Janet Marie is designing a wedding with a Harry Potter theme.
by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
From the June, 2018 issue
"The venue looks like the Great Hall, and we'll decorate it with lots of candles, Hogwarts banners, wands, and figures," says Marie, owner of Sparrow & Fox Weddings and Events. "Every table will be a different class--Charms, Potions, Dark Arts."
While that's likely to be this summer's only local Hogwarts wedding, other planners also report a rise in custom ceremonies. "The biggest trend I see is the desire to do things that reflect the couple's personality rather than what traditions dictate," says Jessica Bennett (J Bennett Designs).
When Bennett opened her business ten years ago, most weddings took place in churches, followed by receptions in large banquet halls, country clubs, or outdoors. Nowadays, she estimates, only one-third of couples marry in a church. Others turn to a growing roster of secular settings that include the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, local parks, and "event barns" (Cobblestone Farm, Misty Valley, and Misty Farm in greater Ann Arbor, and Nixon Farms and Cornman Farms of Dexter). "These last two specialize in homegrown vegetables and herbs and organic foods," points out planner Kaeli Garcia, owner of Luna Soiree Events. "That's a big trend in this area."
Countless brides have been married at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and the numbers are rising. Another of Marie's couples will follow a ceremony at Matthaei with a "rustic glam" reception at Nixon Farms. Some couples get that currently popular look with "twine, burlap, and vintage furnishings," she says. "Others go eclectic, with a combination of sophisticated table settings in a rustic decor."
No longer are attendants always lined up in equal numbers and same genders. Many times the groom may choose his sister or a female friend as his "best maid" and the bride will ask a brother or male friend to stand with her.
The rings look different, too, says Jonathan Farnsworth of Lewis Jewelers. "Yellow gold is out, white and rose gold are in. Heavy gold bands with large diamonds are out, wedding/engagement
matching sets are out, delicate circles of diamonds are in. And many couples are often choosing to mix white and yellow gold--something that was never done in the past."
Even June's position as the preferred month for weddings no longer applies. Michiganders prefer August, followed by July and September. June barely squeaks past October as fourth choice. "And, truly, often the main consideration for the choice of fall dates is the U of M football schedule," says Garcia. "It's impossible to get hotel rooms on home football weekends. The traffic will be horrendous. And caterers and venues will be hard to find." And many of the guests might be paying more attention to game scores than the wedding.
"Many of my clients are a little older, and they're professionals," says Staci Kennedy owner of Who's Got The Time? "They know what they want, and they're paying for the wedding themselves, rather than relying on parents."
Local planners say the weddings they design come with price tags of $20,000 to $75,000, but the "sweet spot," according to Bennett, is $25,000 to $40,000.
"If you have $10,000 to work with, it can be done, but you have to be pretty creative and very thrifty," Marie adds. "Some couples find venues that are free of charge--a family home, park, or cottage, and they'll plan a barbecue or potluck. Others gather their friends and family members and cook for weeks in advance."
Despite changing traditions and expanding budgets, the potential for disaster remains.
Marie has battled 100-plus-degree temperatures at an outdoor barn wedding, with a caterer worried about a melting cake. ("We gathered a lot of fans in a hurry.") Kennedy has sewn a huge tear in a bride's gown. All have battled raging winds, torrential downpours, and heat. The Rev. Matt Hook of Dexter United Methodist Church officiated at a wedding where the bridegroom's mother insisted on guests letting loose thousands of butterflies rather than throwing rice. Shipped chilled, most of the butterflies emerged "dazed and lifeless," Hook says, "and they started crawling over the guests and the ground."
"I actually enjoy unexpected challenges," Bennett says. One of her greatest was when the bakery neglected to provide cakes to be cut for the guests. She raced around Ann Arbor to collect sixteen cakes of all flavors, scraped off the "Happy Birthday," "Happy Anniversary," and "Congratulations, Graduate" frostings, re-frosted them, served them, and no one was the wiser.
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