The 15 Elements of an Unforgettable Wedding

Host a Reception That Your Guests Will Never Forget

Updated 11/13/14

Anastasiia Photography

Your wedding day is first and foremost meant to be a celebration of the love between you and your husband-to-be, but that doesn't mean your ceremony and reception can't also be a seriously fun party. When it comes to planning a wedding, there are a few basic elements you have to have: the ceremony where you and your groom will exchange vows, followed by some form of reception (whether that means a sit-down meal or simply cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres). And while these basics do make up the event, you can transform these essential details into unforgettable elements of your big day as a whole.

You'll be pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is to transform your big day into something unforgettable. Whether that means upgrading certain details (like your menu or music) or selecting more unexpected elements (like the décor or lighting), these small changes have a big enough impact that your guests will remember your wedding day for many years to come.

We've started from the very beginning, highlighting the importance of personalized stationery, and go all the way to the end (may we recommend an after-party?), so you can decide which details are worth the investment for you. And while we're sure you'd happily include all of these elements, you don't need each and everyone to have an unforgettable wedding.

Ready to start planning the most unforgettable wedding ever? Keep reading to see all of our tips to throw a wedding your guests won't soon forget!

01 of 15

Send Beautiful Invitations

Courtesy of Julie Song Ink

Your wedding invitations are the first indicator of what kind of party you'll be hosting, so don't miss the opportunity to tell your guests all about your big day. An option that reflects your specific style is a great way to let friends and family know what to look expect, plus it will help get for what's to come.

02 of 15

Choose an Incredible Venue

One and Only Paris Photography

Whether you're tying the knot at a far-flung destination or right in your hometown, selecting a venue that fits your wedding style and can accommodate all of your plans is key. Translation: if you're looking to host an ultra-modern bash, a romantic renovated barn is probably not the venue for you.

03 of 15

Make a Serious Statement Down the Aisle

Christian Oth Studio

All eyes will be on you on your wedding day no matter what, but there are a few ways to ensure your ceremony entrance is extra grand: set the tone with some amazing music, choose unique lighting, and wear a spectacular wedding dress.

04 of 15

Hire a Meaningful Officiant

Angelica Glass

Your officiant can be anyone—your lifelong religious leader, a great friend, or a special family member. Whoever it is, it's important that you feel they understand you as a couple and can relay your love story to your guests on the big day. On top of that, you want someone articulate, outgoing, and entertaining since these attributes will all help capture the attention of your guests.

05 of 15

Splurge on Incredible Lighting

Readyluck

Lighting is an important part of any party, but particularly one where photography will be a big part of the proceedings. Whether it's for your ceremony or reception, it's worth the investment to upgrade to unique or romantic lighting that will add tons of interest to your photos.

06 of 15

Have a Short Gap Between the Ceremony and Reception

Christianne Taylor Weddings

While you might be able to get a better price for an early ceremony time and a later reception, it's best to keep the gap time between your events short enough that guests won't be left wondering what to do. Of course, there are circumstances when this just isn't possible (say, if your childhood church or temple only offers one time for the ceremony and your reception venue cannot accommodate an earlier start time). If that's the case, it's nice to plan a mini-reception for guests, offering small snacks and drinks, or arrange for a group outing, like a local wine tasting or museum visit.

07 of 15

Provide Guest Transportation

Lyndsay Undseth Photography

Arranging transportation for your guests (whether it be from the hotel to ceremony and reception or back to the hotel at the end of the evening) is a very thoughtful detail to include, especially if you'll be hosting several out-of-towners that won't have a car readily available. Plus, it's the safest option if you'll be serving alcohol at the reception.

08 of 15

Decorate with Surprising Décor

Jana Morgan

It should come as no surprise that there are countless ways you can decorate your reception venue, but going with the less-than-expected picks (read: those hidden gems buried deep on your Pinterest board) will make your event truly shine. Sure, twinkle lights and lanterns are beautiful, but how often have you seen ivy chandeliers and dangling crystal-inspired lights?

09 of 15

Opt for Inventive Reception Seating

Jessica Lorren Organic Photography

While a well laid-out seating plan is an important part of any wedding, choosing a creative seating pattern will make the evening unforgettable. Long banquet-style tables look beautiful and, when planned well, make for easy conversation among guests.

10 of 15

Choose Gorgeous Florals

Vicki Grafton Photography

From your bouquet and ceremony flowers to your reception décor, splurging on something a bit more statement-making than your average bundle of blooms makes a big impact. Pretty details like floral table runners and ceremony structures, a flower wall, or bold bouquet are all details that will stand out in the minds of your friends and family long after the event is over.

11 of 15

Have an Awesome Open Bar

Continuum Photography

An open bar is a nice touch at any wedding, but offering signature drinks or a specialized menu makes your reception even that much more memorable. Consider a curated selection, like a few interpretations of the Moscow Mule, or a martini or margarita bar where guests can imbibe in your favorite cocktails.

12 of 15

Hire a Pro Entertainer

Jen Philips Photography

If you want guests to remember having a blast at your reception, then it's worth investing in a great band or DJ. These pro-entertainers can read a crowd and will make sure they're playing a selection of tunes that will get your friends and family out of their seats and on to the dance floor.

13 of 15

Offer Delicious Meal Choices

Anna Roussos Photography

Your guests may not remember the exact details of your floral arrangements or what song you walked down the aisle to, but they'll likely remember what they ate—especially if it was particularly delicious! Choose a menu with tons of tasty options (and one that accommodates common food allergies and dietary restrictions) and your friends and family are sure to leave your reception happy.

14 of 15

Provide More Than Just Cake for Dessert

Kristine Paulsen Photography

There is a multitude of reasons why it's a nice touch to offer more than just cake for dessert, but chief among them is really quite simple—people like options! Sure, it's kind to have a gluten-free confection if you have family members with food allergies, and it's great to have a nut-free selection of treats, too, but even your guests who can eat everything will appreciate that there's more to nibble on than just cake.

15 of 15

Host an After Party

Christa Strick Photography

Whether you're shelling out to extend your reception hours or moving the celebrations to a smaller venue (or even a bar!), it's nice to give your guests the option of partying past 10 p.m. After all, some of your friends and family have traveled far to be with you, and by heading out promptly at 10, you'll likely miss out on spending precious time with your guests.

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