Weddings are emotion-filled days that can fly by in the blink of an eye. Ask any married couple! Between chatting with guests and taking more photos than you can count, it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of your big day. Before you know it, the lights are up, confetti is swept away, and you’re ready to take your first step into married life.
But you want to remember your wedding beyond the photos and keepsakes. You want to remember exactly how it felt to step into your reception as newlyweds, the way your dress swept across the floor, and what it meant to feel your partner’s hand squeeze yours. You never want to forget how your cake tasted, or the sound of laughter as you listened to your best friend give a toast.
In other words, you want sensory memories that will stay with you forever. Your wedding is more than a party; it should feel like an immersive experience for you and your guests to escape and celebrate together. And there’s no better way to invite your loved ones into your love story than by firing up all of their senses for a breathtaking day.
Here are some expert ideas to incorporate each of the five senses into your celebration.
Sight is typically where wedding design starts, with couples finding inspiration in stunning venues, color palettes, and decor items. A quick scroll through Pinterest reveals countless ways to ignite the sense of sight.
But decor aside, Angie Johnson of Sapphire Celebrations encourages couples to “go beyond the flowers and linens and bring the space to life with the use of lighting.”
Rustic Edison bulbs, elegant chandeliers, dynamic uplighting — there are many ways to transform your event space with simple lighting techniques.
“Use it to wash walls with color or pin spot design elements like your wedding cake,” recommends Aly Raddatz of Elevated Events. “And there’s nothing more flattering than candlelight. Use it at various heights for the full illusion.”
Want to take the visual effects up a notch? Jessie Khaira of Jessie Khaira Inc. touts the use of projection mapping, which uses lighting technology to transform your event space into an entirely new world.
“Imagine sitting at the dinner table when suddenly the room evolves into a scenic Italian villa,” Khaira says. “The walls and ceiling come alive with images of a picturesque Tuscan landscape, complete with stunning vineyards.”
Or, if you want to add a touch of drama to the experience, take a note from Bunn DJ Company’s Brandon Alley. “Give your wedding a grand entrance with a cold sparkler effect or a ‘walk in the clouds,’” he suggests. Perfect for an all-eyes-on-you moment! Just be sure to consult with your venue to see if special effects are allowed.
Sound is often evoked at weddings through string quartets, jazz bands, and well-curated playlists. But professional musicians are one of many ways to create an immersive soundscape.
“Have friends or family members who are musically inclined and not afraid to perform in front of others?” Raddatz poses. “A musical selection from one of them during the ceremony adds another layer of meaning and memory.”
You can also play with the natural sounds of your venue, whether there’s a relaxing creek nearby or a symphony of bird songs. As Alley notes, “If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, include a moment where you and your guests can simply appreciate the beautiful sounds of nature.”
Don’t overlook the power of ambient noise, either. “The use of ambient noise as part of your wedding design can create a profound and immersive atmosphere that resonates with the visual aspects of your event,” Khaira says. Soft sounds like light chatter or the clinking of wine glasses can add an extra dimension to your celebration’s soundscape.
While touch is often overlooked at weddings, it’s a powerful way to deepen the experience for your guests. From rich velvet to airy linen, textures can set the tone for a space and interact with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes your guests will enjoy.
An easy way to appeal to touch: “Give your tables ‘touchability’ with accent fabrics like velvet, lace, or silk,” suggests Greg Carlyle of The Millennium Event Center.
Johnson agrees, adding that “what you put on a dinner table should ignite the sense of touch. From the linen to the paper of the printed items, the feel of an elegant fork, and the soft chair cushion the guest is seated on. By focusing on how the things that the guest touches during your event feel, you’ll ensure they are having a whole-body experience while at your event.”
Work with a wedding designer to ensure there is a cohesive feel between the textures throughout your celebration, even down to the cocktail napkins and place cards.
There are few things more immersive than an intoxicating fragrance! And fortunately, weddings are the perfect opportunity to play around with scents to appeal to your guests’ sense of smell.
“Your sense of smell is, of course, engaged with the scent of fresh-cut flowers in your wedding,” affirms Joan Wyndrum O’Hear of Blooms by the Box. “Choosing fragrant blooms is a great way to incorporate your sense of smell into your big day. Blooms such as garden roses, freesia, and stock all have an alluring, sweet scent.”
Johnson recommends working with a professional to curate an aromatic experience tailored to your celebration. “The new trend of custom-creating your event scent is one that we love for our clients to consider adding to their party,” she shares. “Working with a professional scent company, you can ensure that the noses of your guests are happy while they mix and mingle the night away.”
However, Khaira cautions that “different scents can alter your palate when tasting food.” Thus, she encourages working carefully with the chef to ensure a cohesive experience. “This way, the smells of the cuisine contributed to the immersive sensory experience without overwhelming or conflicting with other elements of the event.”
The key to achieving the perfect smell is to keep it light and tie it into the other sensory elements of your celebration. Your team of wedding professionals can help you find the right balance!
Last but not least, no wedding is complete without flavor components. While everyone’s taste preferences differ, experienced chefs and mixologists know how to curate a menu that appeals to people across the board. The key to taste is for all your flavors—food and beverages alike—to work together instead of competing.
“Make sure that your caterer is considering flavor profiles of the entire wedding day and ensuring that they are all complementary from one course to the next,” encourages Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss.
Sheils also suggests working with the caterer to “serve a palate cleanser between courses so your guests truly appreciate all of the specialized menu decisions you made to knock their socks off.”
Of course, wine also plays a significant role in many weddings, adding depth to the culinary experience. While often paired with menu options, Khaira takes it a step further and recommends “incorporating a wine tasting during cocktail hour” as a way to “provide a unique and interactive way to engage the sense of taste in wedding design.”
“With a well-curated selection of local or thematic wines, guests can explore different varietals and blends, perhaps guided by a sommelier who shares the stories and nuances of each pour,” she elaborates.
For those with different tastes, couples can achieve the same goal with a curated cocktail bar or a selection of local craft brews for guests to enjoy.
Designing a sensory experience will undoubtedly leave guests captivated by your wedding day, with more than just photos for memories. To pull it off flawlessly, work with a team of seasoned professionals with a background in experiential design. And above all else, have fun creating your perfect day!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.