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Make It Personal
When it comes to planning your most personal party ever, little things mean a lot. Here are 25 chic tweaks that are easy, affordable, and make a seriously big impact.
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Give a Welcome That Wows
The presentation of a greeting gift matters as much as what’s inside—which is why we love boxes. They’re sturdy, stackable, and “your guests will feel like they’re opening a special present,” says event producer Ann David, co-owner of David Reinhard Events, in New York City. Fill them with snacks (extra points for covering the water-bottle label), then finish with a ribbon and custom sticker.
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Create a Cohesive Look
Once you’ve settled on a venue, choose the colors that you love—and that work well within it. Then select the patterns, fonts, and motifs you’ll use throughout your day. “Spend time on this, because your decisions will set the tone of your entire celebration,” says Maria Baer, event designer and co-owner of Ritzy Bee Events, in Washington, D.C.
Pick a palette of two main colors, with two or three accent hues, and just two or three fonts for printed materials. Once your palette is set, you can mix and match patterns and still have everything look coordinated, not chaotic.
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This engraved business-card case, with a table number slipped inside, is an escort card that also works as a favor.
The details: Business card case, RO-CC66B, $26, alphaengraving.com.
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Get With the Program
Give your officiant a lovely notebook or tablet case to use during the vows. It’s sweet, stylish, and eliminates the chance of a Hello Kitty iPad cover photobombing your ceremony.
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Script a Few Words
Calligraphy can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be prohibitive if you use it wisely. Rather than having every letter of every detail hand-done, hire an artist to write one or two phrases, like your names and wedding date. Scan them onto everything from menus to drink coasters, and voilà: customization that’s cost-effective.
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Borrow From the Bride’s Bouquet
When picking bridesmaids’ flowers, use yours as inspiration, suggests contributing editor David Stark, of David Stark Design, in New York City. If you’re carrying peonies, roses, and sweet peas, hand one pal a posy of peonies, another roses, and so on—all in the same color. “It’s a chic way to say, ‘You’re a part of me,’ ” he says.
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Gorgeous potted trees— think palms in summer, ficus or topiaries in spring, and pines in fall and winter—“can fill up a big space, act as room dividers, and conceal unattractive corners,” says Amanda Connor, owner of Hummingbird Bridal and Events, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And you don’t need to buy out a farm; a large tree rents for around $100 a pop.
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Freshen Your Flowers
Whether it’s flopping off Mom’s wrist or growing from grandma’s bosom, an old-school corsage isn’t anyone’s dream accessory. Instead, Stark suggests handing VIPs a single perfect flower with a ribbon on the stem.
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A champagne toast is festive, but many (pricey) glasses go untouched. Rather than setting a flute at each place, have waiters offer them as guests mill in from cocktails, so only those who want one partake. For visual punch, line clear plastic trays with wrapping paper or scanned fabric, and, to save beaucoup bucks, swap the real stuff for prosecco or cava.
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Set an Inviting Table
Attendees pay the most attention to details they can see up close—at a seated dinner, that’s the centerpieces. But it’s important to get the height right. (If you’ve been to an event where you couldn’t see across the table, you know what we mean!) As a rule, “They should be shorter than 14 inches or taller than 24,” says Stark. A formal arrangement of blooms can be beautiful, but it’s not the only option. “I love it when tables are decorated with an eclectic collection of items, like an array of bottles casually holding flowers,” he says, or the mismatched objects here.
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Gussy Up the Staff
Get waitstaff feeling festive, too, with a party-ready dress code. “If you’re having a black-tie celebration, white dinner jackets help servers stand out from guests,” says Baer. For casual parties, ask staff to wear black pants and a white shirt, then supply inexpensive items like a bistro apron or bright suspenders and a patterned tie.
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Everyone looks better in it, so if your venue allows open flames, skip schmancy lighting designs and go for the glow. Scatter inexpensive votives everywhere from the escort-card table to the dessert bar, then use them at home after the big day.
