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2021 Wedding Trends You Need to Know


Peak season is upon us and, with that, it’s time to look ahead at the trends that will influence the celebrations to come. In 2020, we saw pandemic-related trends rise out of a need to reduce risk while preserving the guest experience. These measures won’t go out of style any time soon, even as the vaccine rolls out and the industry approaches recovery.

Smaller events, creative floorplans, and other innovative solutions to protect guests are all on the scene this year as clients seek a comfortable balance between fun and safety. Here are the key trends to be mindful of when planning events in 2021.

Midsize celebrations

While large groups are outside the realm of comfort for most people, creative event solutions are helping clients to accommodate midsize guest lists with space to social distance (and wear masks, of course). “We are seeing events trending toward more mid-size guest counts of 75-100 guests,” reveals Samantha Leenheer, principal planner and designer at Samantha Joy Events.

Leenheer elaborates, adding that these midsize events are splitting up their venue spaces: “Their setups are focused on two distinct spaces that separate ceremony from reception. That could be at the same venue or two separate locations. With room flips being increasingly more difficult to execute safely, the two spaces allow the couple to manage the guest list if any restriction quickly changes and allows for safe spacing with regard to the setup of the layout and tables and guests.”

Outdoor spaces

As the weather gets warmer, outdoor celebrations become the go-to choice for safe gatherings of any type. Janice Carnevale, the owner of Bellwether Events, shares: “My clients are putting very high importance on outdoor receptions. Some want to be fully al fresco, and others are willing to be under a tent top or a covered portico. Couples will need larger venues that their guest lists might have previously demanded. They will need ample space along the perimeters to offer protection from rain as well as space for less-efficient table arrangements.”

Eddie Zaratsian of Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle & Design agrees, adding, “Outdoor, more intimate celebrations will still be the essence of 2021 events. As a result, couples will splurge on things they may not have otherwise – a more extravagant parting gift for each guest (since there aren’t as many guests attending), a band they may not have otherwise booked.”

Socially-distanced seating

We’ve seen countless creative floorplans designed in response to social distancing guidelines, so expect to see these alternative arrangements stick around for at least the next year. “Pods of chairs in a more organic setting has become our new norm,” affirms Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates. “We find a way to ensure there is still an aisle for the bride to walk down but have found people are most comfortable sitting with people they’ve been quarantining with and allowing extra room between those they are not.”

This idea isn’t just about the ceremony; it also plays into the layout of the tables and chairs at a seated reception. Lisa Anhaiser, founder of LBL Event Rentals, elaborates: “Seating will remain pod style, in areas with restrictions in place, seating family members together. We will continue to see more tables set for family groups or for limited guests. We will also see more large tables, 72″ rounds for example, seating 3 couples or family members limited to 6 people or small tables, such as 36″ or 30″ tables, with two- or three-person seating from the same family group.”

We’re also noticing extra measures being taken to keep older guests away from the crowds, as Shannon Tarrant, founder of WeddingVenueMap.com, explains: “When there are elderly family members, like grandparents, in attendance at the wedding, a creative idea is to place them at their own “sweetheart” type table. This will allow them to be socially distanced from the guests while eating dinner, which is most likely the longest period of guests without their masks on. You can place those “at-risk” guests together so they can still enjoy the company of others while managing their safety as well.”

Drive-thru weddings

Some couples are choosing to ditch their seating plan altogether and host a drive-thru get-together in lieu of a traditional wedding. “Catering companies are being more creative with food box creation and presentation,” explains Lizzy Liz Chan, wedding planner and designer for Lizzy Liz Events. “For guests who don’t feel comfortable attending, they can drive through the venue’s parking lot to cheer on the couple and pick up their goodies.”

‘Sequel’ weddings

Kylie Carlson, owner of The Wedding Academy and founder of The Wedding Trend Report notes: “Not far behind is the ‘sequel’ wedding and the idea of ‘wed now, party later’ – which is exactly what many couples are opting to do. This has naturally been a direct result of the pandemic, but it certainly gives a couple the best of both worlds with an intimate, micro wedding ceremony, followed by one hell of a party in the future.”

Extra-meaningful touches

2020 brought to light the beauty of having our friends and family close and, as a result, many couples are putting extra thought and intention into their guests’ experience. Juls Sharpley, founder of Bubbles & Bowties, explains: “Clients are having smaller affairs, but because they aren’t doing the big party, they want every detail to be meaningful and share something with their guests that is special or important to them.”

Sharpley continues, sharing a few examples: “We are seeing everything from really thoughtful welcome gifts where couples are choosing to incorporate items such as custom scented candles, to each invitation being individually hand painted (rather than a custom painting turned into a digital file for printing). Touches like this are letting guests know how significant their participation in the wedding day is!”

Photo Credit: Planner: Harmony Creative Studio/Photographer: Mary Costa Photography

Shades of yellow

Bringing yellow to the forefront is a refreshing way to leave the moodiness behind and add brightness and levity to 2021. “Buttery soft yellows to deep ochre tones of yellow will make their way into wedding color palettes,” assures Joan Wyndrum, co-founder of Blooms by the Box. “We have seen it make its way through fashion and interior design, and now it is heading into weddings especially with the announcements of Pantone’s Color of the Year being Illuminating. An easy way to incorporate yellow is through florals; we suggest using Craspedia billy balls, dahlias, yarrow, ranunculus, and garden roses.”

Photo Credit: Planner: Harmony Creative Studio/Photographer: Mary Costa Photography

While we’ll certainly see more trends arise throughout the year as the pandemic evolves and we transition to recovery, the start of the 2021 wedding season will be all about pairing safety with celebration. 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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