Wedding trends, like fashion, can vary based on location.
We spoke to several Chicago-area wedding pros to get the inside scoop on what’s trending now in the Windy City. Here’s what you can expect to see at receptions in 2015 and beyond.
1. There’s no place like home.
John Hensel, senior designer and creative force behind HMR Designs in Chicago, prefers to design events way beyond the tabletop, and feels couples should focus less on trends and more on what speaks to their personality, cultural backgrounds and reflects who they are as a couple.
“Anything trending is not unique,” Hensel says.
Hensel says many of his clients want to personalize event spaces by giving them a residential feel similar to the interiors of their own home. Gone are the round tables and staid banquet hall chairs. In their place, Hensel brings in furniture groupings, unique wooden or mirrored glass tables, custom chairs, linens and even chandeliers and framed family photos to give guests the feeling they just entered an elegant dinner party in the host’s home.
Kent Drake Photography for HMR Designs
2. Ceremonies get personal.
Hope Weis, a Deerfield-based wedding planner, has sent hundreds of couples down the aisle in her 20-plus-year career, and tells us that, more than ever, couples are choosing to have their ceremonies conducted on the same site as the reception. Weis says this has to do with convenience and the ability to transform a space into a setting similar to a house of worship through décor.
“There is a movement toward using someone in the family to perform the ceremony,” Weis says. “People are using more poetry and incorporating traditions from other cultures that are beautiful, moving and refreshing.”
In an age when anyone can become ordained online to perform a wedding ceremony, couples are considering the idea of selecting family members and friends to create a personalized ceremony that reflects their own spiritual, religious and cultural traditions.
3. Let them eat cake…again!
Amanda Belton, assistant director of catering at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, says the last few years have seen many a bride scoffing at the idea of the usual four-tiered confection, but this trend is quickly on the rewind.
“Cakes are back big time,” Belton says. “Everyone wants big, over-the-top cakes.”
Most requested are multi-tiered cakes with elaborate flavor combinations and simple frosting designs with fresh fruit or floral décor toppers. Wedding cake alternatives like the cupcake tower have gone stale, but brides seeking a unique approach are turning to more refined desserts such as French macaroons created in a variety of flavors and colors and stacked in tiers that give a cake-like presentation.
Photo credit: KingenSmith; Cake by Cake Chicago
4. Going local.
Chicago has become a foodie destination and couples living on the cutting edge of its culinary scene are not afraid to showcase their chef’s talents at their receptions.
“I have seen a lot more weddings with six-course dinners with each course a bit smaller in size, but with greater flavor qualities and restaurant style presentations,” Belton says.
John Rudy, vice president of catering at Food for Thought Catering in Lincolnwood, says the prices of beef and seafood continue to skyrocket, leading caterers to experiment with Midwestern-raised lake trout and whitefish that are in good supply. The farm-to-table restaurant concept is finding its way onto plates at weddings, with a push toward organic vegetables and more cost-effective cuts of meat and poultry such as chicken thighs.
Kent Drake Photography for HMR Designs
“We are seeing flat iron, hanger and skirt steaks increase in popularity, which makes us happy because the flavor profile is much more robust,” Rudy says.
Rudy also says the signature cocktail trend continues with increased attention to quality spirits and craft beers.
“We’ve seen gin and bourbon explode,” Rudy says. “Tequila and rum are now the fastest-growing spirits.”
5. The veil’s back.
Caroline Shaw has helped hundreds of North Shore brides get ready for their big days. As a professional wedding dresser and stylist for brides and grooms alike, Shaw says there is a definite return to the classic ball gown style silhouette and the traditional long veil, oftentimes borrowed from the mother of the bride or a friend.
“I am seeing a move to romance and great sentimentality in the way brides are accessorizing,“ Shaw says. Personal mementos such as cameos, rosary beads, photos and special messages are being sewn into the seams of the dress, onto handkerchiefs or pinned into the wedding bouquets.
And Shaw says she will be thrilled to see the end of strapless gowns and the fitted mermaid dress with a sequined belt on their way out in favor of cleaner, more sophisticated lines. “There is a move back to lighter, more demure Chantilly lace on the upper part of the body and we will start to see the reappearance of the illusion sheer back,” Shaw says.
Bridal party sizes are increasing (averaging six to 10 attendants or more), and Shaw says finding a dress versatile enough for all body types was nearly impossible until she came across Twobirds Bridesmaid, an innovative line of gowns that can each be worn in 15 different styles.
For the groom, Shaw says men’s fashion has never looked so good, and they are taking more risks than ever, with navy blue now neck and neck with the classic black tuxedo. She’s also observing a return to formality with black tails, vests, wing-tipped collars and white bowties. “’Downton Abbey’ is definitely having an effect on the men,” Shaw says.
6. Being in the moment
Never has a generation been more consumed with the documentation of life’s every moment, and millennial couples often encourage their social media savvy guests to share images of their big day by creating custom hashtags.
Yet Weis sees an eventual backlash to this trend by couples that simply want one moment in their lives not to be witnessed from behind the lenses of iPhones. Similar to requesting guests to quiet the ringers on their cell phones, special signage is being displayed to alert guests of the couple’s wish not to take photos at all during the ceremony.
“As a guest, they should be respectful of this request and this day and just be in the moment,” Weis says.
7. Step away from the screen.
Weis thinks the Internet and social media sites like Pinterest have certainly done well in exposing couples to all that can done in the wonderful world of weddings, but she cautions that “wedding TMI” often leads to more confusion and frustration than it’s worth.
Tim Walters Photography for HMR Designs
“I’ve had brides come to meetings with pictures [from Pinterest], and their visual simply doesn’t match their budget,” Weis says, “Now we’ve created this, ‘You mean I can’t have my dream?’”
Weis’s advice? “To always dream big, but then work back to financial reality by letting your planner design an event that uniquely reflects you as a couple.”
Top right photo: Casino Club by Fandl Photography