Most little girls dream of a fairy tale wedding spun to perfection. While almost always a joyous event, the reality is each wedding is a culmination of details, a whirlwind of endless decisions. Furthermore, each year ushers in new wedding trends and the pressure is on for brides to stay apprised of the current do’s and don’ts to pull off a memorable event for everyone in attendance.
Spring is inching closer, and with it begins one of the busiest times of the year for weddings. Some experts in the wedding industry here in the lakes area espouse their views on the matrimonial trends they are noticing for 2011. They opine that despite the lull in the economy, people are still ponying up for weddings, but are stretching every dollar by prudently comparing and deliberating before each purchase.
“People are cautiously spending and looking for the best value for the dollar,” said Nick Lekas, general manager of the Baypointe Golf Club in West Bloomfield.
Carolyn Hefner, a wedding consultant and owner of the China Closet in Birmingham, is renowned throughout Oakland County for her creativity and insight in wedding design. She has introduced a new program called the “Wedding Tune-up” that gives couples on a tight budget but who need some direction two hours of her expertise at a nominal cost.
“The importance of wedding consultants is that there are so many different facets involved in the event and they know how to get the couple the biggest bang for the buck,” Hefner said.
Lindsey Nartker, owner of Flourish Event Design in Birmingham (formerly Lindsey Nartker Designs), expressed her goal as creating an event that is a true and honest reflection of the couples she works with by allowing the lovebirds to infuse their own personalities and ideas into their wedding.
Both Hefner and Nartker pride themselves on pairing up with local and reputable businesses to host a quintessential event.
But with event management services beginning around $1,500 and planning services starting at $3,000, there’s no doubt that wedding planners have been impacted by the state of the economy in some way or another.
“I’m a perk, a luxury item and not on everyone’s agenda,” Hefner said. “But it’s also not a good time to make a mistake because usually it’s a costly one.”
If she were to give a couple one tip, Hefner said she would encourage them to taper the guest list as a money-saver.
“Couples are more money-conscious than ever before and slashing budgets dramatically,” she said. “I suggest that, if they want to be conservative, the best way to save money is to downsize the event by cutting the guest list. It’s not a matter of cutting the details, but the largeness of the event because a bride is not willing to give up her dream.”
Nadica Ristivojeviach, whose family has grown their bridal gown business for 25 years and currently owns Maria’s Bridal in West Bloomfield, said she is seeing more couples opting for smaller weddings or destination weddings to scale back on costs by inviting only close family and friends.
“Right now I’m seeing smaller wedding parties because of the cost savings, and destination weddings reduce costs tremendously,” she said.
She is also noticing a new mindset in brides today.
“Brides are being more cost-conscious,” Ristivojeviach said.”It’s not what you fall in love with necessarily. They may bypass their original budget by 10 percent but before there was no end to it. If they loved the dress, they bought it.”
She added that there are ways to still purchase that dream dress, but it takes heeding her advice.
“Many times a bride will come in and request a designer dress whether it’s right for them or not,” she said. “I know what styles look good on them and it needs to fit them and complement their personality. The last thing you want is for someone to say that your dress is beautiful; instead, you want them to say, ‘You look gorgeous.’”
Due to the recession, couples are deciding on a longer engagement period to tuck money away because, more often than not, today’s couples are picking up the tab for their own weddings.
“I’m seeing between 18 months and two-year engagements to adequately save enough themselves so they don’t have to depend on their parents,” Nartker said.
“People are far more involved in planning their wedding than they used to be,” said Gwen Borders, owner of Trifles Confectionery in White Lake. “Couples are making decisions together — it’s an equality thing that’s great to see.”
However, it’s a misnomer that the economy is wreaking havoc on the wedding industry. Borders said 2011 is shaping up to be one of her most profitable years ever, which — at least from her vantage point — debunks the thinking that the wedding industry is in some way lagging.
“People are spending more now than in 2009 and 2010,” she said.
Heidi Drallos, owner and designer of Lakes Cakes in Commerce Township, said she is so busy these days she has had to turn away customers.
“We’ve had to turn down six or eight weddings because we’re so busy,” she said. “We do between six and seven wedding cakes during the weekends and can only do a certain amount.”
Maria’s Bridal also prospered during the economic crunch by changing up what their services cost.
“Before we had all different price points, but I don’t have a lower-end line anymore because I can’t compete with the likes of David’s Bridal,” Ristivojeviach said. “We throw in alterations as one way to help out clients on cost and if they have their own seamstress, we’ll take a percentage of the price off the dress.”
