Monday, August 20, 2012
All weekend weddings are becoming more popular, particularly as families are spread further apart. They usually begin on Friday night, continue with the wedding Saturday and conclude with a post-wedding breakfast on Sunday before everyone returns home.
Planning activities for these weekend-long celebrations doesn't have to be difficult; in fact, it can be quite a bit of fun if you keep everyone's needs in mind. First, consider the wedding. Will this be a formal wedding with a sit-down dinner at its center? If so, you might want to ban a formal rehearsal dinner and replace it instead with an informal barbecue dinner or picnic.
But how will you keep people occupied during the long weekend? There are many activities to consider. Will the wedding be near a lake? How about planning a day at the lake on Saturday, filled with pre-wedding activities like swimming races and beach volleyball.
One popular pre-wedding activity is a scavenger hunt. Prior to the wedding weekend, a list of meaningful items should be drawn up, and guests placed in two teams. The list should include things like "get a brochure from the jewelry store where (groom) bought (bride)'s ring" or "take a picture of the group at the location where the couple got engaged". You will have to tailor the scavenger hunt list to the location of the wedding and the energy of the guests who will be participating.
You can even offer lavish prizes for the team that wins the scavenger hunt, such as gift certificates or gourmet food and wine baskets. It might seem an obvious choice to divide the teams into groups who know or are related to the bride and teams who know or are related to the groom, but it might be a little more fun to mix it up a bit. You can create teams of friends versus family, or men versus women (always a popular choice).
Another activity that's popular during wedding weekends is a competitive sport activity, such as baseball or flag football. Again, add a special twist. Offer prizes for performance (first home run gets a kiss from the bride) or make silly rules, like members of the bridal party have to wear tiaras while running bases or members of the groom's family should always have their shirts on backwards.
It's important that during the wedding weekend, planners keep in mind that the weekend itself might be expensive for some guests, particularly those who had to fly in for the occasion and many of the activities should be free, or inexpensive. If they are more expensive, and planned for the entire group, they should be paid for by either the bride and groom or their families.
But there are plenty of activities that don't have to be expensive, but can provide big bang for the little buck, such as the scavenger hunt suggested above. If the wedding weekend guests will mostly be family, you can schedule a home movie-viewing event, including home movies from both the bride and groom's families. For even more fun, consider an activity where the movies are mixed up and the guests have to guess which family's videos they are watching. This might sound easy, but depending on the contents, it could be hard, particularly if the bride and groom are babies in the photos.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Giving a toast is a responsibility that puts fear in the speaking hearts of most members of a wedding party. While it's not usually something that is particularly long or involved, it's public speaking (which doesn't sit well with many people) and really puts people on the spot.
If you are planning a wedding and know that most members of this wedding party are hams who won't mind the whole "public speaking" thing, then by all means keep the toasts traditional with dad, the best man and others taking their expected turns at the microphone.
But if you're looking for something different, either because you want to save putting people on the spot, or you simply want to do something different and fun, read on.
First, you can certainly take the whole toast thing off the agenda if you wish. There are no rules requiring a toast at any wedding. Weddings should be unique events and reflect the personalities of the bride and groom.
But if you want to do something a little different, there are options. You can go the video route, which asks people to essentially make a toast on camera and then the video is given to the bride and groom later. This isn't a particularly unique idea, but it does solve the issue of not wanting to put people on the spot and still gives everyone a chance to say something special to the bride and groom.
If your guest list includes many outgoing people then consider "pass the microphone". This can work in several ways. You can either be silly with it, or deadly serious. Most people like silly. Say dad takes the microphone first. His last name ends with T (so, let's say dad's last name is Smith). He must find someone whose first name begins with a T (Tom? Tony? Tina? Theresa?) and pass the microphone to that person, who then gives a toast.
This method of giving toasts does put people on the spot (certainly before the fun begins you can warn them so if they are really uncomfortable, they can escape to the restroom or bar) but it can also be a lot of fun. Getting people when they least expect it and then asking them to remember something funny or meaningful about the bride and groom can result in interesting, funny and truthful results.
