A Wedding Planner

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I do, I do It’s All About The Dress Linda Marconi, director of Nello’s Bridal Salon in Sarasota, says that 90 percent of the gowns she sells are strapless. "And soft ivory is the shade; very few brides want that bright white anymore," she observes. "Brides are selecting body-hugging silhouettes with flat-fronts, no pleats. They’re […]


I do, I do

It’s All About The Dress

Linda Marconi, director of Nello’s Bridal Salon in Sarasota, says that 90 percent of the gowns she sells are strapless. "And soft ivory is the shade; very few brides want that bright white anymore," she observes. "Brides are selecting body-hugging silhouettes with flat-fronts, no pleats. They’re choosing silk-satin fabric or chiffon when they select the Grecian goddess look. This soft draping design has a slightly retro Hollywood glamour appeal and is the choice of brides who want to be married on the beach in bare feet. The floaty column gown with a long scarf instead of a train often has a mermaid hem and crystal beading with silver threads. It’s dreamy and just right for Sarasota destination weddings."

The two-piece ensemble has saved the day for bridesmaids who used to dread wearing a gown sure to be unflattering. The bride selects the color, fabric and general style of her bridesmaids’ outfits. But within those guidelines, each attendant can choose the neckline most flattering to her and the tailoring of the skirt. The result is a collection of custom-tailored ensembles that look uniform enough to satisfy the bride, but individual enough to flatter each attendant. "Colors this season are pewter, taupe, champagne, deep cranberry and black," says Marconi. "The cocktail length is the one they all want."

What’s the clothing expert’s advice for choosing the wedding party clothes? "Think of the pictures," Marconi stresses. "You want the bridesmaids’ flowers to allude to the color of their dresses, you want both mothers to have the same length hem and you want the shade of their dresses to coordinate with the colors of the wedding party. No one should stand out in the photos except the bride; everyone else should softly harmonize."

That Beautiful Bouquet

The trend in bridal bouquets today is the clutch rather than the long cascade. "Today’s bride wants flowers that appear to have just been picked from a lavish garden," notes Arthur Conforti, owner of Beneva Flowers & Gifts. "The bouquet is tied with a ribbon and looks natural and feminine rather than stylized. Some brides still want the all-white wedding bouquet, but the majority are opting for a mix of color." Spring is the biggest time for weddings, he notes, and many brides are selecting lavender as part of the mix or the primary bouquet color. "Hydrangeas remain particularly popular, and, of course, roses are always an excellent choice," he says.

Conforti says brides are surprised by the availability of new colors for traditional flowers. "You can have rust or seafoam green calla lilies now and roses in every shade imaginable," he says. "Berries are part of the mix, too."

Last year Conforti formed Elegant Sarasota Weddings, a consortium of experts in each segment of the wedding planning process. The team provides one-stop shopping for the couple and ensures that all elements are seamlessly coordinated.

Bridal bouquets start at about $65 and can climb to $200 and beyond depending on the quantity and rarity of blossoms. Consider whether or not you are having your bouquet preserved, because some flowers accept that process more successfully than others. The trend in flowers worn by close female relatives of the couple is definitely away from the pin-on corsage in favor of the wristlet.

Forever Ours—Video, Photography and Oil Painting

The video component is now just about mandatory at the wedding ceremony and reception, but wedding consultants caution brides to restrict the number of people acting as cinematographer for the big event. Hire a professional (get references and evaluate footage from other weddings) and then ask one reliable friend or relative to shoot some additional candid happenings. Too many competing video cameras clog up the action.

And videotape is not a substitute for organized wedding photographs. Choose a photographer based on budget and what you see of that professional’s work. Be clear about the kinds of photos you want and who you want in the pictures and then cooperate with the photographer at the ceremony site and at the reception. If you don’t like your profile or you need to separate divorced parents and their new spouses in photos, let your photographer know well in advance. Order your dress in enough time to have your formal wedding portraits taken several weeks before the wedding.

"The attitude among brides is more relaxed today," she continues. "They want a lot of candids, but I always insist on posed formal photographs of the wedding party and family because I’ve seen too many brides look at the proofs and regret the lack of formal shots."

As a photographer, McCulley considers the ideal time of year for a Sarasota wedding October through May; the best time of day for outdoor photos is just before sunset. "You do not want to have photos of the couple and the bridal party on the beach in the morning or afternoon in August," she emphasizes. "Pick another spot for the photos, inside." McCulley says brides today want half their book of finished photos to be black and white and half in color. And it’s still the bride and her mother who call the shots in this area, she says. "In my experience bridegrooms never seem to have much to say about the pictures."

There’s a new way to preserve wedding memories that’s actually an ancient one—the bride’s portrait done as an oil painting. It’s what brides (whose family could afford it) did before the camera came along.

Local artist Paula Hawkins is reviving the trend in the price range of $2,000 to $4,000. She works from proofs supplied to her from the wedding photographer through the bride who selects the pose, full length or seated. "In most cases, the bride chooses a pose where she is seated, facing front, holding the bouquet in her lap because that way it’s more of a close-up," says the artist. "But I’ve done full-length portraits of the back of the wedding dress with the bride looking over her shoulder, too."

