Can you think about the last time you used an app or website where the menu wasn’t popping up when you clicked on it? Or perhaps you tried to fill in the fields but it kept zooming in on the item making it completely impossible to see what you were typing. These situations are all a result of bad design. The developer missed a broken code and in the same sense we want to avoid points of frustration for your guests to allow them to enjoy your great wedding experience.
A great wedding comes down to good event design. In this post I’m going to help you understand how to have a great wedding AND I’m going to share my design process with you so you can wow your guests.
Careful thought and calculation goes into good event design to make people want to stay, drink and dance. It's not just about pretty favors and stylish calligraphy. Although those are major components that contribute to enlightening the sensory cortices they are simply pieces that contribute to the overall wedding masterpiece. There is a show on Netflix right now that showcases some of the most wonderful gardens in Italy from the Renaissance period. The gardens are designed so beautifully that they warranted a WHOLE Netflix series on it. You know what makes them so marvelous: geometry and symmetry with a dash of creativity.
For me and my team, an event design can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. We need to visit the venue for a walkthrough, measure and calculate the surface areas, visualize the movement and identify pitfalls. Much like the garden designers did to create these illustrious gardens in Italy, we do the same to design a layout and create an atmosphere that elevates the guest experience. For example, the layout of a reception makes a big impact on your guest experience. If table 1 is on one end of your reception and then table 2 is on the complete opposite end because someone didn’t tell the rental company that there was a switch, that can lead to frustration for a guest now having to shimmy through chairs and knock over pretty heads of hair with their purse or simply bump elbows with others trying to get across to the misplaced table. If there is no symmetry in your layout or your reception space lacks congruence, that can disrupt guest expectations because we’re used to order and at least a little bit of organized chaos. If it takes one hour to feed your guests, that can cause a lot of angst among the hungry guests you’ve invited over to host. Take my website as an example. A lot of my couples hire me because they see my work, identify with it and say okay, let’s hire her. If I showcased ugly work OR simply didn’t show my work at all online I’d most likely never get hired as most of my business comes from online.
My design process can be broken down by two categories: The Visuals and The Logistics. The visuals are what appease the senses (smell of flowers, the candles flickering, the delectable dessert display). The logistics focuses on the functionality of it all and what allows your guest to enjoy the visuals. When they don’t have to worry about tables being arranged in unnatural formats they can “stop and smell the roses” or peonies.
I start every design by developing a brand. Remember those 6 photos I asked you to curate in this post?! Now we get to use them to help you with the branding process of your wedding design. We’re creating a brand for you like Apple, Nike or Instagram so think logos, colors, feelings, the look and touch. When I design a wedding brand I do the same thing for you by doing my homework on you, sifting through your Pinterest board and stalking your Insta. Once I gather all the information I need, I develop your style guide with a logo, color, feel and look that represents you as a couple, which I then use as the basis for your wedding day design. Creating this guide will ensure your wedding elements are cohesive from the moment your guests receive their invitation to their goodbye gift.
Here is a real world example of a style guide I created for one of my clients.
Once you complete your style guide, this should go out to your entire vendor team. They should all have a copy so they know the parameters to work within to make sure your design is exactly what you’ve envisioned.
Remember when I said that your wedding design was more than pretty favors and stylish calligraphy. This is the part where your wedding design comes full circle- I geek out over this stuff because this is how you WOW your guests. Your wedding looks beautiful because you put that fabulous style guide together so now this is the part where we focus on your guests and focus on creating an unforgettable experience. Put your hostess hat on and think through your whole wedding from the hi to the bye. You want to anticipate every move and account for anything that could potentially go wrong or find a place where you can overdeliver on, like restroom kits. Have you seen that movie Ms. Sloane (it’s one of my favorite films of all time for many reasons)? This is a quote from the movie with a little twist.
“Lobbying Event Planning is about foresight, about anticipating your opponent's guest’s moves and devising countermeasures. The winner host plots one step ahead of the opposition guest. It's about making sure you surprise them and they don't surprise you.”
- Ms. Sloane
The same approach is appropriate for your wedding. You want to foresee what a guest would need and conveniently accommodate their needs. THAT’S IT. That’s the secret to hosting a great wedding. This could be as big as ordering a tent with sides for an unexpectedly chilly evening so your guests aren’t cold and flee the scene. Or it can be as small as putting up signs signaling where certain parts of the wedding are taking place so guests aren’t constantly in limbo.
I want you to jot down the things that are most important for your guests to experience. Is it making sure that you stay on time, is it that they know what’s happening at all times, is it a practical favor they can take home, is a after-party recovery kit, is it the dancing, is the food etc. Jot them down and work your way backwards to make sure they experience that in all it’s glory.
Here are a few real world examples of ways in which we’ve helped our clients elevate their guests’ experience by over delivering:
If you have a large event space you definitely need signage and ushers to guide your guests. By definition ushers are guides or attendants and can help your guests navigate the event scene. They are trained to look through crowds and identify anyone who may need a guide or may simply have a question. They will be well versed in the space and trained on when and where certain activities are taking place throughout the evening.
If you anticipate children attending but you want the adults to enjoy your wedding, hire a sitter. When looking for your perfect venue ask them about renting another room adjacent or across the hall from your reception space to entertain the children but is still easily accessible by the parents.
If the drinks are important you’ll want to invest in servers with champagne or beverages on trays upon your guests arrival. You’ll want pre-made drinks upon the end of the ceremony to make sure your guests aren’t waiting in line. You’ll want to order table-side wine service for dinner and of course signature craft cocktails served throughout the evening with the most delightful garnishes and mixers. You might want to employ a drink cart that goes around to your guests versus them having to go the bar.
If you want your guests to be fed quickly, you’ll want to work closely with your planner and caterer to make sure there are enough buffet lines and servers to portion out food if it’s buffet style. If it’s plated you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a top caterer that can handle volume without sacrificing quality. Side note: If you’re looking for the best caterer in LA and OC, check out Made by Meg. You’ll also need a kick-ass catering captain that can get the service crew in sync and ready to serve as soon as guests are sat.
Don’t just do a venue walkthrough in the day but in the evening as well and act as if you were a guest. Walk from ceremony to reception, pretend to need to use the restroom, pretend the need to go out for a smoke, act as if you’re getting a drink at the bar. Imagine all the possibilities and jot down all the ways you can make the experience better for them. That could mean that you need to add lighting to the restroom pathway because it’s a bit dark. That could mean that you have two bars instead of one to avoid lines. That could mean you need to provide patio heaters for a chilly night or umbrellas for a blistering summer.
You’re gathering your VIPs from all across the globe and you want to be able to graciously host them the best way you know. It’ll be a rare occasion to gather and break bread with all those people under one roof again. Sure you can invite them to your house warming or to welcome the new baby but a wedding is still so sacred so people literally move mountains to be a part of the celebration including flying over many time zones to attend. Creating the best wedding experience for your guests is as much about the sensory details as is the logistical ones.
If you’re in need of a little help in putting together that unforgettable experience, contact us, we’d love to hear from you.
P.s. if you’re looking for creative ways to wow your guests, sign up to our newsletter for the free download outlining ways to elevate your guest experience.