Wedding Reception Wows

By Sharon Naylor

April 25, 2012 6 min read

Setting a beautiful scene for your reception is likely to be high on your wish list for your big day. As The Wedding Report shows in its recent survey, brides and grooms are devoting a larger chunk of their wedding budget to their reception decor. Wedding couples want to transform a ballroom into a magical garden, a hip, clublike atmosphere or a winter wonderland, and they're consulting with a team of experts to make their visions reality.

Here are the top five new reception decor trends that span all styles and sizes of wedding celebrations:

1) Lighting effects. "Lighting is one of the most important tools we have to create ambiance, and no matter your budget, you can transport your guests from ethereal to romantic to dramatic all within the same space," says Colin Cowie, author of "Colin Cowie Wedding Chic: 1,001 Ideas for Every Moment of Your Celebration." Cowie says in his newsletter (free at that dramatic wedding lighting can mean anything from the right placement of candles to stringing lights in trees. Wedding coordinators, floral designers, entertainment companies or event lighting specialists can design personalized effects such as your names projected onto the dance floor (the method is called gobo lights) and lighting your chuppah to provide a soft glow. A hot trend now is uplighting, which is lighting machines set on the floor, often beneath sconces and obscured with plants or other decor effects, projecting colored light upward to give the room a festive feel. Cowie says that color is key in lighting, suggesting a rich, royal shade of purple or blue to create "an electric atmosphere," and if you're on a budget, light the perimeter of the room primarily. Candles are always a mood-setter at weddings, so consider clusters of pillar candles on each table, in varying heights, to provide visual interest.

2) Raining crystals. When crystals are strung from the candelabra of elevated centerpieces or from Manzanita or other sturdy branches within a centerpiece, the crystals catch and reflect the ambient light and candlelight in the room, creating a glittery, magical effect on a low budget. Some planners are using crystal strings within floral garlands in the room's decor to provide the same sparkle, and elaborate weddings may feature a "waterfall" of strung crystals -- clear or colored -- hanging behind the bride and groom's sweetheart table.

3) Tropical effects. Felipe Ayala, floral designer at the Rosewood Resort Caneel Bay, says, "The use of tropical foliage -- such as pothos and philodendron leaves, fishtail and areca palms, variegated ginger and ti leaves -- complements the use of cymbidium, dendrobium and phalaenopsis orchids, and we use other tropical flowers like birds of paradise, heliconias, antheriums and hybrid lilies" for weddings and special events. The tropical floral look is not only for island weddings; it also can be created for an island-themed wedding or cocktail party. "For special events, we have used mini red gingers, mini bananas and tropic heliconia in leaf-wrapped vases on all the cocktail highboys. Bunches of coconuts and palm pod, hurricane shades with pillar candles and sea shells filled the windows. For the main dinner, festive orange lamour tablecloths with sea grape leaf napkins tied in raffia played host to arrangements of yellow and green cymbidium orchids tied by natural cord to three pieces of bundled bamboo poles on top of a monstera leaf mat." The unique florals mixed with the textures of seedpods and shells transforms a reception venue into a tropical locale that wows.

4) Vintage chic. For romantic, rustic and vintage-themed weddings -- one of the most popular styles for weddings today -- the decor includes collections of different vases, plate chargers, elevated florals, a mix of different looks that all pull together when used to display romantic florals in pinks, light greens and cream colors. This style was inspired by the simple elegance of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and wedding coordinators love designing these decor effects filled with so many different, coordinated pieces. Planners often shop at flea markets and thrift shops, as well as antique stores, to find low-budget glass vases and platters, in addition to vintage-chic birdcages. Table linens are key to this decor style, with designer Tina LaMorte of Oh So Fabulous combining several different shades of Champagne-colored table linens with a soft burlap and lamour fabrics to create a magical garden effect paired with framed, decoupaged sheet music. "It was like an organized chaos of details, but it all came together perfectly," says LaMorte of this wedding, which was featured in a regional bridal magazine.

5) Decorated doorways. Cowie mentions the doorway as an often-overlooked opportunity to make a big impression right at the start, when guests walk through a floral-accented or fabric-draped, glittery doorway, transported immediately from the real world into the fantasy world created by all the wedding decor.

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