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Head to a Paint Store
Use canvas drop cloths as tablecloths, suggests Stark: “It’s one of my favorite tricks for a rustic-chic affair.” instead of a guest book, buy a stretched canvas to set on an easel during cocktail hour, next to a tray of paint and some brushes: guests’ signatures will become a work of art.
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Get Your Game On
At warm weather weddings, nothing breaks the ice like a round of croquet (or bocce, badminton, or cornhole) over cocktails. “It’s fun for guests to do an activity while mingling,” says Connor.
The Details: Lion Sports croquet set, $50, hayneedle.com.
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Order an Embosser
It’s a $30 way to make stationery look like a million bucks. Personalize everything from save-the-dates to your first holiday cards as Mr. and Mrs. with your initials.
The details: Embosser, $30, rubberstampsinc.com.
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Keep ’em Comfy
Pre-ceremony, quench guests’ thirst with cucumber water or lemonade (or cider or cocoa if it’s chilly), and satiate hunger with easy-to-grab dried fruit and nuts.
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Supersize (and Modernize) Your Dessert Bar
Candy is dandy—and even more candy is dandier. Instead of many small jars of different sweets (which require frequent restocking), pick a few on-palette faves to display in large, clear containers. This looks abundant, is less work for your caterer, and is tidier, too, thanks to scoops that let guests fill treat bags without getting their hands involved.
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Plate a Nice Slice
Keep costs down without skimping on style by having your baker whip up a small bespoke cake to display and cut, as well as a large, plain sheet cake to serve from the kitchen. Just make sure each piece looks special; have your caterer top it with a sugar flower (or another flourish) so that everyone thinks theirs is the prettiest one.
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Send Guests Off Snacking
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Wish Them a Good Night
We. Love. This. Tip. “Ask the hotel to place a card on every guest’s pillow that says something like, ‘Thank you for sharing this special day with us. Sweet dreams,’” suggests Stark. Printing the missives will save time, but a handwritten note always feels more special. (Hint, hint.) Just double-check that the hotel doesn’t charge a fee for the delivery.
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Get Fabulous With Fabric
Photo booths turn any party into a par-tay. To make your version one-of-a-kind, hit up a fabric store (or try bandjfabrics.com) for something festive that coordinates with your décor and hang a few yards on a wall to create a backdrop for snapshots. You can also use some as a runner for the escort-card table or dessert bar, or scan a bolt and print it on your paper labels for welcome-bag goodies.
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Accessorize Signature Cocktails
Like garnishes, cloth napkins make drinks seem special. Buy in bulk, and “Have the caterer keep them for you to launder and reuse at home,” says Stark.
The Details: “Festival” napkins, $55/4, sferra.com.
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Feature your Furbaby
We know you’re obsessed with your pet, but not every cute canine is ceremony material. If yours aced obedience school, have him trot down the aisle (be sure to arrange for someone to take him home after portraits). But if he was kicked out of doggie daycare, he can still have a role in your party. Have him there in spirit: on the cake topper, in cookie form as a favor, or in a photo.
The details: Custom dog-cookie favor, $7 each, sweetdanib.com.
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Create a Gallery Wall
Skip the mortifying slide show and opt for an installation that features images of you and your groom through the years. Or, make it a family affair, with photos of your relatives’ nuptials back in the day. To be sure images from different eras work together, spray-paint inexpensive wooden frames a single color, and stick to black-and-white pics. “It’s such a great, impactful sight, and you can keep the photos to display at home after the wedding,” says Boston event designer Bryan Rafanelli, of Rafanelli Events.
The details: “Virserum” frames, from $3, ikea.com.
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Turn your Cake Into a Photo Op
Getting married in an area where top pastry chefs are few and far between? You can always order a plain (read: inexpensive) cake covered in white fondant from a good local bakery. To take it from ho-hum to ta-da!, purchase a premade sugar-flower kit and have your caterer press the faux buds into the frosting. If blooms aren’t your style, ask him or her to wind a piece of ribbon around each tier, or add a vintage cake topper. Finally, dress up the cake plate with a nice ribbon.
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