Orchard Lake Country Club Director of Catering Diane Fillion concurs that the wedding industry continues to thrive because matrimony is a sacrosanct ritual that marks a new era in a couple’s life.
“Business is booming and has been consistent,” she said. “We are doing about 20 weddings a year from April to December. Many still get engaged on Christmas or Valentine’s Day. There are still romantics out there.”
Moreover, today’s couples are customizing their weddings to reflect their own sense of style and taste.
“They are foregoing the traditional elements to make it unique, personal, and intimate, realizing that what their parents want are not necessarily a reflection of who they are,” Nartker said.
“The trend is that people don’t necessarily want what the next person has,” Borders said. “Couples are opting for uniqueness. Anything goes.”
For example, brides and grooms are embracing their unique cultural heritage and traditions ranging from religious wedding nuptials to traditional wedding day garb or cultural cuisine to showcase their individual ethnicity.
Hefner agrees with Nartker that couples want to put their own “hallmark” on the event.
“Couples are looking to themselves for inspiration and are very clever,” she said. “In this economy they are often bringing in things related to family and researching how their ancestors celebrated their weddings. There is definitely a heightened sense of family because this is a time to pull together.”
For instance, brides will include montages of ancestral photographs in tandem with their own photos.
And now, shutter booths are all the rage.
“The old-fashioned picture booths are extremely popular and are sometimes used in lieu of favors,” Fillion said. “Guests can takes pictures with anyone they want and the bride and groom keep copies as mementos.”
She added that many of her customers are taking couples’ dancing lessons prior to the reception as a wedding gift to each other.
“So the first dance is a production,” Fillion said.
While couples used to marry more often in spring and summer, autumn is now the height of the wedding season.
“While the majority of events occur in fall or summer, the busiest is fall, but now through March are my busiest booking periods,” Nartker said.
Barry Pearce, general manager of Beacon Hill Golf Club and Banquet Center and Brentwood Golf Club, both in White Lake, agrees.
“More are marrying in September than June like before,” he said.
Pearce continues to draw in business thanks to a discount plan. From May through October, Friday and Sunday weddings receive a discount. In the off-season, even Saturdays are discounted.
“We provide a premier wedding package that 89 percent go with and has helped our business,” he said.
The menu includes hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast, plated/buffet dinner, top-shelf bar, and a late night pizza snack.
In most brides’ eyes, the first and foremost detail is finding the perfect dress, as evidenced by the bevy of bride magazines in circulation and the hype over the reality show, “Say Yes to the Dress,” where the premier bridal salon Kleinfeld in New York City helps brides-to-be find the ideal wedding gown.
“They forget about everything else — it’s all about the dress,” Ristivojeviach said.
Selecting the perfect bridal gown is an entirely different shopping experience. Rarely are they discounted because designers demand a certain return on their investments. An occasional promotion is allowed, especially during trunk shows.
Experts concur that today’s wedding design is understated and natural with a return to vintage and classic style. For 2011, wedding gowns continue with the trend of being romantic and feminine while simple at the same time.
“Right now it’s flowy fabric with structure to the dress and perhaps a little futuristic on some styles, but that’s a trend,” Ristivojeviach said. “Trends come and go, but classic styles like those with lace are timeless and will never go out of style.”
Voluminous skirts with form-fitting bodices tapered on the natural waist or with long torsos are in for 2011. Bows continue to be in, along with ruffles and plisses for a classic romantic bride. For the traditional bride, built-in corsets are en vogue, embellished with Chantilly French lace or heavy beading. Corsets are a return to an old tradition to emphasize curves and make the waist look smaller.
Strapless gowns are still popular, but cap sleeves and higher necklines specially made of illusion English netting are also in high demand.
Designers are also underscoring fabric texture and embellishment.
Ruffles, and satin sashes at the waist are also in fashion. Sashes may have appliques in flowers, lace or beads. In some instances, the bridesmaids may wear a sash to complement the bride.
While the bodice is more simplistic, there is a lot of drama in the skirt or the train, Ristivojeviach added.
Shorter trains and veils — especially the bird cage veil — are popular, as are elaborate boleros, headbands and shawls.
Post-ceremonial bridal gowns are the new craze so brides can kick off their shoes and dance the night away more freely.
“These are less restrictive for dancing,” Ristivojeviach said. “These dresses are typically for the bride who wants to change her look during the evening.”
Brides are now shelving their white satin shoes and stepping out in vivid colors.
“Today it’s not necessarily traditional shoes, but to complement the color theme of the wedding,” Nartker said.
When it comes to the bridal party, it will not be uncommon in 2011 to see attendants wearing blue or black, or paisley or floral dresses. In some cases each bridesmaid may wear her own style of dress while matching the wedding color scheme.
