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Destination weddings are popular options for today's couples looking for a unique, custom celebration.

How to create a customized wedding

More so than ever, soon-to-be-wed couples are establishing their own traditions by looking for ways to impart a custom feel into their weddings - without breaking the bank. Weddings have a tendency to be contagious, and chances are, you've already been invited to a number of weddings this year. After a while the same traditions can become tedious and routine. If you are planning your own wedding, you may be competing with others you know for unique ideas.

Did you know that according to the latest findings, 2.4 million weddings occur annually? That's a lot of bouquet tossing and wedding band renditions of "The Wind Beneath my Wings" to sit through. It's no wonder most brides want their ceremony and reception to be different. Maybe you're inspired by the lavish celebrity affairs, many of whom fly entourages to exotic locales like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes did last year in Italy, or clean out florists' supplies of an entire species of flower all in the effort to be different. Celebrities have the bankrolls to do so. But you, too, can have a custom affair with an average wedding budget. So apart from choosing personal wedding songs and outlandish bridesmaids' gowns, what can you do to be unique? Plenty.

"With a creative imagination and some internet resources, you can host a custom wedding," says Ava Jordon, an Illinois wedding planner. "From personalized stationery to memorable keepsakes, there are a number of ways to put your special touch on the affair."

1. On Location: Change the setting of the wedding. Think beyond the local reception hall. Investigate a park, theater, museum or even a building rooftop. You may be able to get these venues for a steal. Also, destination wedding are growing in popularity. According to the American Wedding Study conducted by the Conde Nast Bridal Group in 2006, about 16 percent of all couples have a destination wedding, a 400 percent increase in the past 10 years. Your destination can be a Caribbean island, the San Francisco Bay or a European castle.

2. Break the rules: Okay, so there really aren't hard-set rules in wedding, except for those that your house of worship may require. Still, people become accustomed to certain traditions. Go against the norm. If the groom wants a female "best man" that's his prerogative. If the bride wants to ditch the white gown and wear a drop-dead-gorgeous red dress, she certainly has the right. The first dance at the reception doesn't have to be a sappy love song. Choose an up-tempo number or your favorite rock hit. It's a celebration after all. Some guests' jaws may drop initially, but soon they'll understand you're just expressing creative license.

3. Personalize stationery: Couples can show their personalities through the stationery they choose - from quirky save-the-date fridge magnets to thank you notes that all form a cohesive theme. A well-designed invitation set not only establishes the mood of the event, it also informs guests of what to do and when. But traditionally stationery doesn't offer many opportunities for personalization, especially if you're planning a wedding that has unique communication needs, such as a destination wedding. Checkerboard Ltd. has a line of wedding stationery called Blue Moon that opens up the possibilities for customization. It provides all the elements couples need to communicate with their guests when they are planning destination wedding or have special requirements where stationery needs to be more than just a response card and ceremony announcement. For example, Blue Moon sets include save-the-date cards, invitations to special activities, schedule of events, stickers forlocal maps and guidebooks, tags for gift bags, maps, directions cards, welcome letters, programs, and custom folders to keep all these documents together. Styles include tropical, al fresco and island botanical themes, beautiful alpine imagery, and seasonal designs. Most invitations can be customized for almost any destination, whether it's overseas or the next town over. Learn more at

4. Take the cake: Instead of a tiered wedding cake go for a custom creation. If you've ever tuned into the Food Network you know that cakes can be designed in all shapes and sizes. Or maybe you prefer something even more unique? Whether a series of individual cupcakes, gourmet brownies or your favorite pie, allow your preferences to set the scene instead of feeling the need to conform.

5. Free DIY favors: Guests look forward to taking home a memento from the wedding. But usually it's just something that ends up collecting dust on a shelf. Who likes those Jordon almonds anyway? For intimate weddings, such as destination wedding affairs where the guest list may be considerably smaller, you can personalize favors for each couple that attends the event. Offer a sweet sentiment and words of thanks for their attendance. Blue Moon has a series of matching wedding favors that you can print out for free on a home computer and assemble yourself at From playing card packages, to CD holders, to flower favor boxes, you can calm stress with some wedding -themed origami and present something truly unique that won't be a budget-breaker.

Think unique and whimsical for your wedding and definitely stand out from the crowd. It's your special day so make the most of it and enjoy and remember the day forever. For more ideas on custom stationery and wedding themes, visit (MS)