Here's a classic article I wrote around 2006, when I was still doing some freelance event planning (after getting my start in wedding planning on-site at venues). Some of the language is a little dated, but most of the advice is still pretty solid. -J.

Making Your Wedding Unique and Personal

No one wants a “cookie cutter” wedding. Yet, most brides and grooms want to incorporate timeless traditions and classic themes to their event, while creating unique touches that make the wedding truly theirs. A wedding is likely the biggest, and certainly the most meaningful, event a couple will ever plan in their lives. Making it unique and personal will ensure the wedding is a true reflection of whom they are, and will make the wedding more memorable and special for all who attend.

A good starting point for couples wishing to personalize their wedding is to spend some time reflecting on their own love story. Some questions to consider:

  • How did we meet?
  • What did we do on our first date?
  • What other activities do we enjoy?
  • What do we have in common?
  • What was the setting the first time we said “I love you?”
  • What was the setting when we got engaged?
  • What nicknames do we call each other?
  • What family traditions do we have?
  • What cultural/ethnic traditions are important to us and our families?
  • What are the traditions of our respective hometowns, schools, or organizations?
  • Any other special memories?

There are limitless opportunities to incorporate unique touches into a wedding. Some couples choose a common theme and interject it into nearly every aspect of their event. Still others plan a surprise or two to reflect their individual taste and their history as a couple.

Some ways to personalize:

  • Invitations and “Save the Date” Cards: Consider a custom design (perhaps created by a talented friend or relative), unusual materials (such as “natural” or handmade paper, ribbon, or raffia) or a unique shape. You can also make your own invitations; high-end stationery stores and invitation galleries sell many colors and stock weights of paper with corresponding envelopes. Incorporating a photo, favorite illustration, quotation, words from your upcoming vows, or preferred color scheme are just a few ways to make the invitations a perfect first impression of the event to come.
  • Ceremony/reception site: This is an excellent starting point for personalizing your event. Book lovers and scholars will appreciate the ambience of a picturesque library or museum, while nature lovers might be happiest in a garden or park setting, an aquarium, or an indoor room with panoramic views of the outdoors. Hosting your reception at a favorite or meaningful hotel or restaurant is another option. Whether your taste leans toward the historic, the classic, the romantic, the modern or the truly unusual, there are literally hundreds of sites in the Baltimore/Washington area from which to choose.
  • Food: This is one of the easiest parts of the wedding to customize – what’s your favorite thing to eat? Even the simplest foods can be “dressed up” for a wedding, and will often be the most appreciated by your guests! Menus are also an excellent way to reflect different ethnic backgrounds or special themes. Seated meals, buffets, or plentiful food stations can all be tailored to include the foods you’ve enjoyed together or individually.
  • Music: Nearly everyone wants a music set that can be enjoyed by all guests. Most weddings will incorporate songs from several decades, with love and celebration as the common theme. However, songs that are especially meaningful to a few guests in particular can also be used to make the event more unique. Consider playing the first dance songs of other special couples at the event, from your grandparents to your best friends. Think about songs you shared with parents or friends in your childhood. Many couples like to play their alma mater’s fight song if many of their classmates will be in attendance. Finally, by carefully selecting the songs that will be used for the special events of the wedding, such as the first dance, parent dances, and last dances, you can make the music for your wedding stand out as being perfectly true to you.
  • Other Entertainment: Many couples shy away from having entertainers other than the DJ or band, afraid that they, as the bride and groom, will lose the spotlight. Actually, supplemental entertainers can be an exciting surprise for guests and a great way to pass the time during the cocktail hour, while the bridal party is taking pictures. Dancers (ranging from professional swing dancers to Oriental-style ribbon dancers to breakdancers), contortionists, minstrels, fire-eaters, magicians, strolling magicians, casino dealers, impersonators, fortune tellers, henna artists and herald trumpeters are just a few of the options available for a uniquely entertaining event.
  • Favors: Guests who receive favors are leaving your wedding with a small remembrance of your event and the couple who gave it to them. Why not make it something that speaks uniquely of you? Small edibles (such as chocolates or Jordan almonds) are popular, but there are endless other possibilities as well. Gifts that are useful during the wedding, such as wine glass charms, wedding sparklers, or comfortable “dancing socks” are always appreciated. You might also consider hiring a caricature artist or a novelty photographer (who brings a decorative backdrop and an instant or digital camera with computer equipment) to entertain guests during the event and provide a memento that lasts. Of course, gifts that can be enjoyed at home, long after the festivities end, are always appropriate as well – custom-created CD’s, bottles of wine, and photos of the happy couple are personal and special. And, in the spirit of giving, many couples are choosing to forego a take-home gift and are opting instead to make a small donation in each guest’s name to a favorite charity or organization.

With endless choices for every wedding detail, there is no reason to sacrifice creativity and individuality on this, the most important day of your life. Making the effort to design an event that is perfectly and uniquely yours is well worth the beautiful memories for you and your guests.