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Destination Wedding Basics: 17 Luxe Destination Wedding Touches

Want guests' jaws to drop when they receive your invitations? Walk into your reception? Taste your dessert? The main priority is for everyone to enjoy themselves, but wouldn't it be nice if they were all just a little extra impressed too? There's no strict formula for capturing this wow factor -- it can be a stunning style detail or upping your attention to personal service. It can mean committing time to a personal touch or devoting more of your budget to one spectacularly unforgettable element. Get inspired by these high-impact ideas.

Hand-delivered Items

Instead of sending your invitations through the mail, have them personally delivered. Hire a messenger service to distribute invitations affixed to mini bottles of champagne. Don't have the budget for bubbly? Send a rose or an orchid along with your invite instead. Or, deliver a signature bloom to female guests on the day of the wedding, and suggest they wear it attached to their hair, pinned to their dress, or tied to their bag.

Dramatic Tents

When it comes to tented weddings, guests never know what to expect inside. Take advantage of this opportunity for drama and bring the indoors outside. Mix formal furnishings such as silk fabric drapings, chandeliers, and couches with nature-inspired elements like potted plants and ivy overlays. A clear-top tent makes this contrast even more extravagant -- elegant.

Colorful Curtains

Hang monochromatic curtains to create a stylish flow for your space. We're not talking fabric here. Rather, string together flowers, shapes, tiny crystals-basically anything that would look beautiful for guests to walk through. Place them at the entrance of your tent; in the doorjamb from one reception room to the other; or even behind the band to add style to their setup.

Scenic Spaces

Nothing brings on oohs and ahhs quite like walking into a reception room and seeing your entire city laid out beyond the glass. Seek out restaurants and ballrooms on high floors and put in your order for a clear night. Ocean views are priceless for a day wedding and glisten on a full-moon evening. Take your lofty view to the next level and arrange a fireworks display that will explode right before your eyes. Whatever your vision, make the vista the center of attention with creative lighting; floral window treatments; or your cocktail hour hosted at the prime viewing spot.

Wardrobe Change

Brides, make a grand entrance not once, but twice. Take a cue from some Asian and Indian brides who wear one gown for their traditional ceremony and another for their Western ceremony, and incorporate an outfit change into your own celebration. Wear one dress as you come down the aisle, and then switch into something more svelte and party friendly (and maybe not even white) after your first dance.

Lighting Tricks

Dramatic lighting can transform any space: Imagine a basic ballroom with shocking pink walls, or orchid centerpieces that look even more graphic thanks to pin spotting (individual spotlights for your arrangements). Our favorite idea? Instead of using a cloth aisle runner or rose petals to define your ceremony aisle, make a path out of projected patterned light. Think a repeated fleur-de-lis or random swirls and swooshes. Just make sure the room will be dim enough at the time of your ceremony (adding to the ambience) so that you get the most of the patterns.

Wedding March

Instead of having a stationary musical ensemble at your ceremony, arrange for a choir (either an adult or children's choir) to precede the bridal party and sing them down the aisle. Once they get to the end of the aisle they can take their place alongside the altar and sing intermittently throughout the rest of the service.

Video Booth

Have your videographer create a candid camera area (he may need an assistant for this) where guests can take it upon themselves to record a message to the newlyweds. Relieve their pressure to find the perfect words by setting up a fishbowl filled with conversation starters like "When did you first meet?" and "What's the groom's favorite food?"

Chic Table Settings

Typically, centerpieces are the focal point of a reception table. But the best ones -- which aren't necessarily the biggest ones -- work with the whole table setting. Pump up your wow factor with tablecloths in interesting patterns like stripes, toile, or gingham; glass chargers in bold colors; or stylish seats like white chiavari chairs with brightly colored seat cushions or vivid chiavari chairs with matching seat cushions.

Interactive Cocktail Hour

The best weddings are those where guests seem to really get along. Encourage mingling by scribing on the backs of escort cards fun directions like "Ask Grandma Pat about her famous apple pie" and "Ask the best man about Miami." It's the perfect icebreaker for your cocktail hour.

Floral Design

There's nothing unusual about flowers at a wedding, but what does get a reaction? Beautiful blooms in unexpected places. Set up gardens and cascading fountains within the dining area; cover the guest book with tiny mums; or create works of floral art on the walls.

Childhood Delights

Doing something fun for dessert is a memorable counterpoint to a very formal reception. Hire an old-fashioned ice cream truck to drive up to your reception space and serve guests ice cream sandwiches, chocolate eclairs, and Space Pops. Or, create a kitschy dessert bar of old-school favorites like Twinkies, Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, and MoonPies.

Photo Favors

Few people have professional photos of themselves dressed to kill, so ask your photographer to snap pictures of each smiling couple. Request a speedy turnaround of these particular shots, and include a copy of the guests' photo in your thank-you notes. Want to up the ante? Ask your photographer to take digital pictures and print them during the reception so you can give framed copies as a favor (know that these pics will not have the same quality as your professional wedding photos). Your photographer will need an assistant to help with the process, but it's definitely worth the effort and cost.

Guest Services

If you're hosting a destination wedding or if your guest list is heavy on out-of-towners, let your save-the-date set the tone of total pampering to come. Include the name and telephone number of a travel agent who knows every detail of your wedding and can book all the travel arrangements at no additional charge. No stress is sure to impress.

Cake Stands

Give your cake the treatment it deserves by turning your attention to the table. Set the cake on a monogrammed cloth or one embroidered with your motif. Or, hang ribbons in your wedding colors from the edges. Better yet: Create a tented display for the confection out of sheers pinned with fresh flowers or a canopy of ribbons. This sort of attention to detail can create instant style (and drama) for the simplest white cake.

On a Silver Platter

Have your waitstaff greet guests with a miniature cocktail that introduces your color scheme or theme. Follow with the white-glove treatment throughout: Distribute favors or tiny pick-me-ups like mints on silver trays between courses.

Ceiling Treatments

Couples spend so much time thinking about reception decor but often forget about one huge surface -- the ceiling. Whether embellished with Chinese paper lanterns; crystal or branch chandeliers; or hanging flower arrangements; decorating the space above guests' heads makes a huge impression. Tiny white lights (an inexpensive option) can look amazing when strung in symmetric patterns.

-- Liz Zack

See More: Destination Weddings