Venues book fast, and most photographers and caterers won’t take you seriously if you don’t have a date booked in one yet, The Church on Main owner Alison Morris warns. And, don’t forget to book the rehersal dinner when you book the wedding. “I can’t tell you how many panicked phone calls I get about that part,” she says.
When all is said and done — meaning the vows and the subsequent party — consider donating your flowers and anything else you don’t want to keep to a local hospital to brighten someone else’s day. “I see so much waste in the industry and my biggest thing is ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’” Victoria Love says, adding that she recommends all brides speak to their florist before the big day to have them arrange this. Many, such as The Clay Pot, already have a standing relationship with area hospitals.
The setting was perfect. The moment was joyous and overwhelming and you said yes to the love of your life.
You've answered the most important question, but now there are a million more piling up.
Big wedding or small? Indoor or outdoor? Spring or fall? Or perhaps a winter wonderland? What about the décor? And the food? Cocktails? And... the dress?
For event planner Victoria Love, a top-rated wedding planner who does both local and destination weddings through her locally based business Victoria Love Events and Staffing, figuring out those answers can be simpler than they seem to a stressed bride.
"I tell brides, you don't want to be like every other bride," she says, adding that overall planning is about blending trending styles the bride loves with classic comforts to create a unique experience.
That may sound easier said than done, but it's really just about taking it one step at a time, she says. In terms of ambiance, this year it's out with the burlap and in with a natural feel with a classic or vintage twist. And as far as location is concerned, it's about choosing a space with versatility in mind.
"It was ballrooms, then outdoors or in barns, and now, I think, people are going back to venue style — almost minimalist revival style.... It's going away from the wedding style as we've known it," Love says of the wedding themes which have been popular nationally for some time and are now finding their way to Chattanooga. "And I dig making it feel like home. I want it to be cozy with seating everywhere. I love lounge seating options."
The beauty of lounge seating is the conversation opportunities it creates among guests who have more freedom to mill about rather than feel relegated to an assigned table, she explains. And a guest who feels comfortable is obviously going to have a better experience.
With that in mind, here are some other trends to consider for your big day.
Location, location, location...
Before the décor is decided upon, you must settle on the venue. According to Alison Morris, who purchased a former church in Chattanooga's Southside in 2012 and remodeled it into the popular event space The Church on Main, the focus for many brides is adaptability.
"Popularity in having one venue for both the wedding and reception is both a national trend and a local one as well," says Morris, who sees the trend frequently in her own space. "The use of a venue rather than a traditional church is a decision which accommodates the desire of many couples to write their own vows, have pictures from various angles and incorporate pop or contemporary music that might be restricted by church liturgy."
Selecting one location instead of several also has cost and convenience benefits.
"It also makes for simplicity of directions for local and out of town guests who attend the ceremony and reception," adds the venue owner, who frequently hosts weddings planned by Love. "The cost consideration is another support for the trend. Decorating one venue versus two locations allows for the budget to be reallocated toward catering, photography and other costly aspects of a dream wedding."
All in all, she says, nearly 70 percent of her weddings are now "flipped" weddings, meaning a ceremony and reception in the same location with just a quick shift of décor and seating. Several years ago, she says, that percentage was much lower both locally and nationally.
However, the size of the wedding should also be taken into consideration, she warns. Although there is outside space available at her venue, "you don't really want to leave all your guests sweating on the porch while everything is moved around if it's the middle of the summer."
Enhancing the space...
One of the most popular trends to keep in mind when selecting a venue deals with decorations. The rustic theme of the past several years has given way to a concept that has similar undertones, but is executed much differently and requires a different kind of space, Love and Morris agree.
"The updated aesthetic for this natural preference is being replaced by a vintage but clean aesthetic," Morris says. "... It's about a clean line, but with the comforts of something like exposed brick."
Creating a comforting space that also lends itself to a high-end event varies from space to space and depends on the taste of the wedding party, says Love. She has just one rule: Every wedding should have at least one installation or unique creation to enhance the space.
"Whether it's draping across the ceiling, greenery, whatever," she says. "Flowers could easily be forgotten on the table, but a greenery wall behind a bar or an artful stack of wood similar to what you'd see behind someone's house can really bring a new focus."
Though a stack of wood or a wreath of leaves might not have been considered wedding décor several years ago, the concepts have carried over from the rustic trend, Love explains. And those natural-feeling elements are imperative to creating the comfortably chic atmosphere many brides are looking for in today's trend toward all things natural.
"But then take it to another level," she says. "Instead of putting it on the floor, put it on the ceiling. Take something ordinary and cover it with roses."
For someone looking for a fresher take on a more classic vibe, draping and lighting are great ways to achieve a comfortable feel while keeping the minimalist idea in mind, Love adds.
"It's about how you want the event to flow and how you want guests to experience the space," Morris says of décor decisions. "... How do you want to interact with your guests?"
Bouquets, branches and more...
Above all, the natural trend requires, well, nature.
For The Clay Pot owner Joe Jumper, that can involve everything from succulents in bouquets to a mossy table centerpiece instead of a traditional one, something he says brides began asking for this year. Recently, he says, he even used small birch trees for each table for a bride who wanted to forgo flowers altogether. Then, a lighting company up-lit each tree to give the room a comfortable glow.
