Couples Are Tossing Out the Wedding Playbook in 2021 — Here Are the Trends to Watch
For newly engaged couples and those who postponed their wedding in 2020, it's time to start researching the new trends for this year's upcoming 2021 wedding season. Luckily, wedding industry pros are already calling the trends with smaller and more intimate weddings at the top of mind. Those saying their vows will do so more creatively, experimentally, and boldly than ever before, reflecting the forward-thinking, hopeful future of the new year.
In the name of both health and love, more couples are choosing microweddings or outdoor elopements to celebrate their special day. While these ideas might not have been their first choice, being adaptive to change has many benefits for both the soon-to-be-weds and the guests. A limited party can lead to more meaningful moments such as longer toasts, thoughtful gifts for guests, and not to mention, a smaller budget.
Those saying their vows will do so more creatively, experimentally, and boldly than ever before, reflecting the forward-thinking, hopeful future of the new year.
Prepare to see bolder celebrations with more personality in color schemes that range from light blues and lavenders to '90s-inspired rainbow accents that are sure to add a pop. Dramatic ceremony backdrops and floral chandeliers will make a statement, and there will be more curated spaces for Instagram-worthy photos. Nostalgic, personal touches such as nods to family history or throwback treats represent what's really important to the couple, while dessert is pared down with simple single-tier and mini cakes for each individual guest to enjoy. Due to the smaller party size, couples will be more mindful about spending, and that means putting their money where their mouth is. Couples are projected to be more selective about vendors, with Black-owned small businesses and sustainably conscious vendors at the top of mind, taking into consideration their community and their values.
With a new year comes new changes, and these 2021 wedding trends are enough to make couples and guests alike swoon. From intentional hiring to tasteful touches, marital celebrations will highlight love like never before. Read on to see the full list of trends along with knowledge, tips, and predictions from experts in the business. Who's ready to fall in love?
"After a year of postponements and cancellations, engaged couples are realizing that maybe they don't need that big, pricey party after all. Pairs are taking their nuptials into the great outdoors — from backyard microweddings to desert elopements — with intimate 'I dos' that incorporate breathtaking scenery, laid-back vibes, and a renewed focus on romance and quality time with guests instead of over-the-top extravagance." — Tara Block, content director, POPSUGAR
Use of Innovative Technology
"A reliance on technology and virtual services throughout wedding planning is here to stay, from online consultations with wedding vendors and 360-degree virtual venue tours to at-home try-on services from local bridal salons. When it comes to the incorporation of virtual services at the actual wedding celebrations, most couples and wedding guests will want to celebrate in-person together when it's safe to do so. However, couples may opt for virtual elements to involve guests who are unable to attend the celebrations in-person, for example elderly family members, so we don't anticipate them going anywhere anytime soon." — Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief, The Knot
Smaller Guest Lists
"While COVID-19 restrictions are causing many couples to downsize their guest lists, we know that couples and their wedding guests are eager to celebrate these milestones in larger numbers once again when it's safe to do so. In the meantime, we will see more intimate events continuing to be the norm, as to-be-weds are keeping health and safety the top priority when planning their weddings." — Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief, The Knot
Mindfully Curated Vendors
"Many industries and professions have undergone a shift for the better as it relates to diversity, and the wedding industry is no different. Amid all of the turmoil, the summer of 2020 put a spotlight on the need for hiring diverse wedding vendors and business owners. Professional relationships and strategic partnerships were formed across races, so many couples were intent on hiring diverse creatives for their weddings. While there is still so much work to be done, I believe that both engaged couples and other business owners will continue collaborating with amazingly talented Black and non-Black POCs in 2021." — Randi Smith, director, Sugar Euphoria
"Through conversations, many of our couples want to go viral. That only comes by scouring the right place or by the photographer just catching that perfect moment. It has to happen naturally! Right place, right time. Sincerely enjoying your day makes for moments like that to happen." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
"Practicality meets purpose as couples take a beat to be thoughtful about their weddings, from budget to choosing vendors. Couples are being especially intentional about which companies they're financially supporting as the wedding industry attempts to bounce back amid the pandemic, opting to hire Black-owned bakeries, environmentally conscious florists, and more." — Tara Block, director, growth and strategic features, POPSUGAR
Nostalgic Color Schemes
"Nostalgia is playing a huge role in why couples are including chartreuse and peach or rainbow-inspired color schemes into their wedding style and decor. By incorporating bold, bright, and over-the-top color schemes, it not only achieves the quirky mod-aesthetic inspired by the 1960s and 1970s or provides a nod to their own '90s childhood, but it also allows couples to really bring the 'wow factor' for their wedding guests in a simpler way." — Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director, WeddingWire
