Your Wedding, Your Way

Put away the cookie cutter and put on your thinking cap to plan a wedding as unique as you are

Courtesy Of Holly Istas Photography

If you’ve been to more than one wedding, you probably noticed some similarities between them. Perhaps the vows were similar, or the bride and groom danced to the same song, or maybe the bridesmaids wore the same shade of green.

If you’re getting married yourself, you doubtless want your own wedding to stand out from all other weddings you’ve ever attended, in every way possible. But with more than 200,000 couples getting married last year in California alone, how do you set your event apart from everyone else’s?

For me, the memories that remained long after the champagne and whiskey sours wore off were the one-of-a-kind ones. The couple that first danced as husband and wife to “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The best man who used props, including a roll of toilet paper and a gallon of laundry detergent, in his toast. The bride and groom who rode from the ceremony to the reception in a restored trolley car. The groom who evoked Dr. Seuss in his vows. Oddball and off-the-wall, these are the types of memories that stick with guests far longer than someone’s drunk uncle trying to do the chicken dance.

Wedding consultant Jackie Young, owner of Every Little Detail in Sacramento, says that when it comes to planning a wedding, no idea is off limits. “Guests don’t like to attend cookie-cutter weddings,” she says.

“A wedding is an opportunity for the couple to express what makes them click and draws them together,” Young explains. “Couples often ask me if something is corny or weird, and I tell them ‘no, it’s your day, do exactly what you want and nobody will question it.’”

So, if a wedding is your opportunity to cast aside the “what will everyone think” fear and let the world revolve around you for a day, where do you begin?

According to Young, your personality and distinctiveness can manifest itself in the details. It can be done on a smaller scale, such as giving caramel popcorn as your favor because it happens to be your favorite snack, or on a larger scale, like decorating everything in outrageous shades of purple because it happens to be your favorite color.

Twists on tradition
A lot of what makes a wedding distinctive comes from the bride and groom’s tendency to venture outside standard wedding procedure. For example, Young recalls the bride and groom who got up in the middle of dinner and started dancing simply because a song they liked came on. Most of the guests joined them, leaving their salads for later. “They wanted to go with the moment and enjoy It, and they did,” Young says.

She says many couples hijack age-old concepts to say something about themselves. Instead of using table numbers at the reception, for example, one bride and groom named their tables aftertheir favorite vineyards. Another couple named the tables after places they had visited together. In addition to revealing a little about themselves, it also provided a conversation starter for the guests. (Yankee Stadium? How did he ever get her to sit through a baseball game?)

“Twenty years ago, it was all about the ceremony and the reception was an afterthought,” Young says. “Now, couples want to have a fun party to start their life together off on a positive note.”

According to a post on a heavily trafficked wedding message board, one bride reported hiring a caricature artist and fortune teller for part of the reception to entertain people who don’t like to dance.

The bouquet toss is getting a makeover at weddings everywhere, too. With people getting married later in life, less single women are fighting over the bouquet. So instead, some brides are simply presenting the bouquet to their mothers, grandmothers or other special person, or giving the bouquet and garter to the guests who have been married the longest.

Where wedding parties were once divided on strict gender lines, brides are now more likely to have male friends or relatives standing on their side of the alter, and vice versa. In fact, Young says about 50 percent of the weddings she plans have wedding parties of mixed genders.

Don’t feel like kissing every time one of your guests clinks a glass? Make them work a little harder for the peep show by asking them to tell a story about you and your new spouse, or answer a trivia question about you.

Don’t want your DJ to introduce you and your wedding party like the starting lineup of the Kings? Get introduced first, then introduce the wedding party yourself with your own humor and style.

If something is important to you, it should factor into your wedding. One of Young’s clients, an animal lover and dog rescuer, is getting married in Lake Tahoe at a hotel where guests will be able to bring their pets. Young says she won’t be surprised if the dogs end up coming to the wedding.

Another message board post, apparently from a movie buff, describes invitations that read like a movie premiere with terms like “starring” and “brought to you by.”

Hokey? Maybe. Distinctive and memorable? Definitely.

Getting started
Sometimes it just takes one idea to start an entire theme. If you don’t fancy yourself the creative type, don’t worry. You can find plenty of sources for inspiration at the bookstore, on the Internet and at newsstands.

Young recommends you start by flipping through bridal magazines and then modify ideas that catch your eye. Wedding Web sites such as The Knot ( and The Wedding Channel ( have community forums where brides, and maybe the occasional groom, swap ideas and share war stories.

But the most important thing you can do is stay true to yourself. “Follow your gut,” Young says. “A wedding is about who you are as individuals and a couple. If you follow your intuition it will work out fine.”

Buy the Book

These titles may help you find some out-of-the-ordinary wedding ideas:

Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box
by Carolyn Gerin and Stephanie Rosenbaum

The Perfect Wedding Details: More Than 100 Ideas for Personalizing Your Wedding
by Maria McBride-Mellinger

The Ultimate Wedding Idea Book: 1,001 Creative Ideas to Make Your Wedding Fun, Romantic, and Memorable
by Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick

Weddings with Style: 1,000 Inspiring Ideas, from the Invitations to the Reception and Everything in Between
by Gail Oliver and Gisele Sullivan

Your Unique Wedding: Say “:I Do” With A Twist
by Kerry McDonald