For many brides, the path taken to their true love is even more beautiful when it's atop a colorful, artistic aisle runner. In the past few years, aisle runners have evolved into true works of art, hand-painted with the couple's names and wedding date, clusters of butterflies or birds, even 3-D renderings of rose petals or river stones.
"We've come a long way from 1980s-era plain white aisle runners that seemed more like paper towel rolls and often tripped up the bride and groom. Now aisle runners are made from finer fabrics and are non-slip, designed in the color scheme of the wedding's d?cor," says Linda Zec of the wedding supply company Invitations4sale.com. Aisle runners may be used indoors, lining the aisle of a house of worship or a ballroom that's been transformed into the ceremony site, as well as outdoors, e.g., on grass or a sandy beach.
Julie Goldman -- owner of The Original Runner Co., whose runners have been featured at celebrity weddings -- says aisle runners are in demand to make the aisle stand out. "Wedding couples are now choosing bright colors for their aisle runners, for visual interest and as color contrast to the bride's white or light-colored gown," Goldman says. "Purple is extremely popular right now, as is silver. We're unveiling a new line of platinum aisle runners with lots of silver shine and shimmer, because that's what couples are asking for right now."
Experts say the best aisle runners are wider swaths of real fabric made from cotton/polyester blends with nonskid foam backs that hold on any type of surface, from carpet to hardwood to gravel to grass.
Here are the top tips for ordering your own aisle runner:
--Before you contact your chosen aisle runner designer, know your wedding colors and theme, as well as your location (indoors or outdoors) and formality.
--Always choose hand-painted accenting on your aisle runner, never iron-on decals, which can wrinkle or warp.
--Bring or send a swatch of the bridesmaid dresses and a sample of your flowers so that the artists can match your wedding's hues perfectly.
--Review the company's portfolio of previous work for inspiration on fonts, florals, flourishes and borders, and custom select the design of your aisle runner.
--Allow plenty of time for your order. For most companies, at least three weeks' notice is fine for solid-colored aisle runners, and eight weeks is ideal for custom-designed aisle runners. Allow extra time during the busy summer months and holiday weekends.
*Placing Your Aisle Runner
Aisle runners often are pre-placed at the ceremony site for optimal beauty and to avoid a bumpy, wavering placement done by the ushers during the processional. The aisle runner professional or your wedding coordinator will place the runner perfectly. With your aisle runner in place, drape a garland of flowers across the back row of seats so that guests do not walk on the runner on the way to their seats. The new trend is for ushers to escort guests to their seats via the side aisles.
The surface on which your runner will lie may call for careful attention to placement and securing the edges. On grass, be sure the grass has been cut recently, and use garden stakes to secure the edges of the runner at four-foot intervals, being sure that the stakes are knocked completely into the ground so guests don't trip on them.
On concrete, marble terraces or stone surfaces, affix strong double-sided tape to the bottom edges of your aisle runner to keep it in place, and you may want to set potted flowers on the edges of your runner for extra security and beauty.
On sand for a beach wedding, it's best to lay down a sturdy wood path first and then secure the aisle runner on top of that. This allows for a secure walking surface, and beach winds will not cause the aisle runner to move or flap.
The edges of aisle runners may be accented with potted flowers, clusters or lines of flower petals, or even seashells or river stones to suit the location's natural d?cor and the wedding theme. Or keep it simple with a pretty border embedded in the design of the runner.
*Life After the Wedding
Your aisle runner will be rolled up and packaged for you to take home. You may want to keep it in its natural form, hand-paint the names of your children onto it in the future, have an artist cut out the design portion of your runner to frame, lend it to friends or donate it to your house of worship.
Sharon Naylor has written more than three dozen wedding books.