You might also decide that one person at each table be required to give a toast. Number the tables and at various intervals, have the MC or DJ call a number, which will require guests at that table to decide amongst themselves who will give the toast at that table. Certainly, more than one person can if they like, but there will likely be at least one ham at each table who will enjoy standing up and toasting the newlyweds.
Say you have plenty of public speakers in the group, and finding willing toast participants won't be a problem. But you think the subject matter might be. There's an easy solution to this problem. You can provide open-ended topics for the toast speakers. Say you are providing an "open mike" toast arrangement, where anyone can request the microphone and offer a toast. The DJ, MC or someone else in the wedding party (perhaps the maid of honor or best man) can offer the speaker a surprise topic, which might be pulled from a champagne flute or drawn out of the floral arrangement on the head table. There might be slips of paper to choose, or just one sheet of paper with several ideas.
The speaker might choose to finish this sentence, "I remember when (groom's name here) was a little boy, he always ..." or answer this question, "When was (insert bride's name here) at her silliest? Tell us the story". You might have to give each speaker a minute or two to collect their thoughts, but you're sure to have some interesting stories, some unique anecdotes and some different perspectives on the bride and groom.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Wedding rehearsal dinners are a time to relax, calm down and enjoy a quiet evening before the big event the next day. But adding some fun and games into the rehearsal dinner isn't such a bad idea. It's a great way to help everyone let off some steam, calm down and enjoy each other.
If you're planning a sit-down formal dinner, fun games and activities can still be on the menu. In fact, if a formal dinner is part of the plans, having some interesting activities on the agenda is not only a good idea, but also an excellent one. There's been a lot of planning, and a lot of stress and the wedding party and close friends and family will welcome the opportunity to have a little fun.
The success or failure of any games or activities largely depends not just on the planning but your venue. If you're having a sit-down dinner in a restaurant, try to get a private room. Then a myriad of fun activities can be planned, such as "pin the veil on the bride", in which blindfolded guests spin around a few times, then try to pin the veil on a picture of the bride. Silly, yes, but also fun.
One fun activity sure to help everyone blow off some steam is charades. Whoever is up will act out a scene from the bride or groom's life, so it might be when graduating from college, or getting a huge promotion at work. The "it" person might choose to act out when the bride tripped and fell at another person's wedding or when the groom saved a dog from getting hit by a car. This is a little twist on charades that helps people get to know the bride and groom better, and adds intimacy to what is already an intimate event.
If the wedding rehearsal dinner is a bit less formal and held in someone's home, there are many more activities that can take place. For example, how about a night of playing board games? Who needs formal food? You can have that the next day at the formal wedding. At this rehearsal dinner party, the games are center stage.
Bring in some sandwiches and tell everyone to wear their comfortable clothes and settle in for a night of board games. You can set up games on different tables, divide people into groups of 4 or 5 and have everyone rotate tables at designated times. You can even instruct game players that when they move to another table, the game stays out the way it is. So, for example, dad might begin playing Monopoly where the bride was and he's stuck with only a little money in the bank and no houses on Boardwalk.
So, let's say the bride and groom are big into sports. If the wedding is to be held in the summer and the days are long, how about a game of touch football or baseball? You can play bride's family against groom's family, men against women, or for a twist, the bride plays with the groom's family and the groom with the bride's family. Any combination works. The idea here is to have some fun, relax and enjoy each other's company.
Other outdoor activities can include anything that is physical and might help people blow off steam. Has the bride been more a "bridezilla" than anything? How about a game of tag where she's it? Or you can create two bridesmaid's dress-up trunks. Go to a thrift store, fill the trunks with old prom dresses and large-size shoes, and costume jewelry. Divide the guests into two different teams and have someone sit with a timer. The team who dresses one of the men (ideally, the groom and best man or perhaps the two dads) first wins. Be sure to have a camera at the rehearsal dinner/event, because this is one activity you'll want to have pictures of!
