Here at Brides, we’ve seen our fair share of weddings—and with that, just about every wedding trend in the book. From Pinterest-worthy doughnut walls to overused mason jars, it's the unique (less-done) ideas for weddings that leave a lasting impression. But how do you decide which personalized details to include, and how do you even come up with them in the first place? "The best way to make a wedding stand out is to make it your own. Look to your own story versus at the wedding of others," says Allison Jackson, the owner and lead event planner at Pineapple Productions.
Meet the Expert
Allison Jackson is the owner and lead event planner at Pineapple Productions, a wedding planning firm based in Washington, DC.
As a starting point, take some time to think about what represents you as a couple. "My approach to wedding design has always involved drawing inspiration from the couple's story to create something completely original, personal, and distinctive," Jackson says. "I like to ask couples about how they met, how they became engaged, and how they spent their time to begin forming ideas for unique wedding details."
Shared interests, travels, and family histories also serve as wonderful sources of inspiration," she adds. Secondly, don't forget to consider your guests! As much as your wedding is about celebrating your legal union with your partner, it's also very much about your guests' comfort and enjoyment. A few areas to look to for inspiration as you plan your nuptials:
- Your engagement
- Where you met
- Your first trip together
- Your mutual hobbies
- Your home state
- Your heritage
- Your guests
Looking for some inspiration? Here are 75 distinctive ideas—from catering selections to personalized décor to bouquet ideas—that can help make your big day stand out.
Hold a Minimal Bouquet
Minimalist bouquets make a chic and classy statement in a way that the average bountiful bouquet can’t—it’s the perfect way for a bride to channel her modern style. Allow a nosegay or Biedermeier bouquet to be the focal point of your wedding day look as you make your way down the aisle.
Take Song Requests
Ask invitees to jot down their favorite song on the RSVP card—or have them email it to you instead. Compile all the song requests into a playlist and give it to your DJ for a variety of jams that guests will enjoy.
A Flower Girl: Something Blue
In need of something blue? Forget the traditional blue garter or jewelry ideas—a flower girl in blue is so much cuter, especially when accompanied by a flower crown. Alternatively, have the flower girl toss blue-dyed flower petals for a fun twist on this classic tradition.
Create a Custom Monogram
Add a custom stamp of your and your partner’s first initials throughout the wedding for a personal touch. Brand it on everything from wedding signs to table numbers and favors for consistency.
Have Fun With Cake Toppers
Traditional bride and groom cake toppers are so 1980s. Top off your cake with an accent that complements the vibe and theme of your wedding. While this rustic-chic light bulb topper is the perfect touch for an industrial-style wedding, a flamingo topper could be a nod to beach nuptials.
Play Up Your Tablescape
Instead of using actual plates for plate chargers, opt for something more befitting your tablescape; think palm leaves for a tropical setting or antique tiles like the one shown above for a romantic Italian villa-inspired look.
Make Fruit the Favor
For favors that guests will actually use, set up a “farm stand” of fresh fruit and small baskets (or mini crates) that they can fill on their way out the door. Another fun idea is to adorn apples or pears with personalized stickers that contain your names or a pun along the lines of "we make a pear-fect couple."
There’s no denying the charm of a wooden sign or the elegance of a mirrored sign, but everyone uses them. Opt for something creative that reflects your theme, like a fun neon sign with a sweet love-centric slogan. For the reception, consider incorporating a neon sign with your wedding hashtag as a photo booth backdrop.
Serve Local Delights
If your wedding will take place far from where you grew up, offer tasting stations with cuisine from that locale. A few ideas: clam chowder and lobster rolls for New England; chili and tacos for Texas; or oysters for New Orleans.
Set Up an Eclectic Menu
Take into consideration your perfect food day (breakfast through dinner plus snacks and dessert). Allow your caterer to combine your and your partner's tastes to create the ideal wedding meal for a diverse menu.
If you plan on serving food from different cultures, then an elegant buffet could be a unique way to satisfy a variety of palates.
