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This article was published 6/5/2017 (922 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Today marks the unofficial start of wedding high season. For the next five months, hundreds of couples will tie the knot at venues all over the province, and thousands of guests will (sometimes begrudgingly) give up a weekend or two to attend.
After spending two weeks consulting with experts in various fields about trends and their experience working in the wedding industry, three main points were raised by almost every one of them: the first is that every vendor has a love-hate relationship with the social media website Pinterest, which allows users to "pin" photos and videos to a virtual board for inspiration.
From cakes and flowers to decor and dresses, Pinterest has succeeded in providing unrealistic expectations for brides everywhere since 2010, and those in the wedding business both love the guidance in terms of themes and colours, but hate that the photos often create impossible fantasies.
Tatiana Penner of Oak and Lily florist sums it up best: "Pinterest is great, but use it for inspiration not aspiration."
The second is that this is an industry run almost entirely on referrals — the vendors said they do little, if any marketing; they get all of their business through word of mouth and often are hired by family members and friends of other couples whose weddings they’ve done. Almost all wedding bookings are linked to an earlier booking.
Finally, the most repeated piece of advice doled out was to trust your vendors to be the authority in their given field.
For those hoping to have their big day during high season next year, the Free Press spoke with five vendors and a wedding planner to get the inside scoop on trends, budgeting and planning timelines.
Average cost: $90-$110 per plate, plus taxes and gratuities
When you should book: At least a year in advance
The Fort Garry Hotel has long been synonymous with luxurious, fancy and formal weddings.
The venue will play host to about 100 weddings this year, spread out among the three most well-known ballrooms — the Crystal, Provencher and Concert ballrooms, as well as the Grand Ballroom in Fort Garry Place, which is connected to the hotel by a skywalk and can accommodate 600 guests.
Smaller rooms are used when the guest list is shorter, so it is possible for up to five weddings at a time to be held on any given Saturday during the summer, says Cheryl Morgan, one of the hotel’s catering and event co-ordinators.
Morgan, who has been working on weddings at the Fort Garry for eight years, has noticed several trends during her tenure, including extremely large centrepieces and damask-patterned decor. One recent trend has been causing her some problems, though — banquet table, family-style seating.
"That’s the toughest for us to do just because say, the Provencher or Crystal ballroom, you can get 250 people in there but that’s using round (tables). Then, you see the bride a year later from when she booked and she wants to do long tables, but if you do long tables in the Provencher and the Crystal, we can only get 180 guests in there, and then you have issues."
For those couples who are in the venue-choosing stage of their planning, Morgan has this advice:
"Pick something that’s along the style of what you’re looking at doing; if you’re looking at a lot of different venues, just make sure to compare costs — at some venues, certain things are included but at others, they may cost extra. Ask a lot of questions; there are no wrong questions."
Average wedding budget: $30,000
When you should book: As soon as possible
Alli Girardin has been planning weddings in Winnipeg for five years, but began her career in Toronto five years before that. Her self-owned company, Alli Mae Fresh Events, has 14 weddings on the calendar for this year, and another 30 in the bank from previous seasons — to sum up, she’s seen a lot when it comes to the big day.
When she began, rustic was all the rage — we’re talking tent and barn weddings with burlap table runners and baby’s breath in Mason jars. While the idea of "rustic" has stuck around, Girardin says recent interpretations of that theme are more refined and elegant, though there is still the "imperfect and natural" vibe to the decor.
In addition, Girardin says another trend making its mark is whimsical and playful decor, especially using balloons to decorate the head table or photo walls.
A wedding planner must be agile; they act as secretary, therapist, family buffer, tough-love giver, budget-minder and all-around point-person for the months leading up to the big day — it’s a lot of responsibility and Girardin says the sooner you can get a planner involved in the decision-making, the better.
"The earlier you get a professional involved, the earlier we can set some expectations and get some numbers on paper," she says. "It can be really scary to look at tens of thousands of dollars but it’s better to address it early on and realize, like, whoa, flowers do cost that much, let’s work with that and find out where we can scale back."
