2020 was a year that we could never have planned for—and the pandemic’s impact on the wedding and events industry has been monumental. Couples along with event planners, designers, and vendors worldwide have faced countless challenges, and sound advice on what to expect when postponing your wedding and how and when to shop for a wedding dress has become harder to navigate as weeks of no gatherings and lockdowns turned into months, and regulations on domestic celebrations differed from state to state, day by day. These sudden changes and health concerns have made planning anything but easy, and have had an affect on how we approach the joyful celebrations weddings are designed to be.
We’ve spent the majority of 2020 talking about trends for small weddings and how to host a wedding at home— but we’re now considering what happens once gatherings are back in action and once we can gather—and travel—again safely. 2021 offers a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel. This year’s impact on weddings will remain, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think smaller guest counts, more intimate dinner parties, and an emphasis on the things we can control—like fashion, food, personal details, and more. We’re looking forward to the future. Here, the top wedding trends for 2021, and beyond.
Think Like a Local
An admittedly late, amped-up appreciation for sustainability was said to be a top trend in design and planning for 2020, until this year’s gatherings were put on pause. While many events were inherently more sustainable given their smaller scale, this year’s weddings were more locally-sourced than ever before—planned in backyards, gardens, and on terraces with help from neighborhood vendors. 2021 weddings promise to continue that trend, with much of the product—from food and beverage to floral—being sourced as locally as possible, limiting carbon emissions in transportation and supporting small, artisan businesses.
An all-in-one package may seem like the easiest option, but couples are realizing that it’s more important to support small businesses, and work with brands they feel align with their values. From sustainable farmers to local vineyards, butchers, bakers, and more, getting married somewhere is now a commitment to supporting a local economy that undoubtedly felt the effects of 2020.
Getting married in the Northwest? Find a wine supplier based in the Napa or Willamette Valley to support your beverage service. Wedding in the Midwest? Sourcing the very best quality meat locally should be a must—the list goes on.
Design In Technicolor
All white is always classic, but when it comes to color, gone are the days of blush weddings and basic color palettes. Expect the new year to bring about fresh pops of color, new palettes, print mixing, and statement hues that weddings haven’t seen before. After all, we’ve been sitting around at home in our neutrals for most of 2020. Think: super bold, vibrant color with decor that is fantastical and worthy of the parties you dreamt of during endless evenings cooking at home.
The key to this idea is that your entertaining ethos should still feel like home—while daring to be different. Bold doses of color are inherently decadent; after all, creating a world you and your guests enjoy for one-night-only is the epitome of over-the-top. Use your favorite hues in unexpected places, keeping in mind stylistic wow factors like dramatic displays of candlelight and centerpieces that surprise and delight. Bring your bold takes on color into layers on the table, including the linens, glassware, china, and more. Each event we attend in the coming year should inspire joy, smiles, and vibrance at every turn—after a year inside, we deserve it.
All About the Trousseau
2020 proved that it’s not all about the dress—but fashion is more important than ever before. This year’s small weddings and larger events are going to rely on a wedding wardrobe’s versatility and longevity as events change, move, and morph.
Examine your wedding wardrobe and see how it all plays together instead of solely focusing on the main ceremony gown. Pick pieces that you won’t only want to wear once. Consider that a standout reception gown may become the main look for a small ceremony and that an after-party dress might turn into a look for a large-scale anniversary celebration in 2022. Think of your rehearsal dinner and brunch looks as fair game for civil ceremonies and small celebratory dinners to follow. Prepare to possibly style something differently to wear it more than once; divvy up your budget wisely, and invest in looks you love. Consider ready-to-wear options you would wear to a black-tie event down the road or someone else’s wedding in years to come. In an uncertain year, your fashion choices are one thing you can control—make them work for you, and whatever unique celebrations you have in the works.
Pictured: Xiao and Matt’s Wedding in Maui
Beach Weddings 2.0
2020 sent us inside, and when we wanted to get out, we were prompted to the great outdoors for distancing. And as weddings pick back up, outdoor affairs will likely kick things off.
2021 will have loads more beach weddings than we’ve seen in the past, from the Hamptons to Miami, to Malibu, and beyond—but they won’t be the standard. Expect an update to the previously all-too-boho beach wedding, some where ball gowns may walk down aisles and others where a simple slip is donned in front of waves crashing, with no ceremony arch, floral urn, or elaborate structure in sight. Some might feel like two events in one, featuring an easygoing ceremony on the shore followed by a more over-the-top dinner in a tent on dry land. Others might feel that much more casual, and end with s’mores around a fire pit.
Whatever your style, expect beach weddings in 2021 to honor their natural setting, with a twist.
Pictured: Ally Hilfiger and Steve Hash’s wedding in Mustique, photographed by Douglas Friedman
Bring the Destination to You
Destination weddings were all we talked about before 2020, and they’re all we’re currently craving as travel remains up in the air. Expect 2021 to be all about transformative design, rather than experiential travel—at least to start. Extraordinary design is a mainstay, not a trend, but next year, a couple’s favorite destinations to play a role more so than ever in inspiring the event’s look, feel, color palette, and more. The goal here is to bring your original wedding destination, your dream honeymoon location, or an experience you shared together abroad or out of town into your home, or to an intimate affair, via destination-inspired experiences, tastes, textures, and colors.
Whether you set up tropical arrangements that call to the lush greenery of Bali, deck tables with accents that remind you of your favorite meal in Provence, or include Moroccan-inspired lounges with trays of abundant fruits and candies, immerse your guests in menus, music, scents, blooms, and multi-sensory experiences of your favorite destination in the world—even if you’re actually at home.
