Just after college, two close friends of mine who just happened to be sisters, got engaged to their future husbands and ended up planning big weddings at the same time. It became apparent pretty quickly that the guest list was going to include a lot of overlap.

So, they did what any smart sisters would do — they shared a wedding. Each had her own set of bridesmaids and groomsmen and their father walked the older sister down the aisle first. Then the music stopped, he ran back up the aisle, and the doors closed behind him. A few seconds later, the wedding march started again as the doors opened, and he came back in with sister #2 who got the same escort down the aisle.

Although double weddings are a great option for siblings, close friends or relatives, they haven’t quite caught on as a full-on wedding trend just yet. But what has caught on — and is leading the way for wedding trends in 2018 — transcends the little details. It’s not about the hairstyle or the dress or the color palette.

It’s all about the experience.

Wedding Trend: Custom Experiences

Brides will still toil over every little detail when it comes to their appearance, but the shift for 2018 is the focus on the wedding guests doing more than just passively observing the wedding. This year they will be entertained. Instead of just a formal, expected post-wedding reception, brides and grooms are planning full-on after parties so that guests can continue the evening festivities into the night. Guests, in many cases, will be entertained with sketch artists, magicians or tarot card readers.

Wedding Trend: added touches for guests.

At the wedding of Alex and Wes Perry, they set up comfortable seating areas and a special tailgating buffet for guests to watch the Ole Miss game, which was being broadcast during the reception hour. Thoughtful touches like that — keeping the guests in mind — are on the rise. Image: Kelli + Daniel Taylor Photography

Nashville-based wedding and event planner Christina Logan says this year, brides want to put on a show. “It’s becoming more and more about the guests and their experience,” she says. Although there are always trends in color, trends in food, dress styles and décor, this year’s weddings are expected to be more about a vibe than just a particular color palette.

Aly Greer, owner of Charleston, SC-based Wild Cotton Photography, says she is seeing couples incorporate into their weddings all sorts of thoughtful details designed to enhance the experience for both themselves as well as their guests. “I recently photographed a mariachi band at a cocktail hour for Nicaraguan guests, and it was amazing,” Aly says. “I am seeing a lot more couples arrange tours if the reception is at a plantation or museum, and fun kids’ areas with toys and activities for the little ones. Couples think a lot about the comfort and enjoyment of their guests.”

Wedding Trend: Textures & Design

Christina says more brides are also attempting to fuse interior design with the wedding more than ever before. Again, so that the guests will feel the vibe and enjoy the experience. “More than specific colors, brides care about textures and design,” she says. “People are using more geometric shapes in their designs and doing more modern things versus sticking to all the traditional stuff. You will always have the outliers who will stick to the traditions, but the trendy people are going for the experience and finding ways to make their big day really amazing.”

Elegant design creates a magical view at Alex and Wes Perry‘s reception. Image: Kelli + Daniel Taylor Photography

Wedding Trend: Non-Traditional Wedding Agendas and Wedding Parties

Anne Yoder with Birmingham-based Bromberg’s Jewelers, says with 2018 being a royal wedding year with the looming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, we will see some British traditions pop up on this side of the pond as well. “With the royal wedding this year, I think we will see more morning and mid-day weddings, with wedding breakfasts or luncheons to follow, more adorable child attendants and much smaller adult wedding parties,” she says.

Another trend that is separating today’s weddings from those of our parents is mixing up the bridal party. Trends are reinforcing Anne’s take on smaller groups of bridesmaids and groomsmen, but also expanding to include non-traditional substitutions such as “best dogs” in lieu of best men. Take Rachel Jackson Kohls, for example. The Nashville-based hair stylist, who is anything but traditional, wanted her grandmother to be her flower girl. “It was so important to me to honor all of the women in my life on my wedding day, so I wanted to include them in the procession,” she says. “Although the moms are happy to help make sure everything is just right, I really wanted to add some levity. I picked the person who helped me learn not to take life so seriously. I knew Granny Angie would really own her role as Flower Grandma — she’s the funniest person in our family!”

Wedding trend: non-traditional wedding party

Alex and Wes Perry enjoyed having their adorable dogs, Winnie and Scout, at their special day. We LOVE their custom floral collars! Image: Kelli + Daniel Taylor Photography

Granny Angie paved the way for her granddaughter, bride Rachel Jackson Kohls.

Granny Angie (aka Angie Heard Carathers) preceded her granddaughter, bride Rachel Jackson Kohls, down the aisle. Image: Solomon Davis Photography

Wedding Trend: Food Stations

Another way brides are eliminating anything boring or standard is with food. Gone are plated dinners, and they are being replaced with food stations and other fun food features. “It’s definitely about non-traditional foods,” Christina says. “Family-style eating is super popular, as are food stations. People are having different kinds of food than you might expect at a wedding reception, which makes it more of an experience than just a meal.”

Wedding Trend: Non-Traditional Locations

Locations are also becoming more and more non-traditional. In lieu of your parents’ stuffy old church, couples today are seeking out rooftop bars, museums, barns and all sorts of natural settings. “In the South, it’s more traditional to get married in a church, but people are absolutely looking for unconventional spaces like raw warehouses so they can bring in their own design elements instead of having to work with what’s already there. Brides are looking for more neutral spaces so they can use lighting, draping and all sorts of things to make it their own.”

At Fran Minis and Hampton Holdsworth’s Savannah wedding, the couple’s cocktail hour and reception was in the bride’s parents’ backyard. The newlyweds arrived by boat. Image: Aly Greer/Wild Cotton Photography

Wedding Trend: New, Fun Tech

Thompson’s Station, TN-based wedding photographer Ann Thoni of Ann’s Forever Images, says brides are even stepping outside the box with their photography and embracing new technology, such as drones, which can capture a wedding event in ways that previously would have required renting a blimp. “If the videographer is well-trained and experienced, the drone work is absolutely magnificent,” Ann says.

Aly adds that she is seeing more and more couples requesting fun, candid photos of themselves and their guests. “They want photos of people having fun,” she says. “Getting classic portraits is still important, but many brides and grooms want to focus on the natural moments that happened on their wedding day.”

As the 2018 wedding-planning season gets into full swing, instead of focusing on a color or a particular font for your invitations or signage, it’s time to think about unique personalization, an overall vibe and creating Instagram-worthy moments throughout your big day.

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