Weddings Get Creative: Love in the Time of COVID-19
by Sue Strachan
WEDDINGS ARE STILL HAPPENING, but in different ways due to the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While big weddings won’t be happening for a while, vendors are getting creative on how to help the couple and their families celebrate this joyous day.
FLEXIBILITY AND THE RISE OF THE MICRO-WEDDING
“Definitely smaller weddings,” says Bill Laderer, about what his clients are doing. Laderer is chef and owner at Courtyard on the Ridge, an event space in Harahan, and he also does off-premise catering and event planning as Bill Laderer Catering and Special Events.
“Some are upgrading what they are ordering, as they don’t have as many guests,” he says. Laderer, who makes all of the cuisine from scratch, has seen, for example, couples ordering a lobster mac and cheese instead of shrimp mac and cheese. Other favorite items are the beef tenderloin with cremini mushrooms and a port demi-glace and profiteroles with foie gras piped and paired with a red wine.
Like most of the wedding industry, Laderer is dealing with clients changing their plans to a later date, or just going ahead with the original date.
Erin Steen, owner of Compass Point Events, says “We’ve had to adjust dates two, three or four times.” But, “It isn’t easy to organize again,” she says, pointing out that new dates don’t always work because it can be hard to reschedule other vendors—photographers, church, limousines, and musicians—that have to also be available on the replacement date.
Derek Sagona, owner of Celebrity Limousine, a family-owned business since 1986, says that like most vendors, they are willing to work with couples on new dates and budgets, offering different package deals. Celebrity is known for its limousines and vintage Rolls Royces. “People want traditional,” he says. And while the company doesn’t have vans or buses, they have business relationships with other companies that do—and vice versa, as Celebrity can loan them their limos and cars.
In addition to weddings, Sagona says they have been doing birthday parties during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he wants to do something for Carnival, like “turning a limousine into a parade float” for people to use during the season and on Mardi Gras.
“Micro-wedding” is a term that has popped up since the COVID-19 pandemic started, says Steen of Compass Point Events, “We have done several micro-weddings outdoors.” Her venue, located in Algiers Point, has a beautiful oak-tree canopied outdoor space in addition to its main house and guest cottages. “There’s plenty of room to social distance,” she continues, “Our staff wears masks and gloves” and the venue provides masks and lots of hand sanitizer stations.
Steen has been in the wedding business for more than 37 years and has never seen anything to affect weddings as much as the COVID-19 pandemic. “I try to calm couples’ fears and practice the most important lesson I have taken away from this: flexibility.”
Despite smaller weddings, people aren’t toning down their invitations says Margaret Jones of Scriptura. “They tend to order the invitation they always wanted.”
What Jones finds interesting is, “We are seeing a split between sending invitations to absolutely everyone on the wedding list with a caveat saying that circumstances may change, usually noted on a separate insert. Or, clients sending a small amount of invitations out, usually 30 to 50, to their closest family and friends knowing that nothing will change.”
Jones adds, “The smaller the wedding, the more bells and whistles. People are enjoying small extravagances: wax seals, calligraphy and heavier stock.
“I see a trend toward luxury.”
Viviane Friedman, director of sales at the Pontchartrain Hotel, says that “Couples are using this as an opportunity to offer their guests the extras they may have wanted before, but were out of budget for larger guest counts.
“For example, our Veuve Clicquot cart package or a champagne coupe tower.”
The hotel offers a range of spaces for couples, for example the Parlour for weddings and rehearsal dinners, and “with current restrictions and limited guest-count we are able to offer Jack Rose and Hot Tin to couples as well.” She also notes the hotel is compliant with ordinances and other safety measures, such as multiple hand- sanitizer stations, 6-feet social distancing, and wearing masks, which Friedman has seen couples offering custom-made ones to guests.
Friedman said the hotel “had a full wedding season planned last year and it was evenly split between couples wanting to move forward with micro-weddings and keeping their original dates, or deciding to move their date a year or more later.” The hotel has also hosted weddings for couples whose venues closed during the pandemic.
Safety is also of paramount concern for Briquette, Briquette Wine Room and New Orleans Creole Cookery, says Anna Tusa. “We have placed hand-sanitizing stations upon entry.” After hands have been sanitized, there is a table with signature cocktails so people don’t crowd at the bar. “Grab a drink and go to your table,” she comments.
“All buffet stations are served by our team members with masks and gloves so the guest experience is safe,” Tusa says, adding “Buffets are opened by table so once one table is served another may approach. All seating tables are social distanced with minimum chairs allowed during which Phase we are in.” The New Orleans Creole Cookery has a courtyard, so a wedding can take place outdoors with Tusa saying it is a good place to have live entertainment.
“Ceremonies are primarily taking place in our courtyard with a transition indoor for the reception,” says The Venue owner Brooke Ory Powell about her space in Slidell.
“Guests are grateful for full use of both indoor and outdoor spaces for ceremony and reception,” she says.
Marking its second year in business in March, Powell said that couples like The Venue because the all-day rental: the bridal suite allows the bridal party and friends and families to get ready in one place, eliminating the cost and logistics of renting hotels and transportation the day of the wedding. The Venue also allows any caterer they want use.
The most long-lasting details from a wedding are the rings. While there have been some high-profile celebrity engagements and weddings in the past year—think actress Emma Stone and vocalist Gwen Stefani—Brandon Boudreaux, lead designer at Boudreaux’s Jewelers isn’t really seeing any noticeable trends, such as pearls or colored stones, evolving from that, though he does say the sapphire engagement ring, famously worn by Princess Diana, is still requested. Men’s bands are still mainly the traditional gold band.