Hand Out Wedding Day Cookies
Why not match your cookies to your décor? The wedding cookies shown above were "printed" with a toile pattern that was beloved by the bride. Another idea is to stack the dessert table with cookies frosted with your monogram or shaped like the numerals of your wedding date ("6," "20," "17") for a personal touch.
Remember the Locations
Pay homage to the state where you fell in love by incorporating it into your décor or food. We love how these tropical-inspired, Florida-shaped cookies lend a touch of whimsy. If your state has a slogan (for instance, "Virginia Is For Lovers"), then that could also serve as a source of inspiration. For example, a couple that met in Virginia could weave LOVE signs throughout their reception décor.
Don't Forget a Map
If you’re having a destination wedding or have a lot of guests coming from out of town, including a map of the area your wedding will be in with your invitations—after all, they’ll be spending the whole weekend there!
Customize Your Wine
Order custom labels for wine and water to put your own personal stamp on libations. If you really want to get fancy, you could order mini-etched champagne bottles as favors.
Have Fun With Seating
Instead of benches or chairs, select distinctive seating that reflects your wedding style for your ceremony, like floor cushions or these laidback tree stumps painted with tribal print. While it's easy to get caught up in the aesthetic, make sure that the seating you choose is comfortable. Bales of hay, poufs, and ottomans are all worth looking into if there's a specific vibe you're looking to recreate.
Bring the Boutonnière Into the Theme
Tie your groom’s boutonnière into your theme—a seashell brings nautical décor full circle, while a crisp maple leaf celebrates autumn and cacti evoke desert vibes.
Turn a Coffee Table Book into the Guest Book
Traditional guest books often end up stashed in a closet. Instead, choose a coffee table book covering a subject you love (like this one about historical Los Angeles) and that you'll want to display at home; guests can write on the photos or in the margins.
Play Up the Cocktail Napkins
Give your cocktail napkins some personality by having them printed with fun facts about you and your partner. You could also include trivia questions about the newlyweds as an icebreaker for guests.
Give Cocktail Hour a Whimsical Touch
Instead of having waiters carry trays of champagne around, have them refill suspended platforms with the bubbly instead. If just a touch of whimsy is what you're after—and it fits the theme of your wedding—then we recommend adding cocktail umbrella picks or festive paper straws to guests' drinks.
Cool Down With Frozen Treats
Is the weather forecast for your wedding day blistering? Rent a Sno-Cone machine, popsicle bar, or ice cream stand and chill out!
Whip Up Family Desserts
Give the backstory to any family recipes you're serving. Keep the explanations short and significant, and include them on the printed menu. For example, "Aunt Martine's French onion soup" or "Grandma Betty’s peach pie."
Personalize Reception Table Names
Give each reception table a name (for example, "China") that relates to your courtship. Have a tent card on the table with a short explanation: "We met sophomore year of college here during a study abroad program!"
Go Big With Your Bouquet
Add unexpected elements to your bouquet to give it your own touch. We love how feathers complement a large king protea in this arrangement.
Tap Into Wedding Dance Traditions
Have a cultural dance that's a favorite at family weddings? From the tarantella (Italian) to the money dance (Cuba), ethnic jigs give a party a distinctive flavor.
Celebrate Your Heritage With Your Wedding Cake
Think papaya filling (the Philippines), cannoli cream icing (Italy), and pomegranate glaze (Middle East). No problem if the groom is from a different country—you can always showcase multiple tiers!
Plan Some Photo Booth Fun
Set up a mini photo studio at the reception for guests to ham it up in front of the camera. Send their photos with your thank-you cards for a fun surprise. GIF photo booths are all the rage these days—just don't forget to share your wedding hashtag to encourage attendees to spread the #love.
Create a Unique Menu Display
Instead of displaying the menu on standard stationery, get creative and have it sprawled across plates, marble, or charcuterie boards in elegant calligraphy.
Skip the Party Favors
Is there a charity that's dear to you? In lieu of favors, make a donation in your guests' names; leave an explanatory card on each dinner table.
