Something special

Most engaged couples want their wedding to be fun and personal, anything but a cookie-cutter ceremony and reception. They look at blogs and bridal magazines for ideas to make their day special but often aren’t sure how to make it all happen.

A host of resources provide suggestions and opinions on what makes a wedding unique, but the answer is not that complicated – what makes a wedding unique is you. There is no one else like you, no other couple like you. So the goal is to create a wedding experience that reflects you as a couple. The concept may be simple, but the translation can sometimes be challenging.

Just the two of you

            As a wedding planner and designer, I recently worked with a couple on their destination wedding in Hawaii. They wanted a beautiful wedding that was unique, fun and intimate. As their guests traveled from all over the country to attend, they aimed to create an atmosphere that would allow them to rekindle relationships and spend quality time with family and friends.

            The key advice I offered the couple: Make sure every decision is a reflection of the two of you.

            The bride and groom were an active, outdoorsy pair who enjoyed everything from kayaking to rock climbing. So, we selected a private estate on the beach as the wedding location so that guests could savor the natural beauty of Hawaii. The estate was quiet and secluded, ensuring that the space felt intimate and casual.

            As the couple were simple, no-fuss, happy people, I designed the wedding to highlight natural elements, combining sun-bleached wooden dining tables with printed runners and mason jars lined with lemons and filled with purple and yellow flowers – a nod to the couple’s favorite colors and the jars they use in their home together.

            The bottom line: When making wedding decisions, couples should focus on what feels like them. If every element included represents their personalities and lives, then none of it will seem forced or contrived.

Share your love story

            A wedding is a celebration of love, so sharing the couple’s story is an important part of the day. The story doesn’t necessarily have to be about how they met or got engaged, but it should illuminate their relationship.

            This couple who married in Hawaii, for example, had a ritual of taking pictures of flowers when they were apart and sending them to one another. Because the groom was in the military and the bride traveled for work, their tradition reminded them that they were thinking of one another and that they loved one another wherever they were. Over time, they began to take photos of flowers when they were together, too.

            To share the custom with wedding guests, we printed the flower photos they collected over the years onto tiles and displayed them in the cocktail area. Each tile had a story to accompany it, allowing guests to share in the couple’s journey. After the wedding, the couple kept the tiles to display in their home.

            Every couple has a story, even if it’s not grand, crazy, complicated or long. To help them find their story, I encourage them to think about the special things they do as a couple – traditions, silly names they call one another, dreams they share, what they love about each other.

            The bottom line: Sharing a couple’s love story not only makes the wedding more memorable, but it also celebrates the reason everyone has gathered and includes the guests in that experience.

More than a pretty look

            Designing a personalized wedding is about more than aesthetics – it’s about the emotions a wedding evokes, those special touches that really create an experience.

            To bring personality to the wedding in Hawaii, guests received multicolored sunglasses with tags that read, “Our love is so bright … Wear some shades!” when they arrived at the celebration.

            The small number of guests attending the wedding, as well as the beauty of a natural tree formation on the property, enabled us to stage the ceremony in the round, with the couple at the center and guests fanning out around them. The unusual ceremony design fit perfectly in the area and allowed guests to be near the couple as they said their vows.

            We took advantage of an adjacent pathway to make the bride’s entrance a surprise. As guests proceeded from a grassy area to the ceremony location, the bride emerged from the beach. This fun surprise allowed the bride to enjoy a special moment with her father before reciting her vows.

            The bride and groom had close-knit families, so much so that the bride’s mother was her matron of honor and the groom’s father was his best man. During the ceremony, the couple exchanged rings made from family wedding rings, a touch that was not only symbolic, but also special and meaningful.

            The bottom line: Create an experience for guests right from the beginning and share what is important as a couple. Make the wedding both personal and meaningful, in whatever way makes sense for you.

         Jamie Chang is a Los Altos-based event and wedding consultant for Mango Muse Events. For more information, visit