Shoes were optional in 2020, and while the idea of dressing up again has us elated, easing back into high heels after a year of slides, slippers, sneakers, and flats feels far more daunting. We discovered just how much we love to be comfortable this year, and that likely won’t change instantly when it comes to wedding dressing.
From mules to sandals and evening slides, comfortable wedding shoes will be paired with gowns, cocktail looks, and civil ceremony outfits this coming year, and perhaps long after. There will always be those who love a sky-high stiletto, but they’re no longer a requirement for formal dressing, especially for the aisle. Brides are no longer wearing heels because they feel they’re supposed to, opting instead for silhouettes they want to wear, with an under three-inch heel, but with just as much style.
It’s the simple things that mattered to us in 2020, after staying at home became the new norm. All we want to do is go to a restaurant, where we can order off a menu after struggling to choose between multiple entrees that all sound delicious. We’re looking forward to cocktails mixed to perfection by someone other than ourselves, and dinners where wine, conversation, and laughter flows non-stop. Expect couples and the industry’s top planners, designers, and caterers to keep those experiences in mind as they execute events in 2021.
These intimate dining experiences are best served to a smaller guest count, which make them prime for 2021 events. Have your guests place orders, or host a welcome dinner or reception at a favorite restaurant of yours. Keep in mind that our support for the restaurant and hospitality industry is paramount now more than ever; if you’re considering an event at a restaurant, book it now to support them when they need it most. If you’re working with a local restaurant or caterer, take that support a step further by ordering takeout if they offer it, or arranging a tasting at home ASAP.
Pictured: Planning by Alison Events
English Garden Vibes
Whether you choose to take your inspiration from actual royal weddings or Netflix’s, The Crown, or Bridgerton, 2021 is trending all things English. Think lush, gestural installations that are fresh and whimsical but never over-the-top a la Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi’s royal wedding earlier this year, created by Patrice Van Helden Oakes and Rob Van Helden Floral Design.
Rather than the manicured French gardens and Italian groves that have been so inspiring in recent years, this is going more floral— with a high dose of drama. Keep in mind that even the Queen herself prioritizes sustainability and preserving nature; this is not an excuse to go all-in on flower foam and overuse stems. Rather, this is about celebrating nature in all its glory and in the most regal fashion, after a year of staying inside.
Don’t Skimp On Entertainment
A year of Netflix binges, endless podcasts, and countless hours spent on Instagram, has us all desperate for some live entertainment. Guests are ready for an all-out, no-holds-barred party. After dozens of at-home workouts and dance parties in our pajamas (at home, hoping nobody was watching), we’re now looking forward to the day (or night) that we can get up and move to the music until the sun comes up.
Dance floors may still be limited for health, safety, and social distancing measures as we enter the new year, but no matter your guest count, a wedding is a wedding—plain and simple. Celebrations should be filled with love, joy, music, and entertainment, no matter the size or scope. Couples will opt for unique ways to surprise and delight their guests—from large bands that rival the size of the guest list to DJs remixing your favorite hits, and alternative entertainment, like stand-up comedians, illusionists, aerialists, and other performers, aimed at keeping guests entertained while they stay safely in their seats.
No matter the size of your event, from the ceremony to the reception, music and performances are not where you should cut back in the coming year and beyond.
Pictured: Entertainment by ALR Music
Nod to Nostalgia
There’s long been a tradition of having family photos present on the wedding day. However, as we conclude a year that emphasized the importance of those we love and have lost, we expect to see more subtle acknowledgments of family history scattered throughout each and every affair. From vintage family china and candlesticks to donning heirloom jewelry and fashion, the standing tradition of “something old” is taking on new life. It now feels frivolous to fill an event’s design or a wardrobe with all things new, new, new—expect couples to incorporate vintage in unexpected, meaningful ways.
Case in point: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, pictured here, who wed in her grandmother’s 67-year-old Dior wedding dress after restoring the French vanilla ivory gown with Miami-based boutique, Ever After Miami.
Quality Over Quantity
This trend is simple and straightforward: quality over quantity—from food and beverage, to design, and the guest count.
When it comes to the number of guests you invite, couples are likely going to keep things small into the new year. Guests will have different reactions to showing up to a large wedding—even with a vaccine. We will have those events again, but that doesn’t mean you need to host one right this second. Instead, couples will continue to host incredible, nothing-spared, small events, and plan to throw a killer anniversary party next year or the following.
But with smaller guest counts, come more elaborate options to wine and dine your guests, or just the two of you for an over-the-top elopement. This couple is the perfect example; the two opted for an elopement at Amangiri, complete with a Danielle Frankel gown, and a candlelit dinner for two overlooking antelope canyon.
Giving Rather Than Receiving
If you haven’t gotten the gist just yet, 2021’s wedding trends are all a result of the pandemic’s reframing of our priorities. And with that new look on things, registries and wedding gifts are sure to shift as well. This year made it abundantly clear that, even as a bride and groom-to-be, it’s not always about you.
We’ve already seen couples change course on traditional gifting, like Avriel Epps and Erin Darling (pictured here), who wed in Malibu and donated to 20 organizations in their guest’s honor, rather than accepting gifts. We expect to see more couples following suit, opting for charitable registries and donation campaigns that give back to the organizations and missions close to their families and their hearts as individuals, and as a couple.
From Harper’s Bazaar US