Several years ago I went to a wedding I was really excited about. I mean, I’m always excited about my friends getting married, but this wedding in particular sounded like it was going to be awesome. The location was super cool, everyone involved was laid back, and all their plans sounded amazing. In short, it felt like a recipe for an awesome party full of fun wedding ideas. But halfway through the reception, after we’d toasted our friends and gotten all the emotional goodness out of the way, I realized I was… sort of bored. While the couple getting married normally threw pretty fun parties, this party was actually not all that fun.
And then I had a realization: while about half of the weddings I’ve attended have been a blast, the other half have been not really fun at all. So I started racking my brain to figure out why that is.
The first thing I realized is that the wedding industry is built on selling you a pretty wedding. The dress, the tux, the flowers, the invitations, the decor—all of it paints a pretty picture, but very little of it contributes to the actual experience of the day. Because, as my husband wisely pointed out to me a month before our wedding, pretty isn’t an emotion. And how your wedding looks and how your wedding feels are two very different (and nearly unrelated) things. Trust me, I don’t say this to talk you out of getting a kick-ass outfit, or investing time into decorations that make you happy, because I love all of those things. I say this so you can spend some time planning the kind of experience you want at your wedding—something that has nothing to do with pretty.
So if you do want a wedding that goes down as a super fun party, it’s worth being intentional about it from the get-go. Since that wedding, I’ve slowly compiled a list of fun wedding ideas, and things to plan for, if you want to make your wedding a blast.
- Think of your reception as a party. Chances are really good that you know how to throw a party that’s fun for you and your people. I can’t tell you what your perfect entertainment recipe is, since ideas of fun are not universal. (I, personally, want to dance to hip-hop till my feet fall off, but that might not be your vibe.) The trick is to figure out what makes you love a party, and then try to incorporate that into your wedding.
- The people. The single most important element of your wedding—no contest—is the people. But your guest list also happens to be the thing that the wedding industry tells you to cut first. After hearing the message that you should cut the guest list a thousand times, it’s hard to not get that into your head. But when you walk away from a wedding, you think about the conversations you had, the people you caught up with, and the vibe of all those awesome folks in one room. Chances are, it’s not the decorations that you’re talking about a week later. So no matter how big or how small your wedding, think of the people first, and make everything else secondary.
- Make your guests feel taken care of. There is something a little vulnerable about showing up at a wedding where you don’t know many people, and putting the next six hours of your life in the hosts’ hands. You hope they’ll feed you well and sit you next to nice people, but you never quite know. There are as many ways you can take care of your guests as there are weddings, such as providing welcome notes at the hotel, a way for guests to get to know each other (like name tags with a note about how you know the couple at a welcome dinner), and a seating chart. (The wedding mentioned above? There was no seating chart, and we didn’t know very many people. So we ended up sitting at a table talking only to each other… for hours on end.)
- Balance what you love with what your guests love. I talked above about knowing what makes a party fun for you (and probably your friends). When putting together your wedding, the goal is to balance your what you love, as well as what your multi-generational guest list will like. That may mean mixing some Motown into your indie rock playlist of wedding reception songs, or it may mean having board games and a cocktail hour.
- Let people know what to expect. Guests are surprisingly good at rolling with the (non-traditional wedding) punches, as long as they know what they’re getting into up front. If you’re having a reception where you’re only serving cake and punch, let people know on the invite. They’ll come with full stomachs, ready to have a good time. (Or they’ll decide they’re not into it, and won’t come at all. Guests are grownups like that.) Use your invitation, a wedding website if you have one, and word of mouth to let people know what kind of party they’re in for.
- Feed people on time. If I had to pick the number one rule for all weddings ever, it would be this: Feed people. At mealtimes. With enough food. If you’re not serving food, then don’t have a wedding at a mealtime. Hangry guests are not happy guests.
And finally, the most important rule. If you want other people to have fun at your wedding, you need to let loose and have a good time. Guests are paying careful attention to you and your partner, and they’ll take their cues from your vibes. However, even with all of these fun wedding ideas, the single best thing you can do to make your wedding fun for everyone is just to relax and enjoy it. If you’re relaxed, they’ll relax. If you’re dancing, they’ll dance. If you’re having the time of your life, they will too.