Last year, many couples were forced to postpone, downsize or just completely reimagine their wedding plans. But the disappointment and uncertainty didn’t stop a lot of them from tying the knot. Their non-traditional celebrations — or at least some aspects of them — are now reshaping how we think about weddings.

The overall trend is moving away from large, splashy events and toward more intimate fêtes. Some couples even used the money they saved to fund financial goals. Below, wedding pros share five new trends to know if you’re planning a wedding right now.

  1. FORGOING CLASSIC NORMS

    Despite the shock of having to cancel highly curated nuptials, many couples welcomed the new-found sense of freedom they had in restructuring their events. Last year’s smaller celebrations tended to be more personal, with couples often choosing not to have large wedding parties, wear white dresses and tuxedos or even say traditional vows.

    "There's no longer a 'normal' for weddings," says Michelle Wood, a luxury wedding planner based in Palm Beach, Florida. "So many couples canceled, rescheduled, changed plans and found new, innovative ways to say 'I do' this past year. This pandemic has really given the wedding industry a blank slate, and couples will be more intentional."

    Outdoor weddings and tented events are also showing lasting popularity, and Woods adds that even without the need for social distancing, high-touch situations, including receiving lines and family-style buffets, will be much less common.

  2. ADOPTING VIRTUAL PLANNING

    Like so many other industries, the wedding industry successfully shifted from in-person meetings with clients to virtual planning sessions. Hopping on Zoom to discuss wedding details has worked out well for professionals and their clients, saving everyone a lot of time.

    "Couples and vendors don't have to find public places to meet and they don't have to travel to meet each other, which makes scheduling easier," says officiant and wedding coach Avril Ewing. "Many of my own couples have small children, so they can be home with their kids while we have our meetings. This is a convenience a lot of vendors and couples love."

    Virtual venue tours are another planning perk that will likely continue. Many places brought in videographers to film their spaces for social media and now offer Zoom tours.

    "This is super convenient for couples who might not live in the same city as the venue and can't be traveling back and forth for another quick peek at the bathrooms or bridal suite," Ewing says.

  3. LIVESTREAMING CEREMONIES

    Before the pandemic, having a virtual component to your wedding was rare. Moving forward, it will be the norm, Ewing says.

    "I think Zoom will forever be a part of weddings," she says. "Livestreaming has been part of the funeral world for a long time, but just became a trend for weddings in 2020. I think it's here to stay."

    Having a livestream might help keep costs down for couples (especially the catering bill) because some guests may opt out of coming in person if they know they can attend virtually. And it also allows guests who are elderly or ill, or who simply can’t make it for other reasons, to partake in the celebration without leaving their homes.

  4. HAVING SMALLER GUEST LISTS

    While larger weddings may eventually make a comeback, wedding experts expect micro weddings and elopements to last long after the pandemic is over.

    "One of the unexpected blessings of the pandemic was it gave couples permission to have something smaller without worrying about hurting feelings or leaving people out," says Jessica Bishop, founder of The Budget Savvy Bride. "In our community, we're seeing couples continuing to plan smaller, scaled-back celebrations instead of the larger guest counts.”

  5. LEANING INTO LUXURY

    Rather than stretching their budgets to accommodate a long guest list, Bishop expects to see more small, upscale weddings becoming the norm.

    "With a smaller guest list, couples can treat their attendees to a nicer experience," she explains. "With less ground to cover, trending statement areas can include floral garlands and arches to make the ceremony extra special, and upgraded catering."

    Fewer people may also mean more personalization, such as luxe place settings and small gifts for guests instead of traditional favors, which often just get left behind. By focusing the budget on the people and the details that matter most, couples can have more meaningful — and perhaps less stressful — celebrations.

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