Notes on Design: It's All in the Details
Once you have decided on a time and place for your event and figured out the broad strokes, you can then begin to dig into the details of planning that will really make it feel special and distinctly you. All the thoughtful touches that you can add to really personalize your event are the things that will make it memorable for you and your guests.
There are so many ways to differentiate your event and put a special stamp on it, starting with the invitation, which will be the first point of contact between you and your guests. The invitation is an opportunity for you to set the tone and shape their expectations about what will be happening. Is it formal or informal? Silly or serious? Focused on a particular theme or activity? This is the first step on a journey with your guests and a great opportunity to do something special. There are many great ready-made invitations out in the world, both digital and analog, but also don’t overlook the opportunity to create something yourself. Even if you not artistically inclined, something home made always feels special.
Once your guests actually arrive at your event, the décor is another opportunity for you to really create an experience that is custom and personal. Think about all the touch points your guests will encounter and how each one can be special. Everything from escort cards, to napkins and place settings, to flowers or other décor can make the difference from the expected to something sublime and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to do.
For example, if you are having an outdoor summertime celebration, you could do an elevated take on the humble picnic – get some pretty light blankets and pillows and put them on the lawn. Low tables or trays can be decorated with wildflowers in simple jars and you can even present the food in baskets.
Your food and drink choices are another area where these special touches can have a big impact. A custom cocktail or mocktail is a great way to do something engaging on a bar. Find a relatively simple recipe that can be pre-batched and put it out in a pretty container. Create a fun name that reflects you and a mini menu for guests to know what it is and they can serve themselves. For my wedding, my husband and I had 2 specialty cocktails and called them drinks from “the islands” (Long and Rhode) that we were from.
Similarly, you can create interactive food experiences like a make your own taco bar or another way for guests to customize their food as part of the party experience. This also works very well for desserts. You can provide a wide array of options (condiments for a cookout or topping for an ice cream bar) display in a fun way and let your guests do the rest.
Music is another great avenue for self expression and a way to lend a special touch to an event. Customizing playlists can add an extra dimension of interest and fun. For a 30th birthday party why not pick the top songs of the year for every year the guest of honor has been alive in chronological order? Or ask guests to be the DJ for certain time slots over the course of the event.
Increasingly popular at events are a photo booth or backdrop and props that can create a fun scenario for group photos that can do double duty as keepsakes of the event and souvenirs to share socially. Options for this can range from something very simple like a colored or patterned backdrop to much more elaborate setups but if you provide a space for guests to document the evening they will.
And if you are so inclined, some kind of special takeaway can be the cherry on the sundae of a successful event. If it is a chilly night think of sending guests away with either a cup of hot chocolate or a jar of mix in a custom container. Or a special popcorn mix for a movie night. Something sweet that your guests can enjoy later to remind them of the fun you all had together.
This edition of Notes on Design is brought to you by award-winning event designer Meg Gleason. Meg has done everything from multi-million dollar celebrity weddings to fantastical pop-up stores to outdoor events for thousands. She is always thinking about how to do something new and surprising, but here she shares the foundations of what make every event successful, no matter the size or budget.