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Wedding Reception Trends

Updated on September 10, 2011
Add elegance to any reception site with chandeliers.
Add elegance to any reception site with chandeliers.

Trends Come And Go

Every year, there are wonderful new ideas which take hold in the world of weddings. As one trend fades from memory, another is sure to rise to take its place just as quickly. Being up to date on the latest trends is a great way to get inspiration when planning your own wedding. Get current on the top wedding reception trends with this article.

Short wedding gowns are fun for receptions.
Short wedding gowns are fun for receptions.

Two Wedding Gowns Are Better Than One

One of the hottest emerging reception trends over the last few years is not about the cake or the decorations, but about the bride herself. More and more brides are choosing to change their attire between the ceremony and reception. Typically, the bridal gown for the ceremony will be more traditional and grand, while the second gown for the reception is far less cumbersome. Brides will opt for the quick-change act for several reasons. Chief among them is the desire to get two fabulous dresses instead of just one! As having a second wedding gown for the reception has become a much more common occurrence, it seems like less of an extravagance to select a pair of dresses for the wedding. For many women it allows them to express two very different sides of their personality: the traditionalist who wants to wear a “princess” dress when her father escorts her down the aisle, and the modern woman who wants to show off her sexy side in a fabulous party dress. The other main reason why a bride would opt to change her attire is to be more comfortable at the reception. Brides today have the expectation that they will dance the night away at their wedding receptions, something which can be hindered by a heavy bridal gown. Rather than compromise by choosing a less lavish ceremony gown or sitting out a lot of the dancing, brides will frequently “slip into something more comfortable” after the formal photographs are done. This also gives the bride a chance to make a splash when she and her husband make their grand entrance into the wedding reception, thus indulging their diva side, for just one day. Typically, the second wedding gown is slender or short, and will usually be accessorized with a spectacular pair of shoes and dazzling crystal bridal jewelry (the accessories will also be changed to coordinate with the second gown).

Yellow and gray is one of the hottest wedding color palettes right now.
Yellow and gray is one of the hottest wedding color palettes right now.

Make A Splash With Striking Colors

Once upon a time, weddings were decorated in shades of white. Not anymore! Color is everywhere, and the most popular color combinations right now are not subtle or understated. Hot color palettes include offbeat pairings like canary yellow and charcoal gray or platinum, as well as vivid colors including coral, fuchsia, and turquoise. Virtually any shade of blue is “in”, but especially turquoise and cobalt. As pretty as it is, brides are taking a break from Tiffany blue, which was done to death a couple of years ago. The other top color combination right now is black and white. Black, which has long been taboo for weddings, has become socially acceptable. The black and white color combination is usually done in a very elegant way, as the color pairing lends itself beautifully to a black tie wedding. The trend is seen in everything from flowers (white anemones with black centers being a top favorite), stationery, cakes, and even bridal gowns.

Custom lighting is divine for theme weddings.
Custom lighting is divine for theme weddings.

Custom Lighting Transforms A Venue

This is a huge trend in weddings right now. Brides and grooms have discovered the power of lighting to absolutely transform a reception space into their perfect vision. There are numerous ways in which custom lighting can be used to enhance the reception. One of the simplest is to arrange spotlights to highlight special features, particularly the wedding cake. Uplighting in potted trees and along walls is popular for creating drama. Couples are taking advantage of custom lighting to change the color of the room. Colorwashes in the wedding colors are very hot, such as a blue wash over the entire reception venue or a purple wash on the walls. For very high end weddings, complex lighting schemes are created which change the colors in the space to create different moods for each segment of the reception, such as the dinner, dancing, and cake cutting. “Gobo” lighting refers to custom laser cut patterns which are projected into the room. Monograms, wedding dates, and the bride and groom's names are the favorite gobo designs, and are usually projected onto a wall or the center of the dance floor. Theme designs are another wonderful way to personalize a reception, such as projecting snowflakes onto the walls to create a Winter Wonderland theme, or the shadows of trees for a forest theme wedding.

Creative vessels give centerpieces a unique flavor.
Creative vessels give centerpieces a unique flavor.

