by Kim Wadsworth
Everyone from Instagram to your mother has an opinion about how best to style a reception, but modern couples embrace the opportunity to throw the first big party of their lives in a way specific to them.
“Couples want a cohesive look where everything goes hand in hand,” says Antonia Christianson of Antonia Christianson Events in Virginia Beach. “The full picture allows them to integrate every element – from attire to linens – into a narrative that reflects their taste.” Christianson, who has been designing wedding events for almost 20 years, loves the new approach, in which an all-encompassing vibe, guided by color and emotion, plays into table settings, lighting, food and flowers.
“Weddings used to be one-dimensional,” she says. But now, “rather than focusing on one distinct element like the flower arrangements, or confined by a two-color rule, couples are more holistic and open-minded in their approach.” This doesn’t mean the wow factor no longer matters. It just means couples have more choices and fewer rules.
A good place to start is by picking a signature floral installation. “A favorite element is a ‘cloud of flowers’ using gypsophila (baby’s breath), pampas grass and other dried elements that suspends over a cake table, a signature bar or the couple’s table to make a statement,” says Isha Foss, owner of Isha Foss Design, also in Virginia Beach.
Foss says she loves the organic relaxed look of “just-gathered” bouquets that have replaced the tight, round interpretations of the past. An array of greenery, such as seeded eucalyptus and dusty miller, makes a fresh statement along with juicy floral colors like peach and watermelon-hued ranunculus and coral charm peonies.
Table settings are another important element. Tara Guerard of Tara Guerard Soiree in Charleston says that when it comes to tables, couples don’t want to be uptight about protocol.
While family-style dinners are her current favorite, Christianson favors a proper place setting modernized with flatware in rose gold or black with patterned dessert plates to change it up.
When it comes to accents, Guerard sees colorful floral linens on the rise, especially for spring and summer. “Everyone wants those details, so we’re using piping and inverted pleats on the tablecloths, and uniquely folded napkins with accents like fresh herbs, ribbon ties and flowers.” Whether it’s classic or modern, defining the mood of the room is critical. While trends have moved away from projected monograms and color-changing hues, lighting collections are making a statement in creative ways.
“Lighting used to require an ‘aha’ piece in the form of a big chandelier,” says Michelle Kilgore, design director for Blue Steel Lighting Design in Chesapeake. “Now it has morphed into a smaller version mixed with hanging metal spheres or geometric shapes as a collection statement.”
Guerard is all about romantic ambiance and uses her signature accent of hard-wired lamps on individual tables to set the mood. She is also a fan of votive candles and tapers mixed together as another light source. When it comes to flattering lighting, Kilgore insists there is nothing like soft candlelight throughout the venue.
“You want your reception vibe to be warm and romantic,” she says. “Whether you have a wedding that is budget-minded or over-the-top unlimited, you pop that glow in and you have instant class.”