Make your party an event to remember with
these sensational celebration ideas.
Many wedding guests “feel as if they’ve seen it all,” says Frank Tritico of event sound and lighting company Bright Star Productions in Houston. So what’s a bride to do? “It’s taking that next design step, going beyond expectations and really utilizing a venue, that sets one event apart from another.” Here are 21 hot trends and cool ideas—in food, drink, entertainment and decor—to help you create a reception that makes an unforgettable impression.
FOOD & DRINK
1. Do a dine-around. Do you and your groom have favorite date-night dining spots? Invite your guests to enjoy them with you! Margery Reinheardt, director of catering at uptown’s Hilton Houston Post Oak hotel, recently organized food stations featuring menu selections from a couple’s favorite restaurants. The Carnegie Deli station served up mini Reuben sandwiches with brown mustard, kosher dills, and potato latkes with sour cream. A diner station featured sliders, fried chicken with biscuit sandwiches, four varieties of French fries and dipping sauces, plus cream sodas and Coca-Cola. Ask your caterer to recreate items you love from your favorite upscale eatery, ethnic restaurant or fast-food joint.
2. Get comfortable. Comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, made-to-order risotto and fancy French fries are hot for weddings, and can be great budget stretchers, too. Hotel ZaZa, a romantic boutique property in Houston’s museum district, serves up comfort foods with a side of pizzazz, offering unique twists like mini grilled cheese sandwiches that are made to order with ingredients like jalapeños and kalamata olives, served alongside tomato bisque shots.
3. Offer late-night nibbles. When the party runs till the wee hours of the morning, treat your guests to breakfast on your first day as a married couple. Set up a breakfast bar complete with specialty waffles, build-your-own breakfast tacos or mini skillet breakfasts, like Reinheardt does.
4. Think small. Brides at hip Hotel ZaZa are favoring small plates and tapas. “Smaller portions allow us to be creative with food items without being so formal,” says Kleibert Estrada, director of catering and special events. Hot on the menu is seared sea bass presented on a bed of lemon mascarpone risotto, drizzled with basil crème sauce.
5. Avoid surprises. Guests often aren’t sure of exactly what they’re grabbing from a butler-passed hors d’oeuvre tray. Work with your stationer to create miniature, vertical stand-up signs with messages like, “Susan & Mike hope you enjoy this sun-dried tomato bruschetta.” It’s a simple way to let guests know what they’re about to eat, advises local wedding expert Lester Childres of stationery and gift boutique The Pretty Penny.
6. Get personal. “Specialty drinks set the tone for the rest of the evening and are also an expression of the couple’s personality,” explains Estrada. A signature wedding drink can be inspired by a couple’s first meeting, their honeymoon destination or their favorite pastimes. For instance, Viennese coffee floats might evoke memories of a chance meeting at the corner coffee joint, while a grapefruit-and-mint mojito may hint at the couple’s tropical honeymoon to come.
7. Mix it up. Punch up traditional champagne, mojito and margarita bars by adding exciting exotic juices like açaí berry, pomegranate, passion fruit and guava, suggests Reinheardt.
8. Make your bar a star. When your guests approach the bar for a drink, they should be met by a little visual va-va-voom. Hotel ZaZa offers awesome glass bars, illuminated from within by LED lights. Specialty bar setups are available from most Houston rental companies, too, so be sure to check with your vendor for a bar that goes beyond basic.
* EXPERT TIP: Consider your fantasy wedding menu before you set your budget. “We always want to know what every bride dreams of serving for her reception,” says Reinheardt. If the bride’s budget doesn’t match her desired menu, it’s time to set priorities. A lavish buffet followed by a seated dinner can become a few butler-passed items followed by a seated dinner. Limiting the number of options, while keeping a key ingredient or dish on the menu, is a great way to indulge your fantasies while maintaining your budget.
9. Offer freedom of choice. Let your guests pick their own favorite treat by offering buffet-style sweets like cheesecake with multiple fruit sauces, chocolate-dipped profiteroles and other pretty minis. Even if you’re watching your wedding pennies, you can get in on the dessert-display trend with mini ice cream cones guests can fix up with sprinkle-on extras, Reinheardt says.
