Not very long ago, in a reception hall not very far away, brides had to wear white, serve tiered cake for dessert and give their guests matchbooks as favors.
Thank heavens that's all behind us. The wedding season is not that far off — bridal expos abound this month — and brides and grooms have lots of options when it comes to their Big Day.
Besides the year's most obvious wedding trend — same-sex nuptials — planners and retailers see interest in colorful bridal gowns, lounge areas and vintage styles this year. Here's a look at the top 10 trends in Baltimore.
We know it's all about you. And when it comes to what guests experience, expect to see more ways to express that "you-ness." "Couples want to have fun weddings that represent their lifestyle and relationship," says Briana Dixon, founder of Baltimore-based Nouvelle Weddings and Events, "so we'll see a lot of new food ideas, from food trucks (for hors d'oeuvres, entrees, as well as desserts) to carnival foods such as cotton candy and popcorn."
Drew Vanlandingham, owner of Vanlandingham Events, sees the trend playing out in favors such as cold cups with lemonade mix in summer, scarves in winter or homemade preserves. "So many people hand out things at a wedding that guests might not ever want to look at or much less use," he says. "The types of things I mentioned are things they can take home and think of you when they use them, and they are somewhat practical gifts."
Vera Wang's black wedding dresses were one sign. Jessica Biel on the cover of People in a pink gown was another. Now designer samples are popping up in delicate hues of peach, pink, champagne, gold, beige, gray and blue.
"Brides looking to be 'different and fun' on their wedding days are searching out gowns in new, fun colors," says Leah Tutnauer, a bridal consultant at Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection in Pikesville who recommends soft colors that preserve a romantic feel.
Aubrey Canale, co-owner of Columbia-based Simply Created Events, describes the appeal: "Brides are really going for a soft, flowy feel, and neutral colors like nudes, blushes and mint are popping up everywhere. Many brides love it because it feels comfortable and photographs gorgeously."
If you're counting in Leonardo DiCaprio time, think "The Great Gatsby" to late in "The Aviator" period.
"Vintage '30s, '40s, 'Great Gatsby'-themed events are making a comeback," says Stephanie Bradshaw, owner of Bradshaw Styling.
Dixon thinks vintage elegance will supplant vintage rustic. We'll throw sleeves into that category, too. (Didn't Lady Mary rock sleeves in the "Downton Abbey" wedding?)
Says Vanlandingham: "Girls are really starting to look at options for sleeves on a dress." The royal nuptials of 2011 probably started it. "When we saw Kate and Will wed, she revived the sleeve on the beautiful gown," he says.
Lounges have been making inroads at cocktail hours and after-parties. Diana Venditto of eventi planning, a Baltimore firm, notes the slow creep: "It started a little in 2011 and 2012, but more and more people are making them a priority."
Dixon sees it as another means of helping guests feel at home and have fun: "A great way to ensure that will happen is to create a lounge area with couches, ottomans and great lighting, to give a comfortable place for guests to relax."
Raquel Shutt, owner of Annapolis-based Wedding Savvy Inc., notes the movement to bring the indoors outdoors — or vice versa. The operative idea is "putting things where you're not expecting them," she says.
Similarly, Tutnauer says, "Many weddings are now taking place in outdoor manors and mansions, creating a perfect backdrop for the vintage and romantic aesthetic."
Alternatives to buffets and standard dinner service abound, including family-style dinner service, mini bites and food trucks.
Bradshaw thinks small: "Mini portions creatively displayed are very chic — for example: mini sliders, soup served in shot glasses, bite-sized morsels in spoons, or mini desserts including doughnuts, canapes."
Adds Venditto: "Late-night snacks are huge too. Couples are making them personal like having food trucks show up and make pizzas or have mini milkshakes passed out."
Focus on dessert
Dessert — long an afterthought, a sliver of a tiered cake — is getting its moment to shine.
"Dessert is really beginning to be discussed more and more often and is being considered a course," says Canale. "Mini cakes are also beginning to trend. ... Couples are opting for a small cake to cut and then serving alternative desserts such as mini Italian cookies, ice cream sundaes, lemon tarts."
Dessert bars will stick around a while longer, says Dixon. "But we'll see them becoming a bit more personalized. Couples will create these dessert bars out of desserts that they love, or they will color-coordinate them with the colors and style of the wedding."
Center of attention
Many couples are rethinking their placement in the seating arrangement. Shutt sees more long, two-sided head tables.
"People are leaning away [from] a sweetheart table and are sitting with family or the wedding party," says Canale. "They are really [trying] to connect and make the most of their time and money spent to be with their guests."
"With lace still the most popular fabric for bridal gowns, designers and brides are turning to new interpretations of the classic fabric," says Tutnauer, "with bigger patterns, nonfloral patterns, cotton and crochet laces."
On a related note, Mia Antalics, owner of Garnish Boutique, notes variations on bridal gown necklines: high necks like bateau, lace illusions and sheer fabric necklines with more coverage.
Apps that allow for the sharing of wedding photos are gaining popularity, notes Shutt, the benefit being "The bride and groom ... get to see all of the guests' photos."
Typically, brides and grooms would have access to photos uploaded to a master weddings website.
What's out (or on its way)
Birdcages for headwear
Food on a stick
Upcoming wedding shows
Baltimore Bridal Show
5 p.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 2 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 3. Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St. $10. baltimorebridalshow.com
Winter Wonderland Wedding Show
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 10. Hilton Baltimore Washington – BWI, 1739 West Nursery Road, Linthicum Heights. $8-$10. winterwonderlandweddingshow.eventbrite
Winter Bridal Showcase
Noon-4 p.m. Feb. 24. Sheraton Baltimore North, 903 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson. $5; free to brides. sheratonbaltimorebridalshow.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun