Wedding Planning: Don’t Neglect the Small Details

Table Seating Cards

The perfect groom? Check. Dress, cake, and band? Check, check, and check. While you may have the big parts covered, a few often-overlooked details will truly make your day memorable. We take you from the ceremony programs to the exit with a list of particulars longing for attention.

1. Directions & Signage
You don’t want your guests getting lost on the way to the chapel. If you spell it out for them, they’re more likely to be on time, and your entire wedding day has a better chance of running smoothly.

First, include a map or add a link to Google Maps on your wedding website so that guests have an idea of where they’re going. As a safeguard, consider including a map from the ceremony site to the reception venue in your programs or your invites. For the day-of, create signage for each wedding spot (the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception) directing guests where to go. If it’s an outdoor wedding, make or buy a wooden sign and paint it with an arrow. For a more sophisticated soiree, consider using printed black-and-white-framed signage in a scripted font.

2. The Entrance
No matter where you wed, first impressions are essential. A personalized entryway will make your site more welcoming and help guests feel at home almost immediately.

If you’re having an outdoor wedding, hang leis of orchids or sun-catching glass ornaments on the surrounding trees. For a ballroom, have your florist create an escort card table arrangement with plenty of height so it’s the first thing guests see. A rustic affair calls for tons of lanterns lining the pathways.

3. The Escort Cards
When the seating is assigned ahead of time, you save guests the pressure of searching for a seat at the wedding reception. You also guarantee that your guests of honor (grandparents and close relatives) get a quiet spot while your rowdy friends from college sit closest to the dance floor.

Escort cards are extremely easy to personalize and an excellent way to bring in your wedding day colors — from calligraphed seating cards set atop a textured linen to apples tagged with each guest’s name or small personalized bundles of lavender tied off with string. Other ways to display escort cards: Pin them to a clothesline, post them on a board covered in color-coordinated ribbon, or incorporate them into your cocktail hour using personalized stirrers tagged with guests’ names.

4. The Guest Book
It takes more than setting out a couple of pens to make a guest book enticing enough to get all your guests to sign in. The trick is to show off your creativity in an inviting way.

Ask guests to contribute to a scrapbook by providing a Polaroid camera. Make a backdrop by hanging an attractive piece of fabric and then ask each guest, couple, or family to stand in front of it and pose. Have a close friend man the camera. When their picture is ready, they can pop it into the guest book and sign their names next to it. Or get your videographer involved and go for a live guest book reel by having each of your guests express all of their sentiments on camera.

5. The Lighting
The right lighting can help flatter any space and make you and your guests look great.

Use colored lighting to punch up a drab hallway. Pick a different yet complementary hue for the rest of the reception (use blue for a white wedding, amber for a pink celebration). Decorative hanging lights, lamps with patterned shades, or crystal chandeliers will transform a space from plain to extravagant.

6. A Game Plan For the Kids
Even if you love children, you won’t want them disrupting the ceremony or reception. Have a plan to keep little ones at their best.

At the ceremony, have an usher hand out coloring books and crayons. At mealtime, seat little ones with their parents so they’ll be in top form while eating. If lots of kids will be attending, setting up a nearby room with games, craft supplies, and DVDs guarantees that they’ll have a good time during the reception (as will their eternally grateful parents).

7. The Loo
The restroom is an often-overlooked space that, when given a little tender love and care, creates an unexpected wow. It doesn’t take much either — even the slightest bit of decor will perk up and personalize this space.

Add small bud vases of flowers, give the bathroom new “Ladies” and “Gents” signs, or splurge on some monogrammed towels in your wedding colors. To really impress your guests, scan childhood pictures of the two of you through the years, laminate them, and post them on the bathroom walls.

8. The Bar
The bar is a spot where most of your guests will probably spend a significant amount of time, which is precisely why it’s a great place to add a burst of color, which will boost the look of the room.

Serve some unique bar snacks like vodka-soaked watermelon balls in antique ice cream glasses, Grand Marnier-infused apricots, or ice cubes with a berry or another piece of fruit frozen inside. Consider printing your signature cocktail recipe right on your coasters or beverage napkins. Also, think about giving the bar itself a facelift: Ask your wedding planner to use bamboo, Lucite, or even laser-cut wood in a bold pattern for the front of the bar and use backlighting to create a stunning centerpiece for the room.

9. The Menu Cards
Menu cards designed to complement your wedding day stationery and coordinate with your signature colors will add a stylish extra touch to each of your place settings.

The menu cards can be as formal or informal as your reception. Place round menu cards in the center of each charger to suit a decidedly formal reception. A more laid-back wedding might call for the menu to be written on a chalkboard set up near the entrance. If you plan on serving a multicourse meal, consider giving guests mini menu booklets. They can even double as place cards.

10. The Cake Table
The cake table is often a main focal point of the reception space where many of your guests will congregate to take pictures. Keep in mind that an inadequately decorated display table can make or break your photos.

Create the perfect setting for your cake by keeping décor low to the table so you don’t detract from your main dessert. Consider using a monogrammed table linen in a complementary color. Or have your florist sprinkle small flowers in your wedding hues, such as bells of Ireland or freesias. To give it the royal treatment, set your cake on a riser at a ballroom wedding or cover it with a fabric-draped canopy if you’re having an outdoor party.

11. The Chairs
The right chairs and chair treatments can transform what was a hodgepodge room into something that’s elegant and refined.

Match your chair treatments to your wedding style. If it’s a black-tie wedding, cover every chair in rich, silk fabric and add a coordinating sash. For a wedding that’s outdoors, consider using simple chiavari chairs instead of the plastic folding kind. For a fresh twist, get colorful, patterned chair cushions in lieu of monochromatic ones. You can also use your chairs to highlight the season. Pay tribute to the time of year by decorating every one of the chairs with a miniature wreath for a winter wedding, or tie fresh blooms to each of the chair backs if you’re having a springtime affair.

12. The Exit
A stylish exit is the exclamation point to a great wedding day, not to mention your last chance to drive home your personal style. Take full advantage of this opportunity.

Rose petals are pretty but often overdone, so to end the night with a bang (literally), hire professionals to shoot off fireworks. If pyrotechnics are not in your budget, have your guests shower you with light from sparklers. When it comes to your getaway transportation, get creative: Drive away in a vintage car decorated with bright flowers; toss your hair into the wind on a moped; or jump into a sleek, stylish sports car. And don’t forget that “Just Married” sign.

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