Daring to be Different!

Out with Traditional Weddings, In with Unique 

Inspiring, intentional, fabulous, chaotic and resilient are just five words area experts use to describe the wedding scene as of late, but based on their accounts of showstopping events and the special couples they’ve worked with, about a million more would fit the bill.
“We still have couples coming off of COVID-era engagements finally getting their wedding day which is really exciting,” Heather Vale, Owner & Lead Designer of Wed & Willow in Appleton, says. “They’ve had an extended engagement so they’re eager to make their wedding day a reality and go all out on details and experiences for guests.”

“It has been amazing to see the innovative ways vendors have used their creativity and abilities to still serve couples, even if they had to adapt,” Sheryl Wagner, owner of Trillium Event Co. in Appleton, adds. “(It’s) making lemonade out of lemons!” 

Adaptation was the name of the game in the midst of cancellations and postponements the last few years, and a lot of those newfound mentalities have stuck: intimate parties, intentional components and weddings focused on the most meaningful elements to the couple, resulting in more and more pairs ditching the typical and striving for memorable.

“A lot of people have really taken time to truly reflect on their priorities and it is showing up in how couples are now planning their wedding days,” Wagner explains. “Dropping headcounts and being more intentional with planning a day that is not only special to the couple but to their guests… destination and micro-weddings had a big surge during this time as well.”

“Couples today are going with experiences that are very personal to them, that tell their love story,” Jenny Smith, Owner and Lead Decorator at Wedding Perfect in Appleton, agrees. “In the end, it’s your day and you will remember it for the rest of your lives!” 

“Daring to be different” shouldn’t be the stressful part–or any work at all. Creating a one-of-a-kind wedding begins with couples simply expressing themselves.

“Don’t try to be different. Just be yourself, and that in itself will make your day uniquely yours,” Welch says. “Regardless of what tradition says you should do, do what you want to do. If you tie those intimate, individual elements of your relationship into your big day, then it is already different than anybody else’s vision.”  

“If it feels natural to you, it will feel natural for your guests,” Vale adds. “Guests get too comfortable with how predictable weddings can be so it’s always fun to challenge their perspective and keep them on their toes!”

“You need three things to get married: someone to marry, someone to marry you legally, and you need a license. That’s it. The rest is a choice and privilege,” Welch reminds. 

Yet, if you choose to celebrate marriage with a party, it takes a lot of planning to accomplish your dream wedding. 

“It takes an average of 400 hours + 700 items on a checklist to plan a wedding,” Welch says. “(Planners) are often thought of last as far as couples hiring until they’re in over their heads. But then their budget might not allow for it.”

“Have a wedding planner who can coach you through conversations and help with the overwhelm when making decisions. It is important to stay focused on the “why” … your wedding team will help make the entire process easy and worthwhile and way less stressful on the wedding day when you have peace and trust in their professionalism and experience,” Wagner advises. “They are going to be the ones you lean on to ensure the day oozes your personality while making the entire experience so special to you and your guests.”

Incorporating outside-of-the-box wedding elements is easier than you think. What our area wedding coordinators have seen that take the cake (literally):

Wedding Party

Smith: I love when couples include special touches to include their pets! It’s adorable for pictures as well as inclusive for their little family. 

Wagner: “Having a wedding party that is smaller (or foregoing all together) is becoming more popular. It allows your guests who have partners to spend the day with them, and gives the couple a lot more time on their wedding day to be with each other or to get ready.”

Welch: Don’t get caught up in “matchy matchy,” especially in the wedding party. Let’s get different colors in there, look at your people’s body types and find shapes that fit them. I also see more and more women wearing suits or pantsuits, and not just in the LGBTQ community. I’ve had grandmas be flower girls. It’s the cutest. 

Ceremony: Wedding Party + Apparel

Vale: Many couples value this part of their day for its significance but also recognize they don’t need this to be drawn out or follow a certain template of sayings, readings and length of time. I’m seeing most couples go away with traditional aspects and instead making it their own with playful songs, grabbing a beer on their way back down the aisle or walking with their pets down the aisle.
I’ve done many tree planting ceremonies with couples that love nature and feel connected to the outdoors. Each person brings soil from a special place: family home, favorite place together, where you got engaged, etc. and you add both offerings into a plant at your ceremony to keep after.
If you’re silly adults that just want to let loose you can have a slip-n-slide as your send off as opposed to a sparkler exit–yes, this really happened this year!

Welch: There are more floor-based centerpieces for ceremonies. Instead of going up and over in arbors, we’re seeing a lot on the floor. Maybe your arc or half circle around the couple, utilizing the floor up instead of hopping over with the drapery that we’ve seen for the last few decades

Reception: Special Touches + Decor

Smith: “Beautiful King’s tables are gaining popularity as opposed to a traditional head table style. Our wooden King’s table with a lighted topper, coupled with specialty place settings can really personalize your wedding, making the wedding party feel like royalty.
Signature linens are a gorgeous way to add a pop of pizzazz or color! We will frequently add a sequin linen for tall cocktail tables or lush velvet linens for the dining tables, or even a bold print on the Kings tables; the possibilities are endless here.” 

Vale: If you have a lot of kids in your family or invite list, you can create a kids area with activities, plush seating and toys to make them feel special. 

The end of kitschy events is trending, especially the garter and bouquet toss. With the smaller guest counts, budgets are allowing for larger floral installations and more personalized design. I think we are going to start seeing a lot of color in weddings this coming year as well!

Welch: One of my couples met riding bicycles, it’s their thing, their hobby. So they turned their race bibs into table numbers. Guests went up to the board and were thinking, “What do you mean I’m on table 10,827?” They met because of a flat bicycle tire and had it hanging in the garage. We cleaned it up, put it on a little stand and clipped photos of different races to it.
In a wedding last fall, the groom was from the UK and she’s a Midwestern girl. In the UK Christmas poppers are big—little games or dice come out, little trinkets. We used those as the name tags when everyone got introduced.

I’ve had a cheese cake—and I’m not saying the dessert cheese, it was wheels of cheese. And then we cut the cake early for beautiful charcuterie boards, like a grazing table.
Instead of the DJ who doesn’t really know you, and not to dismiss their role because I work with some fabulous, fabulous professionals in this industry, (the couple) chose a friend because that person really knew them. It was a small role, but it was impactful.

“After Party”

Vale: You can be playful with secondary meals for guests and challenge the traditional cocktail hour, dinner and dessert service that your parents would have had at their wedding. Switching up cocktail hour from traditional passed appetizers to a stylish grazing table (charcuterie board) has been a huge trend my couples are loving!

Special late night offerings are always a hit: photo booths—could be a rented setup or repurposing your ceremony floral/backdrop to double as an epic photo backdrop. Also large-scale signage is becoming more popular. Something really large, custom built or interactive that is a feature “Wow” moment in the space. 

Wagner: Themed late night buffets like a loaded tater tot or mac n cheese bar can add a twist to the evening. (Couples) are also requesting more live bands and interactive slow-motion or 360 video booths in lieu of photo booths. 

“It’s about the couple, but we plan the wedding through the lens of guest experience,” Welch says. “What words would you like your guests to use to describe your wedding when all is said and done? How do you want them to remember it?”

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