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Wedding Forecast 2021

Despite all of the incredible hardships of the past year, people will fall in love, and people will want to marry. The trends? We’re seeing them: smaller, more intimate, a focus on the guest experience, a larger budget for food and a smaller budget for venues and entertainment. 

Destination weddings are few and far between currently, but some adventurous couples are opting to profess their vows against wanderlust backdrops, such as this elopement in Greece by Ellwed. Photo courtesy Adrian Wood Photography from the Wedding Trend Report. 

We have seen the colors Pantone announced for 2021, we have seen how technology has allowed family members to join a ceremony from afar…and how that same technology has impacted the destination wedding business. We’ve seen clients move dates multiple times and the impact that has had on our finances. But we are also beginning to see the rebound of a severely crippled industry, and we must be forward thinking. With that in mind, let’s look at a few of the overarching trends for 2021.

You want a Saturday? LOL!

With all of the date moves from 2020 into 2021 and beyond, an open weekend on anyone’s schedule is golden. If you have any weekends available in 2021, charge more! Additionally, consider doing away with many of the “cost benefits and savings” of a weekday wedding. That’s so…2019. It’s flabbergasting that many of the consumer wedding articles and publications continue to expound that couples can get services “more cheaply” during the week. Okay, maybe in 2024 but for now, raise your weekday prices if you can.

Don't miss the 2021 Global Wedding Trends session this July at Catersource + The Special Event!  Learn more here.

Downsized guest lists

Yes, we will continue to see “micro” weddings or the new term you may have seen, “pintimate” weddings (that’s a combo of personalized and intimate, and I personally despise the term. It’s also not necessarily sustainable as a good “trend” word…but I digress). 

Wedding cakes have shrunk in size, but not in flavor or beauty. For a sequel party, consider how a cake like this could become bite sized party favors or desserts. Photo courtesy TRK Photography 

As friends and family “safe” bubbles were built during the pandemic, woe-be-it that they be popped. Your couples have discovered who mean the most to them and will want to offer an experience to the loved ones who have been their “thick and thin” throughout one of the greatest (and most tragic) events of the 21st century. But this doesn’t mean that couples don’t want a beautiful venue, or that they can’t have a DJ or live band. It just means that they are motivated to show those they love the most incredible night of their lives. Push this! Sell it! Micro weddings do not have to equate to micro budgets. Follow the footsteps of wedding planner Marcy Blum, who moved a downsized 300 to 30 person Miami wedding event onto a yacht, as reported by the New York Times. She clearly also used a drone to capture a birds eye view of the ceremony on the deck ( Swap out your minced chive garnish for caviar on your lemon capellini for a plate upcharge, pitch out-of-season peonies for the bridal bouquet. 

Formality at the forefront

White glove service returns! Where we once reveled in the beauty and efficiency of the family-style meal, the elegantly plated and coursed meal is surging in popularity. Ensure your staff is trained in synchronized service—a spectacular show for your guests that ramps up the refinement of any meal. Brush up on your creative plating skills, make sure your linens and dinnerware are dazzling. If you are able, add Cart French service to your repertoire for VIP groups.

Classic plated dinner service is making a comeback. Here, vintage-style gold rimmed plates and flatware rachet up the specialness of the service.  Photo courtesy Richard Emmanuel Photography & Video. 

Bringing back buffets

Action stations should rev back up in 2021, set with all COVID precautions in place. It’s way too fun to watch a talented chef prepare and serve to your client’s specifications, to let this tried-and-true artistic spectacle be lost to the pandemic wind. Your masked and gloved chef, behind a protective barrier or shield, will wow your clients once again with their gastronomic expertise. Just keep your line queue distanced as per your state’s requirements.

BLUE Elephant Event’s mini cocktails are served in eye-catching vessels. Photo courtesy Focus Photography

Our wedding: The sequel

The New York Times recently reported on a couple who were married twice in one day. Once in one state for the bride’s family, hopped a plane, changed clothes and married again in another state with the groom’s family in attendance. This is not quite what I mean by, “our wedding: the sequel” though if you can sell a wedding two times you are almost there. I’d say sell it three times to that couple, because what the sequel truly means is small wedding during these times of upheaval…and a great big party later in the year when the masks truly can come off. Book them two dates. Talk to your clients about how you can tie aspects of the wedding day into the “after” party. Is it the plated meal, now served smaller, as passed appetizers? Mini wedding cake desserts instead of the beautifully tiered cake served (or vice versa). How can you incorporate similar florals, colors, or perhaps make it reflect the tone of the destination they had hoped to spend their honeymoon? 

This “micro” wedding looks anything but, incorporating all of the drama and over-the-top grandeur of a formal wedding. Awash with the high-end goodness of peonies and other remarkable florals, By Chenai highlighted how design can play a key role in creating atmosphere and ambiance. Photo courtesy Rebecca Goddard from the Wedding Trend Report. 

Finally, be safe

Beyond all of these trends that will assist us in understanding our clientele, the most important thing we must do, even as the vaccination brings the U.S. population to herd immunity…is be COVID-protocol prepared. In order for our venues to reopen, and for our clients to return, we must have safety precautions and proper guidelines in place.

Backyard weddings will continue to trend as long as venues remain compromised. That doesn’t mean the couple shouldn’t have an incredible altar space. Photo courtesy Rock Paper Coin 

Keep these four cornerstones at the forefront of your client communication:

  • Physical distancing or crowd density guidelines: Follow your local authority’s guidance for venue capacity and/or square feet per person. Use technology for crowd counting, ensure passages and areas around tables are sufficiently wide, and institute one-way traffic flow in and out of the venue if possible. If masks are required, establish designated eating areas (this is where formal plated service excels!), and consider having servers place drink orders for guests versus queuing, or bar cart service to tables.
  • Cleaning & hygiene: Let your clients know that your venue is deep cleaned prior to move in and also shortly before the event opens. Establish a cleaning regimen that focuses on high touchpoint areas. Have a gloved and masked butler with hand sanitizer for guests as they enter. Consider your audio visual, such as microphones. If the father of the bride has used the microphone, ensure it is cleaned thoroughly (or have a spare) before allowing the best man to take it.
  • Detection: Assure your clients that your employees are tested regularly. Have a private room or other isolation area available for any guest to be taken, should they show signs of illness. If you are asked to supply onsite testing, have that cost and vendor service at the ready (and it won’t be cheap!).
  • Communication: Use signage, decals, and props in playful ways to get your point across regarding safe practices. Don’t put your servers in the position of policing guests but also do not expect that your employees are willing to put themselves in harm’s way because of a maskless, uncooperative guest. Support your staff first and foremost.

Please note: The above cornerstones are pulled from the Informa AllSecure guidelines. Informa is the parent company of Catersource.

Bottom line: get ready…weddings are returning, and they will roar!  

Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Informa Connect | Catersource and Special Events magazines, including all digital content for both websites and e-newsletter products. She also vets, hires, guides and coordinates all live education at Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, Art of Catering Food, Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit, and bridge content at The Special Event.