WHEN YOU SMELL popcorn and see cotton candy, you might fondly recall a carnival from your childhood days. Not so for Richard Magid, president and owner of Famous Firsts Ltd. in Pompano Beach, Florida. He recalls one of his most successful-albeit unusual-weddings.
The "Love Makes Our World Go 'Round" carousel-themed reception was created because the bridal couple owned and trained quarter horses in Ohio. Though the theme was set, Magid says the clients gave him free creative rein within a budget so that they could be surprised too.
Even the invitation held a surprise. On the outside, it had a traditional wedding announcement trimmed in gold foil. When guests opened it, they discovered a three-dimensional pop-up carousel with a likeness of the bridal couple riding on the carousel.
Just as the outside of the invitation reflected, the ceremony was solemn and simple, Magid says. Then 500 guests arrived at the indoor Quail Run Racquet Club in Dayton, Ohio, for the recep- tion. "We wanted to give them the unexpected when they entered the first building," Magid says. "It was like ordering a ham sandwich and getting a steak."
Just one step into the cocktail area revealed a whimsical carnival midway, which centered on an old-fashioned miniature carousel made of brass poles and detailed carousel horses based on the originals found on the classic 1927 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. Carousels.
The carnival ceiling was draped with a red, white and yellow stretch tent canopy. The tennis courts were covered with bright red carpet bordered with brilliant blue carpet. Cocktail tables were covered with bright red cloths with yellow-and-white striped overlays. Rotating carnival objects served as centerpieces at each table. The base of each centerpiece was filled with fresh peanuts and hot pretzels. Silly clown faces decorated the backs of chairs.
Real prizes awaited the wedding guests who took turns playing personalized games, such as the wedding ring toss. Each guest received a souvenir canvas bag imprinted with a likeness of the wedding invitation to carry their prizes. Every 15 minutes there was new entertainment including jugglers, fortune tellers, mimes and stilt walkers. "We felt that guests should have a chance to get comfortable with each other," Magid says.
Famous Firsts fashioned a tunnel leading from the carnival midway to the dinner reception. "People thought the cocktail party was the actual reception, but we had one more big surprise in store," Magid explains. A dancer dressed as a beautiful butterfly occasionally fluttered into the cocktail area and then disappeared. When it was time for the dinner reception, she appeared at the tunnel entrance and drew guests through. Magid says guests gasped as they walked into an exotic European-style carnival.
"Our idea was to take them from the old to the new, just like in life," Magid says. "Our couple was starting a new phase in life, and we felt an elegant affair would reflect this change."
High-tech lighting by Miami-based Hy-Lite Productions projected luminary patterns onto fabric sculptures that were stretched across the ceiling. The room was covered in black carpet except for the extensive dance floor and stage area, which featured a harlequin-style black-and-white pattern.
Gold-trimmed tablecloths of purple, yellow, orange and red set a rich scene, accompanied by black-and-white striped spandex chair covers. "We tiered tables, elevating the rows on 1- and 2-foot carpeted platforms so that everyone was able to see the stage," Magid says.
While the guests ate and enjoyed the atmosphere, Famous Firsts made sure that there was no lull in the excitement. With the help of Sean DeFreitas of Dania, Florida-based Designs By Sean, who worked on the entertainment and decor, guests experienced one surprise after another, from aerial performers to fire jugglers. Costumed entertainers drew guests onto the dance floor after dinner.
A winner of a 1998 Gala Award in the category of "Best Wedding, Budget Over $30,000," Magid believes the key to his carnival's success was creating two totally unique wedding experiences in one event, astonishing everyone from the host to family members to guests.