Expect the Unexpected
When you receive a wedding invitation, you automatically assume certain things will be part of the special day: the dramatic white gown, the iconic march down the aisle and the joyful reception filled with dancing and tearful toasts.
And while most ceremonies stick to tradition on the big stuff, many brides and grooms are opting to inject their personalities into the day’s festivities through clever cake decoration, quirky foods and memorable favors that are all their own.
Ashley Williams, certified event coordinator for Piece of Cake Event Coordinating in Medina, creates highly customized wedding packages throughout Northeast Ohio. Her company was voted Best Wedding Planner of 2012 in the FOX 8 Akron-Canton HOT LIST.
From the groom serenading his new wife to a New Year’s Eve wedding with a raucous countdown, Williams guides couples in creating their own storybook weddings.
“My best advice on how to add unique elements to the wedding is to focus on the interests and hobbies of the couple,” Williams says. “For example, I had a couple who loved their dog so much and couldn’t imagine not incorporating him in the ceremony. Actually having their dog there wasn’t practical so they made a cartoon cardboard cutout of him and had it standing at the altar with them.”
A recent bilingual matrimony shindig was infused with the culture of the South American bride. Guests were enticed onto the dance floor with masks and noisemakers, the ceremony was translated into Spanish for all attendees to appreciate, and guests were prompted to show off their artistic talents.
“The bride and groom had their guests paint a picture for them. Instead of the traditional sign-in book, each guest painted a different part of the picture so they could hang it in their new home,” Williams says.
Williams says one couple invited their wedding guests to sign a quilt rather than the traditional sign-in books. Other weddings included personal touches, such as laying down the red carpet for a movie-loving couple or using the names of bands instead of table numbers for a couple who met at a radio station.
Finding the right venue can be a challenge, but not everyone needs (or wants) a banquet hall. One couple, Williams recalls, held their reception at the Akron Art Museum. They chose to forego the traditional sit-down dinner and invited guests to dance, mingle all night and tour the museum throughout the entire event.
Not only do personalized elements dazzle guests who have likely seen their fair share of traditional weddings, but creative thinking and planning ahead can even save money.
“Some of the most common requests I have from my clients are how to incorporate candy bars or tables and photo booths. They’re a great way to create a memory, escort card and favor all in one. They can be fantastic money-savers and are always a lot of fun!” she says.
Williams also recommends that couples reconsider traditions that don’t make sense for their particular occasion.
“If your wedding is out-of-town or if you have a lot of out-of-town guests who you really want to attend the wedding, send out save-the-dates,” Williams says. “Otherwise, I’d save the money and put it toward the invitations themselves. They’re so important and set the tone for the entire event.”
Taking into account other members of the wedding party can add surprising touches as well. In one case, Williams says the young ring bearer slurped on a ring-shaped sucker while walking down the aisle instead of carrying actual rings, and the flower girl handed out blooms instead of dropping petals.
Personalized elements can extend beyond the wedding and reception. Parties following the rehearsal dinner are gaining popularity, Williams says, through intimate bonfires or gatherings at favorite local watering holes. But ultimately, the day is for the bride and groom, and the wedding should reflect that.
“Adding personal touches can make all the difference when trying to create a memorable event,” Williams says. “Guests enjoy seeing the couple’s personality played out in the ceremony and the reception.”
Ben & Jenny Schwartzhoff
The Schwartzhoffs were married on Oct. 13, 2012 in the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues Cleveland, and their wedding reception was there as well. They didn’t want a traditional wedding so they chose the Roaring 1920s for a theme.
“We both love the style of dress during that era, and we’re also both huge fans of the HBO series, ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ which takes place in that time period,” Jenny says. “We chose to have a majority of our pictures taken at the Hyatt Arcade Hotel, where we and most of our guests stayed. Being a historic hotel, it certainly fit the overall theme of the day.”
Jenny says about 75 percent of her wedding guests participated in the theme and dressed in 1920s-style attire but, she adds, “Prohibition certainly did not apply during the reception, though.”
Ben and Jenny say engaged couples should do what they want for their wedding day.
“Don’t let other people influence you too much. Your wedding is a day for the two of you to remember, so make sure you do it up in a way that’s going to make you both happy,” Jenny says. “Also, don’t let your heart get set on one certain aspect or over-worry about minor details. Things will come up that alter your plans a bit.”
Heather Shaw & Aaron Woodard
Heather and Aaron were married Sept. 22, 2012 at the First Congregational Church of Akron, and their reception was at the SYB Hall in Stow.
The bride loved the movie, “Bridesmaids,” so she chose to re-enact the movie poster with her bridal party on her wedding day. “I thought it would be funny to have that particular photo, with the same poses, hung in our entertainment room,” she says. “I think this photo will make great gifts for my bridesmaids. I plan on making them a copy as a thank-you gift!”
Heather also had specific poses that she wanted to have captured on her wedding day so she compiled a Pinterest page with all her ideas.
“My photographer, Shane Wynn, was able to view these photos and get some ideas of what I was looking for on my big day,” she says.
Heather says brides-to-be should focus on what’s important to them on that day and where they want to spend their money. She says her reception venue provided a list of recommended vendors, which made choosing caterers, florists and other special occasion businesses much easier.
“My last piece of advice? Enjoy every moment of your big day because it goes by way too fast,” she says.