Be Creative With Mix And Match Centerpieces

The days of uniform centerpieces are quickly fading away. These days, mix and match centerpieces are all the rage. The idea is to design a variety of centerpieces which have enough in common to work in harmony, but avoid looking overly coordinated or “matchy-matchy”. High and low table arrangements are one way to express this trend. The florist creates two or three different centerpiece designs in a range of heights, and they are spread evenly throughout the reception tables, alternating high and low on each table. Another idea is to group a cluster of flowers in non-matching vessels in the same color. Using the same color ensures that the grouping flows well, while the different heights and shapes provide visual interest. For even more offbeat reception centerpieces, try the trend of using unique props as flower vessels rather than standard vases. Unique vessels such as boxes, stacked books, and even kitchen accessories can serve as the foundation for floral displays. Another fun trend regarding the centerpiece vessels is to fill them with a decorative element, such as crystals, colored water, pebbles, seaglass, or even fresh lemons, limes, or green apples. It is an easy way to make the centerpieces look high style and very current.

Style Starts At The Top: Hanging Decorations Are "In"

No longer is it enough to decorate the tables at a wedding reception. To really create a fabulous ambiance, look up! Suspended ceiling decorations are now used at almost all of the most stylish receptions. Chandeliers have become so common at weddings that it is almost hard to remember when they were novel. That said, they are still a beautiful and elegant addition to any reception and a great way to transform a plain space. Chinese lanterns are another very popular decoration for receptions, both indoors and outdoors. Not only do they cast a lovely soft glow, but Chinese lanterns are affordable and colorful, which makes them an excellent design tool. Sort of a surprising recent trend is the use of masses of balloons as wedding reception decorations. Balloons have long been derided as too juvenile or just plain tacky for an elegant wedding, but much like the carnation, their stock has been on the rise. Even purveyors of good taste like Martha Stewart have shown ways to use balloons in an elegant manner, and all of a sudden, this classic birthday decoration is taking on new life as a trendy wedding decoration. Colorful, affordable, and always festive, balloons are one of the hot new trends these days.

The hip lounge area makes any wedding reception more enjoyable.
The hip lounge area makes any wedding reception more enjoyable.

Create A Mood With A Hip Lounge Area

A trend that started several years ago, the wedding lounge area has become increasingly common. Much like the second wedding gown, reception lounges are no longer seen as an extravagance, as they have become more widely used in mainstream weddings. It is a fantastic concept: give your guests a comfortable area where they can take a break from the dance floor to chat and hang out. Sitting on the stiff dinner chairs trying to shout over the band has long made conversation challenging at many weddings. The separate lounge area resolves this problem and is utterly chic to boot. Many lounges are done in a very contemporary style, such as low white sofas with sleek tables. Seating should be comfortable, with plenty of places where guests can rest their drinks. The lounge is often decorated in different colors than the rest of the reception to help set it apart. A spin off on the lounge is another separate area dedicated as a cigar bar.

Swanky Cocktail Party Receptions Are Stylish

A growing trend for weddings is to skip the full dinner altogether in favor of a cocktail party reception. These receptions can be very chic, and are often done in the spirit of the heyday of cocktail parties, the 1950s and 1960s, right down to the music. Heavy hors d'oeuvres are the menu of choice for cocktail receptions. Certainly the drinks are also important, as well. Traditional cocktails like martinis and Manhattans are often served, along with an open bar and perhaps one or two signature drinks. The cocktail party reception is a particularly good option for alternative venues like galleries and lofts. A hip variation is the reception built around “action stations” which pair little bites with drinks, such as tapas with sangria.

Upscale comfort foods are wildly popular, such as the mashed potato bar.
Upscale comfort foods are wildly popular, such as the mashed potato bar.

Family Style Service And Comfort Foods Are Popular

Speaking of wedding food, another big trend is family style service. Long tables, another hot trend, are often utilized for this type of wedding dinner. Rather than a self-service buffet or formal plated service, large platters and serving bowls are passed around and each guest can help himself to what he likes. The philosophy behind family style service is that it promotes a convivial atmosphere, much like one would hope to find around the table at a large holiday dinner. Less stuffy than plated service, yet more gracious than a buffet, many couples find that the family style meal strikes just the right note. Family style menus allow for more options than the traditional “beef or chicken” of a plated dinner, which is a nice perk. The hope is that there will be something which every guest will enjoy. It is important to realize that a family style menu will not be less expensive than a plated dinner; it is about creating a warm and inviting atmosphere more than trimming costs.

