The Knot Wedding Advice from Maya


Maya Kalman, Event Design Expert & CEO of Swank Productions Maya Kalman is the Founder & CEO of SWANK Productions, a luxury wedding planning, event design and event production company in New York City. Known for her beyond-the-box designs and undying passion for creating extraordinary event experiences, Maya risen to become one of the most well known wedding and event planners in New York City. She has been a featured expert on TNT, NBC Today Show, MTV, Martha Stewart, Food Network, Geraldo Live and many more, and has planned and designed weddings, corporate events and parties for some of the top companies, brands and personalities around the world.
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10 Ways to WOW your Wedding Guests!

Yes, the cake, the gown, and the centerpieces are all important, but these 10 ideas are not only super-simple — they’re also guaranteed to make your wedding rave-worthy.

1. Create a Welcome Video

Most likely you won’t be able to greet all of your out-of-town guests when they arrive, so consider arranging a virtual welcome. Talk to your videographer about creating a brief video of the two of you welcoming them to your wedding location, and provide tips for things to do in the area along with what they can expect for the rest of the weekend (or simply create your own with a digital video camera!).2. Don’t Underestimate the Welcome Bag

Another easy way to impress? Give each guest a welcome bag. Fill an inexpensive basket or canvas tote with bottles of water, a bottle of wine or locally brewed beer, something salty, something sweet, and a piece of fruit. Don’t forget to include a welcome letter (or video) as well as a detailed itinerary for where the guest needs to be and when. Leave the whole thing with the hotel concierge for the guests to pick up when they check in. And be sure to provide them with maps and lists of local restaurants, museums, and other attractions in case they want to explore on their own.

3. Keep Them Entertained — Not Overwhelmed

You don’t want to stress your guests out with too many activities, but a few entertainment options before the wedding will really show them how much thought you put into their visit. Suggest group activities like area hikes or tours for your guests to mingle and get to know each other before the main event. Lay out planned weekend activities for guests in a timeline so that everyone is in-the-know.

4. Ditch the Boring Ceremony Aisle

It’s probably the one detail of wedding planning you forgot about, but it’s also one of the simplest to take to the next level. A creative DIY runner, rustic pew arrangements in Mason jars, or even a quirky patterned rug can all dress up a plain aisle — and make a major impact on your guests.

5. Make Inventive Escort Cards

The escort card display is the first thing your guests see when they walk into your reception — so make it good. Have your calligrapher write guests’ names on pretty vintage mirrors, print names on horse show ribbons, stick the cards in cupcakes, or attach each card to a tiny can of champagne with a note that reads, “Do not open until the wedding toast.”

6. Add Music to the Transitions

Hire a bagpiper, a drum line, a gong player, or even a strolling guitar player to lead guests from one space to the next. If you’re not set on an instrument, localize it: For a tropical setting, hire someone to blow a conch shell, or in the mountains, hire an alpine horn player to announce when it’s time to move.

7. Rethink Wedding Transportation

Okay, you’re probably not going to have a parade float, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative with your transportation. Your guests will gape when they walk out of your ceremony and see an awesome antique car or retro school bus waiting to pick you up! Or choose transportation that pays homage to your wedding venue, like a hayride for a country ranch wedding or even a Snowcat for a winter mountain reception.

8. Give Them A Say!

Use your RSVP cards or wedding website to let your guests have an opinion on something other than chicken or fish. Let them request a song, create Mad Lib-style return cards you can then display at the reception, or have them vote on the top-tier flavor of your wedding cake! Guests will love seeing the details that they helped choose come to life on the wedding day.

9. Serve Food You’d Want to Eat

Think about what foods make you happy — whether it be ice cream sandwiches, mac and cheese, watermelon, donuts, or tacos — and add them to the menu. One of our favorite new ideas: a potato chip bar complete with all the dips. Talk to your caterer about putting together a truly personalized (and delicious!) menu. Then watch your guests chow down.
10. Send Them Off with Breakfast 

Even if it’s not an all-out postwedding brunch, plan to give your guests a little goodbye breakfast the day after. Rent out the hotel conference room and talk to the staff about creating a breakfast buffet. Or simply arrange for bagels and coffee to be delivered to your guests’ hotel rooms before they depart.
– Justine Lorelle Blanchard – The Knot & News Channel5Special thanks to: Maya Kalman of Swank Productions in New York Cityand Kelly Karli of Frosted Pink Weddings in Colorado.

