Unless your name is Kate Middleton and you’re marrying Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, throwing a wedding steeped in tradition isn’t necessary. While being royalty has its perks, getting to let loose is pretty great too. And to help guests do so, brides and grooms are planning activities. In fact, more and more nuptials these days could just as easily include lawn games or a scavenger hunt as they will a first dance.
“I find more and more couples are making weddings about themselves and authentic to their relationships, to their love story, to their life, and they just want to have a good time,” New York City-based event planner Jove Meyer tells Yahoo Style. “More couples don’t want the stuffy, everyone in tuxedos and gowns … and no one talks and we all are uncomfortable.”
To that end, he finds games a great way to loosen up the vibe, even on this very important day. At an upcoming wedding Meyer is planning, the cocktail hour will be held outdoors where people can play anything from cornhole to Connect Four.
“There’s a line, like maybe we’re not going to bob for apples or that kind of a game — unless that’s your thing, then totally do it,” Meyer says. “But I think there’s a place and a time, and cocktail hour is fun. If it’s something interactive and exciting, then why not go for it.”
Ariel Meadow Stallings, publisher of OffbeatBride.com, says games have been a presence since she started the site in 2009. “We’re definitely seeing couples feeling more comfortable deviating from the ‘music and dancing’ default at wedding receptions,“ she tells Yahoo Style via email. “I’m a big dancer, but I totally get that some folks just aren’t into it but still want their guests engaged and having fun at their reception — which is where games often come in.”
Her site has featured weddings where Hungry Hippos served as centerpieces and where the bride and groom replaced their first dance with a Rubik’s Cube battle. Both Meyer and Stallings point to certain games that help guests get to know each other better. “Mingling bingo” encourages people to seek out, say, someone from another country, someone twice their age, or someone who plays a musical instrument that they might not have otherwise approached.
While often these games are used to provide an alternative to breaking it down on the dance floor, couples might also want an exercise to rally the troops together. “I wanted to keep people entertained and out of their seats,” Megan, a teacher from Florida, says about why she decided to play games at her wedding. Her DJs arranged the “shoe game” — a version of the “Newlywed Game” where the couple sits back to back, each holding their own shoe and their new spouse’s shoe, and they’re asked to raise one shoe in answer to questions like, “Who controls the money?” and “Who will fall asleep first tonight?” They also played a hot-potato game with a napkin. “I think it lightens the whole mood of the wedding, especially if it’s stuffy. It makes people have fun and mixes everybody together.”
For this kind of activity, there can be a risk that not everyone wants to participate. Megan’s DJs made sure guests were involved, inviting their commentary throughout the game. “It’s important to know your community,” Stallings advises. “If you know your friends and family are very, very shy, then it’s wise to plant a few attendants to help get things going and get folks involved.”
Megan said she was never worried that her family might disapprove of the silliness that went down. “I could see how somebody might have reservations if their families are very reserved,” she says. “It’s definitely nontraditional.”
Though the wedding rulebook is written by the bride and groom these days, Meyer does recommend avoiding games that require full participation for long periods of time. “That, for me, takes away from a wedding,” he says. “The main thing when trying to have a game at your wedding is thinking about how it can be there as a side thing that’s fun for guests to do but not the main focus. Really, people want to dance and want to party. It’s about how mindful you are of the space that they’re in.”
From vintage pinball games to photo booths and temporary tattoo parlors, unobtrusive activities give guests options for amusement that they can take or leave.
There’s one traditional wedding game Meyer says makes guests uncomfortable more than it amuses: the bouquet and garter belt tosses. “If you’re a single girl or single guy at the wedding, you’re already feeling it,” he says. “And then to be herded onto the dance floor and called out as single. It’s just awkward for everybody.”
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