Dazzling decor

Special touches help take your event from blah to ooh la la

By Amy Newman

Tent & decor by Special Events Alaska

Of all the weddings I’ve attended, one stands out. At the entrance to the reception room at a swanky hotel, friends of my husband placed an oversized, ornately framed, professional photo of themselves and their three dogs. All the others, though beautiful and elegant, blend together in their sameness.

To keep yours from suffering the same fate, we asked the wedding pros for tips on upping your reception’s cool, fun, and overall “wow” factor to create an event guests will remember for years to come.

Drape the room

“There’s all kinds of things you can do with draping,” says Evelyn Sizemore, co-owner of R & R Productions in Wasilla. “I think (it’s) the new thing, it really is.”

Draping your venue not only creates ambience, it’s practical. Lush drapery hides drab walls and artwork that can’t be removed, she says. Embellishing the drapes with beads, crystals, even a spray of flowers, makes for a truly one-of-a-kind look that wows. Layered behind the head table, it creates a stunning backdrop.

“We’ll use a really pretty, white yummy drape as one layer, then we’ll put a second layer of chiffon over it, so it almost looks like a piece of heaven is behind you,” she says.

At right: Photo by Relic Photographic.

And even a few draped pieces can have a huge impact – just be sure to keep it balanced. For example, if you drape behind the head table and the adjacent cake table, place a second small table on the other side.

Make it personal

Guests have traveled from near and far to celebrate you and your fiancé, so have fun injecting your personalities into the reception, says Erin Velander of Blomma Designs in Anchorage.

Incorporate a photo collage that includes fun facts about you as a couple into the centerpiece, or create a couple-themed Mad Lib to place on the table, she says.

If you’re planning a backdrop, choose something uniquely you. Erin worked with one couple, avid bikers, who painted a vintage bicycle white, draped it with bunches of flowers and hung it behind the head table.

“Everybody commented about how unique it was,” Erin recalls.

Joy Hill, owner of Mylord’s Floral in Anchorage, says so many couples draw from the same online boards for inspiration. Personal touches will make your décor stand out.

“We worked with one couple who brought in antlers from their ranch to place on the tables, and another who incorporated fishing poles into the bouquets,” she says. “It keeps the reception interesting for people.”

Light it up

Never underestimate the power of light to transform a room. It can alter the mood, imbue a sense of ambience, and help move the event from a classy affair to the hottest club in town, Evelyn says.

R & R Productions uses hundreds of wireless lights that can create a variety of effects on the venue walls, especially when paired with drapes.

“We can actually create water on what is normally a really ugly wall,” Evelyn says. “We can create fire, a beautiful sunset, we can accent it with the bride’s colors. Drape the walls, add color, and the room metamorphosizes.”

Shine a spotlight on one or two main parts of the reception, like the head table and cake, or the couple’s first dance, to really up the drama. Or create a monogram that can light up the back wall. For the opposite effect, lights shone up at the ceiling – particularly in a ballroom with a chandelier – creates a dazzling show of color that elicits audible gasps.

“It just takes the breath right out of you,” Evelyn says. “We always hope for that, that ‘wow’ factor.”

Outdoor splendor

It’s hard to improve upon Alaska’s splendor when you host an outdoor wedding, but the pros had a few tricks up their sleeves to help your reception décor compete.

Drape the tent walls with a flowing, silky fabric to create a space that feels less tent-like, and more like a gorgeous indoor venue, Erin says. Drapes can also be added to the ceiling and wrapped around metal poles for a softer effect.

You can also bring a piece of the outdoors in with foraged items, such as birch wood, suggests Erin. Use it to build an arbor, or use birch slices as a charger plate (the decorative plate used as a base in the table’s place settings), she says.

For a heat source, go beyond the boring heat lamps that grace restaurant patios with a Tower of Fire heater, which directs the flame up a clear glass tube for a dramatic display. These rentable heaters create ambience while keeping guests warm, says Bob Oakes of CBC Rental & Supply in Soldotna. Tabletop options allow guests to gather around and make a great conversation piece, he adds.

And ultimately, that’s what every couple wants – a wedding their guests will be talking about long after the party’s over.