Flowers and candlelight set the tone for an elegant dinner reception. Photographs by Kayla Coleman Photography

By RITA KUEBER
Weddings in general are taking things up a notch – more guests, more color, more technology. So says Valarie Kirkbride, owner/founder of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning and Design.
“The biggest trend we’re seeing right now is bold color,” Valarie says. “This is really exciting for us. Color is always welcome from a wedding professional’s standpoint. For about 10 years now it’s been nothing but white, ivory, and champagne because that’s what the clients wanted. But now we’re seeing color in the linens, flowers, and stationery. Not only green, which is almost a neutral now, but pinks and purples, orange and blues. Pattern is coming into play as well, especially in the décor.”
There’s an echo of this in the overall approach to the reception too. She describes studying Pinterest’s global trends report, which is based on searches, and suddenly there’s a 1970s-inspired thing going on. This includes a bold color palette, and the use of “crazy fonts,” a la the “Three’s Company” TV show logo (a font technically called Viola Flare ). “We had a client recently who had a ’70s feel to their wedding – not a ’70s theme, but a 2023 wedding that brought in the

A disco ball and vintage car were used for this couple’s wedding reception, held at The Madison.

aesthetic. This couple had a vintage 1960s car and drove around in it all day, then parked it in The Madison, an industrial space they used for their reception. They added a big, bold floral piece for the hood for the party, and they also added a disco ball. It was very edgy and very cool,” she says.
She describes how some couples are opting for very simple pared-down weddings with contemporary clothes, smaller bridal parties, and casual fun food rather than a dinner, followed by a very retro single-tiered cake. Valerie describes this nontraditional approach as completely valid for the couple who want this, even though this is the opposite of where most of the market is heading right now.
“Since Covid, we’re seeing the return of the big wedding with 250, even 300 guests – bigger than we’ve seen in a long time,” Valerie says. “We work with Italian and Indian families where often the wedding is just huge, so we help plan space for this. In our venues now we’re allowing for negative space – these are areas different from the reception room, the bars, or the tables. It used to be ‘Here’s your seat. Don’t move,’ but now it’s important to offer lounge-like areas – sitting areas with tables and couches where people can sit and hang out, relax, and take a break from their table. It’s nontraditional space, but it’s a good way to spread out and make guests
comfortable.”
And technology. For starters, indoor fireworks have been a thing for a while now. Valerie says the next wave will be drone shows. She hasn’t worked with one yet, “but we will soon,” she says. Now there is a new vendor in town, and this is the wedding content creator. This is in addition to still photography and video. This is a hired pro who shoots the entire event documentary-style on their phone, and with an expert knowledge of social media posts highlights throughout the day. “This is what some people want now – to show their wedding online to family and friends.”
Valerie explains that AI has worked its way into weddings. Using ChatGBT or Adobe Firefly results in suggestions for everything from the design and décor to speeches and thank-you notes. “Unlike Pinterest or Instagram that post something that’s already happened, AI will come up with a plan for you based on keywords like ‘black and white’ or ‘metallics and late fall.’ It’s very sophisticated but the programs will show you all kinds of ideas. It’s a whole different side of things,” she says.
Of course, it’s the job of the wedding planning team not only to discover what the couple wants but to help them work through all the options and tame crazy expectations. “We help them find the right balance for what they can do and what we can help them create,” she adds.
Kirkbrides is now in its 20th year of wedding planning, and Valarie reflects on the changes she’s seen since 2003. “It’s important not to get stuck doing things the same way. We can tell ourselves we ‘hate’ all these changes and new technology, but we need to embrace it because it’s not going away. If this is what the clients want, it’s in our best interest to know about it and speak the same language. It’s something we’ve been doing even before Pinterest and Instagram were invented. We’re always trying to use new technology to help frame expectations in a way the couple wouldn’t be able to do on their own. After 14 months of planning, we use that technology to make them happy on their day.”