Smart Start with Susan Southerland: Wedding WOWs Your Guests Won’t Forget



When it comes to planning their weddings, many brides feel pressured to impress their guests. A few decades ago, brides aspired to meet the standards set by a few magazines or other brides within their social sphere. These days, however, television and other media promote wedding grandeur on an entirely new scale. Brides can feel overwhelmed when trying to figure out how they can possibly compete with such lavishness.

The truth is that guests usually have more reasonable expectations than you think. People don’t generally assume the average couple can afford an event bedecked with glitz and glam. They’re instead looking for a memorable event spent with friends and family…and this is very achievable!

Jennifer Haskell, the Creative Director at Just Marry!, pioneered an idea that my team implemented with our couples. We help them choose one element from their wedding and turn it into a WOW that their guests have never seen before. Here are some things we’ve done to give you ideas on WOWs for your wedding:

1. Do something crazy for your guest book. We worked with a couple who opted to use five wooden planks for their guest book. They later built part of their headboard with it. Other couples have had guests sign guitars, baseball bats, oars, and other items that mean a lot to them.

2. Set one element apart. One of our couples framed their wedding cake with a vintage frame. It made an amazing focal point and had guests lining up to snap photos!

3. Reimagine your space. Using sheer colored panels of fabric, one couple created a sense of intimacy around their tables by enclosing each one. Guests could still see the other tables, but they were also in their own whimsical “cocoon.” It made the room look absolutely stunning!

4. Narrow your theme. Considering a special theme? Rather than inundate your guests with it throughout the event, consider doing just one big moment to celebrate it. One couple opted to have a fun carnival-themed cocktail hour, complete with a fire breather and cotton candy machine. It was a fun break from an otherwise formal event.

5. Invite a special guest. Surprise your guests with a visit from someone unexpected. We’ve had couples invite Disney characters, sports team mascots, cigar rollers, celebrity impersonators, red carpet greeters, and much more. A surprise like that is sure to have your guests talking about it for years to come!

These are just a few ways you can make your wedding memorable without breaking your bank or having to add extra time and stress to your planning. You’ll find that even one “WOW” can make an event as memorable as any you’ll see on TV.

Did you do something fun and memorable at your wedding? Let us know in the comments!

SusanSoutherlandGetting engaged is such an exciting time. However, the exhilaration of saying “I will” can quickly be replaced by the overwhelming concerns surrounding planning a wedding.

I designed my Smart Start series to take the worry out of planning your wedding. Smart Start will be delivered to your inbox every week filled with tips on the business and the art sides of planning a wedding. It will break up your tasks into easy-to-accomplish segments so you can enjoy the planning process.

If you have questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me at You may also find back issues of the Smart Start series by clicking HERE.


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