9 Ways to Make Your Guests Say “WOW” At Your Wedding

When a photographer in the industry gets married, you know it’s going to be show-stopping.

When a dear friend marries her true love in a tear-filled ceremony, you know it’s going to be heart-felt.

When a fellow entrepreneur puts her styled touch on EVERY wedding detail, you know people are going to feel so welcome and appreciated.

This is Erica Schuster (well, now Doherty!) to everyone she knows.

A talented business woman, successful stylish photographer, role model, dear friend…and now wife. I am so happy for her and Cole! Cole is so patient and kind and their love is so genuine. I just know it’s going to last forever. What an honor it was to be their wedding planner, wedding designer, and officiant!

Cole and Erica’s day was so beautiful! Though they hired Hitch Studio as the wedding planner, they thought of every detail to make their wedding so inviting and exciting to every guest. We are all from Brookings, South Dakota, but they chose Brainerd, Minnesota as a destination wedding location. Erica wanted her wedding to really “wow” her guests, so we gave her just that.

Here are 9 ways Erica and Cole made their guests say WOW on their wedding day:

  1. Choosing a (destination) venue full of personality: They knew right away they wanted their venue to be at the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Erica told me about how they wanted a destination wedding to make it extra special for guests — and special for her too since she had seen a lot of venues working as a wedding photographer. She wanted something she’d never experienced before. This venue seemed perfectly industrial, yet romantic; it was full of old windows and chipped paint on exposed brick, yet was charming and beautiful; it was old and historic, yet full of love and personality. The Northern Pacific Center Railroad used to call this venue home in 1871, employing thousands of workers over its many years in service. You can tell the buildings are worn as they used to be old blacksmith shops, iron and coal storehouses, and engine annexes. Today, they are well-loved and it’s noticeable that a lot of time was taken to preserve them into the beautiful space it is today. Spread out on the property, the couple got to enjoy four unique spaces — Le Lier, The Luminary, Lincoln Lounge, and The Blacksmith. With photo ops around every corner, it was a perfectly spread out. And if this unique venue wins the heart of a modern, stylish wedding photographer, it will win yours too. We loved it! What city and venue feel most like YOU?
  2. Highlighting the entrance to your reception: Hitch Studio designed an 8-foot seating chart that was suspended from the ceiling, and the florist helped accent this area with amazing florals! Along with a welcome sign, sitting area with couches, chairs and a rug, and champagne wall nearby, the entrance really set the tone for the entire reception! Because of their intentional detailed entrance, guests enjoyed passed appetizers during the social, a glass of champagne, and wonderful music from the DJ. As they walked around and took in the details of the venue, they also posed for the photo booth with a neon sign, used custom gold-embossed napkins that featured their two dogs, enjoyed cocktail stir sticks with custom initials, ate sweet and salty snacks, and so much more! How could you make a STATEMENT?
  3. Making dinner feel like you’re sitting down for a home-cooked meal: During dinner, each guest had a menu card at their place setting for a wonderful buffet by the caterer. Cole and Erica developed a seating chart so they knew each family, person,  and couple would be seated by people they knew they’d love talking to. Even the desserts were made with love — including homemade German wedding kuchen, a family tradition! Their 2-tier wedding cake was so sweet — and the speeches and first dance were even sweeter. If you know this couple at all, you don’t just like them. You LOVE them. And you could feel the love in the room. What elements could you highlight so the meal fits your PERSONALITY?
  4. Making your head table a highlight of the room: If we’re talking about making a “wow” statement, Erica and Cole definitely did this with the 6-foot floral installation above their kings table! There were florals and runners down the middle of their head table with candles and bud vases, making it so elegant alongside gold Chiavari chairs. Each bridesmaid got to pick her own style and shade of a champagne-colored dress, so looking down the head table was stylistically right on with what Erica and Cole wanted! You don’t have to choose something traditional. Think OUTSIDE the box!
  5. Adding an element of “that’s SO them”: If you know Erica, you know that amazing photos are very important to her. So, using printed engagement photos all over her reception was key because…have we mentioned she’s an amazing photographer?! There were polaroids of engagements pictures all over the cocktail tables, a large canvas by their grand entrance, prints throughout the room, and more. Choose something that’s “SO YOU” and use it at your reception!
  6. Prioritizing your ceremony details: The ceremony also made a statement at the front and back of the aisle. At the front were four large acrylic boxes that held large floral arrangements and in the back was a fireplace that we lit with candles of various sizes and a large floral display. Every flower used at the ceremony was taken to the reception and used again – making it twice as beautiful. Another memorable thing about the ceremony was that they chose me to officiate for them (Renee Bauman, Certified Wedding Planner (and friend!) from Hitch Studio), so I wrote a very heartfelt set of I Do’s for them. It was so special to stand and officiate a marriage of two close friends. They wrote their own vows, which is another really memorable part of the day. The music (also done by friends), was exceptional. What is it about live music (and a trumpet/guitar combination) that makes me cry at weddings?! They had both of their fathers read the Bible readings as well. You could tell their ceremony was definitely a priority of their day. How could you make this SPECIAL?
  7. Involving your guests: After the ceremony, guests hugged Erica and Cole in a receiving line and then made a human tunnel with raised arms that Erica and Cole ran through for the CUTEST pictures! Another really fun way they got their guests involved with the wedding day was having the photographer bounce from table to table, taking pictures with each set of guests! People loved moving to one side of the table and posing with the bride and groom for a lightning round of photos — done in less than 10 minutes! It got the whole room up and moving and talking! How can you make your reception MEMORABLE?
  8. Loving on your wedding party: Instead of the traditional grand entrance, the DJ had a surprise in mind. Erica and Cole read a funny description of each member of the wedding party and as each would listen to themselves being “roasted”, they would step forward and make their way to the head table, with the entire crowd cheering and laughing at the hilarious description. What would keep them talking for YEARS?
  9. Making a dress and hair change: Erica started the day in the cutest white sheer robe. Then, of course, put her wedding dress on. Before the reception entrance, she added tulle bow sleeves to her dress and took off her veil. Then, after the first dance with Cole and her father, she changed again into a party dress, pony tail, and boots, which was the coolest! What SURPRISE could you incorporate?!