"Everyone is just customizing to their own taste," Jumper says.
Though he says most brides still want soft colors in their bouquets, a variety of greenery outside of just blooming flowers can be incorporated for whatever sort of customized look a bride has envisioned, which can be especially ideal since bridal season has shifted from spring and summer to fall and into winter.
"Where it used to be summer, now everyone is wanting September, October and November," says Jumper, who has been in business for 25 years. "You can still use those blush colors then, but you can also use leaves and berries. You see more unstructured, organic bouquets."
The natural style also extends into the "homey" décor concept, he says.
"I had one wedding the other weekend up on Lookout where we had greenery chandeliers running the whole length of the place. It's just about that homey feel."
Above all, Love advises, bring more greenery into every aspect of the wedding — and try to go especially unique with flowers and floral installations.
"I think less is more in every facet of the wedding," she says. "Don't waste your money."
Though a cocktail hour prior to a meal is not a new concept, the drinks chosen can be.
Imbibe spirits specialist Toni Zablocki, who often provides drink suggestions for weddings and other events, says there are several ways to serve in style on your special day.
"A twist on a classic cocktail is always a good option," she says. "But you want to make sure it's something that will do OK sitting for awhile, something your bartender won't have to be taking time to make over and over."
Zablocki recommends a twist on a French 75, or any simple, sparkling wine-based cocktail. Infused liquors are also an easy way to create depth in an otherwise simple cocktail, like adding a cinnamon stick to vodka or infusing gin with the flavors of citrus. Or, for darker-liquor lovers, an Old Fashioned is easy to make in large batches ahead of time and is a classic nearly anyone can enjoy, she says.
"You want something that isn't complicated but that will appease the masses," says Zablocki.
For a smaller, more specialized wedding, she suggests having several mid-range options of a particular liquor for enthusiasts to sample.
"If you and your friends are big whiskey drinkers, people sometimes will pick three to five and let everyone experience them," Zablocki says.
But above all, she reiterates, make certain there is something for everyone, like one red and one white wine option, or an easy-to-drink spirit such as Tito's vodka so everyone can imbibe should they so desire (and as long as they're of age).
The main course...
Weddings of today are not characterized by the traditional seated dinner, Love says. At least, not if she has anything to say about it.
This, too, goes back go the sense of comfort brides want to create with their space and their day, she says.
"It's more about high-top tables for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails," says Love. After all, such a setup takes up less room and allows for more comfortable seating elsewhere — seating that better lends itself to conversation and memory-making.
"It's definitely not the seated dinner, multi-course served meal" when it comes to today's weddings, Simply Savory Events owner Jeanne Eller agrees.
For brides who do want to have a fuller meal, a simple dinner like a biscuit or taco bar could still lend itself well to a small, standing dinner with drinks. Or, a family-style event can be the in-between they didn't know they were looking for, Eller says, adding that the trend has become more popular within the last year for her business, which she moved from Florida to Chattanooga several years ago.
In keeping with the home-like atmosphere, a family-style meal creates a conversation around the food, with the guests themselves passing each dish around the table. And with large, farmhouse-style tables and seating, guests aren't sequestered into one group or corner.
"It lets you do away with the formality and the seating charts," says Eller. "That way you're kind of getting the best of both worlds. It's not filet mignon, it's more of a really nice chicken dish, a barbecue or something like that."
And, of course, the dress...
Today's weddings still begin and end with what everyone wants to see: the dress.
"... Maybe I'm partial... but at the end of the day, people know what [UTC's] Patton Chapel looks like, but the thing that is individually her is the dress," says Victoria Brock, manager of the popular full-service bridal boutique Ever After Bridal and Formal Wear.
But while that trendy, two-piece gown might make the model on your Pinterest board look happier than she's ever been, it may not be the right style for you, Brock warns.
"Pinterest is my best friend and my worst enemy," she says.
For the girl who can see herself in the latest style, there are many more options than just the trendy two-piece.
Long sleeves, for example, have become a trend for all seasons based on the material used, Brock says.
"And in those you tend to see a dramatic back, like a really low, beautiful scoop to show off that part of you," she says.
Sleeves can be incorporated in many ways, from lace to a heavier material used all-over. They can start high on the collar bone, or they can begin with a more fashion-forward, off-the-shoulder look.
Illusion dresses, categorized by nude fabric that gives the appearance of showing more skin, are another style gaining popularity, both with sleeves and without.
"It's about light, subtle lace appliques in super-distinct areas, very purposeful to be the most flattering," Brock says, explaining that these dresses give the "illusion" that the wearer has on only the lace.
For the bride searching for a more traditional gown, colored dresses can blend classic with modern.
No matter what a bride is looking for, Brock says she insists they keep an open mind.
"I'm a firm believer that if you come in and know what you want, you probably won't walk out with that dress," she says. "It's a funny statistic but I'd say it's true for over 90 percent of brides. What you come in planning to love, I tell my brides, 'Make peace with it. It's OK if you don't pick it.'
"... So pick a dress that you love and everything else will fall in line after that."