd-pleasers.
18. Have a Photo Booth
Not only is a photo booth a fun activity for your reception, it's also a great alternative for your guestbook or favor. The options are literally endless, but we love a great selection of props for your buddies to play with.
19. Skip Traditions That Don't Fit Your Style
Some brides don't want to toss the bouquet or the garter, while others would prefer not to wait until the ceremony for their first look. If you're a girl who just can't image partaking in one of these traditions, don't do it! It's your wedding; you can skip what you want to.
20. Make a Memorable Exit
No one wants your wedding night to end, but since it has to, go out on a high note. Do a fun and festive farewell, like a firework show, sparkler exit, or confetti send-off! Your guests will love it, and it will make for some amazing photos.