Play Games at the Cocktail Hour
Hosting the cocktail hour outside? Set up stations of different lawn games—like croquet, badminton, and jumbo Jenga—around the cocktail and lounge area to give your guests some entertainment besides mingling.
Hold a Ring Warming Ceremony
Have a ring warming ceremony, where both wedding bands are passed through guests to send their good wishes and love before they’re placed on each finger.
Hire a Live Wedding Painter
Hire an artist to live paint your ceremony or reception. They’ll create a work of art out of the happiest day of your life that you can hang on the walls of your future home and treasure for years.
Showcase Your Birthstone
Incorporate your birthstone into your tablescape for a special touch. We’re loving the boho glam of these amethyst napkin rings. Beyond the décor, you could also take it a step further by centering your wedding theme around your birthstone—everything from invitations to the frosting on your wedding cake.
Show Off Bouquet Alternatives
Give your bridesmaids something a little more untraditional to carry in lieu of bouquets. These greenery wreaths with statement flowers are absolutely gorgeous and eye-catching. We’re also into balloons and lanterns as bouquet alternatives.
Get Creative With the Guest Book
Another guest book idea: Leave a glass bowl with cards (or postcards, if you’re a wanderlust couple) and pens beside it, with a note asking guests to contribute a favorite memory of you or your partner, a bucket list idea, or a piece of marriage advice.
Be Adventurous With the Wedding Day Menu
Whether you're crazy about old-fashioned egg creams, Belgian waffles, or Philly cheese steak, ask your caterer about incorporating your faves into the menu. Jackson also suggests replicating the menu from the couple's first date—a "simple salad with French onion soup, followed by steak frites" is guaranteed to bring forth a hit of nostalgia (for the newlyweds, anyway).
Find Ways to Honor Your Family's Heritage
Display your family's heritage graphically—an Indian print, a clan tartan, an African kente cloth—on everything from vases to ring pillows to stationery and even cummerbunds.
Set Up A Tasting Bar
If you and your partner have a favorite libation—beer lovers or tequila aficionados—set up a tasting bar with different varieties. "The cocktail hour is the right time to include any activities that involve mixing, mingling, and active discussion. Food and beverage tastings, for example, work well during cocktails," Jackson says. "I have organized things like oyster tastings, whiskey tastings, and wine tastings to encourage interaction as well as fill time if needed for a 'room flip.'"
Hand Out Welcome Guides
Stock welcome baskets with a quiz that leads out-of-town guests on a scavenger hunt to your favorite haunts (the best little bakery, a scenic park). Another idea is to provide "a wedding welcome bag that includes everything you might need for the perfect cocktail hour or a perfect day at the beach," Jackson says.
Add Sentiment to Your Ceremony Backdrop
The sweetest ceremony backdrop? An oversized piece of parchment or linen boasting your favorite quote, book passage, or bible verse.
Give Your Fur Baby the Spotlight
Love your little fur baby? Let him or her inspire your wedding décor. One couple dedicated their cocktail hour to Charlie the pug, creating an escort card with his silhouette on it and the phrase, “Life with you is like a walk in the park.”
Make a Memorable Wedding Exit
Forget wedding cars! Pick an exit that best suits your style as a couple or wedding theme—a motorcycle for the edgy duo or jetting off into the blue for the chic and glam pair.
Plan for Guests' Comfort
Having an outdoor wedding? Think about the weather and your guests’ needs. If it’s cold, offer blankets for them to snuggle in. Likewise, provide parasols for shade if it’s sunny or umbrellas if rain is in the forecast.
Skip the Traditional First Dance
Skip the first dance in favor of an activity that is more meaningful to you and your partner. This couple chose to do their first Twister game as husband and wife instead. A round of mini golf could also be an entertaining and fun way to kick off this new chapter in life.
Make VIP-Worthy Welcome Baskets
If you're having a destination wedding, fill welcome baskets with locally-made crafts, food, and drinks that reflect the locale. "Consider guest hospitality in every possible way. Nothing makes more of an impact than demonstrating to your guests how much you care about them," Jackson says.
