25 Ways to Give Thanks at Your Wedding

I still follow the tradition of counting my blessings each year on Turkey Day (my Pre-K teacher would be proud). This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful to be marrying the love of my life in less than a year. I'm also thankful to have supportive family, friends, vendors, and guests—it takes an army to plan a wedding!
In the spirit of the season, we've gathered some fun ways to give thanks before, during, and after your big day.

Before the Wedding...

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Unlike a regular diary, which requires daily upkeep, jot down quick thoughts about your planning "highs" (e.g. what you felt like when you bought your dress) whenever you have the time. Also, use it to store fun mementos (like your gown consultant's business card).
2. Spend quality time with your maid of honor and best man. Before my friend's wedding (where I was a MOH), we had a beauty-prep day where we got massages and mani-pedis. We capped it off with lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. I loved getting quality time with her before wedding chaos took over.

On Your Wedding Day...

Thank your future spouse for marrying you and making you the luckiest woman alive.
3. Exchange letters on the morning of the wedding. Sure, "meet you down the aisle" texts are charming, but there's nothing quite like putting pen to paper. I know my fianc√© Jason will smile when he reads my chicken scratch and "I love you to the moon and back" salutation. Capture each other's reaction on film by reading the letters out loud for your videographer.

4. Unveil a fun wedding surprise for your groom. Is ESPN the soundtrack of your home? Give a nod to his sports obsession by having guests sign a jersey as your "guest book." Did he spend his childhood (and beyond) secretly wishing he was Spiderman? We're smitten with this new take on the groom's cake!

5. Savor a quiet moment together. Soak in your surroundings—the stunning reception space that took months to plan, friends and family busting a move on the dance floor, that giddy look on your husband's face that says, "We finally did it."

On Your Wedding Day...

Thank Mom and Dad for being the best parents in the world.
6. Wipe away their tears of joy. Personalize vintage handkerchiefs with embroidered messages for Mom, Dad, your mother-in-law, father-in-law, or any other close family members.

7. Dedicate your wedding to them. At the ceremony, ask the officiant if you could read a poem in honor of your family. Here's one example of wording we love, via weddings.usabride.com: "We would like to dedicate this ceremony to our parents. They have taught us our values, and shown us how to laugh, love and appreciate all that life has to offer. Their generosity, support, and love is unending."
Or, you can surprise them at the reception, instead. Imagine the look on their faces when they flip over this drink coaster...

8. Honor their marriage by incorporating their wedding-day photos. Whether it's one small photo tucked into your armoire or a dedicated corner at the sign-in table, they'll appreciate the sentimental touch.

Photo Credits (from top to bottom): Ana Lui; Zenobia Studios and Ashfall Mixed Media.
Or, have your photographer help you re-create one of their favorite shots! (P.S. If anyone knows who originally took this amazing photo, which has gone viral, please leave a comment below and we will attribute credit).

9. Carry a piece of them down the aisle with you. I plan on using a sleeve from Mom's wedding dress as my bouquet holder (like the one pictured at right), but it would also be sweet to hang miniature childhood photos from your flowers. Instead of doing a bouquet toss, give a speech at the reception dedicating your bouquet to the most important woman in your life—Mom.

Bouquet at left photographed by Alisha + Brook Photographers.
Bouquet at right created by Edge Design Group; photographed by Nadia D. Photography. 
10. Give them one last hug before you're pronounced husband-and-wife. Take the time to stop for one final display of affection. Just remind them that the officiant is waiting if they refuse to let go.

On Your Wedding Day...

Thank your bridal party attendants for sharing in the joy of your wedding day.
11. Toast to all of the times that they supported you. Give out one glass of bubbly to each bridesmaid before you hit the road!

12. Give them a gift they'll actually use. Check out 40+ ideas for bridal party presents, here.

13. Spend one-on-one time with your flower girl and ring bearer. Give them a bucket filled with crayons and activities to keep them busy at the reception, let them play with your dress, and say "cheese" in the front of the camera for their very own portrait.

 14. Give your bridal party kudos in your wedding program. Explain what their relationship is to you (a sister, friend, coworker) and any fun facts, if you have room for them.
15. Dedicate a special song to your 'maids and groomsmen. Don't require them to practice a dance beforehand, unless you're Zumba buddies or were in a dance troupe back in high school! Just have your DJ or band play a song from your past and watch unscripted hilarity ensue.

On Your Wedding Day...

Thank your vendors for making your wedding vision come to life.
16. Tell them exactly what they did that you loved. After all of those emails, calls, brainstorming sessions, and, yes, the times that they saved your behind, express how much you appreciate them with a heartfelt card. Pay it forward by writing a positive review online, if you were happy with their service.
 17. Give vendors a shout-out in your toast. If you plan on saying a few words to welcome guests to the wedding reception, mention all of the vendors who helped make your night (or day) a success.

On Your Wedding Day...

Thank your wedding guests for celebrating with you.
18. Create a heartfelt guest book alternative. Your wedding day is the one time when you're surrounded by everyone who loves you, all in the same room. What better way to bottle up all of their well wishes than by preserving and displaying them in your home afterwards?
 19. Incorporate "thanks" as part of your wedding d√©cor. Quick, simple, and wow-worthy.

 20. Give out thoughtful favors. Gift creature comforts like cozy slippers, a yummy scent or donuts for the ride home.

21. Have fun with your thank-you cards.
A custom illustration makes signing all of those notes that much more bearable (and, dare we say it, fun).

 22. Pay it forward and give back to your community with charitable favors. Give guests a choice and let them decide between a couple of different causes so they can pick the one that's closest to their hearts.

 23. Donate your dress. You'll never wear it again, right? After the big day, hand it—and other accessories—to Brides Against Breast Cancer, which will resell it and use the proceeds to help a woman with cancer.
Or, you can donate it to Brides for a Cause, which collects and resells gowns to support Wish Upon a Wedding, a non-profit organization that grants weddings to couples in need.
If your bridesmaids are interested, they can donate their dresses as well, to organizations that provide prom dresses uk to disadvantaged high school girls. If you live in Chicago, check out The Glass Slipper Project, and if you live in New York, try The Cinderella Project.
 24. Donate flowers. Organizations such as The FlowerPower Foundation (based in New York and L.A.), Blooms From the Heart (San Diego) and Floranthropy (Seattle) will re-assemble your donations into new floral arrangements for hospices and nursing homes that could use some cheer.
 25. Donate food. Arrange to have any extra food from your reception "rescued" to feed hungry people in your area. Find out more at Second Harvest.
 BONUS TIP: Keep the spirit of gratitude going in your marriage.
Leave secret messages for your spouse to find. At dinner, take a cue from The Queen of Giving, Oprah Winfrey, and tell them about three blessings that happened to you on that day. "When you focus on what you have, your abundance only increases," the talk show host has said.

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