Moreover, groom attire has morphed from black tie to dress suits.
“Grooms rarely wear tuxedos anymore,” Nartker noted. “They still go for rentals, but now they’re trending toward suits for casual comfort.”
Ristivojeviach said certain styles should never wane.
“If a groom wants to be formal then they are still wearing tuxedos,” she said. “While some are going with suits, I try to talk them out of it.”
The number of witnesses in a wedding party varies from bride to bride.
Nartker said her clients are scaling back on the number of bridesmaids for a more intimate wedding affair.
“I’m seeing two or three family members or friends vs. the six or seven a few years back,” Nartker said.
Fillion, however, says that figure is generally contingent on the age of the couple.
“If it’s a first wedding and the couple has known each other since college, they’ll have a bigger wedding party with all their friends. But if they’re a little older and a more professional couple, they might have only one witness each. In second weddings, sons and daughters typically are chosen as witnesses,” Fillion said.
Couples are also setting a new trend in gift giving to wedding party attendants.
“They aren’t purchasing gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsmen like they used to,” Nartker said. “Now they are buying tickets to a local sports event or concert so they can all do something fun together.”
For 2011, floral bouquets such as a simple bunch of wildflowers are being picked over traditional roses. For the bride who still desires an elegant and traditional bouquet, roses remain the most popular, but lilies, peonies, hydrangeas, tulips and orchids also land near the top of the list.
“Our signature look for 12 years now has been herbs and wildflowers and they’re even more popular now,” said Bev Campbell, president and owner of One Enchanted Evening in Commerce Township.
Some mothers of the bride and groom are now carrying small posies instead of wearing the traditional corsage.
In respect to venues, couples are gravitating toward outdoor ceremonies and receptions for a natural backdrop. Lakeside venues, mansions, churches, beaches, country clubs, resorts, hotels, public gardens, museums, yachts, and private homes are still the most popular locations for weddings.
“Brides are choosing private residences vs. banquet facilities, like barn weddings or tent weddings vs. banquet halls because it’s effortless,” Nartker said.
Gazebos continue to remain popular.
“We are fortunate to have a gazebo here on the lake so they get married here and between 75 and 80 percent of receptions follow,” Lekas said.
Yet there are still traditional couples who wouldn’t dream of marrying anywhere but a religious sanctum.
“About 80 percent of our clients marry in a church or chapel,” Campbell said.
Other couples like to draw out the event by planning weekend weddings that start on Friday and last the entire weekend.
Experts concur that destination weddings will continue to rise in popularity for 2011. Hot spots include the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Here in Michigan, some wedding experts are seeing more couples tie the knot Up North in tourist cities like Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Traverse City, and Charlevoix.
“These places have gorgeous sunsets and with the water in back of you, they make for beautiful pictures,” Nartker said.
After destination weddings, Pearce said his clients request a wedding “party” afterwards to celebrate with a larger congregate.
“It’s a party without all the stress,” Pearce said.
To exchange vows, couples have begun walking down separate aisles and converging together in front of their guests. While couples embellish vows with their own sentiments — and include their children, in the case of second marriages — Nartker said more often they keep it safe and exchange traditional vows.
“Most couples are so nervous and are afraid they would break down and cry, so they stick to traditional vows,” she said.
Grooms typically escort their mothers down the aisle, whereas brides are escorted by both father and/or stepfather, or by her mother, mother and father together, or basically any significant person.
Pets are also becoming part of the day. Brides riding their horse in outdoor weddings or dogs acting as ring bearers are not altogether unusual.
Dove or butterfly releases continue to be a popular climactical end to the wedding ceremony.
To convey couples to and from the ceremony and reception, limousines continue to be the top choice, but vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages are also contenders.
For 2011, the wedding color palette is bold, brilliant and personalized.
“Crystal, sparkle, and vintage is what’s in for 2011 weddings,” Campbell said. “Colors are vibrant with lots of it, especially blues and teals or unusual combinations like peach and teal or vintage prints.”
According to onewed.com, gray is the top neutral hue with its organic and natural shades of charcoal, dove, stone, oyster and shell that can be paired with vibrant turquoise, mauve, coral, black and white, yellow, fuchsia, crimson, chartreuse, emerald or dark green, slate gray, purple, or latte.
Metallics are making a comeback from last season, but brides are choosing warmer metallic hues of gold, bronze, and copper instead of silver.
Many brides are changing up the configuration and the shapes of the reception tables, mixing round with square.
“We don’t see as many formal head tables anymore,” Lekas said. “We suggest round tables because they are more conducive to people talking together.”
