It looked more like a big celebrity gala.
Women in evening gowns and cocktail dresses, men in tuxes and dark designer suits, disembarked from their cars and strode up a red carpet to the door of the venue. Occasionally, they stopped in front of a step-and-repeat banner, that backdrop of event and sponsor logos at the entrance to such affairs as the Oscars, posing as a photographer clicked away. Inside, they entered a ballroom where the host and hostess's logo — not just a monogram, but a silhouette of two figures — was projected onto the dance floor. In fact, the logo was everywhere: on cocktail napkins at the bar, on menus and favors at the color-coordinated tables, even on the wedding.
These features that local vendors describe represent a sample of the trends they're seeing in weddings and receptions. Nick Borelli, marketing and communications director for Oakwood Village-based entertainment and audio-visual provider Rock The House Entertainment, stresses that the additions and changes are part of the increasingly well-thought-out, cohesive themes savvy couples are devising. Gone is the mishmash of details so disparate that only close friends and relatives understood their significance to the bride and groom or how they related to the event — a result Borelli compares to "an inside joke that you walked in on."
"What makes it an experience and not just a night out is [the feeling that] it's consistent and not disjointed," he explains. "Couples have adopted branding, almost, for their weddings." That branding, he says, goes beyond creating logos and choosing colors. "It almost looks like a style guide."
The branding begins on the save-the-date cards and invitations. As any recent recipient has observed, they're no longer only plain white or ivory. Although color duos such as blush and gold or navy and gold are definitely en vogue, many couples are creating a "wedding palette," according to Kate Fortney, owner of Lovely Paperie & Gifts, an invitation studio in Rocky River. That palette is reflected in the type as well as the cardstock. Foiled print, available in a range of colors, is a frequent choice for those using the letterpress relief-printing technique. The option is as viable for the increasingly popular rustic weddings as it is for traditionally elegant ones. "Maybe we do a rose-gold foil on a darker paper," Fortney suggests, stating that the letterpress technique can be used on materials other than paper. "We can print on wood," she notes.
The envelopes can be as striking as the invitations — they're increasingly outfitted with envelope liners. The options range from the familiar foils to photographs and colorful custom designs. "We've done Cleveland city maps in a liner for a Cleveland wedding. We've done skylines," Fortney says.
The colors, of course, are reflected in the flowers. Shelley Ferrara Liposky of Flowers by Shelley in Willoughby Hills adds platinum and "every shade of purple you can imagine," from lavender to eggplant, to Fortney's list of most frequently chosen hues. She's executing those palettes in looser, more textured bouquets by using a range of flowers — peonies, hydrangeas, calla lilies, carnations ("Carnations are coming back," she states) — as well as succulents such as chicks and hens and various grasses and berries. Finishing touches include ostrich and peacock feathers, along with rhinestones and crystals. Liposky even hand-ties them with lengths of rhinestone-studded ribbon.
"Bling," she declares, "is in."
While women continue to pick hand-tied flowers for themselves and their attendants, Liposky says, bridal cascades are making a comeback. But they're not necessarily arranged in traditional whites and ivories. More and more brides are carrying vibrant colors. In some cases, the bridesmaids are carrying the all-white or ivory flowers — a nice contrast, she observes, to brightly colored or dramatically dark dresses.
The bouquets represent the largest floral investment in the "I do's" as spending on arrangements for the ceremony decreases. Pavika Wilson of Pavi Designs, an event-based floral- and dÃ©cor-design business in Solon, explains that more and more couples are realizing that the time spent at that location is usually brief. Those marrying in an outdoor setting, she says, rely on the landscaping and natural greenery.
Moreover, places of worship are restricting staples such as altar arrangements, pew markers and rose-petal scatterings, as Liposky points out. "The reception venue has become, definitely, more of a priority," she says.
Wilson says the budget for the reception still includes favors, little "thank you's" to guests that become part of the dÃ©cor when wrapped or accented in event colors. (Even the mason jars so popular for packaging these items, particularly at rustic weddings, come in an array of colors.) Wilson's clients are choosing edible gifts, everything from chocolates to candy apples — a fun option in the fall — to small bottles of wine, or something usable, perhaps a packet of seeds or a potted succulent that can be transplanted into a garden, depending on the theme. In lieu of favors, they're donating to a favorite charity and notifying guests of the contribution via reception signage. "It's something that your guests can appreciate • but not have to keep around the house forever," she says.
Picture frames also are popular. They double as a place card and can be used by the guest to display that photo for which he or she posed as they arrived (images are printed and distributed on site) or took in a photo booth rented for the occasion. "Eight or nine out of 10 weddings I've [done] have had a photo booth," Wilson says.
According to Borelli, the latest booths have digital cameras and touch-screen monitors that allow subjects to share the shots on social media outlets, often using a hashtag the bride and groom included in the invitations and on the step-and-repeat banner and/or reception signage. Guests also post photos taken on their phones.
In the last year, couples have begun integrating a moderated screen of those images into the reception venue — a safer alternative to running feeds from various social media platforms. "Engagement, in that case, increases exponentially," Borelli says.
The latest high-tech development, however, employs image-mapping, a technique Borelli describes as bringing a surface to life with digital light projection. The technique, most frequently used on buildings and smooth sporting-event surfaces such as hardwood and ice, is now animating wedding cakes. He recently watched as silhouettes of a man and woman circled each tier of the cake, a journey that ended when they reached the top and kissed. He throws out options such as cascading flower petals or autumn leaves.
"It only projects within the outline of the cake, so it has to be very precisely done and organized with the baker," he says. "But the result is pretty cool."
But Borelli also is seeing another trend, one as strong as that of adding high-tech touches: forsaking the extras and investing in premium basics such as a seasoned professional photographer and a truly great band.
"[Couples] understand the value of a dollar [after] going through a decent recession," he says. "While they have the money again, they still respect it."