It's a funny thing about personalization. You hear about all these great details -- a monogram, a symbol -- but your challenge is to own the concept, to make it mean something to you. It's not just about putting your initials on the packaging, but also adding your mark to a wedding memento that will never get tossed away (like your groom's tie). It's actually a pretty simple proposition. We came up with dozens of innovative new twists on personalization -- complete with the inspiration behind the idea. That way, you can personalize our personalization tips! Don't ever say we left you lost in translation.
Look for Hidden Meaning
Personalization isn't always about the how -- it's also about the why. Put some thought behind the elements you're choosing to decorate your day, and enhance the sentimentality with ancient meaning. Start with your bridesmaids. They have been your wingwomen throughout your engagement period; don't return the favor by making them feel like a pack of taffeta-clad tarts. Instead, suffuse their bouquets with symbolism.
During the Victorian era, the language of flowers was created as an ultraromantic lingo in which flowers replaced words in expressing feelings. For instance, dahlias mean gratitude while gerbera daisies profess friendship. Pick a single flower for each of your ladies, then attach a handwritten card explaining why you chose that particular bloom for her. (For more on personalizing flowers, see our story "Say It With Flowers.")
Amaze with Color
Now, we know choosing a wedding palette is pretty standard for you in-the-know to-be-weds, but how bold do you dare to go with color? We're not talking about the shade you choose -- that's so obvious -- rather the placement. Dashes of brilliance in unexpected places will amplify the ooh-and-aah factor for your guests.
For a modern look, think colored water as the base of your centerpieces (with or without flowers); signature cocktails in unconventional colors (Blue Curaçao, Creamsicle Cosmopolitan, Purple Passion Tea); and mixed and matched table linens and glassware. If you prefer subtle style, carefully conceived lighting can change the look of your drab burgundy ballroom to an ethereal pink palace. Another fun idea? Switch up your color palette from cocktail hour to reception. Decorate your cocktail tables in one fabulous hue; then use another color to coat your reception. (Tip: The colors should complement each other.)
What could be hipper than taking an item, an idea, or even a custom that's synonymous with weddings and making it uniquely yours? For instance, look at the standard unity candle in a new light. Consider buying one in a rich color that matches your palette, or, better yet, give the traditional white pillar a face-lift: Wrap a gorgeous grosgrain ribbon around the middle, and carve your initials in the wax using a monogram stamp.
Breaking the glass? Don't feel limited to traditional drinkware -- step on a replica of the (thin glass) vase you use when your mate gives you flowers or a pint from the bar at which you first met (just be careful when you stomp). The bouquet toss? Curb the catfight and borrow a custom from another land. In Turkey before the bride walks down the aisle, she asks her single bridesmaids and relatives to sign the sole of her bridal shoe. After a night of dancing and prancing, tradition states that the person's signature who has faded the most will be the next to marry. Pick up a pair of blue shoes (a very cool twist on something blue), grab a ballpoint pen, and give it a go.
Looking to the past is a great way to bring personality to your present. Ask your parents (and your future in-laws) about their weddings. Did they start any stealable traditions? Turn something old (your mother's veil) into something new. Incorporate your grandmother's wedding flowers (or her rosary beads -- totally trendy) in your bouquet.
Or add a little nostalgia to your reception: Place old family wedding photos, using classic frames in your wedding colors, or classic white, around the room. For a single hit of history, group them at the guest book table, or on a mantle in the room. Your families will love the sentimentality of the shots, and so will your guests. If you're really looking to make a fashion statement, consider reincarnating both your mothers' and grandmothers' old dresses and display them on dress forms at the entrance to the reception. It's a chic fashion flashback, and an accent that no one is likely to have seen before. Well, except your dads.
Focus on Your Favorites
Make Julie Andrews proud: Incorporate a few of your favorite things to do, eat, listen to -- you get it. It goes without saying that your wedding will have some of your aesthetic preferences -- curlicue calligraphy, sweet pea wreaths, and antique place settings, perhaps? But what about the things you can't live without? Mac and cheese, grandma's meatballs, and chocolate! Wave bye-bye to white cake and indulge your darkest chocolate fantasy with a confection that melts in your mouth. Your menu is a blank slate waiting to be treated to your taste buds.
Don't stop with the food -- think of all the elements that make up your day. Are the two of you wild about bossa nova? Who says you can't have your band play a set of the groovy Latin tunes? You love bowling? How about gigantic gumballs with your wedding date handpainted on (with edible ink of course) as a favor. Love love letters? Send pencils printed with your names and wedding date as your save the dates. The options are as vast as your interests.
Honor Your Love Story
While you're individualizing your wedding, don't forget how you got to this point in the first place. Draw on meaningful moments you and your hubby-to-be have shared. Eschewing table numbers for names has become popular, so follow suit with your own sentimental style. Name the tables after your first, second, third, etc., date spots (keep it PG, of course). Or group them by your all-time favorite movies, mountains you've climbed together, or neighborhoods in which you've lived. Take the idea up a notch and gather the best photos of the two of you from different points in your life and relationship and create table cards for each memory. On the back, write where you both are, your ages, why you're there, and what you could have been thinking at the time.
Make Lasting Memories
When all else fails, turn the tables and let your guests help personalize the day. Create a guest book that leaves your guests feeling like they've really left their mark. For instance, find an object that symbolizes you two, like a rugby ball for sports lovers, and ask everyone to sign the pigskin. Or, think inside the box: Leave a blank note card at each guest's plate so that can write down their well-wishes for you as a couple. Once done, ask them to slip the note in a gorgeous box (you could even ask your florist to create one out of flowers, then transfer the notes to something more solid later). Read them after the honeymoon, then at your first anniversary, and your second...handwritten notes will never lose their power of personalization.
Credits (from top): Cake by Knipschildt Chocolatier; shoes by Dyeables; large frame by Vera Wang; shell frames by Oly; box by Crate & Barrel; cards by BlueMoonPaperie.com; candle pillar and stand by Pottery Barn; monogrammed label by WeddingThings.com