“A lot of bridal couples want the reception to be more like a party and like the idea of round tables, but at our club the long banquet tables trend is trying to come back,” Fillion said.
A sweetheart table for the bride and groom is also an option, although not as popular as mixed square and round configurations.
While experts agree that weddings are returning to the simple and natural without over indulgence, Fillion said there is still that bride who gravitates towards an extravagant affair.
“It depends on what’s important to them,” Fillion said. “Some may want a fantastic cake or flowers everywhere. Everyone has their own priority and I push them to personalize their day in the way they see fit.”
For the environmentally-friendly couples, making green and sustainable choices can be important in planning weddings. Some couples are choosing organic fabrics, flowers, food and invitations, and supporting local businesses to foster community.
“We use local where we can and when we bid out for purveyors,” Lekas said. “We make a concerted effort to go green.”
While preparing a food and bar menu, ostentatious weddings are a thing of the past and culinary responsibility is in. The traditional martini bars, lavish buffets and highfalutin food selections are out. Couples are incorporating farmstead foods and organic vegetables, as well as ethnic cuisine. Bite size hors d’oeuvres are also very popular.
“Couples are having cocktail receptions with hors d’oeuvres and a full bar or interactive food stations at each corner of the room where a chef may be slicing beef or making a Caesar salad and another might be a pasta station made to order,” Nartker said.
She added that communal dishes passed around family style are gaining in popularity, but plated sit-down dinners continue to dominate with beef and fish as top main course entrées.
“Our most popular entrée is the filet/salmon duet plate,” Fillion said. “It’s a beautiful presentation.”
“We are also serving at least five vegetarian dishes per wedding,” she added.
Full service bars continue to be most popular. Some couples will also feature a specialty drink in a color correlating with their wedding theme, usually in an elegant glass.
“Signature drinks are the new buzz thing, especially at the beginning of the reception,” Fillion said.
“It’s usually the couple’s favorite drink,” Lekas said. “We get the recipe and pour it all night.”
For the cost-conscious couple looking to cut corners, serving a standard bar vs. premium is the way to go. However, make sure the bar is stocked with plenty of wine and beer.
“We’re seeing the trend of wine and beer and not as much hard liquor,” Fillion said.
As another means of scaling back on wedding costs, most couples are employing a disc jockey rather than a band.
Desserts are served in smaller proportions by providing wedding dessert samplers and tasting plates. Dessert buffets are also popular after dinner and before serving the cake. An increasingly popular trend is an ice cream station, candy buffet or confection bar. This consists of a variety of candies or ice creams with assorted toppings placed in varied sizes of glass containers and grouped on a table.
For traditional couples, showcasing and cutting the towering wedding cake is still a benchmark of the evening.
“People still want beautiful, large cakes,” Borders said. “People have been through difficult times and the symbolism of the wedding is special and they want something memorable.”
In lieu of a large wedding cake, couples may downsize or scrap it altogether, opting for a tier of individual cupcakes.
“One-third of the weddings serve cupcakes or miniature desserts like tarts, cheesecakes, cookies or cannolis,” Borders said.
“The trend is downsizing cakes,” Drallos said. “We provide a sheet-size cake that’s $2 less per serving. We offer a good sized cake for display and then cut up a sheet cake in back for serving guests. It’s one of the biggest ways to cut corners, but cupcakes is another way to go. They’re self-serve so there’s no cost to have the cake cut.”
Unlike many bakeries or patisseries, Lakes Cakes doesn’t charge for extra sidework design and customizes every cake.
“It’s all included in the price,” Drallos said. “We can replicate designs in fondant and do it buttercream for a lower price and better taste.”
For the traditional bride, the trend is to create a wedding cake with a theme design and arranged in varying tier heights. For 2011, buttercream frosting will be most common. Flowers, sculptures, and large monogrammed letters are replacing the traditional bride-and-groom cake top.
To encourage guests to stay longer at the gala and let their bodies absorb and process some of the alcohol away, couples are now offering desserts, candy, late night comfort foods, specialty coffees, and cigar roller stations at what’s called an “after glow party.”
“We set up a separate area where an ice cream station, and late night snacks, such as Coneys, pizza, and sliders are served so the party continues,” Fillion said.
The party room is typically arranged with comfy living room furniture such as sofas and toss pillows, along with café tables, communal tables or bar tables and stools.
Couples may be incorporating some contemporary ideas contrary to their parents in 2011, but marriage remains a top traditional value for the majority of committed couples.
“The bottom line is the wedding industry is recession-proof because people are still getting married,” Drallos said.