Today's brides and grooms aren't settling for what's always been done. They're infusing creativity, personality, cultural trends and most of all, they're having fun. They're creating memorable experiences not just for themselves but for friends and family who contribute to their big day.
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin recently spoke at a Chick-fil-A Leadercast about how the new normal is not normal at all. People are questioning why we do things the way we do and turning tradition on its head. It's affecting all industries, including the wedding industry.
Here's a look at eight alternative wedding trends that are popping up in 2011.
1. Mini Wedding Dresses
Short dresses came on the scene recently and remain all the rage as brides are no longer content to spend upwards of $3,000 on a floor-length formal gown they’ll have zero use for after the wedding. Whether it’s glammed up, vintage or cool and casual, knee-length, short or mini wedding dresses are more practical and more personalized for today’s bride. They also give brides many more options. As more stores roll out wedding boutiques like J.Crew and White House Black Market, brides can pick up a wedding dress (if it’s even a dress at all) from their favorite retail store. And let’s not forget that for some, that’s Etsy, where they can pick up a custom hand-made gown for as little as $40. For more affordable gowns, see: “15 Truly Affordable Wedding Gowns.”
2. Fun with Color
From black accents to bold color blocks, color is king this year. And it's not limited to the bride. Non-matching bridesmaids are coordinating in patterns or complementary color combinations like this crafty DIY wedding of mega-blogger Elsie Larson.
In addition to bold color palettes, shades of gray and stripes continue to be big color trend for the year. And blue is popping up a lot this summer. It’s amazingly flexible as a color; it can evoke a variety of feelings: playfulness, sweetness or elegance. You may see it as blue satin pumps for the bride or blue Converse for the guys. Blueberry tarts, navy blue linens, teal blue tumblers or blue-tinted Mason jars at the reception. Blues of all stripes are coming out in force at weddings, taking the “…something borrowed, something blue” to new levels.
3. Alternative Gift Registries
Many couples are registering for gifts that will help them in a practical way. CardAvenue.com allows couples to create a gift card registry for national retailers. Couples can get creative as they want: they can request gift cards to home improvement stores to offset costs of home renovation, or register for local restaurants so they can continue dating as newlyweds on a budget.
There are some travel agencies and lodging companies allow you to register for your honeymoon so your guests can contribute directly to your trip. Some of these include The Big Day, HoneyLuna, Distinctive Honeymoons, Traveler’s Joy and The Honeymoon. But read the fine print so you know what you’re getting into. According to Newsweek Budget Travel, these travel registries require pre-payment and some have expiration dates. And all charge some kind of fees.
4. Punchy Personalization
While the structure of the wedding remains the same (you've got a couple, an officiant, a group of family and friends, a ceremony and reception) the look is anything but. The time may be different (think brunch), the seating may be smarter (seated at tables & staying put for reception), the furniture may be funky (varying size and shape or non-traditional choices), and forget the wedding favors, today's couples are giving personalized takeaways, like souvenir photo booth picture strips.
5. Eco-friendly Finds
Outdoor spaces, reclaimed furniture, flea market finds and even wooden rings are helping eco-conscious brides and grooms celebrate in a big way without the environmental impact. Green weddings can feature locally grown food and seed-lined wedding invitations that can be planted.
CarbonFund and Terrapass offer wedding carbon footprint calculators, where air travel is most likely to be the big offender. Couples can purchase carbon offsets to lessen the impact, or request contributions as gifts.
6. The Rustic South
There’s been a rise in rustic-theme wedding in the past several years and it mirrors a growing hunger in popular culture for all things Southern (think J.Crew fashion by Billy Reid, artisan jeans by Imogene+Willie, home-brewed beer). Today’s vintage and rustic weddings are all about embracing simplicity and infusing new life into old things. From location (barns or old warehouses) to furniture & decor (antiques and flea market favorites like chalkboards and Mason jars) to apparel (vintage clothes and even brooch bouquets | pictured: a brooch bouquet from trend setter Amanda Heer, founder of Fantasy Floral Designs), many couples are opting for the nostalgic feel of the old South, and modernizing it with glamorous touches.
7. Cultural Cues
Couples looking to add levity to their big day are incorporating pop culture trends. Food cart fare is showing up in pre-wedding cocktail hour and the after-party. Culturally significant themes like retro Asian flavors and ethnic icons like sushi, ninjas, geisha girls and Chinese lanterns are being used in inventive ways. Vintage board games are showing up as Monopoly pieces in bouquets and Scrabble letter tiles as signs for the buffet.
8. Death of the Wedding Cake
In times past, it’s been said that the two things people come to a wedding to see are the wedding dress and the cake. No more. The exorbitant cost of traditional tiered wedding cakes have given way to nontraditional desserts like square mini-cakes and cupcake tiers or a dessert buffet that might feature pies (really hot for 2011), macaroons, Whoopie Pies, cake pops, color-coordinated candy and even ice cream sundae stations or a cookies & milk bar. And when a single traditional cake is chosen, it’s usually simplified instead of ornate.
Cara Davis, 33, planned her dream wedding in seven months for less than $5,000 in November 2003. She now helps other brides on a budget plan their special day as the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot, and as a blogger at CheapWaysTo.com. Below she shares eight alternative wedding trends popping up 2011.