New Traditions: Top Wedding Consultants Dish

Wedding style has been all about personalization for years — every couple is finding their own way to say “I do.” And although meaningful traditions remain, they’re customized to express a couple’s own style.

Naturally, some conventional wedding symbols have been updated: dresses aren’t always white; cakes aren’t always cut; and the groom might be getting a peek of the bride in her dress before the ceremony.

“It’s less about strict tradition — it’s about what works for you as a couple and your guests, whatever it is,” says wedding planner Kimberly Buxton of Exclusive Occasions by Kimberly.

The possibilities are endless, but three of the state’s top wedding planners have helped us spot some of the trends and new traditions that are emerging. These are, of course, open to your own interpretation!

The three-day celebration

One big change is the extension of the wedding celebration. The traditional, one-day ceremony and reception has been evolving into a three-day event.

“A lot of people are getting older, focusing on careers, they don’t have the time they once had to spend with family and friends – it’s a time to meet with them,” says Buxton.

It may start with a Wednesday check-in followed by the rehearsal on Thursday. Friday would be open to scheduled events such as scenic tours, apple picking or a casual barbecue, while Saturday is dedicated to the ceremony and reception. Brunch on Sunday wraps up this weekend for guests.

This works especially well for couples who have a lot of out of town guests, or who themselves are making New Hampshire a special destination.


No matter what the length of the event, themes, often based on location, are still showing up. When people have their wedding in New Hampshire, explains Melanie Bibbo of Blissful Beginnings, they want to showcase what the state has to offer. Summer in New England or fall in New England are popular.

On theme, Kate Parker of Kate Parker Weddings takes a different perspective: “We don’t think in terms of theme weddings, we think in terms of colors.”

Everything from programs to menus can incorporate a color scheme – and signature drinks at the reception, such as a hot pink Chambord or a pink lemonade drink, can also tie it all together. As far as which colors are popular: “Brown is the new black. We use chocolate brown all the time,” says Parker.


For the ceremony, many couples are choosing the outdoor wedding rather than a traditional church or reception hall.

“People are just more mobile than they were before,” says Bibbo. “They don’t have the tie to a family church or parish that our parents’ generation had. When they do come home they want it to be a symbol for what life means to them.” They pick spots that are personally spiritual or important to them.

Bibbo has also seen couples including extended family and friends in non-traditional ways. Perhaps they can provide music for the ceremony, or a relative may become an ordained minister or justice of the peace so they can officiate.


Tent weddings used to bring disposable china and plastic ware to mind. But today’s outdoor rooms have been made much more elegant. “They’re bringing in ballroom aspects: china, crystal, linens and flatware, consistent with the look they want,” says Buxton. You can dress it up as much as you’d like, while keeping the relaxing aspect of having it at someone’s home.

After dinner and dessert, couples are planning a distinct change in the mood and style of the reception – it’s time for the after party. “It’s where you find the brightest color, a live band, crazy food and a lounge-like atmosphere,” says Parker.


Bentleys are used more often than the classic limo fleet. You can also get a little creative and rent a trolley — this will fit the entire wedding party. Horse-drawn carriages are a popular choice, and there are also luxury wagons, coaches and smaller buses that are great for up to 21 people.


Parker sees more sophisticated menus that are designed to fit into a theme — for instance, pumpkin ravioli will accentuate themes of both season and color. As receptions turn into after parties, a late-night menu with mac and cheese or chips and salsa may be rolled out.

And for dinner on rehearsal night, Bibbo suggests that it’s not necessary to go out for a formal meal. “People love rehearsal parties rather than dinners.” A casual, come as you are barbecue with hamburgers and hotdogs sets up a fun, laid-back evening right before the wedding day.

While cakes are certainly still popular, Bibbo says she’s heard “I don’t want a cake” so much that it no longer sounds weird. She’s seen dessert stations, fresh strawberry shortcake, pastries and ice cream sundae bars take the place of the archetypal wedding dessert. And Kate Parker has seen cookies, brownies, milk chocolate and candy buffets.

But when couples opt for a cake, they really make the effort to find a design that expresses their personal style.


Kate Parker has been seeing a lot of photo booths — a photographer’s assistant or even a friend can simply use a Polaroid camera — and guests can sign their pictures and put them in the guest book. As far as professional photography, black and white, photojournalistic shots continue to be the rage.

As a keepsake, photos are put into coffee book-style albums as collages, on thick stock says Buxton. She also sees brides and grooms getting away from the after-ceremony formal pictures. Instead, they’re taking them prior to the ceremony so they are able to go straight to the celebration afterwards.

This twist of tradition, the bride and groom are seeing each other before the ceremony, creates a special, very photographable moment for themselves and the wedding party.

“It’s a moment to catch,” says Buxton. “It’s so much more private, much more personal and very romantic.”


Bouquets are really all over the map. Some people are really scaling back and opting for a simple, yet elegant, arrangement, says Buxton.

While others make it the wow factor.

While Kate Parker says many brides are choosing native flowers such as hydrangea, lilacs and peonies, she suggests checking on the seasonality of these when you’re planning. Peonies especially can get extremely expensive when not in season.


Traditional musicians, such as harpists and string quartets, are performing during the ceremony and cocktail hour, while live bands and high-end DJs take over for the reception.

But more and more, Buxton says she sees couples tapping into their own music collection — they bring their laptop, rent a sound system and cook up their own custom playlist.

“The music has been wonderful. The sound system is additional, but it has saved them an awful lot of money in the end,” says Buxton.

One downside is this leaves you without an emcee to guide everyone through the night. And it can be tricky to get a crowd-pleasing music flow going. So also think about the drawbacks when you consider this one.

All in all, the trend is toward a personalized, unique wedding that portrays the symbols you want to represent your marriage. Get creative, bend the rules and have fun. NHB