As far as advice, Girardin, of course, advises couples to have a planner, and for those who already have one lined up, to keep an open mind when working with them. She also says to loop your planner in on all emails regarding wedding-related stuff.
"Maybe some planners would say differently, but I personally want to be cc’d on everything. I’d rather have too much information than miss out on something super-important," she says. "Recognizing that we’re a co-pilot situation is important, too; I’m working for you and will do anything possible to keep you and your fiancé happy."
Girardin herself is engaged, and, if you’re wondering, yes, she has already hired a planner.
"I know what’s coming and I just want someone to take care of me like I take care of my brides," she says, laughing.
Average cost: $1,000- $1,500, plus accessories and alterations
When you should buy: One year in advance
If television shows such as TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress have taught us anything, it’s that the wedding dress is one of the most important line-items in any wedding to-do list and budget.
Brides will sometimes try on upwards of 100 dresses, just waiting for the moment when that one special dress gives them the warm and fuzzies.
In Winnipeg, Helene’s Bridal Salon is an institution — the Portage Avenue shop has been around for 60 years and has helped thousands of brides feel beautiful on their big day.
Bridal fashion trends range from absolute nightmare (see: puffy sleeves of the 1980s) to simple, classic and timeless. Lace reigns supreme as the in-style fabric of the moment, while illusion necklines and low backs are also very popular, says Sheila Rubenstein, who has owned Helene’s with her husband since 1982.
"A lot of lace has been shown, a lot of romance, a lot of low, low backs. And a lot of straps, not just a thin strap, but a lot of really beautiful lace straps. It’s an exciting time in dresses because they’re all just so pretty," she says. "I just love the look now, nothing too heavy on top, I think it’s so much more flattering."
Another new trend, adds Rubenstein, is colour.
"At one time you could only wear white, and now, besides natural or ivory, there’s blush, there’s rose, the list goes on and on," she says. "It’s exciting to see there are some changes happening and brides are welcoming it, it’s fun."
And not only are brides more open-minded in terms of style, they are more educated on bridal fashion than ever before.
"Today much more than when we first started our business, they do much more homework. They’re on their computers, online, they know so much, they’re so educated in bridal," she says. "I don’t even have to say anything, they just show me their phone and all these pictures come up."
Average cost: $500-$1,000, depending on labour and guest count
When you should book: Six months — one year in advance, depending on your date
A wedding cake is a unique beast in that it is both used as food and as decor, a fact many engaged couples forget. But luckily for them, those designing and executing their cakes, such as Belinda Bigold at High Tea Bakery, will happily explain why that cake they saw on Pinterest is just not going to be the best choice.
"People don’t understand what goes into what a lot of those photos are, and a lot of them are photoshoots, not necessarily real weddings," says Bigold, who has been making wedding cakes for 14 years.
"They look gorgeous on Pinterest, covered in berries, but then you have to look at what you actually do at your wedding — at most weddings, you’re having dinner, you’re having dessert and your cake sits out that whole time and you cut it around 9 p.m. If you have ever sat berries in whipped cream in 30-degree weather for four hours, seven hours, it does not look like that photo at 9 at night," she says with a laugh.
Cake trends follow decor in some respects, so pink and gold, pastels and watercolours have been popular in the last few years, as well as sugar flower accents. Bigold adds that buttercream is "making a comeback."
"Ten years ago, you never made a buttercream cake, that was considered like grocery-store cake, and now you’re seeing a lot more natural-looking beautiful buttercream, accenting it with flowers. It makes for a very tasty cake, but also they’re not trying to make a fondant cake out of buttercream anymore, they’re letting it be buttercream," she says.
Another trend that’s booming at the moment is the dessert buffet — couples will get just a small, two-tier cake for cutting and supplement that with a table of macarons, petit fours and other sweet treats so guests are presented with a larger variety of textures and flavours.
Bigold’s No. 1 piece of advice is for couples to have an idea what kind of cake they would like, in terms of design; while Bigold certainly can design something out of thin air, her goal is to make something special that resonates on a personal level with the bride and groom.
