Personalization without the rules is the latest trend for the world’s most traditional and oft-celebrated ceremony.
By Kristin Devoto
Wedding professionals are having the time of their lives with the No. 1 event trend of 2012: a willingness to break the rules. Weddings of the past were strict affairs governed by tradition and classic etiquette, which brides and grooms of 2012 are much more likely to toss out the window than follow. Instead of predictable, paint-by- numbers affairs, they’re planning unique wedding ceremonies and receptions that illustrate who they are as a couple.
Kelly O’Dell, the catering and sales manager at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, has watched this trend emerge over her five years at the resort. “The one thing I’ve noticed as I’m meeting with lots of couples is that they’re looking to do things out of the box,” she says. “They’re not as focused on the traditional and more focused on really making it personal and having a great time and avoiding the traditional style that never used to be deviated from. Over the past few years, it’s been more and more popular for people to look to get away from a very traditional style.”
The St. Regis Monarch Beach offers five ceremony locations and reception spaces for couples to mix and match according to their tastes. All very distinct, the areas vary from elegant ballrooms to a wine cellar to Club 19, a unique indoor-outdoor terrace that showcases views of the Monarch Beach Golf Links and the Pacific Ocean combined with an intimate indoor area with fireplace. “Overall, it’s a resort atmosphere with a beautiful pool and lush, manicured grounds,” O’Dell says.
As the site of about 150 weddings per year, the staff at the St. Regis sees styles and trends come and go. No matter what the style of wedding, impeccable service is something brides can always count on at the resort. In order to keep large-scale events running smoothly, the staff requires couples to use an independent wedding coordinator as well. “We only recommend coordinators to our clients that we feel are on par with the St. Regis in terms of service. That’s the most important to us,” O’Dell explains.
The Essence of the Couple
Kristin Banta of Kristin Banta Events is one such wedding planner. A background in fashion and music led her to be creative and open-minded about just what is possible for an event. “Kristin is on top of her game—one of the main people that celebrities might use. She’s extremely professional, and her service to clients is just the best,” O’Dell says. “She’s about the very exciting, very elaborate and very different events.”
Banta says, “I come from a very different perspective when it comes to wedding design; I encourage clients to look at themselves—at what they really want. Let’s design from within who you are. Couples seem to be really understanding this and doing things that are meaningful to them.”
Banta, who recently appeared on the Bravo TV special, “The Ring Leader,” seems poised to take over the wedding world. As her desire to portray the essence of a couple in their event merges with an increased willingness to bend the rules on the part of the bride and groom, it seems the stars are aligned for some magical affairs.
“There really are no rules anymore,” Banta confesses. “I believe in being a gracious couple and making sure the guests are comfortable, thinking about how people feel. That’s important and something that should always be upheld. But the stern rules that governed weddings don’t exist anymore. This is about you two. Know that and then they can have fun and get into telling their story throughout the day.”
One way to personalize the experience, Banta explains, is to build a residential approach, to make couples feel as if they’re entertaining from their dream home. The St. Regis Monarch Beach lends itself well to that approach.
“I’ll use residential décor from a collection of antiquities that look like they could have been inherited from a grandmother,” she continues. “As long as it catches our eye and is something interesting, we can use it in a curated way on the table tops.”
Banta notes that the collective vintage look has also been a popular trend. “It’s that Anthropologie, I-created-it-in-my-garage, east side-hipster look,” she explains. “There’s a lot of collective chairs and vintage details and paper goods, a lot of signage. I like the whimsical aspect of it.”
She cautions couples, though, that if a trend doesn’t speak to them, there’s no reason to include it in their day. “It’s important to be aware of trends, but to know when to abandon them, too,” Banta says.
O’Dell notes that she’s also seen a departure from tradition with wedding day cuisine. “I’m [not seeing as many] traditional sit-down, plated dinners,” she explains. “Many more couples want to try fun food stations; they want it to be more interactive for guests. Having a chef there [to prepare] food for guests is exciting.”
One of her favorites is a “slider bar,” a station where a chef prepares gourmet mini burgers to a guest’s liking. “Our lamb burger is a popular, less traditional choice,” O’Dell says.
Other interesting and unexpected action stations include an Asian lettuce wrap station, where a chef mixes and wraps guests’ choices of Chinese eggplant, tofu, beef, chicken, shrimp, Thai greens, lemongrass, lime, lemon, bean sprouts, julienne carrots, chopped peanuts, Thai chili glaze and Thai peanut sauce, and the Three-Way Mac and Cheese station, which allows guests to choose from classic American, Swiss or Italian macaroni and cheese dishes prepared while they watch.
Stations themselves are not a new concept, though O’Dell says that they used to appear mainly during the cocktail hour. Now, couples might choose a handful of stations to replace a served meal, which allows their guests to move around throughout dinner.
Re-imagined comfort foods have also been on the upswing, both for cocktail hour and dinner. “We’ve seen new ways to present comfort food like shot glasses of tomato soup served with a wedge of grilled cheese,” O’Dell explains. “It’s food that’s easily recognizable but presented in a new way.”
Banta says, “I really encourage comfort foods; one of the great things about these foods is that it gives a shout-out to the things we actually love in an atmosphere we don’t usually get them.”
She also urges couples to think about what they truly love to eat, and then discuss it with the chef. “The thing about food and beverage that most people forget is that so many chefs are looking to be challenged,” Banta explains. “This is their art— there have to be menus as a starting point, but most chefs devour opportunities to be creative.”
Banta enjoys planning events at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, she says, for several reasons: “The team there is so eager to meet the clients’ expectations, and they’re so skilled that they’re always able to. The banquet staff also delivers. Their willingness to think outside the box is also something to celebrate.”
O’Dell agrees that the St. Regis is more than willing to collaborate on exciting, new ideas for an event. “We offer everything a couple could want to make their day the most special for them, but also for their family and friends,” she says. When that includes thinking creatively and trying new things, as it often has in 2012, The St. Regis Monarch Beach is happy to accommodate.
WHEN’S THE WEDDING?
One evolving tradition is the date and time of a wedding. While June used to be considered the ideal month for marriage, Kelly O’Dell, the catering and sales manager at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, says she notices that June is now a slightly slower month.
“We do have weddings all year,” she explains, “but we have a huge spike in April and May and then again in August through October.” O’Dell attributes the summer slowdown to the cloudy fog that often overtakes the surrounding beach in June. “Our spring and fall months here are just so beautiful when the weather’s clear and crisp,” she says.
While evening weddings remain the standard, the resort has seen daytime events pick up. “For evening, the ceremony time is at sunset, so around 5 p.m. in the spring and fall, and 6 p.m. in the summer,” O’Dell says. “We have been getting an increasing number of daytime weddings with a lunch reception, but evening will always be the most popular option.” As far as day of the week, Saturday remains the No. 1 choice for weddings, but with Fridays and Sundays very close behind. Middle-of-the-week weddings also occur occasionally, though those are often destination events, which make up about 20 percent of The St. Regis Monarch Beach’s weddings.
This shift in timing may be a result of cost-consciousness. In many cases, vendors are able to offer slightly lower pricing for less popular days and times. Alternately, the trend could be attributed to the popularity of destination weddings. When the bride and groom and all their guests are in town for several days, holding the wedding on a Saturday evening becomes less important, allowing the bride more flexibility in choosing her exact wedding date.