Tips & Trends


Lighting, photography, style and other tips and trends from our experts

TIP: Create a Reception Timeline

When’s the right time to leave your wedding reception? Don’t leave the decision up to guests. Create a timeline that ensures people have enough time to socialize, eat and shake it on the dance floor, but closes down the party before eyelids start to droop. Five hours is a standard length for a reception, says Fausto Pifferrer of Blue Elephant Events & Catering in Saco, ME. This allows one hour for cocktails, one for dinner, and three for dancing. To make sure things run smoothly, plan a timeline with the DJ or band. Pifferrer suggests slowing down the music about 15 minutes before guests should leave the venue. Then make sure everything is turned off on time. Another reason to be firm on quitting time: “Every minute you go over the allotted time for the event, there are people who need to be paid,” he says.

TREND: Creative Reception Lighting

A light is just a light, right? Not anymore. Couple are more creative when it comes to brightening up their receptions, and they aren’t doing it alone. “Couples and wedding planners now enlist the help of professional lighting companies,” says Nicole Mower of Nicole Mower Weddings and Events in Portsmouth, NH. Goodbye paper lanterns—twinkle lights have taken over. Other inspired lighting choices include chandeliers, which add sophistication to tented weddings, and uplighting, which creates drama. Looking for something even more unique? Floral chandeliers, which incorporate flowers and greenery into the lighting, may be just the thing.

TIP: Ditch The Receiving Line

Old-school receiving lines are a thing of the past. They’re long, slow, and can affect your budget. “People assume 200 family members are going to walk by and high-five them,” says Christian Pendergraft of Christian Pendergraft Photography in Portsmouth, NH. The reality, he says, is that it wastes precious (daylight) time. If the receiving line lasts too long, you may not get the photos you want afterwards (for example: foliage color, tides or sunsets). “I tell couples the photo budget will be compromised,” Pendergraft says. “Go to the reception. See everyone there. Going from table to table saves time.”

TREND: Casual Photos

Tempted to strike a pose? Don’t. Candid shots usually are top choices for photo albums.“The best shots aren’t posed,” says Pendergraft. You can still have traditional photos—just maybe with a creative twist. Pendergraft usually sets up a shot, then lets kids play out in front or catches the family during a light-hearted moment. “Couples always choose the photo where we were joking and everyone was laughing and really smiling,” he says. And your furry friends are welcome to join the party; dogs are incredibly popular in wedding shoots, Pendergraft says. “People aren’t afraid to ask for their dog to be included.”

TIP: Use Fabric From Alterations

Coordinating colors, themes and items for weddings make the day special. Take this a step further by incorporating leftover pieces from dress alterations in your bridal bouquet or in the groom’s boutonniere, says Malinda Macari of Dream, a bridal boutique, in Sudbury, MA. Be upfront with your seamstress about your intentions before the alterations begin. That way, any quality fabric can be saved and used by the florist.

TREND: Colored Wedding Dresses

“Blushing bride” takes on a whole new meaning, as traditional white dresses take a back seat to gowns with a little more color. Malinda Macari knows what brides want and, when it comes to the dress, they don’t want white. Brides prefer variations of ivory or go bolder with blush, champagne, mocha and rose gold. “I had a friend who even sold a dress in lavender,” she says. Color is also creeping into bridal jewelry. Platinum is no longer a must-have, Macari says. Brides are requesting rose gold; some gowns incorporate the color via metallic thread woven through the gown.

TIP: Action Stations

Keeping your wedding guests entertained isn’t always easy. Action stations keep them occupied while ensuring they get food. Blue Elephant Events & Catering’s Pifferrer says there are many station options, including: a pasta station where a chef prepares guests’ dishes to order; using tea carts as mobile beef-carving stations during cocktail hour; even turning a salad station into a martini bar by serving greens in glasses. You can also make your reception a cocktail party, serving butlered food for three hours. “This makes it a lot more interactive,” Pifferrer says, “and you don’t need as much food.”

Photo credit: Geneve Hoffman Photography

TREND: Custom Bars

Looking for a creative way to make your big day even more memorable? Provide a custom bar for guests at your reception. Geneve Hoffman of Geneve Hoffman Photography in York, ME, says custom bars are a big hit for guests. A good custom bar has excellent lighting, a lounge area, and a friendly bartender or two. “I think it really shows personality – not only in the decor of the bar or lounge itself – but also in the drinks selected,” Hoffman says. “People get to know each other while waiting in line and it seems to be a fun flow for guests.”

TIP: Make Details Special

You want your reception to be memorable, but not break the bank. Avoid the Internet! “A lot of brides go cuckoo over Pinterest, spending on tchotchkes,” says Michelle Rose of Minka Fine Flowers in Kennebunkport, ME. Put your money where it will make the most impact, she recommends. For example, those cute little signs at weddings can be replaced with one, well-done sign. Also, instead of dishing out the time and expense on DIY favors, use the money on stunning centerpieces. “It’s about editing the details and making them special,” she says.

Photo credit: First Mate Photo Cake credit: Mayflour Confections
Photo credit: First Mate Photo Cake credit: Mayflour Confections

TREND: Get Naked
(With A Non-Traditional Wedding Cake)

Tiered white cakes are the traditional choice for wedding desserts. This isn’t your only option. “There’s a big trend away from the traditional, fully-frosted, tiered cake,” says Jocelyn Pierce of Mayflour Confections in Rockport, MA. “About 3/4 of my cakes for the 2015 season are non-traditional.” Instead, Pierce makes naked, or semi-naked, cakes. Naked cakes alternate layers of cake and frosting on each tier without frosting on the sides or top, leaving the cake fully exposed. Semi-naked cakes have a crumb coat or a very thin layer of frosting over everything. “It appeals to a lot of couples who like the idea of a wedding cake and have a celebration that is informal, rustic or non-traditional,” she says. “I think people have finally realized that it’s much more fun to have something unique and delicious that most people will love.”

TIP: Save Money By Going To The Stylists

You can potentially save money on hair and makeup by bringing your bridal party to your stylists. You can at least save on the travel fee, says Nancy Gorman of Makeup by Nancy in Salisbury, MA, maybe more: some makeup artists double their prices to come to you. It’s up to you to decide if the savings are worth it.

TIP: Personalize Thank-You Notes

Writing a good thank-you note starts before even sitting down. A great pen and beautiful thank-you cards can get you started and even be motivating, says Laura Lubanski of Gus & Ruby Letterpress in Portsmouth, NH. The most important step is to make the note personal. Thank the recipient for the gift and tell them how it will be used, she says. If they’re a wedding guest, mention that, too. “Let them know how grateful you are that they were able to be there on your big day,” Lubanski says. “If there’s a special memory you have of them at the wedding, tell them!”

Photo credit: Deborah Zoe Photography

TREND: Casually Styled Brides

Many brides are choosing more natural makeup and hair styles, wearing hair down for comfort. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean less makeup, says Nancy Gorman; it’s characterized by being less “done up,” consisting of lighter shades, including very light blush and a soft lip color. It might not be for everyone, though. If you wear makeup on a daily basis, “keeping it simple may not be ‘more casual’,” she says. “If it makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it.”

Photo credit: Casey Durgin Photography

TREND: The New Role Of Typography

Calligraphy is everywhere. Couples use the decorative text for headings on wedding signs for everything from signature drinks and wedding hashtags to favors, says Lubanski. The traditional style of calligraphy has been replaced by a loose, romantic style. “In general, we see a trend towards more ‘understated elegance’ for invitations,” she says, “so flowy calligraphy really strikes the right tone.”

Cover photo credit: Geneve Hoffman Photography