Dropping my daughter off at college a few weeks ago has made me feel nostalgic. I find myself thinking back on all the firsts, the funny conversations, and many bedtime stories. Out of thousands of bedtimes, one in particular keeps coming back to me. One that has me thinking about what creates unforgettable events.
Back when my kids were little (not these teenagers who insist on independence and college education), I worked from home but did most of my work in the evening after they had gone to sleep. Those bedtime routines were not just our transition from day to night, but also my switch from mom to business owner. They were also prime time for meltdowns—theirs and mine.
I was Patient Mom through the first few requests for extra drinks, hugs, and stories. But as the routine dragged on and the toddlers wandered the halls—wearing on my last nerve—I sometimes (often?) turned into Mean Mama.
But not that memorable night. That night my 3-year-old daughter called to me from her bedroom saying that she couldn’t sleep. I’m not sure if it was the look on her face or the way she told me, but I paused in her doorway. Instead of my usual script, I asked her, “Do you think a cookie and some warm milk might help?” Her eyes got big. Not daring a smile, she replied in a very tiny, serious voice: “Yes, I think that might help.” I waved her from her bed and led her to the kitchen, where she sat at the table nibbling her cookie while I warmed the milk.
A few minutes later she had warmed to my new approach, swinging her legs under the chair as she chatted with me and grinned (and munched and sipped). When I returned her to her bed no more than 15 minutes had passed, but I sensed that we would never forget this bedtime. And 15 years later, we haven’t. She even remembers the type of cookie. (It was m&m.)
What made this night so memorable? Even though we spent only 15 minutes together, our time included something unexpected, attention-getting, and emotional.
If you want to create unforgettable events—days that your guests will be talking about for years to come—start with these three things:
Surprise! It’s Unexpected
When my daughter expected Mean Mama and Cookie Mom appeared instead, that surprise alone made the night unforgettable. Adding the element of surprise to your event will make it just as memorable for your guests.
A surprise can be as easy as adding a twist to a trend or tradition. When your guests expect a serious walk down the aisle, they’ll remember the one with the dance routine. When they expect the usual table bouquet, they’ll be surprised by the edible chocolate or fruit centerpiece for snacking while they wait. Turning the traditional mimosa into a DIY mimosa bar at the bridal shower is another way to add novelty. Download our workbook to brainstorm more twists-on-trends to add the element of surprise to your unforgettable events.
I got my daughter’s attention by offering one of her favorites: m&m cookies. Sharing favorites with your guests—their (or your) favorites from a local brewery or bakery, for example—is just one way to grab their attention.
Choice of music can also get your guests’ attention, whether it’s a local band or a DJ who plays the guests’ favorites and gets them out on the floor.
From the bride’s bright red shoes to the bold pocket squares of the groomsmen, a pop of color is also attention-getting (especially when it appears in unexpected places!). But color is not just for clothing—try different hues for cocktails, flowers, invitations, and décor, too. Your workbook also has space to add your own ideas for captivating with color.
What keeps people’s attention, though, is not just what things look or taste or sound like, but what they mean.
While we sat at the table eating cookies and milk that night, I chatted with my daughter. It was just the two of us, enjoying the moment together. Neither of us remember exactly what we said, but we do remember the connection. Sharing emotional connection with your guests creates meaningful moments that you’re likely to remember, and one way to do this is to ask them to participate!
Which family member might like to speak or recite Shakespeare or sing a song at your wedding? Will those bridal shower games encourage your guests to share how they met you? Photo booths, creative guest books, and build-your-own (or DIY) snacks or activities are other ways to get your guests to take part.
Another way to include guests is to interview them to find out what they loved about their own big events. You may discover a fun trend from your grandparents’ wedding 50 years ago that will create an unforgettable moment at yours. Even something as simple as a candy buffet at the reception becomes an opportunity for connection and conversation when you include all of your families’ favorite candies.
Remember that when you’re planning an event, you’re doing more than throwing a big party. You’re also creating a shared story with the people you love. Think about how inviting these special people to play a part in the story will enrich it and make the day unforgettable.
I know that I still treasure this shared bedtime cookie story with my daughter. I think I may just file it away for a future wedding reception surprise. Who knows—an after-party milk-and-cookie snack might be just the perfect way to end an unforgettable night!
What do you think? What do you remember most from the big days in your life? How do you create unforgettable events?
Join us and download your free workbook to start creating your own unforgettable events!