More than anything, Erica and Cole wanted these “wow” factors to make guests feel welcome. One of my favorite parts of the day (there were so many!) was that they did a “first look” with their reception. She had planned so many details and just wanted them to be perfect! They also took a private moment after the ceremony to enjoy 20 minutes to themselves and did many things that were so unique. (Do you want other one-of-a-kind wedding ideas? Read about my own wedding! I loved my photographer, by the way.)

If you’re hoping to “WOW” your guests, let Hitch Studio help you brainstorm! We can try to make anything you have your heart set on, happen! Contact us today and we’ll get the conversation started! Want to see an Instagram Reel of their day? Click here to see Erica and Cole’s wedding day in video!

Thank you to all the wedding vendors that helped make this day happen!

Wedding Venue: Northern Pacific Center  // Grace // @northernpacificevents

Officiant: Hitch Studio // Renee Bauman // @hitchstudio

Florist: Bellamore Floral // Madeline // @bellamorefloral

DJ: WOW Entertainment // Eric // @wowentertainmentinc

Cake: Knotty Pine Bakery // Marie // @knottypinebakery

Caterer: 3 Cheers at Northern Pacific Center // Sheila

Photographer: Whitley Sander // Whitley // @whitleysander

Photo booth: Erica Lynn Photography // Cole 🙂

Videographer: Flom Films // Josh Flom // @flomweddingfilms

Bride Makeup and Hair: Carly Stier

Makeup: Bliss Salon

Hair: b.beautiful salon // Megan Klinkefus

Champagne wall: Prairie Lane Vintage Rentals // Matt and Nicole // @prairielanevintagerentals

Seating chart designer: Hitch Studio // @hitchstudio

Seating chart printer: Outlaw Graphics // Terry

Wedding Gown: Rhylan Lang

Wedding Planner: Hitch Studio // Renee Bauman // @hitchstudio

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