Nothing says true love quite like a photo op with an alpaca, am I right? And even though it might be a stretch to say alpacas are the new symbol of holy matrimony, they’re getting invited to a surprising amount of weddings these days.
One newly married couple shared the spotlight with an alpaca in 2015, captured by wedding photographers at The Shalom Imaginative. A year earlier, alpacas had the honor of being featured as guests in a “bohemian-inspired” wedding shoot by Blue Eyed Yonder and Our Labor of Love.
“[With modern weddings,] people want something different, they want magic, and they want to celebrate in a special way.” —Niall Kelly
“[With modern weddings,] people want something different, they want magic, and they want to celebrate in a special way.”
Lifestyle website Brit+CO is calling llamas the latest trend in weddings, but it’s hard to say if this quirky wedding feature will be as common as doves anytime soon. What stories like this do highlight, however, is one massive trend steering wedding planning in 2018: personalization.
All About You
“It’s your big day.”
How many brides have heard this phrase repeated endlessly throughout the wedding process? Whether they’re facing an opinionated in-law, stressing over the budget, or just trying to decide on their color palette, friends and family are quick to remind couples that their happiness is top priority.
Now more than ever, weddings are being planned around the unique personalities, beliefs, and convictions of the engaged couple. In The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Survey, 64 percent of couples planning their weddings said decisions about their day were centered around personalization.
And thanks to the role of social media in wedding planning, we get a front row seat to watch how these amazingly personalized weddings are playing out.
“Weddings are just all about the personal touches now,” says Leah Gunn Emerick, a wedding photographer and self-proclaimed professional wedding attender. “That can lend itself to some unusual situations just off of what is personal to the couple. Think having a bacon and bourbon tasting table instead of a regular bar and appetizer situation.”
From Fairytales to Fantasy
As more couples lean toward the personal, theme weddings are becoming more inventive than ever. Couples are taking a note from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, planning royal weddings of their own.
Theme weddings aren’t exclusive to admirers of the British throne. Steampunk and Star Wars weddings are a couple of the most unusual weddings Janessa White, elopement planner at Simply Eloped, has recently planned. A future bride of hers, White says, will be bringing her cat to her small ceremony. White believes that engaged couples are becoming more aware of their options, thanks to PR efforts, viral content, and influencer marketing.
“People want something different, they want magic, and they want to celebrate in a special way,” explains Niall Kelly, a representative from Kilkea Castle, which has become a venue for fairy tale and Game of Thrones–themed weddings.
Getting Hitched for the ‘Gram
Photography has long been an integral part of weddings, with professional photographers and prop-filled photo booths helping chronicle the festivities, but in recent years, nuptial celebrations have become firmly embedded in social media.
Sixty-four percent of couples in 2017 reported creating a hashtag and asking their guest to use it to tag pictures from their big day, according to The Knot’s survey. Photo booths are changing with the times, says Maggie Lynn Hummel, an event planner with Terrace on Grand: Instead of printing the snapshots right then and there, photo booth providers are linking their booths to social media for people to tag and repost.
One interesting new development, however, is the rise of the unplugged wedding—that is, weddings without electronics. Kristin Maxwell Cooper, the editor-in-chief of The Knot, was quoted by Brit+CO as saying this trend is experiencing an uptick, and Hummel notes this as well.
“They are usually putting up a sign and then announcing it before the ceremony,” explains Hummel, noting that phones are fair game once the ceremony comes to a close. “No one wants photos of everyone on their phones during the ceremony.”
Running Away Together
As more couples consider what they want most from their wedding day, more couples are making plans to elope. And we’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill weekend trip to Las Vegas with an officiant in a bedazzled jumpsuit, says White. Instead, she describes a highly personalized hybrid of an elopement and a destination wedding.
Although there aren’t clear statistics on how many couples are eloping each year, The New York Times reported that the popularity of the choice can be attributed to the rising cost of weddings along with the complications that come with planning a large wedding. When you consider that The Knot found that the average wedding is setting couples back by $35,329, this choice completely makes sense.