"While it's likely that hand-sanitizing stations, masks as wedding favors, individual personalized food offerings, and smaller guest counts will continue to be the norm until large events are permitted and safe to take place, we will see a continued rise in the welcome box, which is a new and unique guest experience touchpoint that's quite functional. The concept behind these boxes is to safely house all wedding event necessities in one place — including personalized hand sanitizers, masks, programs and details, and even take-home favors — providing guests with the warm experience of being welcomed to the wedding weekend." — Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director, WeddingWire
"Out with the stuffy and in with the comfort! Couples want theirs guest to truly have a great time. Since weddings are headed outdoors, the dress code will fall somewhere between casual and cocktail style. Giving your guests specific instructions on which color to wear can take off some stress and makes for a great photo-op that is Instagram-worthy!" — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
"I think since we are still dealing with COVID and smaller guest counts, couples want to save on cost and typically early time frames at venues are more cost effective than evening times. I also think that having a microwedding during brunch time will limit the number of hours people will need to congregate making it more safe and allows for better socially distant practices." — Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principal, Favored by Yodit Events & Design
Bringing the Indoors Outside
"Outdoor weddings are becoming increasingly popular due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor events. With microweddings on the rise, couples want to make their guests feel at home. This might be done by creating lounge/living room areas, the use of fire pits or even gifting pashminas. We project a lot of outdoor weddings will be less formal in nature." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
"With many popular weekend wedding dates booked through this fall and into 2022, couples will continue to explore weekday options as it's more likely that their desired vendor team has availability during the week. With increased flexibility and availability of wedding pros on weekdays, we anticipate weekday weddings will continue to be a popular option for many years to come. Plus, weekday weddings are great for vendors in addition to couples, as they allow wedding pros to book additional clientele who they may not have been able to accommodate with a weekend wedding date. As for guests, they've been incredibly understanding throughout the pandemic and have approached their loved ones with empathy in regards to the changes they've had to make while postponing and re-planning their wedding." — Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief, The Knot
Oversized Floral Installations
"Whether couples are planning a postponed 2020 celebration or they've been planning a 2021 event all along, we're going to see more couples think big and make a statement — even if they need to plan small until large events are permitted and safe to attend. Especially as they work with a smaller guest count during COVID-19, couples have the opportunity to allocate money from their budgets towards making a bigger statement with decor and guest experiences — including oversized floral installations and luxe food and beverage options—all while prioritizing guest health and safety." — Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director, WeddingWire
Personal Nostalgic Touches
"This is what keeps traditions going. Although Gen Y and Gen Z are making their own rules right now, it's the little things like wearing your mother's veil or wearing jewelry or incorporating colors. This keeps the meaning and tradition alive. Memorials are a big part of nostalgia. Unfortunately COVID-19 has taken a lot of parents and grandparents from couples who are set to wed. Adding picture lockets to bouquets or memory tables will be a definite thing going forward." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
A Touch of Humor
"After a collectively hard year for everyone, couples are looking towards humor to give their guests an escape before, after, and during their weddings. You'll see people sending out 'change the dates' as opposed to save the dates if their weddings were postponed due to COVID, and hiring comedians or celebrity impersonators to entertain guests at the ceremony. Giving people a reason to laugh after such tumultuous times will make the day even more special." — Lauren Harano, editorial assistant, POPSUGAR
Deep on Details
"I think the fact that guest lists are smaller and more intimate have a direct correlation with more budget to impress your closest loved ones with more personalized and custom details and curated experiences that might not have been possible if the counts were larger." — Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principal, Favored by Yodit Events & Design
Comfort Is Key
"With many of the 2021 weddings scheduled to take place outdoors, we also anticipate couples taking the extra steps to ensure their guests are warm and cozy. Continuing with the trend of personalization, we anticipate seeing curated warming stations where guests are given their own blanket or pashmina as a wedding favor." — April Gray, owner and creative director, C.C. Monroe Event Design
Smaller, More Personalized Food
"Couples want to show their gratitude to guests who are risking their health by traveling to attend social gatherings since COVID-19 is still here even if you are taking all the safety precautions." — Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principal, Favored by Yodit Events & Design
