The Top Wedding Trends of 2021
by Esther Lee for The Knot
Every year, The Knot Editors compile a list of wedding trends we forecast for the year ahead. Traditionally, this has encompassed color palettes, cake trends, floral inspiration and the excitement that comes with weddings. Over time, couples have leaned into experiences over aesthetics, creating hyper-personalized affairs and curated guest "moments." The onset of the coronavirus, however, cannot be overlooked as it relates back to weddings in 2021, and from the flames of a pandemic has arisen a need for the nouveau: new wedding trends, new experiences, new design elements, all to capture couples' new beginnings.
"Weddings aren't stopping," notes New York-based planner Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events. "And trends are born of necessity. For example: When I got married, save-the-dates weren't a thing. Now, we're seeing the need for change-the-dates too." As couples increasingly marry the necessity with the new, we welcome 2021 wedding trends as it's coupled with the Year of Intentionality.
The Welcome Box
While it's now standard to have hand sanitizer and social distancing signs available at events, the guest entry touchpoint is another way to make your loved ones feel that they're cared for on your wedding day. "With some weddings being downsized to more intimate numbers, you will see more guest-centered details, starting from welcome to send-off kits," predicts Georgia-based planner Terrica Skaggs of Cocktails & Details.
Already, couples have started to work with their pros to design welcome boxes, the experiential alternative to the welcome bag. (After all, who doesn't like an unboxing?) The concept behind these boxes is to safely house all event necessities in one place, including personalized hand sanitizers, masks, programs and details, and even take-home favors, allowing guests to experience the warmth of being welcomed into the wedding weekend—a gift for all involved.
Tents and Twinkly Lights
As more outdoor weddings are taking place around the world, there's a surge in interest in wedding tents and mood lighting to bring a romantic and airy ambiance to every occasion. "Couples are leaning into nature and fresh air in ways they did not in the past," notes planner and designer Jove Meyer of his namesake firm. "In 2021 and moving forward, outdoor weddings will be on trend as they're also more safe for guests and vendors. Tented weddings are the new ballroom."
Turn to your planners and venues for options to help with elegant and whimsical tented options, as well potential lighting technicians who can help create the exact ambiance you'd like. In all, the visual enhancement of pulling together drapery from tents with proper lighting provides an altogether different, fairytale-like environment on your wedding day. Let the breeze and the brightness in.
A charcuterie board for one? Please and thank you. Smaller plates and individualized portions are on the upswing with examples including single-serve grazing boards, mason jars supplemented by dips and dressings and, even, picnic baskets (to stay or to go). Couples are finding safe and sweet ways to celebrate their unions with inventive cocktail hour themes. For example, one planner's cocktail hour for a Southern-themed wedding featured individualized bite-size portions of fried chicken, shrimp and grits and oysters Rockefeller all displayed on a single plate. Guests will be thrilled by its convenience and wowed by the presentation.
You've seen mismatched bridesmaid dresses, but suddenly, coordinators and planners are going crazy for mismatched seating and tables. "This includes how your table is set against unique floor plans," notes Jacobs. "In the same way bridesmaids went from being matchy-matchy to mismatched, wedding tables are now being adjusted."
In the past, ceremony spaces and reception venues had standardized options for seating (square, rectangular, circular, the options are endless), often without mixing and matching layouts. With unconventional reception designs on the rise, mismatched tables (some for four and others for six) not only safely reflect this time, but they photograph magnificently.
Relaxed-but-formal environments are conducive to a similar style of entertainment, which planners are now referring to as cafe or bistro-style performances. We forecast an uptick in acoustic performances, dance tributes and a variety of musical options as a 2021 wedding trend. "As a planner being forced to think outside-the-box, it's created a new excitement for ideas," says Jacobs. "We're rife with inspiration."
If you really want to lean into the cafe aesthetic at your reception, consider hiring an acoustic group or have your DJ play coffee shop songs during a "coffee hour," and completing the concept with baristas serving lattes—with alcohol or simple decaf.
For years, The Knot has seen an uptick in weekday wedding celebrations—according to the most recent The Knot Real Weddings Study, weddings outside of Saturdays already accounted for one in three nuptials—and it's a trend that will certainly rise in 2021. "I see and hope to see more wedding celebrations during the week from Monday through Thursday," says Houston-based planner Darryl Wilson of D'Concierge Events. "I've had couples save over tens of thousands of dollars moving from a Saturday to a Monday wedding as minimums shift and more negotiations are made possible for weekday celebrations."
For couples who are currently weighing this option, Moore says there's a likelihood that your ideal venue, though originally out of budget, is within reach. "You may have had your heart set on a particular venue or vendors whose prices on weekends are beyond your budget," he explains. "Considering a weekday could make this vendor a possibility. And know: your family and friends will and should support you no matter what day you choose."
In total, 2021 wedding trends—reflective of more intimate affairs—are all about going deep on the details and accompanying experiences. Why not include an element of surprise or spontaneity? Whether it's having a mentalist perform or asking a celeb to sing your first dance song over Zoom, the options to delight your guests are endless.
"When you have a smaller wedding, you're reducing the way you would a sauce. It becomes tastier," says Masson. "When you reduce the guests you have, you can afford to enjoy more and focus on the smaller details… by incorporating components of couples' personalities that might be completely untraditional, but in the same vein seen and enjoyed as spontaneous. Guests love spontaneity. With smaller weddings, you take the time to actually figure out what you want and with less production. You're able to create something so incredibly delicious that's effortless and magical for everyone involved."
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