Over the last two years, many couples planned weddings amid uncertainty and held celebrations with caveats. The wedding industry found itself recalibrating its offerings to provide safe and meaningful experiences for engaged couples and their families. All of this change, while hard, has also provided an exciting opportunity for weddings to look a little different than they have in decades past. As we look to the future of weddings, some creative and meaningful trends emerge.
Focus on your guests' experience
Weddings have always been, and will always be, about the couple. That said, the pandemic has asked couples to look even more carefully at how their guests experience their big day. From everything to winnowing down a guest list to following safety protocols, for better or for worse, couples are now asked to consider their guests from a different angle.
Stephanie Endsley, owner and operator of Springfield's Having a Ball Productions, says that now more than ever, couples are asking: Who truly needs to be in attendance, and what is the best way to accommodate my important people? Endsley says that she sees couples dialing their weddings back to simpler times.
"A lot of couples are focused on asking themselves, 'Who do we actually love, care about and treasure?' And this is creating an elevated experience for those treasured guests," she said.
In this vein, some brides and grooms have chosen "minimonies" or "micro-weddings," while others have favored local weddings over destination ones, in order to reduce the need for air travel.
Recent weddings have also seen guest involvement that goes beyond the old-school signature-filled guest book. More and more, wedding guests are being thoughtfully included in ceremonies, using their talents to fill roles such as officiants, musicians or florists.
From a safety standpoint, the experience of being a guest at a wedding has changed dramatically. No longer are guests crowded around tables, jockeying for elbow room. Similarly, venue regulations are more often requiring plated or individual servings rather than buffet or passed options, resulting in more focus on tasty and creative food options. Lastly, many weddings now include a livestream of the event in order to include treasured guests who aren't able to attend in person.
Make your wedding pivot-proof
Couples planning weddings in the next few years may have concerns about contingency plans in the case of future shutdowns, or if someone falls ill. With this in mind, couples would be wise to review vendor contracts carefully and to ask specific questions about whether backup plans are possible.
One way to ease stress around having to make changes to your wedding is to consider virtual save-the-dates or invitations for your event. Not only do virtual invitations assuage worries about mail delivery and waste, they allow couples to easily update guests about any postponements or changes in location, rather than relying on their extended-family phone trees.
Lastly, when personalizing specific aspects of your wedding such as cocktail napkins, signage to display at the bar or bag tags for favors, be wary of including the date or location of your event. Stick to classic monograms, such as the couple's names or other aspects of the ceremony that will not change. That way, if you do end up having to make changes, you won't be stuck with dozens of unusable personalized favors.
Pop-up outside (of the box)
Unsurprisingly, outdoor venues for weddings are more popular than ever. Open-air tents are extremely sought after and another new trend is the pop-up wedding. Audrey Kondelis, event designer and owner of Springfield's Pole Barn Chic Events, describes a pop-up wedding as a wedding that can be thrown wherever you are. Pop-up weddings are spontaneous, and perhaps a more low-key option than traditional weddings, but they have increased in popularity and acceptability over the course of the pandemic. Vendors bring a couple whatever they may need to transform a space such as a public park or residential backyard into a full-blown wedding space.
Kondelis says Pole Barn Chic will "come and bring it all. We bring a tent, tables, linens, chairs, full catering, props, decor, flowers, a DJ, even a dance floor." In fact, Kondelis is currently working with a couple to transform Camp Illinek, traditionally used for local scouting events, into a perfect wedding venue.
For Kondelis, and for all of us, "COVID changed every dynamic of the world. We all knew everything one way and this forced us to think outside of the box," she noted.
Endsley of Having a Ball Productions agrees that the pandemic has been devastating, but says the couples that she has been lucky enough to work with have been so grateful to spend time with loved ones in creative and exciting new ways.
May we all be able to look at new opportunities with an open mind and a celebratory heart.
Pamela Savage is a freelance writer in Springfield who looks forward to celebrating more with friends and family in 2022.