Trying to avoid the dreaded cookie-cutter approach to planning your wedding? Ideally, every aspect of a wedding should be personalized tailored to the personalities, interests and heritages of the bride and groom.
Here are some ideas for incorporating expressive details into your celebration.
Get it in print. Set the tone from the beginning with a meaningful symbol that is repeated on printed materials such as invitations, reply cards, programs and seating cards. You may be inspired by the location of your wedding; consider the turret of a historic mansion, the barn on the family farm or maybe a church steeple, lighthouse, footbridge or gazebo.
Monogramming is a classic way to personalize invitations and other printed items. You can use an existing typeface from your stationery or have one designed for you by a calligrapher. Many couples use their first initials side by side or intertwined.
In addition to personalizing wedding stationery, a monogram can decorate the top of your wedding cake or be embroidered on a satin handbag, the ring pillow or the lining of your dress. It's also easy and inexpensive to have a rubber stamp created with your chosen design; use it to embellish napkins, favor bags and boxes and matchbooks.
Family matters. If wearing your mother's wedding dress is not practical for you, you can still use her wedding photos as inspiration for your own ensemble. Copy a detail from her dress, the style of her veil or the flowers in her bouquet. Use fabric from her dress to make the ring pillow or sew a swatch into the lining of your own dress.
Place childhood photos of the bride and groom and their parents' and grandparents' wedding photos on the guest book table. Or set up an easel and fabric-covered bulletin board on each side of the aisle at the back of the church: Label one "Bride's Side" and the other "Groom's Side" and include family photos.
Ask your caterer to make a version of a favorite family recipe and list it as such on the menu or buffet table.
Back to your roots. Even if you're planning a fairly traditional American-style ceremony and reception, you can still incorporate ethnic customs. In France, for example, the bride and groom drink from an engraved two-handled cup at the reception; to represent joy and celebration, the Chinese decorate with the color red; and in Indian tradition guests sprinkle flower petals over the heads of the bride and groom after they've taken their vows.
Ask relatives for ideas that honor your heritage, or pick up a book such as Carolyn Mordecai's "Weddings, Dating and Love Customs of Cultures Worldwide, Including Royalty" (Nittany, 1998) or Arlene Hamilton Stewart's "A Bride's Book of Wedding Traditions" (Hearst, 1995).
Flowers and favors. Include the bride's and groom's birth flowers in floral arrangements and bouquets. Or hand out edible favors made or grown locally, and be sure to label them as such.
Another popular favor these days is a homemade CD of your wedding music. Include the songs you chose for significant moments of your reception, such as the first dance and the father-daughter dance.