"It’s good if people do have a bit of an idea when they come in, because that’s obviously going to help get you what you want... I’m an expert at cakes, but I’m not an expert in your taste and what you like. There’s been everything from Jean-Claude Van Damme fighting Alien on top of a wedding cake to gold and ruffles and flowers, so where are you in that range? You need to know that as your baseline."
Average cost: $2,000- $5,000
When you should book: One year in advance if wedding is in high season (May-September)
If you’re talking about wedding florals in Winnipeg, there’s a good chance Oak & Lily Flowers and Design’s name will come up. The quaint River Heights shop is owned by Tatiana Penner, who has been honing her chops in the wedding floral industry for 20 years.
A lot has changed in those two decades — she recalls the first shop she worked at as a teen having a catalogue-type book that couples would flip through, looking at pre-determined packages.
"Basically you picked the red-rose package, the white-rose package or the daisy package — they were all pre-priced and very little in terms of options to choose from," says Penner.
Then came the late ‘90s, with the very formal, cascading bouquets in the holders. Then the anti-wedding movement was in full swing, where the roses were swapped for Gerbera daisies and calla lilies. Now, Penner says there’s been a "huge movement" in the floral industry overall toward more organic looking arrangements.
"Just going back to more organic natural style of working and designing with flowers, and even the whole local movement of working with smaller growers and suppliers, which is kind of challenging here in Manitoba considering our growing season is 90 days," says Penner.
Along with that move into more natural looking florals (including 2017’s trend of Greenery, thanks to the recently announced Pantone colour of the year), Penner says a lot of couples are also looking to personalize everything more — a large leap away from the catalogue options from Penner’s early days.
"Now I feel like everybody is taking more of a personal approach and hand-selecting things and also working with other creatives that are able to personalize things especially for them... they’re having something unique created specifically for them. I think that’s across the board — venue to dresses down to the décor and the florals," she says.
Average cost: $4,000
When you should book: Six months in advance
Photographs are one of the few things that live on after a wedding is over, so it makes sense that, after venue and food, photography is one of the biggest budget items.
Photos can also be the one thing that dates your wedding the most — the style of the shot, photography techniques, colouring and even location can all be telling factors as to when you and your beau tied the knot, explains Rachael King Johnson and Mairen Kops, the duo behind Luckygirl wedding photography.
"With cake and décor are all about the trends, but for photography, that’s really the one thing that’s tangible after everything is all said and done, with Lucky Girl being one of the veteran photographers in the city, we’ve seen some trends come and go, and certain ones make your photos look obsolete; you cringe," says Johnson.
"The removing of all colour except for the bouquet, that was so hot for a while, and we did it, but I think a lot of what... when we meet with people and they say we stood out from the other photographers they were looking at, they say it felt real and it felt like there was life to it, there were candid moments that were captured and there’s nothing trendy about that. There’s nothing trendy about capturing a real emotion in a way that feels genuine. So we’re aware of the trends and we do some of the trends, but we also know the type of photos that will last a lifetime."
"We’re aware of the timelessness; we’ve always loved black and white, 50 per cent of what we deliver is usually in black and white and those are the images that can totally stand the test of time," adds Kops.
Oddly, the photographer often becomes the point-person on the day of the wedding if any problems should arise, photography related or otherwise. In many cases, the photographer can often be just one step below a planner in terms of importance, and when there isn’t a planner, they are sometimes unofficially slid into that role.
"It’s kind of amazing how much we problem-solve. It’s like, ‘The photographer has been at a wedding, what do you do?’ And we’re like, ‘OK, the limo driver didn’t show up? This is what you do. This ripped? This is what you do.’ We’re the go-to people; we’ve seen it and if we can help we do, but we really keep things going," says Johnson.
Kops and Johnson say it takes them about a month to turn around a set of wedding photos.
"It’s so important to us to edit every image with so much care that if we said a week it would be too fast, blowing through it and not taking the mindfulness that all of those images need because people do own them after and print them and you want it to be good," says Johnson.
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.