Make Your Wedding Stand Out with Dazzling Details
Central Ohio couples are incorporating fantastic flourishes to wow guests at their weddings.
Guests couldn’t help but marvel at the 8-foot tall, 8-foot wide, pink flower wall that greeted them as they entered the reception at Megan (Marinello) and Drew Miletti’s wedding at The Exchange last June. The couple’s last name was written in an elegant, white neon script across the top of it, drawing guests in for spontaneous selfies and posed pictures.
“I always wanted an Instagram-worthy photo station at my wedding, but I knew I wanted something different that would pop,” Megan says. “It was such a hit, and we were able to save all the photos that were taken for memories. I still look at them and just laugh at how much fun everyone had.”
Giving guests a memorable, over-the-top experience with extravagant flowers, a nontraditional guest book, striking Champagne display, self-serve cigar bar or surprisingly useful take-home favor has become a growing trend.
“Those little touches, I think they make it more personalized and, for us, they really brought out our personalities,” says Rachel (Halaszynski) Ward, who, in lieu of traditional escort cards, put carved-wood script cutouts of each guest’s first name at every place setting. She purchased the cutouts from laser engraving shop JDCraftDesignStudio on Etsy.
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“I heard a lot of compliments about the name place cards,” says Rachel, who married husband Alex last April at Brookshire. “I liked having the extra little personalizations. They were all worth it.”
Like the Milettis, Erin (Wetherby) and Aaron Gutentag also turned to flowers for a “Wow!” factor during their October 2020 wedding at Jorgensen Farms Oak Grove. Flowers in a stunning array of autumn colors hung from the ceiling, flanked the entrance and lined the entire floor behind the ceremony space.
“The hanging floral installation ran from the entrance of the greenhouse all the way to the back wall,” Erin says. “I wanted to feel like, when you stepped into that greenhouse, that you were stepping into another world. Think ‘Garden of Eden.’ That hanging installation was definitely one of my favorite parts of our wedding.”
Emily (Cobb) and Steven Steffas also went to new heights to enhance their wedding space at the Hilton Columbus Downtown. The couple stood on a lighted dais with an illuminated white backdrop bearing their first initials during their ceremony last August.
“When I looked at the Hilton, there wasn’t too much that stood out, so I wanted something to help us stand out amongst everything else,” Emily says. “It was little touches like that which helped put us front and center.”
Being elevated during the ceremony also allowed guests to get a better view of the couple. After their vows, the backdrop was lowered and the head table placed in front of it.
A thoughtful touch McKenna (Kaser) and Josh Ryan added to their November 2020 ceremony at The Club at Corazón was offering guests a personalized packet of tissues artistically wrapped with twine and flowers “for your happy tears.”
“My mom is a big crier,” McKenna explains. “I knew she’d be crying the entire day, which she did. … They went over really well.”
The Steffases didn’t want a simple book of signatures to remind them who was at their wedding; they wanted to toast their guests for years to come. That’s why they bought six bottles of good red wine and replaced the labels with ones their guests could sign as they entered the reception.
“We found number labels for the years one, two, three, four, five and 10, and the rest of the label was a white, blank canvas,” Emily explains. “We had 150 people at our wedding; some signed all of the labels, and some wrote funny messages on them about their own anniversary from that year.”
In a similar vein, Meredith (Zoul) and Nick Walstra decided to have guests sign a bourbon barrel at their May 2021 wedding at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.
“A guest book is great for well-wishes, but we knew we wanted something a little bit different,” Meredith says. “We wanted something we could display at our house later.” Nick is a big bourbon fan, so finding a barrel from Jackie O’s on Fourth, which ages some of its microbrews in bourbon barrels, seemed like an appropriate choice.
“We hope to put some finish over it and put a glass top on it and use it as a bar table,” Meredith says.
At the Ryans’ wedding, things got even more personal. Guests were asked to ink up a thumb and “leaf” their print on a large tree illustration instead of signing a guest book.
“We thought it was really neat and it was symbolic that all these people are connected through my husband and me,” McKenna says.
