Friday, December 8, 2023

Love is patient: Wedding trends in the age of coronavirus

Couples are getting creative to ensure their big day actually occurs this year.

They say every bride has had her wedding day planned out in her head since she was a little girl. Long before she knew how to spell the word love, she dreamed of being swept off her feet by her very own Prince Charming and getting fitted for the most beautiful dress in the land — all to walk elegantly down the aisle to “Here Comes the Bride.”

The venue would be perfect, the sun would be shining, and every detail would be accounted for. Her family, who naturally would show up in droves, would eagerly snatch up every available seat to savor the moment when she says, “I do.”

All she needs to do is patiently wait for that day to get here — and 2021 appears to be that year.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges over the past 10 months for the usually-booming wedding and events industry. Many happy couples who had their wedding planned out months and even years in advance and had put money down on a large venue were forced to cancel, reschedule, indefinitely postpone, and in some cases, consider downsizing their fairytale wedding celebrations.

But now, those who’ve been waiting it out don’t want to wait anymore.

“2020 presented us all with a series of challenges that no one expected,” said Ashley Love, the public relations manager for Walters Wedding Estates. “We’ve adapted as event venues so that we continue to host safe celebrations, and what you see now is that couples who got engaged last year and decided to hold off to 2021, and those who booked in advance and had to reschedule, don’t want to wait anymore. We’re seeing an influx in inquiries, and it’s exciting.”

She added, “They want their fairytale wedding, and they’d love for it to be this year.”

The push for 2021 weddings has created some interesting trends as the calendar flips to a new year, trends that Love anticipates will become the new normal among the wedding and receptions landscape. And perhaps no company is more prepared to share those happily-ever-after secrets than Walters Wedding Estates.

Initially started in 2005 by the husband-wife team of Keith and Sarah Walters, the company went from one venue (Denton’s Wildwood Inn) to 25 charming sites across Texas and Georgia. They have 15 venues in DFW, including Aristide in Flower Mound, Hidden Pines Chapel in Highland Village, The Olana in Hickory Creek, and Ashton Gardens in Corinth.

Flower Mound’s River Walk Chapel sits on its own island and seats 190 people.

The same can be said for the new River Walk Chapel and Water Works Hall in Flower Mound. This beautiful wedding and event space opened in January and is already filling up fast with bookings for September, October, and November.

“2020 was the year of schedule, reschedule, and reschedule,” River Walk Chapel General Manager Michael Hallford said. “We started seeing bookings for 2021 in October, and now that we are into January, the bookings have definitely grown. These couples can finally have the event that they wanted — 2021 is going to be that year.”

One trend that Love and Hallford said to be on the lookout for is weekday weddings. Most couples traditionally look to Saturdays and Sundays as their day to tie the knot, but with only 52 weeks in a year and a growing list of couples looking to get their wedding on the books, weekday weddings such as Thursdays or even Fridays add more options to the calendar. Weekday events also increase the likelihood that hotels, airfare, and dream venues will be available.

On top of that, they are noticing that couples are sparing no expense in the nostalgia department, going above and beyond to personalize their wedding in ways they may have never thought of before.

Hallford said much of that extra attention to detail is a byproduct of couples choosing to have smaller, more intimate events with smaller guest counts than in previous years.

“What we are seeing are smaller events and smaller guest counts but equal or even bigger budgets. This allows the bride and groom to focus on who they want to really spend their evening with. You’re getting away from the traditional wedding where you invite as many people as you know or that your family wants there,” Hallford said. “Brides and grooms are now asking themselves, ‘who are the core people in my life that I really want to be there?’ I think it’s a great change for the industry as a whole, and something we will see more of going forward.”

He added, “Everything is becoming very detailed. You are starting to see gifts for each wedding guest — well thought-through gifts for each guest, and what they give to each guest may be different. I’m also seeing welcome gifts for out-of-town guests and couples getting back to the classic, layered invitation sets.”

Love agreed.

“2020 helped put a lot of things into perspective for us all, and I think couples are really trying to make their day as special as it can possibly be — more than they normally would,” Love said. “Weddings have always been a personalized opportunity, but what you’ll see more of are family photos, adding more details to tablescapes that are reflective of the couples themselves, etc. I went to a vow renewal recently, and the bride brought in her original dress and had her son walk her down the aisle. You’re going to see more of that across the board to hone in on the super-fine details.”

Another wedding trend that you can expect to see more of in 2021 is longer receptions. The coronavirus has kept families separated, and as more and more extended family come into town for a wedding, longer receptions provide opportunities to spend more time together, Love said.

“The great thing about weddings is that anything goes,” she added. “Maybe it means using a bold color, or adding a candy or popsicle bar — couples are going to do all they can to personalize the event even more. You will see all the standard stuff, but there will be more extras. The idea is to make the day even more special. That, to us, is why we do this.”

She added, “Couples want their fairytale wedding, and the overall mindset is to make them more special than ever.”

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