"While DJs and live bands continue to facilitate events and serve as emcee for the evening, couples will continue to lean on alternative entertainment, including stand-up comedians, acoustic music performances, celebrity impersonators, and magicians, to ensure that guests remain seated at their own tables for health and safety reasons. It also provides a unique and fun source of entertainment for guests as dance floors will remain limited due to the pandemic and social-distancing restrictions." — Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director, WeddingWire
"A branded experience is all the rage when designing a wedding. All senses must be hit! 2021 is all about the details. From custom printed linen (yes, printed fabric has the capability to become anything), designer dinnerware, textured compote vases and artfully styled flowers that complements the entrees, to custom welcome boxes complete with a monogramed mask and hand sanitizer, large chandeliers, crystal glassware and tons of candles. Along with custom printed linens, long rectangular tables will become a staple in 2021. [When it is safe to do so], couples will want their guests to sit together since they were apart in 2020 and round seating doesn't give you that closeness." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
Suits in Nontraditional Colors
"Formal weddings and tuxedos will always have their place in the world, but because the pandemic forced many couples to postpone or change their plans, we've seen a big shift toward casual celebrations and attire. I like to think of 2021 as the year of 'anything goes' because the bottom line is that your wedding day should be fun, especially with everything else happening in the world right now. A colorful suit, whether it's blue, pink, green, or decorated with a pattern, is a great way to personalize your look and keep the day feeling lighthearted. Additionally, couples who are eloping or hosting a virtual wedding have the opportunity to experiment with a fashion-forward outfit now, while saving the traditional attire for a big wedding down the road." — Samantha Iacia, associate editor, WeddingWire
Mismatched Tables and Seating
"Monotony is out of the door. So long to every table being the same. We are seeing a rise in mismatched centerpieces, too! This allows families under one household to be together and creates a more custom and personalized aspect to a wedding." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
"I love the idea of anything personalized and the idea of guests giving their drink selections prior to the wedding similar to how they give their meal choice makes it super efficient and safe. Also no one wants to wait in line for a drink, so having your personalized beverage ready upon arrival makes you feel extra special. I think this trend is great and easy for smaller events, but not sure if it will be a norm once bars might open up after COVID." - Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principal, Favored by Yodit Events & Design
Close to Home Honeymoons
"The current travel restrictions are causing many couples to rethink their honeymoon plans. Many of our couples are postponing their dream honeymoon for a later anniversary trip and are instead opting to stay closer to home. We expect to continue to see the trend of couples electing to do a road trip and enjoying outdoor activities. We also expect to see couples opting for staycations at private vacation home rentals or secluded villas, ensuring their privacy and adherence to any social distance guidelines." — April Gray, owner and creative director, C.C. Monroe Event Design
Mini Guest Toasts
"With wedding events becoming more intimate during the pandemic — even if couples are planning small until large events are permitted and safe to attend — it's likely that guests attending in person will have a close relationship with the couple and will want to share a fond memory or sentiment, dinner-party style." — Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director, WeddingWire
Bold Outdoor Decor
"Expect to see many weddings taking place outdoors in 2021 and into 2022. With that, couples will be bringing the coziness of the indoors outside with their wedding decor. They'll be relying on bold decor elements and unique lighting installations to create their desired aesthetic, think mismatched seating, twinkly lights, and more." — Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief, The Knot
Casual-Cool Wedding Outfits
"Brides are keeping it more casual with minimal makeup looks they can DIY, off-the-rack dresses they can repurpose or resell, and personalized denim and leather bridal jackets they can toss over their wedding attire for their receptions." — Tara Block, director, POPSUGAR
"The ambiance is everything! It sets the unspoken mood you want your guests to feel. Good lighting can take it there. Candles are as romantic as it gets, so tons of candlelight will go a very long way. String lights have just enough light for guest to see but are dim enough to set a mood." — Racquel Guyton, principal designer and planner, St. Germain Design & Co.
Cost-Saving DIY Details
"Some couples are skipping the big-ticket frills altogether and instead investing those savings into their future lives together." — Tara Block, director, POPSUGAR
Natural Color Scheme
"I think popular wedding color schemes are definitely influenced by the season's fashion trends. And since everyone is living in nude tone cozy loungewear at home during quarantine it translates to their personal style. Also the age of neutrals from the Kardashians and other celebrity influencers is still on the rise. We may still see some other colors like yellow since Pantone's colors of the year are Illuminating and Ultimate Grey and we usually see these translate to popular wedding color palettes." - Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principal, Favored by Yodit Events & Design