According to White, brides and grooms aren’t making this decision on a whim. These are couples who have considered their personalities and their circumstances, sometimes years in advance, and have decided that an elopement is far superior to the stress of a traditional wedding.
“We have people reach out to as far out as 2020,” she explains. “To be honest, rarely do the 48-hour, we-want-to get-married-this weekend [weddings] work out.”
The Small Things (That Add Up)
Not all wedding-planning decisions are about high-level stuff—being big, bold, or making a splash on social media. Make no mistake, the bulk of the decisions are grounded in the little details. For every conversation about the theme and the hashtag, there are ten more about, say, what will end up on the guest’s tables.
The most popular decor pieces and color palettes vary by the year, and 2018’s trends seem to be about returning to simpler times—and simpler parties.
“Once seen as corny and dated,” says Meghan Brumbley, owner and lead wedding planner at D.C. Engaged, “balloons are making a comeback this year.”
Indeed, balloons have expanded beyond birthday and New Year’s parties, according to Brides magazine, and they’re being implemented into weddings in creative ways. Instead of being used for for archways or on the getaway car, they’re being used by brides to create photo backdrops, table garlands, and place settings.
A lot of brides are going simple. …It used to be everything needed to be very flashy, and everyone is really reeling that back now. —Maggie Lynn Hummel
A lot of brides are going simple. …It used to be everything needed to be very flashy, and everyone is really reeling that back now.
—Maggie Lynn Hummel
For those concerned for the environment: Balloons were recently banned in Block Island, Rhode Island, after discarded, non-biodegradable balloons became an environmental nuisance in the town, reported The Boston Globe. If you want balloons in your ceremony, consider these biodegradable wedding balloons.
Color palettes are less flashy this year, too.
“A lot of brides are going simple,” says Hummel. “Ivories, light pinks, greenery, and maybe a hint of gold or rose gold. It used to be everything needed to be very flashy, and everyone is really reeling that back now.”
Wedding favors aren’t taking priority this year, wrote Lauren Kay of The Knot. Instead of sending their guests home with a treat or gift, engaged couples are spending more money on making sure that the wedding experience is something their guests will remember fondly for long time.
An Unforgettable Experience
The desire to create a personalized, unforgettable experience is driving up the prices of weddings. Wedding are getting smaller, but engaged couples are spending more per guest than they have in years past. The average cost per wedding guest was $268 this past year, compared to $194 in 2009, according to The Knot’s survey.
“A lot of our brides are also thinking about their guests a lot more,” shares Hummel, who says that guest counts have dropped drastically at her venue in the last year. “They want good food, a good bar, and good music.”
A smaller guest list allows for a more elaborate and unique experience, with musical entertainment, fireworks, sparklers, and photo booths taking the lead as the most popular experiential additions to 2018 weddings. More elaborate additions include magicians, comedians, and multiple musicians throughout the night.
“I recently attended a wedding where a man on stilts came out when everyone was dancing,” shares Kelsey Bowen, blogger at Little Things Favors. “He was dressed in all black and had an LED-light costume on. So there was this huge, light up robot looking thing dancing on the floor.”
If a dancing robot isn’t your style, consider that some couples are blazing their own trails by booking adventure weddings. White has seen couples who’ve planned their ceremony on the summit of a mountain; they hike the mountain together and meet their family and officiants at the top.
Planning a wedding is certainly an undertaking.
For many couples, it will be the most elaborate event they plan in their lifetime. With countless decisions and ample pressure to please everyone involved, it is easy to be overcome by the stress of the planning. If there is anything to learn from the weddings so far in 2018, it’s that today’s weddings place importance on the expression of the couples’ individuality.
The freedom to plan the wedding you want, whether it’s an elopement or an elaborate event, is yours. Bring an alpaca if you want to.