Sarah and Steven O'Neil wed at Shinn Estate Vineyards. Located...

Sarah and Steven O'Neil wed at Shinn Estate Vineyards. Located in Long Island Wine country, this North Fork winery is the only one one with an onsite bed and breakfast. Credit: Raquel Reis Photography

Tired of seeing the same floral centerpieces at the same banquet halls with the same old string quartets playing at ceremony and reception? Or just want to add some personalized touches to your big day?

We talked to Long Island wedding planners and gathered some out-of-the-box ideas to include in your festivities or to spark your imagination, from ceremony to reception and beyond.


Shake the maracas instead of throwing rice: For a bride who wants to incorporate elements of her Spanish / Latin background, she might consider getting rid of tossing items like rice or rose petals post-ceremony, or handing out the now typical bubbles or sparklers. Pass out festive maracas to guests who can shake them as you depart from your ceremony in style. (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)

Create a regal entrance with trumpeters: Greet guests (and bid them adieu before the reception) in style with formally dressed trumpeters. This type of music and dress will immediately evoke a rich and regal feeling. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

Travel from ceremony to reception in style: Forget about renting a limo to transport you from the ceremony to the reception. Instead, try something exciting and unique by renting vintage automobiles through Film Cars ( In addition to stylish transportation, they're also great to have around for pictures. (Francesca Leonardini, Dazzling Affairs, Inc.)

Go Latin with a mariachi band: Instead of the traditional string quartet or piano player playing at the ceremony, a mariachi band is the perfect alternative for pre- and post-ceremony music. It's festive, fun and totally different. (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)


Head to the East End for a vineyard event: For the couple looking for a combination of formal and casual at their recption, Long Island is perfect for a vineyard wedding. Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue ( is one vineyard that can put together a swanky cocktail-style reception where the guests are dressed for a wedding but the vibe is relaxed. (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)

Have a theme event, complete with target shooting: For a bride and groom who were both police officers, they scheduled their reception at Tiro a Segno (, an Italian rifle club. The guests were able to shoot at a target to test their skills, and then take home their targets, which was a great souvenir. Target practice not your thing? Think of a themed reception idea based on your tastes and careers. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

Celebrate Halloween in style: For a wedding falling on or around Halloween, use the spooky day as an overriding theme. Dye roses black and blue for the centerpiece, hang votives to give a macabre feeling, use black plates, red tablecloths and similarly festive napkins. Create a specialty drink in-line with the theme, like a vodka drink with cranberry juice for a blood red color and a floating 'eyeball,' made from an olive with pimentos. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

Capture your wedding in a modern format: Wedding videos have come a long way from the ancient 2-hour long tapes of guests dancing at the reception. Now, companies like Penny Lane Productions ( will create a video with cutting edge technology that is modern, hip, short and to the point. (Francesca Leonardini, Dazzling Affairs, Inc.)

Party with a celebrity at your wedding: Ok, so not a real celebrity, but hiring a celebrity singer-impersonator is a fun surprise for your guests at the reception. Westchester based company Royal Talent can assist with this: (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)

Replace table numbers with themes: Instead of seating guests at your basic numbered tables, come up with a theme for assigning seating. Stick with the natural wedding theme and you could have the Love table, the Cherish table and the Honor table, among many others. Other themes could be Long Island or New York city landmarks, favorite beaches, famous couples or classic wedding songs. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

Bring out the kid in your guests with a candy station: The idea of food stations at wedding receptions is nothing new. But why not bring out the kid in all of your guests with a station that is all about candy? Provide everyone with cute bags or boxes so that they can eat the candy at the reception or take it home with them. This idea can also be used in lieu of or in addition to a favor. (Angela Clarke, Perfect Wedding Planner)

Focus on lighting: Lighting is always a key factor in planning an event. From the most simple candles on the tables to the most elaborate pin-spotting on the centerpieces, elaborate lighting at your event can transform a room. Luminous Designs ( is a good company to consult with. (Francesca Leonardini, Dazzling Affairs, Inc.)


Think fish and floating flowers: For a special centerpiece that guests can take home, put one Japanese Fighting Fish in a vase or small bowl at the center of the table. Put floating orchids in separate vases with blue stones (or other colors, depending on your color palette) around the fish. Guests can take home both the fish and vases with orchids if they like. The stones can be purchased at Michaels Arts and Crafts and the fish can be purchased at Petco. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

A beach theme, while on dry land: Instead of the usual floral centerpiece, decorate tables with mini shells and dried starfish. Want to go all out? A floral decorator should be able to incorporate things like fishing nets and lobster traps as well. Add on to the beach theme with seashell escort cards. A calligrapher like Nancy Howell ( can write names directly on assorted shells. (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)

Rehearsal dinner and bridal shower:

Scratch the rehearsal hall and clambake it: East End Clambakes ( and Hampton Clam Bake and Catering (, both local Long Island companies, can set up the perfect pre-wedding outdoor event for you and your guests. (Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events)

Shower your fiance with gifts: A wedding shower doesn't have to be only about the bride. Have guests bring gifts for your man for your wishing well. You can even designate a letter of the alphabet for each guest in their invitation that their item must begin with. Be sure to let guests know that gifts can be fun and silly. Towards the end of the shower, your fiance can join the party to open everything in front of the guests. (Angela Clarke, Perfect Wedding Planner)


Give back with a donation: Instead of the typical favors, like candy or candles, give back with a donation to a favorite charity on behalf of your guests. For a donation to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (, place pink M&Ms on the table in a beautiful bowl with a card explaining the details of the donation. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design)

Invite guests to take their own picture: Place a Polaroid camera with a photo album outside the doors leading to and from your reception room with a sign that says "Take your pic and leave us a note." Your guests will have fun taking pictures of themselves and then arranging them in the album. You'll be amazed at the cute, lovely and funny notes left for the bride and groom to read. A beautiful keepsake for years to come. (Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design and Angela Clarke, Perfect Wedding Planner)

Consulted Long Island wedding planners:

Angela Clarke, Perfect Wedding Planner,

Elaine DeLuca, Exquisite Events,

Rosalie Kolarik, Expressions Wedding & Event Design,

Francesca Leonardini, Dazzling Affairs, Inc.,