Acts of Thanks to Work Into Your Wedding Day
Your wedding day is about you and your spouse-to-be—but it's also about the people that you ultimately invite to the celebration. After all, you've hand-selected these guests personally. If they aren't your actual family, they might as well be. They've been there to witness you grow up, fall in love, and make this incredible life step. It's important, then, to make sure that you thank them for their constant love and care at some point during your celebration. This is especially true if you decide to tie the knot around Thanksgiving—in the spirit of the season, expressing your gratitude to your nearest and dearest should be a major priority throughout your ceremony and reception.
That's why we asked several of the leading wedding planners in the industry for their best ideas for working acts of thanks into the big day. Their advice is literally tried-and-true—each of these pros has ideated and implemented poignant acts of thanks during their couples' events. Of course, it's important to note that offering up your gratitude isn't limited to the Thanksgiving season, which is why you'll find that the majority of these examples work year-round. Take one tip ahead, which offers a unique idea for celebrating guests' birthdays, for example. To thank those guests for attending your party (instead of having one of their own!), go the extra mile by asking your wedding band to play them a special rendition of happy birthday, adding a birthday candle to their slice of wedding cake, or bringing out a just-for-them confection in addition to your dessert.
Another idea that stood out was when one couple provided guests with matches and asked them to light the candles on their tables together. The result? A moment of community that simultaneously brought everyone together and filled the room with light and gratitude. Click through for more acts of thanks to work into your big day.
When you and your new spouse get up to say a few words, make sure to honor key players. "Including loved ones—especially those who contributed in big ways or traveled a long way to be with you on your wedding day—in your reception address is such a special way to thank the ones who are near and dear to you," says destination wedding planner Jacin Fitzgerald.
You know your maid of honor doesn't like public speaking, but she's preparing a speech anyway because she loves you. Event planner Jaclyn Journey advises setting a flask (with just one shot of vodka!) at her place setting to help her "ease the anxiety" ahead of her big moment. "It shows that you understand how nervous she is and appreciate her for taking the time to do this," adds Journey.
Honor Armed Forces
If you have guests that are active military or veterans, personally honoring their sacrifice is a wonderful way to express your gratitude—both for their friendship and their service. One way to do it? "Our military groom thanked those who served with special medals on his Memorial Day weekend wedding," adds Wendy Kay of Birds of a Feather Events.
Personalized Note Escort Cards
Lynn Easton of Easton Events recommends expressing your thanks at the very beginning of your reception through your escort cards. "In the past, our clients have written personalized notes to each of their guests, which were then contained within their escort envelopes," she recalls. "The impact was incredible—their guests are still talking about how touching and meaningful it was to receive a hand-written note from the bride and groom."
If a loved one's birthday falls on (or near!) your wedding date, consider whipping up a special dessert in their honor. This couple invited guests with birthdays around the wedding to blow out candles on their own cake while the band performed a fun rendition of "Birthday" by the Beatles. Wedding planner Tara Guérard of Tara Guérard Soirée says another nice idea is to have a single cake waiting for the guest of honor. "We had a cake baker create an amazing confection for a father of the bride, whose birthday was the same as the wedding."
Choose a moment (escort cards or late-night thank-you notes work!) to distribute gratitude-forward fortunes, advises Fitzgerald. These should contain words of thanks and a personalized wish for that specific person's future—the more personalized, the better.
A Community Candle Lighting
Make like one of Easton's recent couples by allowing all attendees to participate in a group candle ceremony. "Each guest received a beautiful calligraphed custom match book as their escort card. The dinner was entirely candlelit, so each guest was given a candle at their place setting," she recalls. "Once seated, our guests were asked to light the candles with their matches from their escort card. It was a magical symbol of community and every guest contributed to the candlelit ambiance."
Good Job Gift
Guests outside of your wedding party that still actively participate in your big day definitely deserve a shout-out. Take the kind friend or family member who volunteered to pass out your wedding programs, for instance, says Journey. "Find a beautiful handmade basket from a local provider and have them distribute programs from it," she advises. "Afterwards, let that person know that you had the basket custom made just for them and that it's their gift for their help. Every time they use the basket they will think of you!"
Deliverable Flower Arrangements
We often send flowers as gifts or tokens of thanks. Why not do that immediately after your party? "Since we do all of our own flowers, we have done special arrangements and had them delivered to the hotel rooms or homes of those being thanked," recalls Guérard. Another way to interpret this sweet idea? Recycle and repurpose your wedding flowers at the end of the evening—giving them a new home post-reception achieves that same sentiment and is also eco-friendly.
Alternatively, present family members that offered support throughout the wedding planning process with a personal arrangement during the celebration. "Have your florist make and leave a hand-tied bouquet of flowers at their place settings with a little note that explains how much you appreciate them," says Journey.
Inviting kids to your wedding comes with so many advantages, but it's often taxing on their parents. Thank them for bringing your favorite little ones along by giving them a bit of a break, advises Kay: "We often have couples bring in babysitting services so that parents can join in the fun and know that their children are being watched."
Getting hitched around Thanksgiving? Roll with the season's best elements when brainstorming wedding favors, says Guérard: "Skip guest bags and gift pumpkin or pecan pies for each guest, instead. Include a cute tag 'thanking' them for coming."
Make Their Mark
Did a guest go out of their way to bring one of your wedding décor pieces to life? Allow them to leave a mark on their creation. "If a relative is personally building your ceremony arch or chuppah, gift him a personalized hand-branding iron so they can leave a mark on the wood," advises Journey. This (or some version of it!) is a nice touch—one that physically engrains their hard work into the landscape of your big day—that also shows how much you care.
All Guest Wedding Party
Searching for a way to make everyone feel personally involved (and, consequently, loved!) on your big day? "One bride insisted on corsages and boutonnières for all of her guests," explains Kay, which created the feeling that every guest had a role in the couple's wedding party.
Postcard Party Thank-You Notes
We get it: You don't want your guests to leave your wedding without a short, sweet thank-you note that sums up your gratitude. You also don't want your official thank-you card—the one you'll send in the mail—to feel redundant. The middle ground? Personalized postcards, recommends Fitzgerald. "We've had postcards made to fit the vibe or theme of the evening. When guests flipped them over, they found a sweet note on the other side that thanked them for coming and let them know the impact they've had on their life."
Sing Happy Birthday
Just when you thought there wasn't another way to make a birthday guest feel special, Guérard thought of one more: "We have also had the band sing 'Happy Birthday' during the wedding, especially when there were several guests with birthdays all around the wedding date."
Special Thank-You Cookies
Favors always say "thank you," but these sculptural, hand painted cookies by Maggie Austin really take the cake. "They were part of a lovely thank-you for each guest in their hotel room," recalls Easton. "The concept of an artful keepsake and taking them time to individually recognize your guests who took the time to attend your celebration is timeless."
Transition the concept of the "wish lantern" into a "thanks lantern" by gathering your guests outside, giving a speech that expresses said gratitude, and then releasing the lanterns into the night sky. "It's a fun way to close out the evening," says Fitzgerald.
Guests' First Dance Songs
Of all the couples you invite to your wedding, one is bound to have their own anniversary on or around your nuptials. If they have, in fact, attended your celebration on their big night, honor their union (and thank them for coming on such an occasion!) by clearing the dance floor and playing their first dance song, says Kay.