Be sure to include a handwritten note, a gift card to your favorite coffee shop or bakery, and something locally made—be it a bag of old-fashioned hand-cooked peanuts or chocolate-coated espresso beans.
Make Room for a Mobile Bar
A mobile bar will delight guests during cocktail hour because they won’t have to wait in line. Give the bubbly some wheels for a whimsical feel. For guests who don't drink, consider having a sparkling lemonade stand or even a sorbet cart.
Help wedding guests get to know you and your partner better by creating a cute infographic of your relationship to display as a sign on welcome tables. Jackson also suggests incorporating a custom illustration into your save-the-date card that unfolds to tell the story of how you and your partner met, where you went on your first date, and where you became engaged.
Give Your Vows Center Stage
For personal table runners, forget the linens and use a long piece of parchment with your vows written on it in calligraphy—très romantique.
Send Guests Home With a Snack
Your guests will have worked up an appetite on the dance floor by the time they leave for the night. Send them home with a midnight snack (anything from shoestring fries to popcorn) to eat in their hotel for a favor that will actually get used.
Leave Guests a Yummy Snack
What guest doesn't appreciate a sweet treat? Jackson suggests surprising guests with a turndown service when they arrive back at their hotel following the rehearsal dinner. "The turndown service included a special note from the bride and groom and their favorite local doughnuts to be enjoyed as a late-night snack or morning treat," Jackson says. Other confections to consider include a trio of macarons, a cupcake, a warm cookie, or gourmet chocolates.
Bring Escort Cards to the Next Level
Are you a wanderlust pair with a travel theme? Go the extra mile and use leather luggage tags to hold the escort or place cards. For a summer wedding, consider using beach balls or seashells as escort cards.
Be Bold With Color
Want to create an unusual color scheme? Take cues from the works of color-happy artists such as Rothko, Van Gogh, or Pollock. "Don't be afraid to play with color, pattern, and shape," Jackson says. "I love bold colors, like a palette of jewel tones mixed with softer pastels. Also, a pop of unexpected color—like chartreuse—can make an otherwise neutral palette really stand out."
Find Inspo From a Family Photo
Show your florist photos of your mother’s bouquet so a florist can design a similar one, like this white, 1980s-inspired cascading bouquet. Chat it over with your photographer first, but another cool idea is to recreate a special wedding moment (like the cake cutting or the wedding exit) from your parents' nuptials.
Use a Large Sign for Heartfelt Messages
Favors are great and all, but there’s nothing like a heartfelt message to thank guests, especially when it’s displayed so beautifully. Show your gratitude by having it expressed in elegant calligraphy on a large sign for all to see.
Enlist Your Best Man as an Emcee
Have your best man emcee a trivia quiz about the two of you and ask each table to work as a team to come up with the answers. A round of "I Spy" or Bingo could also be played.
Design a Different Seating Arrangement
Design your ceremony seating in a circular fashion so guests can get a 360-degree view. If you plan on getting drone shots of your wedding, then just think how cool a winding spiral will appear from above.
Take into consideration the type of wedding altar you choose. You'll want your seating to complement the altar, not compete with it.
Get Silly With Your Seating Chart
Make guests find their seats by first locating a funny picture of them on an escort card wall. This couple scoured the Internet for months to find the most amusing photos of their guests for this DIY masterpiece. Alternatively, Jackson recommends using "escort cards that were old black-and-white photos of the bride and groom throughout the years for lots of laughs and conversation starters at the dinner tables."
Send an Unexpected Love Letter
Write your soon-to-be spouse a heartfelt message on their wedding shoe for a sweet surprise on the big day. If you're feeling sneaky, slip a secret message to your ring bearer or flower girl to pass along prior to (or during) the ceremony.
Serve a Family-Style Meal
Instead of the traditional three-course dinner, have your guests sit down to a family-style serving for a more intimate gathering. Use this as an opportunity to mix up couples and encourage conversations among different guests.
Build a Bow Tie Bar
Does your groom have a thing for bowties? Create a bow tie bar during cocktail hour where guests can swap their ties for one. This bride’s mom spent months sewing bowties for every male guest at the wedding.