Monday, July 30, 2012
Upon arrival at the wedding reception, many guests head for the cake table so they can admire the cake. Some time later, the bride and groom come along for a picture opportunity and the grand cutting of the cake. Then everyone enjoys cake and it's gone. Believe it or not, there are many more activities that can make the wedding cake more about fun and less about tradition.
Of course, watching the bride and groom push cake into each other's mouths is a long-enjoyed tradition, but there are many more fun - and less messy - activities to consider as well.
One new option that's gaining popularity is to have cupcakes instead of a cake. This is a method that is usually more affordable than having a cake and it can be a lot of fun. Cupcakes are decorated in alignment with the wedding theme, just as a cake is, but the cupcakes are instead arranged on tiered cake plates and displayed on a cake table until it's time to eat them. The cupcakes can be simply handed out on plates to each wedding guest.
Now, what's fun about using cupcakes instead of a whole wedding cake is you can save money, certainly, as many reception halls and caterers charge a per slice fee to cut and serve the wedding cake, but you can also build activities into the cupcake presentation. For example, the cupcakes that are for the bride and groom can have a different decoration than the ones for the guests.
As an extra touch, you can have the baker include a special prize in one or several cupcakes. A small charm or tiny toy can be baked into the cupcake. Whoever gets the charm wins a special prize. These prizes can range from a gift basket or gift certificate to a restaurant to a dance with the bride or groom.
Some brides like to use a Southern tradition and have charms baked into the wedding cake. Similar to the idea above for cupcakes, this involves baking small charms or tiny toys (but usually charms) into the cake. Those who get one of the charms are said to have good luck. You might even consider having charm bracelet charms baked into the cake, which are then made into a charm bracelet for the bride.
Not everyone enjoys cake. How about an activity for those who won't be eating cake? They can be required to do the "Macarena" or the chicken dance during the time when everyone else is eating cake. If they manage to do the dance continuously while the other guests enjoy cake, they win a prize. Or they simply get to sit down, as now they are tired!
In keeping with the dance during cake theme, how about a requirement that in order to get cake, a guest must perform an impromptu dance first? Or there could be trivia questions about the bride and groom or about popular culture. Guests must correctly answer the questions before getting their cake. There could be competitions among tables or individuals for most questions answered correctly.
Many people believe that once the cake is cut, they are free to leave if they wish. Since cake cutting usually comes after the meal and after dancing and other traditional celebration activities, many people take the opportunity to leave the party after the cake is cut and enjoyed.
If the bride and groom want their guests to stay after the cake is eaten, it is worth some extra effort to build some activities into the cake-cutting event so people will stick around longer. This can be as simple as telling people not to leave, or can be more subtle and fun.
For example, each person could receive a slip of paper with his or her cake. These slips of paper could be prepared ahead and provided to the catering company with instructions that one folded strip of paper be placed on each plate with the cake. The paper might give an agenda for the rest of the evening or might ask its recipient to perform a little dance, to head over to give the groom or bride a kiss, or might ask them to take the flower girl out on the dance floor for a spin. The unknown will keep all the guests guessing and provide some entertainment as the instructions are carried out.
Traditional brides don't have to have traditional guest books. Certainly you can purchase a standard guest book and ask your guests to sign it, but there are so many more guest book-like activities that are more unique.
Let's move from the popular to the less well known. One very popular option allows guests to sign a picture of the bride and groom. Simply take a picture of the bride and groom and have it matted in a mat several inches larger than the photo itself. Place a frame around this, but don't include the glass or Plexiglas frame. You'll add this later. Some people prefer to use "bulldog" clips to keep the mat together instead of putting the picture in the frame. The picture can be framed after the wedding.
Most couples choose a nice photo of themselves for this picture/guestbook option, although if there's a formal engagement photo, this is an excellent way to preserve that photo and show it off to friends and family. If photos are taken before the wedding with the bride and groom in their wedding attire, you can certainly use this photo. Many couples opt to either leave the mat empty or they place a temporary picture in the mat and add a wedding picture later.
