Now that weddings are being held again without as many COVID-19 precautions, many couples are ready to party big, forgoing intimate weddings for big celebrations and a greater focus on the guest experience.
“I thought people would take the micro-wedding thing and really run with it, but that didn’t happen,” says Becky Lampp, owner of Spanish Oak Events, an event design and planning firm in New Orleans. “It’s for a good reason – we as a society haven’t been able to celebrate anything for so long. I don’t see couples cutting down on the number of guests… They say, ‘I don’t haven’t seen this person in three years. I want them here. Even though they legally got married during the pandemic, it’s more about being able to all be together now.
A focus on customer experience
After years of social closures, the couples are bringing guests back into society with thoughtful touches, with the theme of taking no moment for granted.
“I hear a lot of couples say, ‘We just want to make sure we’re all having fun and enjoying everyone being together,’” Lapp says. “It’s not so much about the formality of (the day Couples are asking more, ‘How are we going to fit everything we are into the day?’ and improve the guest experience so people really feel like they’re celebrating the joy of the couple together.There’s now so much emphasis on guest experience and time spent with guests.
This has included replacing smaller, more formal rehearsal dinners open only at the wedding party with large welcome cocktails of 150 people, Lampp says.
Ana Belsome, owner of New Orleans-based Ana Belsome Events, says couples are also paying more attention to their guests enjoying New Orleans on the days surrounding their wedding.
“Couples are very much in tune with the desire to have the guest experience. We go through in detail which hotels and which blocks of rooms are best for which parts of town, as couples care about how their guests will enjoy the weekend and how easy they are to explore the city.
“We focus more on what really matters,” says Lampp. “It’s been so refreshing to take another look at ‘traditional’ ways of approaching what’s important to them. I see some really cool things about forgetting what we think we “should” be doing and doing what we actually want to do.
Personalized guest book alternatives include recorded phone messages where guests can leave wishes or notes inside a coffee table book that reflect the couple’s hobbies and interests. Touches such as monogramming, logos, or even custom caricatures of a couple with their pets on everything from cocktail napkins to glassware have been a trend for couples who want to give their guests a more wide of their love story.
This “Instagram moment”
Social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, “has turned marriages upside down,” Belsome says. “Everyone wants that Instagram, photo-op moment.”
Couples are asking photographers and videographers what they can offer in terms of social media reels and recaps, and viral moments are the goal. Lampp employs a social media person to come to events and post content to her professional social media account and says brides love seeing themselves tagged in posts.
“There’s actually someone who started a business — not (to) be your videographer — but (to) be your content creator for your wedding day,” Belsome says. “Couples want those special TikTok moments. It’s like a bonus bridesmaid; this person is there to capture content and create reels of everything throughout the day.
Planning ahead is a must
With weddings, holidays and other celebrations postponed due to Covid, and everyone clamoring to come back as soon as possible, many venues and vendors across the city are booked well in advance – more than ever before.
“One of the things I encourage couples is maybe we send out your invitations a little earlier – maybe earlier than standard etiquette. Immediately ask the people in your wedding party to attend to the wedding and the VIPs that really matter to make sure they don’t have a date conflict,” says Lampp.
Belsome says booked vendors and venue unavailability have prompted couples to consider non-weekends for their big celebrations.
“People are more open to Thursday and Sunday weddings,” she says. “If you ask any venue, they have weddings Monday through Sunday. Sunday weddings are becoming more common simply because people are more open on those dates.
Supply chain issues impact wedding floral budgets and change reception format
Lampp says couples find florists feeling the strain of supply chain issues with fresh flowers. Floral orders fly internationally on commercial airlines. In New Orleans, flowers typically come from South America, where political unrest and fewer people traveling overseas have resulted in significantly higher costs.
“A wedding you planned in 2019…you can almost triple the cost of flowers so far,” she says. “Five grand doesn’t really get you a lot of flowers today. The flower vendors I work with now require minimums of $5,000 to $10,000 because their costs have gone up so much.
As a result, some couples are considering hosting cocktail parties over a sit-down dinner to cut costs with fewer tables to decorate, Lampp says.
“When you have 200 people and you have to seat them all, it’s more tables and more decor, so when you lean towards the cocktail style and you do half of that decor, that definitely helps couples. They are much more aware of how they can reallocate their floral budget for, for example, an incredible floral altar or a floral wall,” says Lampp.
“It’s really asking, ‘What time do you want with the budget?’ Three years ago you could be a little looser with these things.
This story appeared in the July 19 issue of Gambit in the special Bride + Groom section.