Planning a wedding comes with a million decisions. Before you get swept up by ideas you find in magazines, blogs and Pinterest, talk to your honey about what makes your relationship unique — and then start making decisions as a couple based on that. That will help you focus on creating a day that’s truly meaningful to you. 85% of couples personalize at least some aspect of the reception, with that number growing each season. Here they come: 33 ways to make your wedding memorable, yet personal.

From the ceremony to the after-party, here are memorable ideas for your wedding day:

  1. It all starts with thinking about your guests. From food to music, keep your friends and family happy and begging for one more song because they don’t want the night to end.
  2. Get creative with your venue! Try an art gallery, McCrory Gardens, the spot on SDSU’s campus where you met, or a cocktail rehearsal dinner at the Nature Park in Brookings.
  3. If it’s an outdoor wedding, pass out sparkling water or lemonade in highball glasses for guests to enjoy before the ceremony begins. It will create a fun atmosphere right from the get-go.
  4. Nothing delights weary travelers like finding a welcome bag or basket of goodies in their hotel room. Include your favorite tasty snacks and drinks, your aunt’s homemade caramels, a map of the area, bike trails, lip balm, sunscreen, beach towel (for our beautiful Lake Oakwood), and add a note that says how excited you are that they’re in town. Make it personal to you and the couple! If they have kids, include some bubbles or crayons.
  5. If the down-time between your wedding and your reception is more than 30-45 minutes, arrange some fun activities for your guests, like trolley rides for a tour of the city, or wagon rides. At a location in Brookings, guests can even wander around a beautiful farm, picking berries, visiting the pond, and ordering wood-fired pizzas as appetizers! The key is keep guests occupied and entertained so they don’t lose energy.
  6. Have similar activities for the kids at your reception. Maybe a bounce-house (if it’s appropriate) a kids’ table full of crayons, bubbles, puzzles and small treats. Or make a scavenger hunt for the kids. Keep them close, but keep them occupied and out of trouble by sending them on a photo hunt for pictures of a 4-leaf clover, the bride hugging someone, the best dancer, the worst dancer, the bride and groom kissing, the prettiest flower, a photo of everyone at their table, etc. Those little photos might just make you smile when you see them later!
  7. Create an Instagram hashtag for your wedding that guests can tag when they snap a photo and tag you! Another cute app is WedPics.
  8. In lieu of favors, have your guests vote on 1 of 2 charities that you’ll make a donation to instead. Make sure you each chooses one that’s very personal to you. On the opposite side of the “voting” card, allow guests to write you a piece of advice and have them submit their card in a special box! Or maybe one side is for submitting a “recipe for a loving marriage” on a recipe card and on the other side is room to write their favorite “recipe for a lovely first year of dinners”!
  9. When guests arrive at the reception, the party should be in full-swing with music playing and cocktails being passed. Have a slideshow playing when guests arrive of your childhood and the groom’s hilarious past photos near the entrance so guests have an ice-breaker conversation piece.
  10. For seating in a non-religious venue, instead of having two “sides”, arrange seats in a circle and recite your vows “in the round”, surrounded by family and friends.
  11. Or why not replace chairs with couches or benches? For outdoor ceremonies, how about hay bales covered with quilts, picnic blankets or have heaps of Moroccan-style cushions.
  12. Who says your little ring bearer has to carry a pillow? Maybe he’s carrying your grandmother’s Bible, a childhood music box or another nostalgic item.
  13. Wrap your bouquet in a piece of lace from your mother’s wedding dress to include your “something old”. Or use other pieces from your mother’s dress for your veil, garter, etc.
  14. Have fun with your invitation inserts. Maybe one inserts says: “DON’T wear heels or ties. The wedding will be held outdoors and we want you to be comfortable! That means no heels for the ladies — and jackets, but no ties for all you gents. DO leave your keys at home. Getting to the acreage is tricky! We insist on providing transportation and we’re sure that you will enjoy the South Dakota landscape on the way. The buses will leave from the hotel at 3 p.m. and will be making return trips starting at 8:30 p.m. and returning every 30 minutes, so they know that at 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30 and on…they have a ride home.
  15. Put tons of details on your wedding website, including details like those listed above, fun spots to hit while they’re in town and your gift registry. Fun stories about how you two met is great too!