Be sure to have a nice Sharpie marker handy and place the picture on either a sturdy easel or on a table where guests are sure to see it.
Another option is instead of providing a picture of the bride and groom to sign, the guests are provided with a picture of themselves! Simply provide a Polaroid camera and assign someone the job of taking pictures of the guests as they arrive at the reception. Once the picture is dry, provide a Sharpie and they can sign the picture, make a note to the bride and groom or hand draw a silly picture. It can be whatever the guest wants it to be. This is a unique, and personal, way for guests to "sign in" at the wedding.
Whoever handles the taking of the pictures should also handle putting them in an album of some sort. A scrap booker might provide a special memory book with the Polaroid pictures in it, or the pictures can simply be placed in a nice album and presented later to the bride and groom.
Many guests don't give a great deal of thought to the guest book. They whiz by the guest book table more concerned with getting their cocktail and hitting the dance floor. If this is a concern, provide a "traveling" guest book. Send each guest something either to sign or decorate before the wedding.
In this "traveling" guest book scenario, there are several options. One of the easiest is to send each guest a small piece of paper and ask them to write something meaningful or thoughtful for the bride and groom on it. The pieces of paper are returned prior to the wedding (to ensure a better response, provide a self-addressed stamped envelope with the paper) and can be compiled in some meaningful way for the bride and groom and presented to them on their wedding day.
If the guest list is a creative or particularly close group, there is one other option that is even more meaningful. Again, in a scrapbook fashion, send each guest a piece of paper to sign or decorate. The paper should be the size of a photo album, so it might be a 6 x 6 piece of paper, an 8 x 8 piece of paper, or even 12 x 12, if the guests are up to that larger size.
In a letter that arrives with the paper, the guests are instructed to create a memory page for the bride and groom. They might include photos, quotes, little anecdotal stories, or combine all of these with stickers or embellishments. It's thoughtful, meaningful and personal and it's an excellent way to include guests who might not be able to attend the wedding, but would still like to be a part of it.
Monday, July 23, 2012
There are so many little details to worry about when planning a wedding some might get forgotten. One tiny detail that often gets overlooked is how to keep guests entertained before the wedding reception "officially" begins.
There is no requirement that brides entertain their guests at all. After all, they have already attended your wedding ceremony (which was surely engaging and entertaining, right?) and they will soon get music, food and drink. What more could they want? It turns out, a lot. While the bride and groom are off having pictures taken, the guests are left to their own devices, chatting with other guests and wondering when the buffet will open.
In that light, it's worth at least considering some pre-reception options for keeping wedding guests entertained until the reception begins. Here are a few options, some tradition, some not so, but still fun.
First, you can do the traditional thing and provide guests with drinks and perhaps some light snacks. If the wedding is in the summertime, how about providing lemonade and iced tea? Or if it's the winter, coffee and hot tea or even hot cocoa depending on the style of your wedding. Providing a light snack isn't a bad idea, either, and that can be some appetizer-type food or just nuts, especially if the meal will be heavy.
Now, if you want to stray from tradition, there are many options. Some brides opt for entertaining the guests in the truest sense of the word. Clowns, anyone? How about live music?
If you want to venture into the fun and funky, consult the party planning pages of a local children's or parent's magazine. Here, you can find people who will entertain your children at their birthday parties, but many of them will happily take on wedding jobs. You can hire a clown to make balloon animals for the kids (and adults) in attendance, or to juggle a few things. Some clowns are true entertainers and will happily get the crowd involved by fetching items out of women's purses and juggling them.
Other non-traditional options for entertaining your guests include hiring a band to play music beforehand. If you plan to have classical music at your wedding, you can have a band come and play covers of current pop songs, or you can simply have your hired band arrive a bit early to entertain guests waiting for the full reception to begin.