Raising the Bar
Wedding bars can include anything these days, from signature cocktails named after your favorite pet—both the Walstras and the Steffases had these—to Champagne displays for guests to help themselves on their way into the cocktail hour or reception.
But how about serving a little bubbly on the way into the ceremony? That’s exactly what the Wards decided to do for their out-of-town guests arriving early at Brookshire. As they stepped off the shuttle bus and into the venue, an impressive Champagne display greeted them with a photo of the happy couple and a sign reading, “But first, Champagne.”
“It was a little bit different, but our guests seemed to like it,” Rachel says. “People could sit there, sip Champagne, listen to music and talk while they waited for the ceremony to start.”
Guests at the Gutentag reception were treated to a bourbon and cigar bar in addition to the usual beverage offerings.
“We have some bourbon connoisseurs in the family, so it was important for us to have a high-end bourbon selection,” Erin explains. “We featured seven premium bourbons that typically range from $80 to $150 a bottle and also had little place cards [in holders crafted from antique bourbon barrels] that highlighted important features about each bourbon. The guests loved this, and it felt almost like being at a fancy bourbon tasting.”
The cigar bar included matchbooks featuring the couple’s dog, which were also a huge hit.
“We saw people filling their pockets with them,” Erin says.
The cigars drew people outside later in the evening and made for some pleasantly surprising interactions.
“People who had never met before were standing around, laughing together,” Erin says. “It was a really special way to wrap up the night.”
Sending guests home with a wedding favor may be a tradition, but that doesn’t mean the keepsake has to be traditional.
“Brides should not waste their money on things that cannot be used or appreciated over time,” Erin says. The Gutentags didn’t intend for the custom-cut cigar ashtrays that accompanied their cigar bar to become favors, but the laser-engraved accessories quickly did.
“My one regret was not having more of those, because we had multiple guests come up to us and ask if they could keep them at the end of the night,” Erin says.
The couple’s actual favors were giant, chocolate caramel apples—and a creative deconstruction of their elaborate floral displays. The arrangements that had engulfed their greenhouse ceremony were first repurposed as table and bar décor at the reception, then became a “flower bar” where guests selected one of 50 assorted vases and made their own mini bouquets.
“To this day, I know there are guests who dried out their bouquets and [still] display them in their home,” Erin says.
The Walstras went a similar route, giving each guest a small succulent plant to take home.
“We’ve gotten into plants ourselves, so we thought it would be nice,” Meredith says, noting her bouquet, those of her bridesmaids, the wedding cake and the cupcakes made by her sister-in-law also featured succulents.
For the Ryans, a grab-and-go breakfast was the unique guest takeaway.
“We went with Buckeye Donuts,” McKenna says, noting the treats were individually boxed with personalized stickers. “People got to take as many as they wanted for the next morning. My mom said you have to have some things that make it unique, so we tried to incorporate some different stuff.”
The Steffases added an entertaining element to their ceremony program, which already had the unique look of a newspaper front page. On the back, a word search puzzle with wedding terms like honeymoon, celebration and kiss offered another form of entertainment, Emily says.
Once guests got to the reception, more amusements awaited: The couple poured bubbly into a tower of coupe glasses in lieu of a traditional cake cutting, and an artist actively captured their first dance in acrylics.
“Guests were able to watch as she painted,” Emily says. “We got to see the painting right before she left, and we loved it.”
The Ryans let guests play photographer with disposable cameras at their reception.
“The biggest thing for me was capturing as much of the day as possible—every single second, every single moment,” McKenna says. The couple also had a photo booth and a professional photographer at their wedding.
“My husband’s big thing was the party,” she adds, so oversized glow sticks were handed out as soon as the dance floor opened.
“They lit up the dance floor and people were getting down,” she says. “It was a nice touch.”
Emily sums up why intricate and unusual details are so appealing, both for guests and the couple getting married: “The unique touches all added aspects to the day to make it what it should’ve been,” she says. “It made the day special to us specifically.”
This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2022 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in December 2021.