This is a guest post by Aron Schlagman, owner and creative director of WHiTEPAPER event
A friend told me recently that the best part about creating that ‘stand-out moment’ for an event, and especially a wedding, is that it doesn’t have to cost very much at all. In fact, some of the most beautiful moments that are created for weddings are done so by the couple themselves – touching moments of real thought that express love for those attending their most special of days – leaving the longest lasting memories in the process.
So, where do I get me some of that WOW?!
I’m going to share a few top line tips and ideas in the hope that they may spark a flash of light in your own heads to create your own wedding stand out moments.
A traditional Wedding vs. a DIY Wedding
If you are planing a DIY wedding from the off, the opportunity to WOW might be greater, but so will the potential stress given just how much and how far you can go. For my own wedding, created in a very DIY style for 50 of our closest friends at an outside space in North London, everything had to have a personal touch. From ladies parasols to shade them from the sun to hay bales for seating with vintage throws as covers. Multicoloured water in antique crystal decanters as decor for a cheese table, to the herb used for the wrapping of the napkins. Afternoon tea with a twist through to the vintage 1920’s dress my beautiful bride wore on the day (and of course my yellow Converse). We’re also talking about shawls for the ladies (this was England in June after all and not the South of France) and a great selection of Whiskey’s for the gents.
What was one of the nicest elements though? Possibly the one which didn’t even relate to a design aspect of the day. For us, it was important that all of our friends could be there, and still be home in time to bath and put their kids to bed. Our event began at 3pm, was over by 6.30pm, and we said goodbye to our guests before heading up to town (still dressed up) for dinner at J Sheekey and an evening in a 5* hotel. Our guests appreciated it, stayed until the end, and avoided an expensive evening of babysitters and hangovers.
Some, all, or none of this might have worked had the event been in Claridge’s, but the point is that it might not have had to. A wedding recently attended in this very hotel was simply beautiful because tradition was where the WOW beauty was to be found, in of course, an already stunning space.
Images from Aron Schlagman’s wedding
Full laden floral Chuppah – STU-HU-NING. Not cheap. Four birch poles held by closest friends and family – intimate WOW!
Depending on the how and where of the ceremony (how about holding it after the reception, in a different, “this is the main entertainment” – with guests seated watching on from their seats) you are talking about an average of 45 minutes in terms of length of time. The rest of the evening, wherever guests are spending most of their time, should always see the majority of effort.
Think about little touches to the ceremony seating – personal messages for guests in the form of a booklet which explains the journey of the Bride and Groom and why elements of the ceremony / songs are special to them. Confetti and tissues can also be supplied (think the flip flop for dancing equivalent at the main event) for guests who like a good cry – the confetti making a great photo opp at the end as the Bride and Groom Leave.
A chuppah made out of books and light bulbs for a Jessie & Craig’s Jewish wedding in the New York Public Library (Image: Dave Robbins)
Paperless Post at one end and £90 per invite, laser cut extravaganza’s at the other – ask your friends just how many of them still keep their invites around for prosperity. Don’t get me wrong – there is of course the happy medium and invitations are a little like hand written letters – something we all wish we would receive more of and something that brings a smile to your face when holding it in your hand.
I have worked with clients whose invites have reflected the story of their own journey, or mapped via an illustration, the venues and plan for the wedding weekend about to unfold….all beautiful and I am also a big fan of creating a brand for the event. Elements of design that can be carried through from the invite on to other elements of stationery for the evening, as well as table props, designs and of course – novelties and the “big dance floor sticker”.
A personal fave? I recently completed an event for a client for whom we branded the aprons and outfits that the catering team would wear for the evening. It was subtly chic and complimented the creativity of the couple – as well as being a relatively inexpensive way to create a memory.
Escort cards get you from A – B. Hand writing them is lovely, but more expensive than a printed (all be it beautifully) option. The WOW then? In the display. Sooooo many different ways to showcase be they interactive or not – don’t make the guest work too hard, but certainly consider having them swap out their card in exchange for a written memory, message or photo.
A hand-drawn map from Julie and Zak’s Parisian destination Jew-ish wedding (Image: Polly Alexandre).
Cocktail reception and main event space WOW
Similarly to the ceremony, the cocktail reception is short in comparison to the main evening – although it does afford a great opportunity to give a hint of “what’s to come” later in the evening. Candles – LOVE…..letting your creative mind flow for one of the million ways to display escort cards or table plan – BRILL…..and of course, the reception food itself – people love canapà©’s and they love some thought going in to how these are presented. It is a great opportunity for your chosen caterer to show what they can do – and for your band to make a brief acoustic appearance in order to begin building the mood.