NYC Wedding Specialist for The Knot NYC Wedding Specialist for TheKnot.com Blog! NYC Wedding Specialist for TheKnot.com Blog!

SO EXCITED! Can’t even begin to explain!
I am thrilled to have been asked to be the NYC wedding specialist blogger for the knot.com’s new New York City Page!http://newyorkcity.weddings.com/

I’ll be sharing the details of weddings we’re planning, things that inspire me, design ideas, vendors we love, sample sales, you name it…if it has to do with weddings in New York City we’ll be talking about it!
Would LOVE it if you followed!

Here’s my first post!
Tomorrow I’m showing a wedding client one of my favorite little secret venues for their upcoming Summer wedding. On a fairly nondescript area of 10th Ave. between 20th & 21st St. is The Desmond Tutu Center a true oasis of serenity. For a client who is looking for a venue that has magnificent lawns (yes two huge lawns!) and a Gothic-Castle-type of feel this event venue is a true gem. Things I love about it.
The lawns!

The two lawns are really nice sized and fairly level. Perfect for outdoor ceremony’s and cocktail hours. There’s a wonderful serenity to the outdoor space that makes you immediately forget that you could possibly be in New York City. The trees are big and bushy and beautiful and when you’re there in the spring or summer time you hear birds chirping and see the butterflies in the flowers!…its sublime and very romantic! (can you tell I like this place!) The space is both a hotel and a seminary so there are rules that need to be followed, but with enough notice they are very reasonable with requests. Oh and there is also a tennis court which you can also tent if needed (which is always a great option because you’ve got a built in floor!)
My other favorite part of the venue is the reception hall!(the Refectory)

 

This room is just breathtaking. There’s a regal feel you get when walking up the stairs and entering the heavy doors to this long beautiful room. I have to admit that scene in Harry Potter is exactly what I thought of the very first time I saw it. The length of the room. The two giant fireplaces at either end. The Gothic wooden chairs. The chandeliers. All amazing! Very cool and very chic! There’s a lot that can be done to this venue to create some amazingly breathtaking design moments. (by the way, there are a bunch of large paintings hanging in the room, but again, with prior notice they are really great and will take them all down if you’d like)

The venue is also a hotel, which for a wedding venue can be another added nicety. The rooms and suites are all quite large and designed with what I would call handsome, modern and chic details. The rates are really reasonable and can give your guests the ability to have a little NYC vacation weekend in Chelsea!

As as wedding planner, if I’m going to rave about the place I have to also tell you the things you might not love (but honestly you can get past)

The entrance,while very nice, clean and neat is a functioning hotel front desk – and thus does feel just like one. Its small and fairly neutral, maybe even a bit dry. So to a bride thinking about a venue I can see how that might be a small concern. BUT, I think it’s a minimal issue and is definitely something you can glaze over and solve in creative design ways. (I would say lets chalk it up to another one of those ‘NYC wedding venue’ experiences).

*I have theories you’ll start to get to know as you get to know me!

In order to help my clients find the best venue, I try to get them to understand and accept this theory. Most NYC venue entrances (other than hotels) are ‘gritty’ and ‘urban’ to say the least. Not what a stylish bride might normally think of as a beautiful, cool or chic wedding entrance to her wedding venue. BUT, when you enter the venue and the event itself! – That’s when the WOW moment happens! That’s a huge part of what makes a NYC wedding unique for you and your guests! So, in order to really be happy with picking a NYC venue for your wedding – I think you have to be open to this theory and make the decisions based on the wow factors to come, not necessarily what the outside of the building or the area looks like.

Anyway, I digress. The other thing you may be concerned with while walking around the property is the playground. Yes, there is a playground. (again, it’s a hotel and a seminary that has a nursery school. No big deal, it wont effect your event at all). If you feel the need, screens will make it disappear on the day of your event, so don’t event think about it twice!

All of that being said, as a wedding designer I love the bones of this venue! Its a beautiful, peaceful, and very cool space where truly magical moment can be created. Now after writing about it, I’m even more excited to show it to my clients tomorrow! I will certainly keep you posted on the details of the visit and of course the wedding planning to come. If you have any great stories or details of events from this venue you want to share I’d love to see them!

Cheers to getting married in New York City!
~Maya