“A lot of the traditional settings are popular, such as the diamond solitaire,” he says. “And, many brides want to dress up the band with diamonds surrounding the solitaire.”
Round and oval diamonds are the No. 1 and No. 2 most requested, “by a long shot,” says Boudreaux. An oval diamond—actress Blake Lively’s engagement ring for example—is being requested more. Its elongated shape makes it look larger than other diamond shapes.
Boudreaux adds that some couples are using rings that were their parents or grandparents and dressing them up.
This repurposing of rings is something that Anna Hollinger, co-owner and sales and development director of Symmetry Jewelers, has encountered, as well. “They receive stones or jewelry from family members and use it for a custom design,” says Hollinger. “A lot of brides are going that way, for example, using a new stone while adding accent stones or utilizing gold from a family ring,” adding that new stones can often be a colored gem stone.
Hollinger sees interest in non-traditional stones, including sapphires, morganite (in a rose-cut) or stones that have a special significance, like a birthstone.
“Instead of a birthstone for everyday, we suggest getting a sapphire, which would be a better gem. The stone comes in unique colors, including softer blues, and one bride asked for teal,” she says. Hollinger adds that “Lab-grown diamonds including Moissanite,” are becoming prevalent.
Moissanite was discovered in a meteorite in 1893 by a French chemist, Henri Moisson. He mistakenly thought the crystals were diamonds, but in 1904, he identified it as silicon carbide, which can be synthesized in a lab. This form of the mineral was named Moissanite in honor of him.
In addition to its diamond-like appearance, Moissanite is almost as hard as diamonds, good for everyday wear, and is less expensive than lab-grown diamonds or natural diamonds. “If you don’t want a diamond and are on a budget, Moissanite is perfect,” says Hollinger.
Hollinger comments that today’s brides want to make their own traditions, with a ring that doesn’t look like one you would normally see, whether it is repurposing jewelry or having a custom design made from scratch.
Jewelry designer Reagan Charleston’s Leone Collection featuring earrings and pendants in the shape of a lion’s face are proving to be fashionable for bridesmaids’ gifts, with “The Leone pendant on a pearl necklace is popular as well for brides and bridesmaids,” she says. For men, the Leone Collection cufflinks and lapel pins are hot choices, as are the arrow and sword lapel pins from the Constellation Collection and the magnolia lapel pin from Magnolia Collection, with Charleston saying that it can often take the place of a boutonnière.
These fashion conscious choices by men are not surprising. “Men want suits in more modern colors, and a slim, more fitted tailoring and tighter fit, with the pants hems hitting the top of the shoe,” says Andy Hunter, manager of John’s Tuxedos.
What’s the No. 1 color? “Navy,” remarks Hunter, who adds that other blues and some greys, such as charcoal, are asked-for choices. Shoes are often brown if
a tuxedo or suit is blue. The traditional black tuxedo? It is still requested, but not as much.
Another trend Hunter has seen is an attention to detail: the groom will get his suit or tuxedo a slightly different shade than the groomsmen. Or, the groom will wear a tie in white to match the bride, while the groomsmen don a tie in the shade of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Melissa Estess, co-owner/founder of The Bridal Boutique by MaeMe, is finding that feminine details are in for wedding dresses.
“Bows are back! 2021 is all about feminine details and romance including three-dimensional florals, bows and billowy sleeves,” expresses Estess.
Also on the 2021 list?
• “Minimalism. Clean and modern styles featuring interesting necklines and couture seaming. This trend is so versatile, and brides can really make the dress their own by pairing it with trendy florals or oversized jewelry, maybe adding an overskirt or dramatic veil. We’re loving this look because the absence of details almost creates a different type of ‘wow’ moment.”
• “Bold embellishments. So, this is the opposite end of the style spectrum. These gowns include sparkle, lace and beading, and back details, and exquisite trains and textured skirts… these are the dresses that combine several different design elements into one, beautifully executed, art piece!”
Estess also notes that most of her brides are opting for an ivory or off-white option for their wedding gown, with “hints of nude, blush, or flesh-toned lining to create dimension and allow their lace and design details to really pop.”
Flowers are always the perfect accent for a wedding. Sue Rudiger, owner of Beth’s Flowers says she is working on less formal bouquets, “We see more natural-looking bouquets with lots more greenery.” Though, she adds, some brides who are getting married in the summer are going toward bright colors.
One of the most important elements of the wedding is the photography. Trent Spann, owner and chief photographer for Images by Robert T, has been photographing weddings for 48 years. “My dad was a photographer,” he says noting how he became interested.
Weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic have meant he is photographing, “Smaller weddings, with several doing the small wedding now, but still planning for the big wedding (250 people) later in the year or next year.”
Spann notes that flexibility is key. “They have to book the reception hall first,” he says, “Before they book it, they call me with three dates to see which ones I am good for.”
He adds, “Regardless of COVID-19, if a couple wants to cancel or change the date, and I am not available, I have another photographer, the second photographer for the weddings I cover, who can do it. I always edit the photographs so it stays in my style before I present to the bride.”
Spann also is upfront with the bride when this happens. “When you book Images by Robert T, you are booking my company and me. The couple isn’t surprised by a photographer they don’t know.”
Spann says he does not photograph more than one wedding a day. “If a woman took the time to pick me, that’s an honor because it is for the most important day of her life and I need to give her my best.”
So loyal and happy are Spann’s customers that he has photographed three generations of weddings.