How to Design Your Wedding for All Five Senses
By Emma Bishop
Your big “I do” is also a big to-do — maybe the biggest party you will ever plan, and certainly one of the most important. It’s easy to lose sight of your big day once you get mired down in choosing invitations, venues, and cake flavors. But if you break your wedding day down to what your guests will remember most about your milestone moment, it can make the task a lot easier. By designing your wedding for all five senses, you can create an epic event people will be talking about for years.
You want your wedding to be a treat for the eyes. Create a wedding vision board — Pinterest is good for this — and add images that you love. From your wedding dress to your flowers to your cake, the styles and colors you choose are a treat for the eyes. The visuals will also be what the camera captures. An off-the-shoulder princess gown says elegance and glamour. A simple A-line, V-neck chiffon or lace gown communicates a boho chic. You get the idea. Let your dress and the venue set the look of your wedding. A beach venue calls for a more casual wedding dress, while a traditional formal venue, like a church or the country club, may call for a more intricate gown with a sweeping train. Let your guests fall in love with your vision by choosing strong visual elements that complement one another. You may be too distracted to fully appreciate your vision coming to life on your wedding day. But look out when you get your pictures back from your photographer! Instagram perfection!
What will your guests hear the moment they enter your wedding venue? Is it the soft sounds of a string quartet? The murmur of conversation? Or is the sounds of the venue — for example, birds chirping in a botanical garden, or the sound of waves crashing on a beach? It’s not enough to book musical entertainment for the moments leading up to your ceremony or to get people up and dancing at your reception. Visit your chosen site to make sure that your guests aren’t greeted by the sounds of construction or heavy traffic. Remember, sound is a powerful sense, so much so that it can actually be used as torture. Since “torture” is not the word you want your guests to associate with your wedding, work to make ambient noise as lovely as your vows. Another pro tip: Make sure you, your spouse-to-be, and your officiant can be heard by the people in the back. If that means renting microphones and speakers, it’s just a part of making sure every guest is included.
The feel of metal silverware says something completely different than that of a plastic fork. One is more appropriate to a seated dinner reception; the other is better for a backyard picnic- or barbecue-themed casual reception. The same goes for napkins: Cloth napkins suit a more formal wedding, but paper napkins are perfect for a food truck reception. Having a backyard reception? Consider inviting the guests to remove their shoes and walk barefoot across the lawn. The average yard size in Sacramento is 7,372 feet, giving guests ample opportunity to run across the lawn and enjoy the cool feeling of grass between their toes. The sense of touch even affects your wedding dress. A heavier, stiffer fabric is great for a fancy church wedding (think Meghan Markle’s wedding dress), while a lighter material is more ethereal.
Smell is the most powerful sense linked with memory. Years from now, the scent of roses and orchids, or peonies, will take you right back to your wedding day when you inhaled the scent of your wedding bouquet. Once you have planned your wedding elements, go back and consider the experience. Your flowers, the food at your reception, even the smell of sparklers when you and your new spouse leave the reception — all this will play out in scent too. And it’s the smell of all of it that will bring your big day back to you in the years ahead.
Your wedding has flavors, but it’s up to you to curate those flavors. An autumn wedding might dictate a reception where a heavy, hearty meal is served complete with root vegetables and thick sauces. For a spring wedding think baby vegetables and lighter proteins such as chicken, fish, or tofu. Citrus cocktails taste summery, while Bailey’s Irish coffee is a perfect signature cocktail at a December celebration. The same principles apply to your cake. Some flavors, like chocolate, are year-round favorites, but a lemon cake might go over well in July. A cinnamon or pumpkin cake that says fall could be a hit in October.
Your wedding is more than just a party, It’s a monumental celebration of a lifetime commitment, and you want it to be memorable. That means appealing to all five senses — sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. But don’t let it overwhelm you. Use those same senses to break down your wedding planning into manageable blocks. In the end, you’ll have vivid wedding memories you and your spouse and your guests will remember for years.
Emma Bishop is a lifestyle and design writer, and mother of two beautiful girls. She is a social butterfly and loves to entertain guests at home with beautifully decorated spaces for any occasion.