Top 10 Ways to Surprise and Delight Your Wedding Guests

1. HOLD YOUR WEDDING SOMEWHERE JAW-DROPPINGLY UNFORGETTABLE.

As the Australia/Bali destination wedding experts, of course we’re bound to say "don’t get married just down the road", but it’s also excellent advice. After all, why would you settle for some version of a boring function centre that everyone has been to before when, with a little more research, you will find so many other incredible alternatives both locally and abroad.

Start by reminding yourself (and anyone else you might have to) that this is after all, YOUR wedding. This is the day you officially break away and create your own family unit, and trust us, you absolutely should be calling the shots on this one. And if you do decide to get married overseas, don’t make the mistake many brides do, of choosing a wonderful location but in a very ordinary venue, which dilutes all the magic so much that your guests will wonder why you didn’t get married back home. Make sure that the venue provides an experience which rewards your guests for the effort and expense they have gone to, in travelling overseas to celebrate your wedding with you.

2. THINK OF YOUR WEDDING DAY AS AN EXOTIC PLAY, WITH ONGOING SCENE CHANGES.

When asked by Australian House and Garden the secret to his extraordinarily seductive gardens at Villa Botanica, designer Ralph Hogan said: “It’s all about creating an unfolding journey, of constant discovery, a bit like life itself” And we would add - “and exactly like crafting an unforgettable wedding." Just think about it for a second, your wedding will last for 7 or 8 hours. Do you want your family and guests standing around in the one location all that time clutching warm beers, trying to make polite conversation with people they hardly know?

Stage your wedding so everyone moves around and gets to see things, and choose a venue which gives you that freedom to keep your guests entertained. Your wedding needs to be an unfolding adventure for them too. Ideally each stage leads to the next, with your welcome area is in one part of the venue opening onto the ceremony in another, then post-ceremony drinks, before everyone proceeds to the final “reveal” in all its glittering glory - the reception area itself. Finally, the cake cutting and speeches need to extend off your reception area and dancing needs to be close by so your wedding party doesn’t fragment into two groups. So everyone stays involved, whether they dance of not.

And ideally, this entire journey needs to be within the same venue so you don’t have the time loss and inconvenience of bussing people around.

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3. GIVE YOUR GUESTS EXTRA FUN THINGS TO DO.

Fortunately, those stitched up weddings where everyone just stood around in uncomfortable clothing for hours are now a thing of the past. Creating some entertainment is especially important if the venue you choose has limited photographic opportunities.  Having a terrific photographic record is invaluable, not only to anchor this day in everyone’s memory, but also for your children and future generations to know you.

Extend your photographic souvenirs by including a photo or video booth; ask your friends to take candid photos and they will provide you with lots of magical unstaged moments, frozen also in time. Perhaps hire a clairvoyant, temporary tattoo artist, or magician. Throw on a game of croquet or boules, neither of which will damage the venue’s lawns. If you’re getting married somewhere exotic, spice things up with offerings of local finger food. At our Beachfront venue in Bali for example, we wow everyone with traditional colourful food carts distributing sizzling satay sticks, or pork spare-ribs from glowing red coals of coconut husks, even market stalls - and talented local artisans creating intricate wood carving or weaving.

Make yours a wedding people will be talking about for years.

4. MAKE IT A WEDDING WEEK NOT JUST A DAY.

Destination weddings are the ultimate excuse for a mini-holiday. Find a wedding organiser who can also organise pre and post wedding activities, at Botanica we've found that ice breaker sunset cruises and a post wedding recovery brunch are very popular. Include some quirky/adventurous/never before tried activities that work for all age groups, eg an elephant safari or snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. It's surprising how many people remember being nudged out of their comfort zones as the highlight of attending a destination wedding.

Image courtesy of Cruise Whitsundays

5. TREAT YOUR BRIDAL PARTIES TO SOMETHING SPECIAL

A great way to say thanks to your bridesmaids and groomsmen is to shout them to a day doing something they would never have otherwise experienced. Destination weddings provide lots of unique ways to enjoy time with your besties: eg in Bali we organise a visit to a chocolate farm, to see how chocolate is grown as an excuse to sample the spoils at the end of the tour. Perhaps take your groomsmen for a day out gamefishing then barbeque the catch at a post wedding recovery lunch.

6. IT'S ALL IN THE DETAIL

Once again it’s often the little things people remember most. Refresher towels scented with jasmine. A welcome drink with something exotic: instead of the usual orange juice, how about a fresh coconut with wild lime? Or maybe tequila shooters for all your guests post ceremony to really get the evening warmed up?

Image courtesy of Shutter and Lace

7.  WELCOME PACK

Have a welcome pack waiting for each of your guests when they arrive at their accommodation. Include mementos, a printed itinerary and lots of helpful information, maps etc that will make their stay more memorable.

8. PARTY ON!

You and your partner will have had such an emotional overload, you will probably want to call it a day, but some of your guests may want to party on after the wedding. Organise VIP tickets to the hottest local nightclub, ban driving (and in Bali motorbikes) and make sure they have a safe way of getting home.

9. SURPRISE EVERYONE BY MAKING YOUR WEDDING REALLY AFFORDABLE

We all have different incomes so do be considerate and make sure your guests have a good choice of accommodation. You don’t want them forking out a fortune on your behalf, so choose an organiser who will organise affordable accommodation, in particular, at good quality hotels close to the venue. Better still, ask if they can also organise group airfares so no one is having to pay for their flights until a month or two before the wedding.

10. SAY THANKS

For your guests, going to the effort of being there with you on your special day is a great compliment to you and an act of love and friendship. You can express your gratitude in action (as above), but also in words. Your wedding day is one of life’s rare opportunities to say thanks to all those people who have played a significant role in your life.

Even though it's not mandatory or even traditional for brides to give a speech in Australia, it is something which is always very well received and deeply appreciated by friends, and especially family. Even if you parents never intimate that such is the case, they will be deeply moved to hear their little girl, finally grown up and taking her place on the world stage to acknowledge them. It is very important however that you write at least the bulk of your speech, well, well in advance, even three months out is not too early.

Most of us have a deep fear of public speaking so put it off, but constant “out loud” rehearsalgives you time to revise and refine it, to change stiff, clumsy or overworked bits, and most importantly, to grow comfortable with your now familiar words so they will just flow automatically. Print out your speech in large “friendly” type and always remember these two things: Everyone really wants to hear you. And if you think about it, in reality you’re only ever really speaking to one person - so don’t let yourself be intimidated.

Image courtesy of Blumenthal Photography