Personalizing Your Wedding

Up Close and Personal (April 2008)

Your wedding day – what a perfect time to set your celebration apart from the crowd by creating a completely personalized experience for your guests. To make your day extra-special that guests will remember, here are some of favorite hints.

You’re Invited. Set the tone for your guests with an invitation that has personal meaning. Get inspiration from the setting or season of your wedding and feature an architectural detail, a seashell or an oak left. Your monogram is another unique symbol of the two of you. Whatever you choose, be sure to incorporate your wedding colors. Then carry this motif throughout the ceremony and reception. It’s bound to be a one-of-a-kind event. (For more on personalizing your wedding invitations, visit PWC”s Invitations page and This Just In Archives—Flowers.)

Family Ties. Incorporating family traditions – from both sides – is an incredible way to celebrate your union. Include a display of family photographs at your ceremony or reception, or have a calligrapher create a combined family tree, an excellent keepsake. Consider having your caterer prepare a family recipe or hand out a homemade cookie or candy as a wedding favor. And of course, share any ethnic marriage customs such as jumping the broom (African-American) or breaking a glass (Jewish).

Birthday Blossoms. Like birthstones, there’s a flower that symbolizes each month. Ask your florist to include the birth flower of the bride and groom in bouquets and centerpieces. Edible flowers can also serve as decoration on desserts. Then to extend the theme, hand out personalized seed packets, aromatherapy oils, or scented soaps made with your special blooms. (For more on using flowers creatively, visit PWC’s Flowers page and the This Just In Archives—Flowers.)

New York event designers David Stark and Avi Adler are known for their splashy, inventive creations. Here are some of their ideas about design philosophy.

  • How do you capture a couple’s style? We like to “mine the territory” of the couple to come up with special details. For the wedding of a bride who’d grown up near an orchard, we incorporated apple trees and a wooden ladder into the room’s design. Not all guests understand these sorts of references right away, but they become a talking point, encouraging conversation and allowing guests to learn more about the bride and groom.
  • Any tips on how to dream up these elements on your own? Think about rituals you’ve created as a couple or hope to foster as a family. For example, one groom we met gives his bride a white rose every Friday, so we attached a small white rose to each place card.
  • Let’s talk flowers. What’s the key to choosing blooms for your wedding? All flowers are beautiful; it’s what you do with them that matters. We use roses and peonies, but we also like baby’s breath, gladiolas and other “common” types that are unexpected at a wedding. Don’t limit yourself. We once decorated with 15,000 daisies, including a “field of flowers” – tubes holding the daisies set in the ground to look as if they were growing there. People think a wedding is the perfect time to splurge on fancy flowers but that’s not the point. It’s about doing something meaningful for you and appropriate to the location.
  • We like doing things to open people’s eyes to the everyday stuff that surrounds them and show that it’s easy to make fabulous things with flowers. Ours are often tongue-in-cheek objects made of materials from the flea market or second hand shop. We once took clear vases of flowers and filled them with blue Gatorade. Under the lights, the blooms look like they’re arranged in stained glass.

How I Made My Wedding Unique (September, 2006) loves how Brides come up with creative and wonderful ideas to personalize their wedding. From the east coast to the west, and every place in between, Brides send us their stories in how they made their day special. Here are some of our favorites.

  • I framed pictures of my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother on their wedding day and displayed them on the guest book table.

Both our mothers had passed away a few months before our wedding. We decided to use a beautiful rug and runner from their houses. One we laid out leading to the altar and the other we stood upon at our ceremony. We felt like they were our foundation when we exchanged vows.

During the cocktail hour before the dinner reception, we had two slide projectors operating in sync. When one flashed pictures of the Groom’s grandparents on their wedding day, the other flashed pictures of my grandparents on their wedding day. The grandparents wedding photos were followed by our parents, and then came pictures of us – the bride and groom – from the time we were babies through graduation to our engagement.
  • We made little “do-it-yourself” toast kits, one for each table, consisting of a champagne flute, a sheet of stationery, and a pen all tied up in netting and tied with a silk ribbon. The emcee asked everyone to come up with a toast, song or poem for the bride and groom. It was a great icebreaker as guests put their heads together thinking of stories and funny anecdotes. When the table was ready to make their toast, they would clink the champagne glass. One group made up a poem about our newly hyphenated last name, and another did a rap song. Talk about a riot!
  • My centerpieces were individual clay pots filled with fresh blossoms and herbs, tied with raffia, grouped together to look like one large arrangement per table. After the reception, guests were invited to take a clay pot home with them as their keepsake (party favor) from us.

Rather than individual tables of eight, we set up 6-foot tables in a U shape. Everyone could see everyone else. In the middle of the U was the dance floor. You could watch people dancing and socializing – something I noticed that the older people appreciated. They liked being near the action but not in the center of it.
  • After our reception, we drove off in the car, waving to the guests. Many thought we were leaving on our honeymoon. Actually we only drove around town for a while to catch our breaths while the guests left. Then we went to my parent’s home, changed into our jeans, and had a wonderful relaxed visit with our parents, siblings, and the rest of our friends who were still there. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Brittany and Andrew (December, 2005)

It was in October 2004 that Brittany said yes to Andrew’s marriage proposal amidst a romantic courtyard setting with softly lit votive candles and a bottle of champagne to celebrate the moment. The two Prescottonians set their wedding date to be eight months later on June 4, 2005.

