Five tips on how to plan a wedding that tells your story

With my pretty crazy background (filmmaking, writing, Disney, and graphic design), I like to sum things up for brides by saying this: I'm a wedding storyteller.

A stationery designer might be able to visually bring your vision of your love story to life through imagery and the placement of text, and a writer is not usually a vendor for a wedding. However, when I approach a wedding, it's as both a graphic designer and a writer. It's using both sides of the coin - the visual and the written - all to tell your love story.

Courtesy Lacey for Scobey Photography.

Courtesy Lacey for Scobey Photography.

As a writer with a background in filmmaking, I exist in an interesting space. I love to act as a translator - learning a love story and finding ways - visual, written, and both - throughout a wedding to celebrate in unexpected ways. You don't have to know what exact wording you want, and you don't necessarily need to know how to connect it all and make it work visually - that's where I can, as a wedding storyteller, can work a little bit of magic.

And so often, I meet brides and families that are overwhelmed by the Pinterest of it all and all the bridal magazines where everything is perfectly styled. Everything can look so beautiful but all of this stuff can feel empty when it doesn't feel like you and your love story of the person you're about to marry. 

So today, from my vantage point, I'm sharing five of my tips on how to plan a wedding that tells your story:

1. Make sure your paper has personality 

Your papergoods, beginning with your Save the Dates or your wedding invitations, are the first impression of your wedding. In many cases, it may be the first time some of your guests are "meeting" you, your fiancee, or sometimes- both of you- if they are add's from your parent's list. Whether your style is quirkly or ultra traditional, take a second look at your plan for your cards. Is there anywhere you could sneak some personality in? A subtle pattern that alludes to a shared interest? A fun enclosure that refers to your engagement or your relationship in someway, like a plastic balloon if you got engaged in a hot air balloon? Or... if you don't want to be subtle, why not a whole mini storybook with a little about who you are and how you guys met?

I've actually shared a bunch of tips in this post on How to tell your story in your wedding invitations, so check that out for more ideas in this area. I also have free templates for Save the Date's that incorporate photos - a great way to share pieces of your story - available in this gallery.

2. Know Thy Guests

Decide early on in your wedding planning who your guests will be. I don't mean getting in the weeds of the guestlist - I mean simply, who is coming to this wedding? Is it a small affair with only the closest friends and family that all know you extremely well? It is a grand ballroom event with lots of guests - including many family friends you may not know well or feel super close to?

Figure out who your guests are - aka who is your audience? This is a lesson I learned at Disney and in the film industry. When you know your audience - the people you are sharing this day with and in many ways, having this big day for - you can plan for them accordingly. 

For example, you may need to do less direct storytelling to a small, intimate crowd. You may be able to play up more inside jokes with a small, intimate group and infuse that into elements of your day, like favors, for example.

If you're having a bigger wedding, you may want to keep in mind that a majority of folks aren't super close with you, so this is an opportunity for them to get to know you and feel more connected to the celebration! Maybe for that, you seize the opportunity to place "Fun Facts" on cards on cocktail tables at the reception so guests can mingle and learn a bit about the new couple and their awesome love story.

3. Spend your time & energy where it matters

This is a bit of a riff off of knowing your guest, but I always tell brides a key element of telling your story in a wedding is actually focusing your efforts and using your time well as the wedding approaches.

I know firsthand how many hours go into wedding DIY projects and there are so many great ones out there. As you consider what you'd like to create for your wedding, and many articles written on how DIY projects can actually sometimes cost more than if you'd paid for what you wanted in the first place! 

What I can tell you is that there are only so many hours, so ask yourself these three questions when considering a wedding DIY project:

  • Does this tell our story in some way? (Note: it communicates and shares more than just your names, initials, wedding date, or monogram)
  • How would it make my guests feel to see / receive/  eat / experience this? (If they won't love it / get a kick out of it / and/or feel more connected to you by what you are creating, don't do it!)
  • Am I doing this project because I've seen it in pretty weddings, or because I really think it belongs in the mix of our wedding and our love story?

It can be easy to do many DIY's because they look pretty, are cute, or because it seems everyone has them. So, after reading these, you can probably tell you I'd advise you against putting your monogram on water bottle labels that will just get thrown away.

By the same token,  it's a good thing to DIY something that will make your guests feel that you put a lot of thought into them. For our wedding, I secretly pulled down everyone's facebook photos and created wood backed magnets that looked like Polaroids to act as our escort cards. I spent as much time and energy as I would have putting our initials on water bottles, but instead- I put that effort into something practical, memorable, unexpected, and fun. And it's been awesome to see them used so long after the wedding, when we visit people's homes and see them on their fridges years later.

4. Honor the traditions you both love, and reinvent the ones you don't!

I believe just about everybody has traditions they want to do at their wedding, and that's awesome. I loved having a Ketubah and Chuppah at our Jewish-Catholic wedding. 

But we also had fun reinventing traditions, putting our own spin on them to make them more us. For my bouquet toss, for example, Gus and I decided it'd be more fun to pretend to do a toss then instead, dedicate and give my bouquet directly to my Aunt Minda, who had really been there for me through the wedding process and through the years since my mom died. I got up and spoke about this and why I was dedicating it to her, so in that way, I shared more pieces of my story leading up to this big day in our lives.

Think about the traditions you just don't get, then consider what you might want to do instead - maybe it's something totally outside the box. Offbeat Bride has some epic ideas on this front. But embrace the opportunity to do something different.

Though there always seems to be a lot of pressure on what a wedding should be, I tend to find when you combine intention, caring, and creativity on spinning a wedding tradition, it's generally welcomed and appreciated by all of us who are so tired of going to (what feels like) the same wedding!


5. Do everything with great love

There are so many awesome elements that make up weddings - from the paper, to the ceremony, to the party, to the favors, the last dance, and the confetti left on the floor.

My favorite thought about how to plan a wedding that tells your story is to remember that on your wedding day you are celebrating your love story! That's the whole point ultimately - it's all about the love you share and are promising to give to one another for the rest of your lives. There's probably no better moment to celebrate the things that make you special, unique, and and what your lives have been thus far.

So don't be afraid to share your story - whether you type it out in an invitation, write your own vows, or give away quirky favors that refer to a piece of your time together. Your story is why everyone has come together on your wedding day, and everyone there is a piece of it, so when planning, just focus on the love, and the love story will follow.



Through Greatest Story Weddings, I collaborate with brides and couples throughout the wedding planning process to create creative papergoods, favors, guestbooks, signage, custom art, and more. As a wedding storyteller, I show brides how to translate their love story into every aspect of their wedding and even do the DIY to make it happen. If you're looking for someone to help you bring your love story to life, contact me - it'd be awesome to meet you and see how I can help.