  16. Print cocktail napkins with pick-up lines for your singles guests, lines from your favorite movie, verses from your favorite poem or Bible verses. It’s so personal! People will say….”that’s so them.”
  17. Have a unity candle, unity sand, unity wine, unity flowers or plant a unity tree instead.
  18. Instead of a candy bar, have a chocolate bar with chocolate martinis, glazed mini chocolate bundt cakes, white chocolate mousse tarts, piped mocha mousse in tulip shells, sandwich cookies, mini chocolate cheesecakes. Check out this Pinterest board for more inspiration!
  19. Consider serving a nacho bar, taco bar, neighborhood pizza or delectable sandwiches to late-night guests serve at 10 p.m.!
  20. Keep them comfortable. Every lady loves a basket of flip-flops so they can kick off their heels and dance. Consider bottles of water, fans, umbrellas, heat lamps, bug spray, blankets — depending on the weather and time of day where you wed.
  21. Keep guests on their toes every 30-45 minutes. Intersperse speeches throughout the meal, have a photo booth, or if your budget allows, have a silhouette artist or another artist having fun with guests.
  22. Once the dance is over, have an after-party ready to go! Choose a close venue (a nearby hotel bar) and offer little appetizers — or a taxi ride home. It would be great to have your shuttle bus running every 30 minutes to take guests back to their hotels.
  23. Last month, the sister of a bride surprised her by having Hitch put mason jars, slips of personalized paper and pencils at each place setting. Then, the guests sitting at Table #4 wrote the couple some marriage advice to read on their 4th anniversary. The guests sitting at Table #12 wrote the couple some marriage advice to read on their 12th anniversary and so on. So sweet! Then, we packaged up all the mason jars of love notes into a box and wrapped it up for the bride and groom to open the next day during gift opening! But of course, not read the notes until the appropriate wedding anniversary! Hitch has pencils and mason jars if you’d like to do the same at your wedding.
  24. Transform your venue with lighting and drapery, fabric and big displays. It’s all in the accessories. Think of your space as a dress, then go about picking the right show, earrings, purse, and so on. Think 60/30/10 for base colors and accent colors.
  25. Have fun ideas for a guest book; like signing a boat paddle, signing pieces of a quilt, signing a hand-made bench for the couple’s home, putting a finger print on a photo to be framed, or etching your names into a silver metal tray will certainly be memorable.
  26. If possible, customize music at your ceremony, have family or friends sing a duet for you, or like 6% of weddings, have a pet steal the show!
  27. Don’t over-do it, but consider having a theme that’s very personal to the two of you. Some brides have done “Romance in Paris”,  “Moroccan Love”, an astronomy theme, a fall theme with candy apples, or butterflies, sunsets, peacock, or even old Hollywood glam.
  28. Soul food is the go-to wedding fare. Brides and grooms are treating their guests to chicken, pulled-pork, mac & cheese, those comfort foods that keep it relaxed.
  29. Have your stationery designer (ahem…Hitch Design Studio…ahem) design your wedding programs with a little write-up of everyone in the wedding party. A personal story about how you became friends with your bridesmaid or a funny story about why you love your sister so much is a very personal touch and will make your guests smile before your ceremony.
  30. Wine flights! Beer flights! Oh–what if there were cheeses and chocolates that complimented each drink. Yes, please.
  31. Make sure your DJ chooses which songs to play based on the energy of the crowd. Get them dancing and KEEP them dancing.
  32. Charm your guests and keep the party on its feet with food stations around the room! Anything food or drink related will bring guests together for conversation. Choose food station varieties like:
    •  Risotto
    • Gazpacho
    • Ravioli
    • Mac & cheese
    • Tacos or burritos
    • Flatbread
    • Sliders
    • Smoked salmon
    • Mini paninis
    • Pies, tarts or cupcakes
    • Top-your-own cheesecakes or ice cream sundaes
    • Truffles
    • Gelato flavors
  33. Or what about these alternatives to serving cake:
    • Sweet and savory doughnuts
    • Cake pops
    • Peanut brittle
    • Shot-glass parfaits
    • S’mores
    • Truffles
    • Homemade marshmallows cut into cute shapes
    • Creme brulee
    • Whoopie pies
    • Shaved ice or cotton candy
    • Pies in jars
    • Cookie stations

For even more fun ideas check out this Pinterest board!

Choose only those ideas which are personal to you — and your wedding will be memorable. Comment with other cute ideas you’ve seen or done! We hope this gets your wedding idea wheels turning.  🙂

By: Renee Halgerson, Owner/Designer, Hitch Design Studio

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