Something else that has really taken off for weddings is the idea of serving comfort foods, particularly for the appetizers. The twist is that the appetizers are created with top notch ingredients and offered with a presentation which is elegant enough for a wedding. So if the inspiration is sliders, rather than a pile of White Castle burgers, serve mini Kobe beef burgers on fresh baked buns. The dishes should be absolutely recognizable, for if they stray too far from the original, they loose the familiar appeal of comfort food. Other ideas for comfort food appetizers include tiny cups of baked mac-n-cheese, pigs in blankets with gourmet mustard, cups of tomato bisque with mini grilled cheese sandwiches, and meatloaf bites. For something a little more substantial, the mashed potato bar is a comfort food which is sure to delight. Homemade mashed potatoes are served in little bowls (martini glasses are sometimes used for a fun twist), with an array of toppings so that each guest can customize his potatoes. Frequently used toppings are crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, chives, sour cream, broccoli, and roasted garlic. Another twist on the comfort food trend is to serve up regional favorites. Think tiny barbeque sandwiches, cups of spicy gumbo, Maryland crab cakes, or whatever your local delicacy happens to be. This is an excellent way to give your guests a taste of your hometown favorites.

Keep The Party Going With Late Night Munchies

Couples who really want their reception parties to go on all night have learned the importance of providing late night snacks to their guests. This is a very fun way to keep the party going, and also gives the chance to wow your guests with one last surprise. The late night menu can be sweet, such as fresh, hot donuts or milkshake shooters with cookies. Savory snacks tend to be even more popular, especially when they are served with flair. Set out cones of piping hot pommes frites – aka, french fries – with a selection of fancy dips like specialty ketchups, sauces, and vinegars. Or have a station serving pizza starting at midnight. Anything that comes on a truck is a crowd-pleaser, whether it is a hot dog cart, ice cream truck, or even a hot pretzel vendor. A special late night snack is the perfect ending to a wedding.

Color coordinated candy buffets are a favorite wedding favor.
Color coordinated candy buffets are a favorite wedding favor.

Sweet Treats: Trends In Wedding Cakes And Candy Buffets

There is nothing new about having a fancy cake at a wedding reception, but every season brings about new trends for this old classic. Of course, there is the cupcake tower, and now the brownie cake, but for most couples, a tiered wedding cake is still the preferred wedding dessert. One reason for this is that it gives so much opportunity for creative expression. A truly beautiful wedding cake can be the showpiece decoration of the entire reception. Tall cakes, with five or seven tiers is one popular trend currently. This allows for a lot of drama and elegance. The fun surprise is that in many cases, not all of the tiers are actual cake. There many well be some Styrofoam tiers stacked with the real cake to allow for extra height. When it is all frosted together, it is impossible to tell. Crystal monograms and flowers are more in vogue these days then traditional bride and groom cake toppers. For those who can afford them, elaborate sugar flowers are very popular, with fresh flowers a close second. The ultra-smooth look of fondant has reigned supreme in recent years, but lately brides have been rediscovering the joys of classic buttercream frosting. Colorful and unique cakes continue to be very sought after, as brides now view their wedding cake as an opportunity to really make a statement.

A very popular trend over the last several years is the candy buffet. What's not to love about a whole big display dedicated to candy? The concept of the candy station is simple: set out large jars or bowls of delicious candies with scoops. The key to making it elegant is to design an attractive presentation, such as oversized glass apothecary jars with silver scoops. There is usually a theme to the candy, as well. In some cases, it is simply an assortment of the bride and groom's favorite childhood sweets, but many couples make the theme more elaborate than that. It could be carnival theme candy, all pink or all blue candy, or perhaps all chocolate candy. The candy buffet often serves as the wedding favor, so be sure to set out to-go containers. Chinese takeout containers with a custom sticker are a popular way to box up candy favors, or one can use simple glassine bags with pretty stickers for sealing. This is one trend that is sure to stick around, due to its overwhelming popularity with wedding guests!

If you've always wanted to see your name in lights, this is your chance!
If you've always wanted to see your name in lights, this is your chance!

Make The Latest Trends Your Own

It is always a lot of fun to see all the latest wedding reception trends. If there is one primary trend across the board, it is individuality. Brides and grooms have moved away from cookie cutter weddings, and are really trying to make their weddings reflect who they are. Whether you are planning a wedding for this year or next, these ideas are an excellent source of inspiration for designing a beautiful wedding.


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    • Sun-Girl profile image


      7 years ago from Nigeria

      Very wonderful and cook and attractive wedding deception pics you actually have in here, thanks for sharing.

    • PaperNotes profile image


      8 years ago

      What I love most is the candy buffet. Thanks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Beach wedding theme may be my top priority. Is there any wedding reception trends designated for that?


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