Give Your Pet a Grand Entrance
Including your pet on your wedding day? We can’t think of anything sweeter. Instead of throwing a tie or bow on them, give them their own flower crown or wreath to match your décor—florals for the girls and greenery for the boys.
Turn Cherished Pieces into Keepsakes
Have the most meaningful phrase from your wedding vows embroidered or needlepointed on the ring pillow. Display it in your home—it's the ultimate keepsake. Anything that you get customized for your bridesmaids will also serve as a memento of your big day. Jackson recalls a Colorado wedding where custom-embroidered denim jackets were made for the bride and her bridesmaids.
Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture
Hang a series of photos of both of you as children at the reception. Guests can schmooze and peruse during the cocktail hour.
Give the Matchmaker Special Treatment
Decorate the chair of the person who set you and your SO up with a garland of greenery and a sign that reads, “matchmaker.” Other key people who played a role in your courtship—age-old friends, acquaintances, or teachers that you both had growing up—could also receive a special seat or even a flower crown to wear throughout the night.
Sneak in References to Your Engagement
Your engagement can play a starring role in the décor. One bride included blueberries at each place setting because her husband proposed to her on Blueberry Point (a notecard at each table explained this).
Choose Glassware That Matches Your Theme
Crystal glasses in shades of blue and wicker baskets complement a southwestern ranch wedding with boho flair. Having a post-wedding brunch the next day? For a garden party theme, mismatched fine china sourced from a flea market will lend a dose of whimsy.
Pay Tribute to Special Heirlooms
Wear your grandmother’s wedding dress as a special tribute to one of your favorite people. A few design tweaks will put a modern twist on a vintage look. Alternatively, an heirloom engagement ring or a garter made from your grandmother's wedding veil can serve as your "something old."
Let Your Personality Shine Through
Add goofy photo booth strips to table numbers for a playful touch—not only does it show off your personalities as a couple, but it also serves as a fun conversation piece for guests. "We like to make little nods to the interests our couples share. For a couple who spends time together walking in parks and birdwatching, a subtle bird motif will personalize their wedding invitation and be repeated through the use of specially selected fabrics and china."
Inject Some Artsy Flair
Are you both art lovers? Let it inspire your big day. This couple had each of their favorite paintings printed on the menus. For an art gallery wedding, Jackson suggests displaying mini-painted canvases on easels—not only do they make pretty escort cards but they'll also serve as meaningful mementos.
Get Creative With Your Centerpiece
Create one large floral centerpiece out of several mini vases. Invite guests to take one on their way out. If both of you are literary nerds, then a stack of your favorite books could be used as an informal centerpiece. You could even take it a step further by assigning a different genre to each table.
Serve Carnival-Style Sweets
If you really want to think outside the box, then modern carnival sweets are the way to go. For one wedding, Pineapple Productions served maple bacon funnel cakes and strawberry chili cotton candy from a moving ferris wheel.
Plan a Home Wedding
"A wedding at home invites the perfect opportunity to incorporate your own furniture into the décor of the day," Jackson says. "Things like an antique table to be used for the wedding cake display or a beautiful cabinet for the display of pre-poured cocktails can offer more charm and personality than rental furniture."
Celebrate Your Love of Art
Consider incorporating custom artwork into your invitations and mementos. "For a couple who enjoys collecting art, an artist was commissioned to create artwork melding the skylines of the bride and groom's hometowns—hers, Washington, DC, and his, London. We used the artwork on the wedding invitation and on playing cards that were given out as guest favors at the end of the night," Jackson says.
Hand Out a Tribute Bouquet to Someone Special
Toast the woman who has had the greatest impact on your life, then hand her your bouquet as a tribute. Another thought is to send flowers to the couple that has been married the longest. Ask them to share a few words of wisdom with the crowd as a sweet sentiment.
Place Envelopes at Each Place Setting
"I have had couples write handwritten notes for each guest on menu cards for each place setting. While time-consuming, I cannot think of a better way to let each individual guest know how much you appreciate his or her presence at your wedding," Jackson says.