Remember how much fun you had at your wedding, and how special it was to have your family and friends there to witness your special day? Would you consider giving up just about anything to have the chance to do it all over again? Well, you can in the form of an anniversary party. "After all you put into celebrating your wedding day, it's of absolute importance to celebrate your first anniversary with those whose presence meant so much to you on your wedding day," says Brandi Hamerstone, a wedding planner at All Events Planned. But how to plan such an elaborate get-together without the help of your trusty wedding planner? Follow our seven steps.
Choose a date and venue.
Just like you did with your wedding, you want to make sure all of the important people can be there to celebrate. Your exact wedding date likely won't fall on a Saturday evening like it did last year, so you'll probably want to select another date to host the party. Next, determine where you want to celebrate. "Some couples choose to host their first anniversary party at the same venue as the wedding reception, which is a fun way to revisit your wonderful day," says Renée Strauss, founder of destination wedding and honeymoon planning company Wedaways. "But if the venue isn't available or practical, choose an option that's still reflective of you—for example, host the party by the water to complement your tropical island destination wedding."
Create an invite list.
Presumably, most of the people you plan to invite will be those who attended your actual wedding; however, it is possible that you might have made close friends in the year since you got married. "An anniversary party is about your life together and doesn't have to include everyone from your previous worlds," says Larry Scott, celebrity event planner and owner of Lawrence Scott Events. "The party is about your life now and is mainly an opportunity to bring your families together again." Word to the wise: Unless you want to be "on stage," like you were during your wedding, keep the guest list small. "There's no right or wrong when it comes to how many people to invite, but the number will help determine the tone of the party."
Choose your theme and plan accordingly.
You may want to use your honeymoon as the theme and create experiences around that. "This can be carried throughout the entire event, including décor, cuisine, music, etc.," suggests Strauss. "For example, offer foods from the country you visited or use photos from your honeymoon adventures in lieu of table numbers." This will help guests share in your memories.
Send out invitations.
There's no right or wrong way to do this—you can opt to send simple e-vites or go all-out and re-hire the person who created your wedding invitations. "Do make sure to add in specific attire requests in your invitations," Strauss says. "Do you want it to be black-tie all over again or keep it simple with beach attire or something as casual as jeans and a t-shirt?"
Hire the rest of your vendors.
Like any party, food and booze will be the main attraction, so it's important to determine whether or not to hire a caterer or handle all of the cooking on your own. "When figuring out how much alcohol to buy, either consult your caterer or browse the Internet," suggests Leah Weinberg, NYC-based wedding planner. "The last thing you want to do is run out of alcohol." You'll also want to think about other aspects of the party, including music, photography, and design. "If feasible, you could consider re-hiring the DJ, photographer, and florist from your wedding.”
Decide on your own attire.
You don't have to slip on your wedding dress—unless you want to, of course. And your outfit doesn't necessarily have to match the rest of your guests. If you do decide to wear your wedding dress and the groom decides to strap on his custom tuxedo to set the tone for the evening, set aside an alternative outfit to change into so you don't wind up staining your precious attire. Most couples, though, will choose to wear something a bit more casual.
Have your wedding video on hand.
This will be the time to let everyone catch a glimpse of the video and reminisce about the fun you had just one year ago. "Plan to have a mic or some open time for your friends and family to share their favorite memories or their advice on the upcoming years of marriage," suggests Hamerstone. "The idea that all of your loved ones can be together and celebrate in your first year of marriage is priceless."