Faced with a limited budget and an extensive guest list of 200 guests, Brittany poured through magazines and searched online to discover ways to keep costs down. “We cut costs at every corner, doing it ourselves,” Brittany modestly boasts.

Enlisting the help of family and friends, each with their own talents, she created a wedding that was beautiful and unique. To help you pull together the wedding of your dreams, here’s how Brittany and Andrew did it.

Location and Theme: The Bride’s grandmother owned a cabin in the Iron Springs community of Prescott, perfect for an outdoor ceremony and reception. By using the community’s Pavilion and other outdoor open spaces for the wedding and reception, the couple avoided having to pay for a banquet hall or reception chamber, which was a great savings. The nostalgic “shabby chic” motif was a mutual decision and was a great fit with the area which was first established in the early part of the 20th century. “We took the environment we had to work with, including old cabin doors,” said Andrew. The decision was inspired. A week before the wedding, family and friends gathered to spruce up the grounds and begin to transform the grounds and the Pavilion.

Invitations: “We wanted to display our color scheme and show the style of our wedding,” explained Brittany. “We wanted it to look homemade but elegant and professional.”

After buying inexpensive card stock, Brittany and Andrew had a family member, a graphic designer by trade, to design the invitation. For the lining, Brittany cut scrapbook paper to size and glued it on the inside back of the envelopes. Another relative, an expert in calligraphy, addressed the invitations.

Décor and Flowers: Taking advantage of the season, roses, peonies, mums, carnations (in all shades of pink), sprigs of eucalyptus and lots of leafy green foliage were ordered from a large discount warehouse. Centerpieces were made using galvanized pails filled with the fragrant flowers. Wreaths were hung over the doors and from the windows with the center focal point being a large fresh floral ball hanging from the center wooden ceiling beam. Potted pink geraniums were placed around the room and miniature white lights were strung throughout the room. Larger plants were rented from a nursery that added background texture and intimate surroundings. Creating accent, clotheslines were strung with clips holding baby pictures of Brittany and Andrew.

The guest’s tables were graced with party favors, homemade cotton fabric bags in the Bride’s colors, filled with taffy and penny candy. Completing the look were folded pink linen napkins with handmade cards placed on top inscribed with the words “Love, Honor, and Cherish”.

One fun addition was the “Wish Cards” where guests could write their good wishes to the happy couple, or they could take their own “wish card”, consisting of a note from the Bride and Groom expressing their joy in having them share this special day.

Catering: “Professional caterers are so expensive,” said Brittany, “that we saved a lot of money doing it ourselves.”

Deli trays of cheese and crackers whetted guest’s appetites before the meal. The tasty western buffet featured pork tenderloin on crusty rolls, meatballs, deli salads and side dishes, with a menu card describing each selection. A separate dessert table featured the wedding cake, with yet another “station” featuring a three-tier confection of decorated chocolate cupcakes in the Bride’s colors and assorted candies. Old fashion sodas, lemonade, and bottled water (sporting the bride and groom’s names) were served throughout the reception.

Photography: Though Brittany and Andrew knew that guests would personally be taking their own wedding snapshots, it was important to them that a professional be present for significant pictures. By limiting the photographer’s time and the number of pictures they wanted taken, they were able to save on additional expense.

Music: For the ceremony, Brittany and Andrew relied on the services of a friend to play an acoustical guitar for the processional and recessional. The reception was a different matter. “A good DJ keeps the party going and is well worth the money,” both Brittany and Andrew agree. Unless you have a friend who is a professional, Andrew recommends, “You spend the money.”

“Recognizing now how much work was involved, would you do it all over again?” wants to know

“I would love to do it all over again,” exclaims Brittany. “Having our family and friends involved made our wedding more special. I was able to spend time with my future in-laws and bond with them. It was an awesome, wonderful experience.”

A Beautiful Blending of Cultures (June, 2005)

Daniel knew the first time he saw a picture of Airie on that there was something special about her. “I just knew,” Daniel said. “It’s something I can’t explain.” After corresponding by email for a period of time, their busy schedules finally allowed them to meet. They met on March 27, 2004 at the Birdcage on Whiskey Row, and it was on that day that they both knew they had met their soul mate. Eleven months later, Airie accepted Daniel’s proposal.

A handsome man with a strong profile, Daniel is a direct descendant of the Mescalero Apache/Mexica tribes. Airie inherited her beautiful fair looks from her European side of the family. In planning their special day, it was important to Airie and Daniel that their ceremony reflect their different heritages and traditions. “It was a way to show our friends what we meant to each other and who we culturally are,” explained Airie.

Airie and Daniel agreed on the colors of red, black and white, with an accent of purple to call in the higher energies. To Airie, the colors represented the three faces of the Goddess. To Daniel, red and black were the colors of the Sun Dance, a Native American four-day healing ceremony that consists of fasting (going without food and water) dancing, and piercing. To Daniel, the red symbolizes the flesh and the black symbolizes the spirit.