10. Add, but don’t sub. While specialty dessert stations are all the rage, with some brides even serving them in lieu of the traditional groom’s cake, such desserts “could never replace the wedding cake guests love so much and certainly expect,” says Jim Gray, catering manager for The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. If you DO opt to do desserts in addition to cake, Gray suggests stations featuring such special-occasion favorites as Bananas Foster with vanilla ice cream, and Cherries Jubilee in made-to-order crepes. “There’s action and liquor with flames, not to mention intoxicating aromas that beckon guests to stop by,” he notes.
11. Have a ball. Small bites are big for cakes as well as dinner. Susie Edwards of Susie’s Cakes & Confections has been baking and creating spectacular wedding cakes for nearly 30 years. The Houston baker recommends “cake balls” as the perfect choice for brides who want the flavors of a traditional wedding cake and the convenience of bite-sized delicacies. These small truffle-sized, chocolate-dipped confections come in a variety of tantalizing flavors including raspberry cream, almond-cherry, Heath bar, Mexican chocolate with peanuts, and luscious lemon-raspberry.
12. Do like the French do. The Houstonian serves traditional French macaroons, courtesy of Paris-trained pastry chef Catherine Rodriguez. These popular pastries cleverly incorporate color into the dessert table with pastel-hued choices like light pink rose water, light green pistachio, light brown cappuccino, cream-colored coconut and light yellow lemon.
13. Cheer for chocolate. Embrace the health benefits of dark chocolate and include a selection of dark chocolates and truffles on the dessert table. To best protect your beloved guests’ health and waistlines, avoid candy with high sugar content and serve chic petit-fours created with natural sweeteners like honey and agave.
14. Get guests engaged. Fabulous entertainment is all about fitting in with the reception space, not competing against it. Interactive entertainment is the latest trend at Hotel ZaZa, where living statues, walking tables and impersonators are all popular choices.
15. Wait for the click. “Photo booths are always popular,” says John Escamilla of Houston’s Jetspeed Entertainment, which offers booths as part of its total entertainment package. Escamilla points out that photo booths offer a great way to get guests interacting, while at the same time providing candid memories of your wedding.
16. Say, “Olé!” Latin music is huge right now. No matter what theme or design scheme you plan for your wedding, you can spice up your reception atmosphere with dance music including Latin swing, samba and salsa.
17. Dance like the stars. Choreograph your first dance and plan and practice your moves. Couples often plan and prepare special dances to introduce their wedding party in a fun and memorable way. Father-daughter dances and mother-son dances are so much more graceful when planned and practiced in advance. Plus they offer a great bonding experience.
*EXPERT TIP: “Brides don’t care how many costume changes the band may have, how large their sound system is or how many lights they bring in,” says Jetspeed’s Escamilla. “While these elements are important, brides are most concerned that the [cover] band sound like the original artist.” To be sure your band sounds as good or better than the groups they cover, always request client references and samples of the band’s work—or, better yet, see them perform live at a public gig if possible.
18. Go gaga for gobos. Lighting is all about taking old trends and adding another layer of design and attention to them, says Bright Star Productions’ Frank Tritico. Try one of the hot new gobo patterns (a gobo projection displays a large illuminated pattern on a surface) such as palm fronds, leaves and ivies, or a custom design that mimics a filigree or pattern from your invitation, wedding cake or even your linen overlays or chair tie-backs. While gobos are always great on the dance floor, Tritico suggests projecting these designs on other architectural elements within the reception space, such as an open area between two columns.
19. Accentuate the positives. “Use specialty spotlighting on the wedding cake and pin-spotting on tall floral centerpieces to bring the entire feel of the room together and emphasize each detail of the reception,” Tritico advises.
20. Be charitable. Couples continue to forgo favors in lieu of making donations to their favorite charities. In fact, donations have become such a popular “favor” option that many charities, including the American Diabetes Association, will actually supply table cards that explain the wedding donation to guests. Your stationer can also create a custom donation card to match your event and paper decor, adds The Pretty Penny’s Childres.
21. Deal some cards. Skip the traditional guestbook sign-in station and instead provide guests with note cards and pens for jotting their marriage wishes and personal sentiments to the bride and groom. Have a friend or family member collect the cards and then save them for your one-year anniversary. Open them with your husband and enjoy these handwritten notes, which are, incidentally, “the perfect paper gift for the paper anniversary!” Childres says.