For those of you who haven’t been to a theme park lately, you should take notice: They are a masterclass in attention to detail.
Not long ago travelled to Florida where I spent a pleasant few days visiting family and taking in a few sights (St. Augustine is spectacularly beautiful if you’ve never been. Side note: I can plan destination weddings anywhere, so hit me up, Floridians!). Aside from visiting family and general wanderlust, one incentive to visit Central Florida was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (or as my husband and I refer to it – Harry Potter World, or OMGZLOOKITSHOGWARTS). I remember buying the Sorcerer’s Stone before Chamber of Secrets had even come out. I remember going to a midnight showing of Prisoner of Azkaban in a movie theater in Ireland and gloating to my US friends that I’d seen it first on a time zone technicality. In college, my friend Ben’s mom knitted me a Gryffindor scarf. BY HAND. My point being, I’m a big ol’ HPot geek and I’m not afraid who knows it.
As a fan of the series, of course I was over the moon at everything in the park, but professionally speaking I was struck by what a great job Universal Studios did with the details from top to bottom. The lesson is this: Don’t miss an opportunity to interact with your audience. The usual attractions are chockfull of things to look at – holograms of Dumbledore as you wait in line for a ride, gift shop souvenir replicas of anything and everything. But it’s the attention to detail where you DON’T expect it that really makes an impact.
If you’re planning a wedding, you are becoming very comfortable with words like “escort cards,” “welcome bags,” “signature cocktail,” and a host of other wedding day details that you’ve probably never considered before. You are pouring over wedding magazines and blogs, filled to the brim with picture-perfect tablescapes, ceremony arches, and boutonnieres. Here are a few observations from WWHP that you can use to transform your wedding from expected to magical.
When people go to a wedding, they expect to see centerpieces. They expect to see a dance floor, an aisle, they might expect favors or a guestbook. What they DON’T expect is to see your wedding design hanging over their heads. When you think of the times you extend your eyes upward, it’s usually to look at tall skyscrapers, stare at the night sky, pray for good fortune. The WWHP took advantage of the awe-inspiring feeling of raising your gaze with a very tall Hogwarts, candles “floating” overhead, even hiding Extendable Ears in the rafters of Zonkos, listening in on your shopping conversations. Not only were they cute nods to the details in the book, they kept guests guessing and perpetually looking everywhere for the next cool thing. For a wedding, you could hang chandeliers, have hanging centerpieces OVER your tables instead of ON them, cover the ceiling in balloons, anything to get your guests to look up. It not only takes advantage of a huge, blank slate, but it gives you a sense of wonder to gaze upwards, and that’s just the kind of feeling that you should get at a wedding.
DON’T IGNORE THE BATHROOM
If it’s a place your guests will go, confound their expectations and place a few details in the bathroom as well. Of course, baskets or other containers with bobby pins, breath fresheners, and hair spray are always welcome, but what about a tub full of flip flops for high-heel-weary women who want to keep dancing? Why not hang cute signs from the stall doors? At the WWHP, the stall doors in the ladies’ room weren’t plain, public restroom doors – they were “carved,” paneled doors. Universal Studios could have said “Let’s save money in the bathrooms because no one will care,” but they didn’t shy away from an opportunity to carry through their design. And, of course, you could hear Moaning Myrtle crying and talking, which is an improvement over what you usually hear in the loo. So maybe pipe some wedding music into the bathroom as well?
EMPLOYEES ARE PEOPLE TOO
The staff at the WWHP laugh at other amusement park employee uniforms. The embroidered polo shirts and regulation khaki shorts might be de rigueur for most, but at WWHP it’s all about the weird hats, robes, and wands. Now, I’m not suggesting you force your cater waiters to be in full costume, but it’s not too much to ask that they wear a special hat, tie, or shirt color. Even if you’re providing it yourself, a few inexpensive bowties or felt fedoras from the Halloween shop will make your guests sit up and take notice when the pigs in a blanket are being passed.
There are plenty of other things to make mention of, but I’m curious to know what lessons you’ve learned at Universal Studios, Disney World, or other amusement parks?