There are simply too many considerations for main event space “OMG moment” – but my own golden rule might be to simply “keep it simple, less is – in most cases – definitely more”. People always consider viewing at a table height of centre piece (although I am a massive fan of hanging from the top down) – but more interesting are the “what” – something created from paper maybe – or a combination of flowers and fruit. White or ivory maybe traditional, but a touch of colour can draw attention and create a visual standout WOW.
The table itself, a personalised “something” waiting for the guests? – an electric fan for when things get a little hot which displays the happy couples name when turned on, or how about having guests names engraved in to the table itself or a miniature “make your own” cocktail kit…or, or, or – you see the challenge?!
London Underground table plan as seen at Ros and Alex’s Jewish London wedding (Image: Especially Amy)
Food and beverage WOW
This of course is a great area for shaking things up and taking dishes people might well have seen many times before, but presenting them totally differently or dressing them up with a twist. Having the opportunity to work as part of a team is why this works so well. In some cases, people spend a lot of time trying to think about how they can create the look for their event – and then time and stress take over. In the case of food and beverage you have the luxury of working with your catering partner to come up with ideas together and work to their strengths when creating food and beverage memories.
An easy Food WOW? Presentation. The chefs won’t want to reinvent the wheel for dishes made on countless occasions, but how can they be presented differently? Props for food are simple to find and relatively inexpensive. Adding a little dry ice is easy – as is thinking out of the box as to how / on what / in / a food item sits. Popular at the moment are the pipette’s that allow you to finish off the item yourself, just be sure that the “what to do” is obvious to avoid squirting in the eye or down the expensive ball gown!
Cocktails and their flavours can be tasty enough, but with the opening of so many amazing bars around London, scouring their menus for some forgotten gems is a great way to avoid the tasty, but done to death, lychee martini. Here too, think colour and glassware – interesting connections to places you have visited or family connections.
Creative catering displays as seen in Susie and Jon’s Garden Party Jewish wedding (Image: Amy Shore)
Music and Entertainment WOW
I love a live band.
I love a DJ
I love “DJ Live”
I love acoustic roaming bands
I love cover bands
I love DJ and percussion
I love silent discos
……I love seeing guests smiling and dancing and having a great time. There is no arguing with the fact that a DJ costs less than a band for an event – I don’t believe at all that weddings HAVE to have bands and DJ’s are only good for Barmitzvah’s and private parties…..The lasting memory moment? When at the end of the night no one wants to go home. Sprinkle in a mirror ball and sing along moments that everyone can enjoy and I promise you it’s all the WOW you need. You could put an average of £2500 – £3000 towards other elements of the event by working with a DJ over a band (and of course, I am lowballing!).
Image from Yael and Or’s Jewish wedding by Chrisman Studios
And so to the finishing touches and thoughtful end of evening moment. Cake with a pic of the happy couple? Maybe not – cake at all? That’s for another post….but a little box of those wonderful dessert bites you loved so much – thoughtful. How to sign off in style and leave guests with a lasting memory….What about a hand written thank you pre-printed and in an envelope with a lottery ticket as you share your luck and love with them and, in a small way hope they DON’T then win £100million!
A lovely thought and one I have used previously, is the good old hangover cure – something for the following morning when heads pound and throats are dry. A sick bag for the journey home might be a step to far, plasters for tired and blistered “Louboutin feet” – not.
I end with this. The Art of WOW is a masterpiece that only you can create. Don’t be driven by the Jones’s and don’t think that those visuals you have seen and read so much about are just for people whose budgets extend to six figures. Work with your planner or family wedding team to come up with two or three really special and thought out ideas that may stem in to twenty more – but that won’t drive you crazy and end up being half heartedly completed.
Remember. There is no what’s right for “everyone’s event” – there is only what is right for YOUR event.
Hangover kit as seen on Etsy. Top image by Lara Hotz taken from Gena and Tony’s colourful Jewish wedding
Aron Schlagman is the owner and creative director of WHiTEPAPER event – an expert, totally flexible, wedding and event planning service that’s designed around the client. Aron is extremely proud of his exceptional personalised service which, combined with a meticulous attention to detail and focus that never wains from the exceeding of client expectation, ensures that he is there for the client every step of the way.