On my 21st birthday, my sister goaded the bartender into naming a drink after me. She was a literature major, so she called it the Bildungsroman. I remember this moment vividly, but not because of the name—I remember it because of how much time and care my sister took in coming up with it, and how much it meant to me at the time. It’s a memory held in place by feeling more than details: a warm sense of my sister and my other friends jumping at any chance to add to my happiness on this most important of birthdays.

Remembering this story got me thinking about how we name signature drinks along with planning the wedding menu. That whole process is always a lot of fun, and it’s a great way for couples to personalize the event. We get creative and wrap these drink stations in with the decor: we once featured a rustic Just Rosemarried cocktail garnished with fresh sprigs of rosemary clipped from our garden. For a business-oriented couple, we designed the Dawson-Sharp Merger (incorporating both of their names) as a double-layered cocktail amidst a sophisticated black and white color scheme. They were both big hits with the guests, but I wonder if there is a way to make the experience even more engaging and enduring, considering the way I still carry memories from that night almost decades ago. Those memories have lasted by way of personal associations and sentiments, emotional attachments that have much less to do with the drinks themselves.

Lasting Memories Are Linked to Emotion

What if there were a way to take the signature drink experience to another level—to engage the connection between emotion and memory in an intentional way for you and for your guests? Studies have shown that memories created through emotionally-charged experiences last longer than those that don’t inspire any emotional attachment. What if the signature drinks got their names from the wedding experience itself—from the energy of everyone coming together? All things considered, the actual name of the drink is less important than the emotional connections and memories you and your guests share. It’s sort of like leaving disposable cameras on the tables at your reception so that guests can take shots of the moments that are meaningful to them. When you do that, you’re inviting them to be involved in shaping the experience. The same goes for sharing the hashtag you’ve come up with so that your guests can use the tag in their photos: you’re creating an opportunity for them to share with you, and to share in the collective memories long after the night is done.

Get Your Guests Involved and Connected

While you can’t presume to control whether people will connect emotionally with any given experience, you might be able to prompt that connection by inviting your guests to reflect and propose their own names for the drinks you serve.

  1. With help from your coordinators, develop a couple of unique drink recipes.
  2. Use two big chalkboards. At the top of one, paint “Groom’s Drink,” and on the other, “Bride’s Drink.” Then paint thin, white lines to leave space for people to write.
  3. Set these chalkboards on easels so they’re within easy reach for people, one in front of each of the drinks.
  4. When guests visit the drink station, rather than finding fixed names, they’ll find a sign that details the cocktail recipes and that encourages them to grab a piece of chalk and play with the names that best suit the drinks you’ve designed.

At some point in the peak of the night, you can ask for a pause in the music and bring the chalkboards over to the dance floor. Read off some of the names so everyone can share in those inspired moments and laughs. Then choose a favorite signature to actually give the drink (or invite the guests to vote). Make sure you’ve already taken the time to write down your own name suggestions born out of the emotion of the event. (You could still choose yours at this point and no one would think less of you for it!)

Getting your guests involved in creating signature drinks at your wedding can help them feel involved and valued.

Your Wedding Is About Shared Moments

When your guests use those disposable cameras, you’ll end up with some throwaway shots, but I guarantee that you’ll also end up with some incredibly endearing and authentic photos that the professional photographer might never get. Plus, chances are good that your own memories will grow even stronger roots because the people who have come together to celebrate you and your happiness played an active part in making the event, and more importantly—its meaning. “The drink my sister bullied the bartender into naming after me” becomes “the time we laughed so hard we cried,” “the night my mom gave a nickname I’d never forget,” and “the moment we finally decided whose signature name best captured our unforgettable night.”

There are so many creative ways to personalize your wedding to make it truly your own—signature drinks are just one way. Let’s start brainstorming and coordinating together.


Lead Image Source: Unsplash User Neha Deshmukh

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