Amidst the dramatic background of Watson Lake, purple flowers and branches from Airie’s willow tree created the circle for the altar. Before the ceremony began, Airie entered the circle and burned incense, asking that their union be blessed by the elements. To sanctify the circle, Daniel sprinkled cornmeal on the ground, an offering asking for permission to use the land while apologizing to all life for the disruption on this spot.

Escorted by four belly dancers, Airie walked down the aisle carrying the bowl of a Native American pipe to be used in the ceremony. Airie’s dress, professionally designed by Stazia Millison of Pussy Willow Image Garden, was one of a kind. Different layers of sheer material, carefully placed one on top of the other, created a gypsy-style skirt with colors representing the feminine and spiritual components of womanhood. A crown embossed with the faces of the moon secured her veil.

The handmaidens represented awareness of the four Sacred elements: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. The fifth element that was invoked was Spirit. When Daniel and Airie stepped into the altar circle, they did so as two separate beings. When they left the circle, they left not as one being, but as three – Airie, Daniel, and the Spirit of Love, the fifth element.

The ceremony began with a moment of silence as the spirits of the trees, the stones, the lake, the water and the wind were called upon. A Chalice (hand-made by Airie) filled with water, symbolizing the essence of life, was offered to Mother Earth by pouring a few drops on the ground, and then Airie and Daniel drank from the cup.

After the exchange of vows and rings, gentlemen guests were asked to remove their hats for the Pipe Ceremony. The stem of the pipe, carried by Daniel, represents the masculine and the bowl represents the feminine. Separate they are incomplete; joined they become united in their ability to send their voice in Prayer to the Creator. The stem and bowl were joined, and an opening prayer was made to each direction. Only natural tobacco grown by medicine men is used to load the pipe. Daniel and Airie each smoked the pipe. When the pipe was smoked, a prayer was made and then the pipe was passed to each person wishing to participate in the ritual.

It was a day of heritage, a merging of cultures, a day of promise to live together and honor this earth in harmony and love.

Editor’s Note: welcomes your own love story like Airie and Daniel. Write to us at and be featured in “This Just In”.

Uniquely Yours (June 2002)

Over the years as a wedding coordinator, I have been behind the scenes of many beautiful weddings. One of the most frequent questions I receive from Brides is how to make her day uniquely her own. What’s wonderful about planning your wedding, whether your want your event to be simple and elegant, wild and splashy – or something in between, is that there are so many wonderful ways to have your wedding reflect your style and personality – from special props and party favors, to centerpieces and customized cakes. Plus, tradition not withstanding, changing or combining a custom or two adds to making your day a memorable one.

You’re only limited by your own imagination so have some fun! To give you a start, here are some ideas to personalize your day.

  • Party favors grace the table setting as a small token of love and appreciation. Many times the favors are candy mints or Jordan almonds wrapped in netting and secured with a colored ribbon. Don’t feel that you’re restricted to just candy or nuts. One couple provided each guest with a lottery ticket to share in their good fortune in being married that day. Another twosome did flower seed packets so that each guest could have a beautiful garden of flowers to remember their special day. Still another happy pair gave small brass bells with the note “May laughter and joy fill this room as we toast the Bride and Groom. Ring this tiny Wedding Bell as a sign of love and to wish them well.”
  • The Bridal Bouquet Toss is one of the favorite traditions at a wedding reception. At least it is for everyone except the single ladies who have to stand in the center of the room, self-conscious that all eyes are upon them. You yourself might have experienced that set-apart feeling. In addition, many independent women find the significance that “the first to catch the bouquet is the next to marry” is not a favorable concept.

    Consider this innovative alternative that is guaranteed to bring smiles and joy to everyone. At the time you would generally throw the bouquet, ask all married couples to gather in the middle of the room for special recognition. After acknowledging all the married couples, start eliminating them from the floor by the length of time they have been married. All those married 5 years or less are asked to please be seated; all those married 10 years or less please be seated, and so forth and so forth until the last couple remaining is the longest-married couple among all the guests. Present your bouquet to that “Bride”. You won’t believe the light of happiness that comes to her eyes. It’s also fun to inquire if she/they have any advice to give you for a long and happy marriage and if appropriate, ask them to lead the next dance.


  • The ceremony and reception are over. You and your husband are now ensconced in your bridal suite, unable to believe that your wedding day went by so quickly. As you’re reflecting on the events of the day (and while it’s still fresh in your memory), both of you take a sheet of stationery and write a letter to the other. It can be whatever you’re feeling or thinking at the moment – what you felt when you woke up that morning, or your thoughts when you saw your loved one’s face as you walked down the aisle – it doesn’t matter, just write it down. When finished, put your letters in individual envelopes addressed to the other and seal it. Place them in your wedding album. On your first anniversary (which is your paper anniversary), open the album and give your sweetie the letter you wrote twelve months earlier. It’s a marvelous sentimental moment that’s special just between the two of you.

Hazel Bowman, owner of Celebrations by Bowman, has been a wedding consultant for over 15 years and is recognized as an authority in etiquette.