© Melissa Nowakowski May 2009

Many of the engaged couples who ask Et Løfte Events to plan their wedding do so because of our reputation for creating weddings that have unconventional or unique elements to them, even if its only a few details here and there. Just recently I sat down to consult a couple who wanted a few unique ideas for their ‘foodie’ wedding. Like many of my clients they wanted their wedding to be unlike any other wedding they had attended.

Fabulous. I LOVE a challenge!

With the increasing number of couples wanting originality to be a key player in their nuptials, this consultation inspired me to provide 5 essential tips for creating a unique wedding.

1. Know the difference between UNIQUE and UNCOMMON or unusual. (Yes, there is a difference when it comes to weddings).

One of the biggest mistakes that so many couples wanting a unique wedding make is copy an idea or style that they found in a magazine. While that chandelier hanging from a tree may be a fabulously unique decor idea to you, technically it's no longer unique. Why? Because if you saw it in a Bridal magazine, so have 100,000 other Brides, 50% of whom will likely incorporate that very same idea or style into their wedding. This is how wedding trends are started. Take the signing matt for example…this was once a completely unique idea and is now one of the largest guestbook-alternative trends out there.

Don't get us wrong -- we're not saying there's anything wrong with Bridal magazines. That would just be silly. Magazines are a valuable staple in wedding planning and are perfect sources of inspiration. What we're saying is that if you want an honest-to-God unique wedding, use the ideas in magazines as just that -- INSPIRATION.

If you truly love that idea that you found in a Bridal magazine but want to turn it from unusual into totally unique, consider creating a variation of that idea. By tweaking it even by just a bit you’ve created something completely your own. Rather than have chandeliers hanging from trees, why not secure the chandeliers to iron stands and use them as tall centerpieces for your tables?

2. Trust your vendors.

After all, you hired them for a reason. In the specific case of florists, decorators and yes, even us wedding planners, chances are their creativity wow’d you at that first meeting, so why not put their talents to the test? Some couples are reluctant to let go of the reins enough to let the creativity of their vendors truly shine whether it’s due to control issues or fear of going over budget. But by focusing on things seen in magazines, on television, at Bridal Shows or (gasp!) at other weddings, those couples are basically asking vendors to COPY the work of others.

I often inform florists of my clients’ wedding colours, overall style, theme and budget, then ask the florist to come up with a few completely original ideas. My clients are always floored by the ingenuity that is presented to them at the next meeting.

Vendors love a challenge. Having an outlet for their imagination – whether it’s in the florals, decor, food or any other detail – is one of the reasons they joined the wedding industry in the first place. Personally there is nothing that makes my heart race, my passion bubble and my wheels turn quickly than when clients ask me to design their wedding or ask for some inventive alternatives to traditional wedding details. By giving your vendors the opportunity to get creative, you’re opening many more doors on the path to “unique”.

3. Having a unique wedding doesn’t mean it has to be expensive nor outrageous.

You don’t have to break the bank to have a unique wedding nor do the jaws of your guests have to hit the floor in awe for your wedding to have impact.

Having urns overflowing with stunning florals at every turn or arriving to the reception by helicopter may take your breath away but so can the price tag. If budget is a factor in your plans, focus your imagination on the details that you can afford.

Some ideas?

  • Change up your menu slightly (opt for flavourful vegetable skewers rather than the traditional salad and a colourful stuffed potato instead of the pasta course).
  • Find alternatives to the traditional wedding items (replace the traditional guest-book or signing matt with an attendant who captures a video message from your guests. Experiment with different shapes and materials for your moneybox. For example, for a garden-themed wedding I had coordinated we used a picnic basket overgrown with vines.)
  • Take dance lessons and do a salsa routine for your First Dance.
  • Choose unique colour combinations rather than focusing on the colour trends of the year.
  • Rent a red mustang convertible for the Bride and Groom’s super chic getaway and 2 white Lincoln town cars for the rest of the wedding party from companies like Budget instead of the usual limo, Rolls Royce, horse and carriage or, ahem, helicopter.

Photo courtesy of Et Lofte Events

After all, sometimes it’s the little details that have huge impact. While a giant tree in the center of the table surrounded by luxurious linens will certainly be unique, planting a tree in each of your guests’ names as a wedding favour may leave a more lasting impression.

If budget is a concern, providing a twist to traditional wedding elements or focusing that “wow” factor on the little details can really pack a punch. And with a much smaller price tag.

4. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Having a unique wedding doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be unique. You don’t want to make your wedding a giant spectacle, visually or mentally exhausting your guests. To avoid this, pick a few elements of a traditional wedding to apply your imagination. This will keep your guests guessing as to what could be in store for them next.

How to decide which elements to focus on? I often encourage my clients to pick one to three of their favourite things about weddings and make those specific things their focal point for uniqueness. For example, my foodie couple are obviously all about…food! So the originality will lie in the edible details from the menu choices to the food presentation to the specialty beverages.

If entertainment is your favourite part of a wedding drum up some unique amusement such as cocktail-hour dance lessons for your guests (divided into groups) and have those groups compete in a mini dance competition for the centerpieces later in the evening. Or why not choose unusual musical entertainment by fusing cultures and music styles such as South Asian percussion with electronic music.

Photo courtesy of PNMedia

You may also focus your attention on your culture or a particular interest that you both share. If you’re both heavily into art or photography one idea is to line the walkway to the banquet hall with framed black and white photographs on easels (or standing frames on a long table) displaying the evolution of your relationship. Visually stunning and a testament to you as a couple, it’s a unique alternative to the traditional slideshow.

By selecting SPECIFIC details to be unique rather than ALL details, you offer the element of surprise for your guests and extract that spontaneous ‘wow’ rather than “wow, wow, wow, wow, oh man AGAIN???”.

5. There are virtually no “rules” when it comes to weddings.

When it comes to weddings, there are three specific areas in which rules apply: religion, culture and etiquette. Everything else is fair game.

Weddings overflow with traditions. And just like the times change, so can tradition. There’s no “rule” that says the Bride has to wear white. There’s no “rule” that wedding party speeches, the First Dance or the Cake Cutting must happen after dinner. Heck , there’s no rule that you must have a cake cutting! (or First Dance for that matter) However so many couples believe that the traditional wedding is a staple and often are hesitant to step outside the box. Your wedding is just that. YOUR WEDDING. A reflection of you as a couple so never be afraid to make it your own.

Once you have followed the guiding principles of your religion, honoured your culture and shown your guests respect by practicing proper etiquette throughout, celebrate your freedom from tradition and plan the wedding you’ve been envisioning all these years.

Have that backyard BBQ wedding; seat your guests at one long rectangular table rather than at a bunch of rounds; drape yourself in a blood red gown; ask your best guy-pal to be your ‘Man of Honour’; ask your Bridesmaids to carry flowerballs instead of bouquets; and feel free to rearrange your “special moments” as you see fit (or get rid of them completely).

A recent client of mine who wanted a low-key-no-fuss-but-just-as-beautiful wedding defied all tradition or “rules” with her nuptials. Held in a trendy upscale restaurant the reception consisted of formal dining followed by a quick cutting of the two-tier cake, the distribution of cupcakes, lounge music and mingling. There were no planned speeches by the wedding party, no First Dance, Father/Daughter Dance or Mother/Son Dance and no dance floor.

And it was beautiful.