If there are many children at the wedding, it's not too expensive to hire a children's band to sing and entertain the children for a bit. Then if the kids are a bit bored at the reception, they'll still have the memory of the earlier entertainment with them. In addition, while the children are being entertained, the adults can have a chance to chat and they will surely thank the bride for thinking of them in that way.
Some other options for entertaining your restless crowd before the festivities begin are to include them in the reception before it begins. This is a great time to ask people to sign the guest book and write something meaningful, since they will have more time than they would usually have as they file into the reception hall.
If the reception and the wedding ceremony take place in the same location, but the bride and groom are off having pictures taken, it may not seem as if there's this dilemma of how to keep the guests entertained, but there in fact, is.
In this case, you can have servers circulate with appetizer trays or you can do something more elaborate, such as some of the suggestions above. One popular option doesn't involve entertaining the guests at all. Say the wedding is being held at a historic house or mansion. During the lull before the reception, guests can be given a tour of the property. If the wedding and reception are both being held at the couple's new home, a tour of the property might be in order (assuming the guest list is fairly small).
Nothing is worse than having a wedding reception filled with seated guests who look tired and maybe a little bit bored. Maybe this wedding doesn't feature a DJ and rockin' music. Or maybe the crowd isn't into that whole dancing thing.
What to do? It's not that hard. There are a myriad of activities you can plan that will not only engage and entertain the guests, but also help them get to know each other and - most importantly - the bride and groom just a little bit better.
Here's one that's fun and might remind you just a little bit of a football game. Make a placard for each guest. On one side, letter "Bride" and on the other, "Groom". Someone, and if you have a DJ it can be him or her, or the best man or maid of honor, asks a series of questions. They might be simple, like "who was born in New York City"? Or they might be more complicated, such as "who, at 6, broke their leg when they were playing with their German shepherd puppy"?
Guests don't yell their answer, but rather show their placard, turning it to the "bride" side of they think the question pertains to the bride or to the "groom" side if it's the opposite. The guests' guesses can be revealing, but even more revealing, are the true answers. It's a great, fun way for everyone to get to know a little more about the bride and groom.
One word of caution about the above activity: Keep ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends out of the questions and don't ask anything that might be a little too revealing or too risquÈ. Remember, grandmothers and grandfathers and young children will likely be present!
If it's too much work to create signs for each person, you can create just two and create two teams - a team of men and a team of women. Grouped together, the teams can work together to decide on the answer and answer as a group. This "men versus women" concept is always popular and sure to be fun for everyone.
One silly game that's always a hit really puts the groom in the spotlight. How well does he know the feel and touch of his new wife? In this game, everyone finds out. You can do this several ways. You can enlist just the wedding party in this game, or as many of the wedding guests that want to participate.
Line each participant up and blindfold the groom. Put the bride somewhere in the mix, and send the groom on a hunt for his bride. The participants can either shake the groom's hand or give him a kiss on the cheek. In some versions, he might feel their hair or their leg. The details are up to you.
Depending on how far you want to take this game, you can add a fun element to it that is sometimes popular. You have the groom feel the leg of each participant. The best man, or other male member of the wedding party, rolls up his pant leg, puts on a garter and has the groom feel that. The groom has to kiss whoever he thinks is his bride, while still blindfolded. Often, he ends up kissing a man.
For an activity that allows the guests to be audience members instead of participants, consider the game of "feed me". In this game, the bride is seated and the groom is (again) blindfolded. He's given a piece of food and then spun around a few times so he's a little bit dizzy. Guided only by the helpful words of his new bride, he has to find her and get the piece of food into her mouth. Be sure to have the wedding party shadowing him so there are no accidents.
Once the groom has fed his new wife, the tables are turned and she is blindfolded and must find him.
A few notes about this activity: when feeding the bride, don't use wedding cake or a piece of bread with dip. In other words, don't use anything too messy. If the groom has a hard time finding her mouth, he might likely smear the food on the bride's face and that is something that won't make a bride - prettily made up just hours before - too happy.