Trend Spotting

Add some spark to your reception with any one of these creative ideas.

Today’s weddings are all about texture, colors, personalization, special effects and wow factors. With couples stepping away from cookie-cutter designs, wedding service providers are putting new spins on traditional wedding elements to offer more creative and personalized options than ever before. Here are some reception trends that can help spark creative ideas for unique events.


Tasting Tables

The popularity stems from the ability to fully customize each tasting table while adding a whimsical and interactive “attraction” to the event. Tasting tables have evolved into confection bars, dessert buffets, cocktail activities and pre-and post-reception beverage stations. Typical candy buffets (below) feature lavish exhibits of decorative glass containers with stylish nametags holding treats like malted milk balls, taffy, lollipops, popcorn and gourmet pretzels, while dessert buffets (also known as Viennese tables) are arranged on tiered risers to dramatically display an array of mini-pies, macaroons, whoopie pies, brownies and petit fours. Tasting tables are also used to feature cookies, ice cream or yogurt sundaes and “cook your own” s’mores. Bourbon (right) and wine tasting bars have become a chic and enlightening alternative or addition to traditional cocktail hours. Bars are typically themed around a particular year, type or brand, while wines tend to feature a series of reds or whites or a regional focus. Having a professional on hand to speak about the drinks and answer questions is a great way to educate and engage guests.


Interactive Food Stations

“Couples want to provide a distinctive dining experience for their guests,” says Heather Snively of Weddings Unique. “These stations have become the perfect fit because of their flexibility to serve a variety of unique cuisine in different formats.” From seared local fish to fudge lollipops made to order by you, the creativity is endless, making the performance stations (right) a bit like a Top Chef challenge. They serve as a major part of the décor and entertainment for the evening, with chefs performing as they prep. Stations can be set with ornate displays of ice bars and sculptures or linear layers of shelving on risers to make the food a striking focal point. Food bars are also serving hors d’oeuvres and desserts in shooters, push pops and decorative appetizer spoons to accentuate the offering and pique interest.


Illuminating Décor

Lighting can set the tone for a wedding. It has the simple power to transform any room by adding dimension, texture and structure where other forms of décor can’t. With modern brides making it a priority, specialty event lighting vendors have rapidly increased the variety of options, which include cost-effective ways to transform ordinary spaces into magnificent environments. Projected monograms and LED uplighting (above), chandeliers (above right), Chinese lanterns, illuminated water elements, colored lighting and centerpiece pin spotting can add dramatic effects for standout receptions.


Choreographed Dances

Arthur Murray of Orlando is seeing a increasing numbers of engaged couples signing up for a series of dance lessons. Couples are replacing dances like the foxtrot, waltz or the old-fashioned “high school sway” with elaborately choreographed routines to custom remixed music. DJ Carl ( can custom mix three or four of your favorite songs together. Olivia Gale, studio manager for The Zebra Room (, says she often creates special routines to go with a song that usually starts out slow, then segues into a surprising twist midway through. The entertainment-like show is now popping up in father-daughter dances as a new way to showcase a family’s distinctive personality.


Flower Power

More formal entertaining at receptions includes intimate floral centerpieces (above) rather than large, towering focal points. The minimalistic approach also includes the use of multiple candles to create romantic ambiance. Shape is also playing a major design role in today’s reception centerpieces. “From pomanders that flank the aisle to paper lanterns, the options are endless,” says April Dorsey of The Dtales ( “Bundles of flowers set in an orb shape or even placed in unique spherical glassware keep the simplistic vibe and allow the shape of the centerpiece and texture of the flowers to make a bold statement.”


Multicultural Ties

Couples are adding hints of their heritage while incorporating pop-culture trends. Fortunately, vendors are finding creative new ways to apply cultural elements to a wide variety of affairs, exciting brides of any denomination or ethnicity. Everything from food trucks to foreign cuisine like naan and Indian-fusion elements are showing up in pre-wedding cocktail hours and post-reception parties of all denominations. Colorful cultural events with drapes, floor pillows and ottomans, as well as ethnic foods and icons like geisha girls, are transforming rehearsal dinners, cocktail parties and reception themes. Some brides are also opting for hand-painted scenery-scapes, tents, textured linens, beaded runners, damasks, décor and custom, handmade mandaps (above), like those from Occasions by Shangri-La (, for their symbolism and intense beauty. The bold, vibrant color palettes, such as purples, reds and golds, lavish drapery, beading and jewels, mixed with lighting, water elements and florals add an intense level of drama and make guests feel as though they’ve been transported to a foreign land.

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