What's been hot in the first half of the year and what experts think will continue to smolder

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

The times, they are a-changin', and while some aspects of a reception—like great music and an open bar—will never go out of style, local couples are embracing a variety of new and interesting ways to make their receptions uniquely theirs.

Here are a few of the most popular trends we and other Central Ohio wedding experts are noticing.

1. Alternate Wedding Days

Most couples still choose to get married on a Saturday—for many, the prospect of an entire day to prepare and an entire post-wedding day to recover is appealing—but more and more brides and grooms are embracing the concept of getting hitched on a different day.

“Friday and Sunday are great options,” says Ann Marie Orren, director of catering at Scioto Reserve Country Club in Powell. Fridays are especially popular in the fall, she notes, when football season can create a Saturday conflict for die-hard Buckeyes fans. “They're doing their post-wedding brunch down [on campus]; they're doing a tailgate party and letting out-of-town guests experience what an OSU tailgate is, because not everyone does a tailgate like OSU.”

Sundays, meanwhile, can be even more versatile, offering options for midday brunch fêtes or a more typical evening affair. Either way, a non-Saturday wedding will almost always be less expensive, says Karlie Halverson, senior event manager at Creekside Conference & Event Center in Gahanna. “Our Saturdays do get booked up, but that doesn't shy couples away from booking those Fridays and Sundays,” she notes.

2. Different Table Setups

Move over, eight-top rounds; there's a new table in town.

“We have been doing a lot of Tuscan tables,” says Beth Joseph, wedding and social event manager at Irongate Equestrian Center. She's referring to a table setup that puts a larger number of guests—typically 18 to 20 at Irongate—around a rectangular table, seated family-style. “There's just a lot more room for conversation and getting to know other people at your table.”

Whether you go all Tuscan or mix some rectangles in with your rounds, having a nontraditional seating chart can make a big visual impact. And when used instead of a traditional head table, it can allow members of the wedding party to dine with their dates—and to see the newlyweds, instead of being seated several spaces away from them on the same side of the table.

3. Dramatic Head Tables

Speaking of head tables, couples are increasingly investing in unique décor to make the seats of honor stand out, says Orren. At Scioto Reserve, couples often capitalize on the banquet room's 200-degree view of the golf course as a backdrop, hanging florals and other elements above the head table to make it more prominent.

“Couples do like to have their head table stand out,” says Halverson. The look can be achieved simply, with uplighting against a textured wall, as Elizabeth Barry and Robert Keller did for their August 2017 wedding at dock580, or it can be an all-out extravaganza. Navya Parsa and Navin Muni, for example, opted for a jaw-dropping wall of flowers and greenery behind their head table, while Albert and Ashley Watson chose massive white thrones and a pipe-and-drape setup.

4. Statement Linens

Choosing linens may seem like one of the duller tasks in planning your wedding, but it doesn't have to be. Joseph notes that many couples are sticking with basic ivory, white and cream for the guest tables, while opting for a few eye-catching accents. Unexpected colors, such as navy and eggplant, or textures, like the uber-popular sequined tablecloth, are popping up on head tables, cake tables, appetizer buffets and more.

“Velvet is very in right now,” says Halverson, “especially for winter.” The heavier fabric does best on a cake table, she notes, which also seems to work well with a sparkly, sequined linen.

5. Elevated Tablescapes

Tera Gore, owner of Irongate, says her couples are opting for bigger, bolder table arrangements with lots of glass and greenery. Tuscan tables especially can lend themselves to a centerpiece design with a high “wow” factor—they offer more space than a standard round table and a different format to play with. Couples are swapping out a single centerpiece on a round table for a series of vignettes placed along the length of a Tuscan one, all anchored by a runner or some greenery, Joseph adds.

But smaller details can play a big role, too.

“We're seeing a lot more chargers now than we were a couple of years ago,” notes Orren. The plate that goes under your dinner plate can make a great impact, especially when it capitalizes on another trend. “Brides and grooms are really wanting to make that statement with their [tablescapes],” she adds, and a clear glass or bright gold charger is a beautiful, easy way to do it.

6. Metallics

Metallic elements are still dominating the field when it comes to wedding décor. While gold and rose gold continue to have their place in the sun, Halverson says silver shouldn't be discounted, either. “I have a lot of winter weddings that like to do a lot of silver and white, and keep it very clean and pretty and kind of icy-looking—like a winter wonderland,” she says.

Mixing metals has been popular as well, she adds. “So if we have silver flatware, they might do a gold accent on the table with another silver accent to tie into the silverware.” Gold flatware, too, is gaining popularity as a luxe take on a typically overlooked element of dinner.

7. Guest Books (That Aren't Books)

“I would say that I haven't seen a ‘normal' guest book in maybe 10 to 15 weddings now,” Halverson says. “Everybody likes to do something a little bit differently these days.”

Take the Watsons, who asked guests to pair a Polaroid selfie with a signature in their guest book. Another popular option is the “thumbprint tree”—guests dip their thumbs on an ink pad, then press their prints onto a tree or other image and add a signature next to it. And, of course, signing the mat of a large photo or a piece of wall art has been hugely popular for some time as well.

But some couples are taking things even further.

“We've had couples with benches that either the groom or the father of the bride or somebody in the family made, and then they have all their wedding guests sign that,” says Orren. “Then, that becomes a piece that goes into their home that they can always look back on.”

8. Overall Experience

More and more, Orren says, couples want their wedding day to be fun and memorable for everyone involved, not just themselves. “They're moving away from your traditional favors and going to having a photo booth with memories that the guests can take home, or a caricature artist, something that they can physically take home with them so that when they see it a month or two months later, the guests are reminded of the wedding.”

Photo booths and caricature artists are joining other experiential elements—like a recent wedding that included a bourbon tasting—at Irongate as well, Joseph notes.

Another interesting trend, at least at Scioto Reserve, is a twist on the receiving line. Instead of greeting guests as they file past or going table to table after dinner, Orren sees many couples making a game out of what otherwise can be an exhausting task. The DJ announces that the newlyweds are about to make their rounds to take a photo with every table, but they only have the length of one song (or two, if it's a large party) to do it.

“The first couple tables are very normal,” Orren says. “But as they make their way around the room, the photos get funnier and funnier. … And then the bride and groom have 20 to 25 very unique photos of them interacting with their wedding guests. It gives the guests something to do while they're finishing up dinner, and it also just starts the night off on a really high note.”