An oil painting wedding portrait usually takes two months from photo to finished work. A painting can be an heirloom, a legacy that gets passed down through generations; and Hawkins says that locally the trend toward owning one is growing.

A Great Reception

The tone of the wedding usually signals the kind of reception that will ensue. A short, simple informal ceremony may be followed by a relaxed brunch or cocktail party with passed canapés and background music. A more formal ceremony might entail a reception that includes a served dinner or fancy buffet, a live band, and a dance floor for hours of merrymaking. It’s all a matter of personal preference and budget, and there is no one right way to do it.

A sunset beach party might be just right for a destination wedding in Sarasota. But even at an informal event, it’s the obligation of the host and hostess (bridegroom and bride) to personally welcome each guest. This can be accomplished through a receiving line outside the church following the ceremony or it can be done more informally as the bride and groom make their way to each table.

Guests will always remember the food (including the cake) at a reception. They may falter when describing the bridal gown or become fuzzy when asked about floral centerpieces. But ask a wedding guest what he ate, and he will be able to tell you. Consequently, your caterer is your best friend when planning a reception.

Wendy Wallis, who owns SunDance Catering and has been a wedding consultant for 17 years, first in Dallas and now in Sarasota, says food is the best way to support the increasingly popular theme wedding. "Some couples choose a theme that references their honeymoon destination, such as New Orleans or the Caribbean, and we’re asked to suggest the right foods," she says. "The casual buffet with several food stations seems to be the most popular way to organize food in this part of Florida, and that buffet can be either heavy hors d’oeuvres, meaning I provide small plates and just forks, or a lavish spread for a full meal. Formal, served meals seem to be on the decline. People want to eat when they feel like it and they want to move around." Wallis stresses that whatever kind of food the couple serves, it’s incumbent upon them to provide enough.

"Some guests travel long distances and go to great expense to be at a wedding, especially these Florida destination weddings," she says. "Food should be plentiful and hopefully somewhat extravagant or exotic, nothing you’d fix at home. That’s why I always advise against side dishes like mashed potatoes. Instead go for Dauphinoise Potatoes, a labor-intensive mélange of thinly layered potatoes in a light custard with shredded Swiss cheese. It makes a beautiful presentation and guests will remember it."

Wallis says no matter what the theme (tropical beach is the most prevalent here), always include a little chicken or beef in the menu and consider the vegetarians in the crowd.

The wedding cake expresses the theme of the wedding, too. The look today is tall and sculptural with rolled icing, sometimes with separately presented tiers and accompanying desserts such as a tray of chocolate dipped fruit, one-bite pastries, even fancy cupcakes. Cakes that look like a stack of designer shoe boxes, a pile of beautifully wrapped presents in different colored paper, or a cake shaped like a musical instrument are all options. The traditional round or square white cake in three graduated tiers is just one choice, and today it’s often not considered adventurous enough.

"Toppers are much more personal to the couple today," adds the caterer. "One cake I did included the little baby shoes of the couple. We recently did a cake that was crowned with figures of Tarzan and Jane. The cake itself was blue, shaped like a waterfall and decorated with palm trees and alligators. Today, almost anything goes, and I’m noticing that the couple, not the parents, are much more involved in all the details of the ceremony and reception."

Honeymoon Destinations

Most couples today, especially first-time newlyweds, are opting for the full-service, all-inclusive resort package on a sunny island where everything is taken care and all the couple has to do is arrive, relax and socialize (if they want to) with other couples in similar circumstances. St. Lucia has two such full-service resorts, and that Caribbean island is on many couples’ lists as a destination. Also high on the getaway roster are Mexico, Hawaii and Florida (both the beach resorts and Disney World). Las Vegas is a hot honeymoon spot, too, especially for couples who marry there.

Wedding consultants and travel experts usually discourage couples from tackling ambitious honeymoons such as an African safari, a strenuous hiking trip through Ireland or renting a car and driving through Italy. It all sounds wildly romantic and adventurous, but the truth is that most couples are exhausted after the wedding and need time to kick back and do nothing for a few days.

Some couples are including their honeymoon on their wedding gift registry, which means they are requesting checks toward financing the trip. Traditional wedding etiquette experts maintain this is vulgar and highly improper. But young people don’t seem to care. Practicality reigns. Newlyweds today want gift certificates to mass market home improvement centers and furniture stores and they want their honeymoon to be a gift option for their wedding guests. It’s a major trend, and arbiters of social mores will just have to adjust.

Professional photographer Mary McCulley says that when you view a photographer’s work you should ask to see the book on one whole wedding as well as sample shots from several. "Anyone can take one good photo at a wedding," she says. "A quality photographer captures the essence and the spirit of the whole day and works efficiently behind the scenes." McCulley, who has photographed nuptial couples on horseback at Yellowstone, on the beach, in the Renaissance courtyard at the Ringling Museum and at palatial private homes and gardens all over the world, says her wedding photography costs a couple about $3,800. is the last step. Months of planning involving hundreds of details must precede those few precious hours that unfold whether you’re ready or not. So you might as well be ready. According to all the experts, having a long-range plan and sticking to it ensures fewer meltdowns before that defining moment when you embrace the world as husband and wife.

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