Each year, a few favorite wedding trends get their moment in the spotlight. First, cocktail hour was infused with comfort foods like sliders and mac-and-cheese. Then, bridal parties were rehearsing choreographed routines to Chris Brown. But the new season brings a new crop of bridal bounty. Here's a rundown of what you're sure to see at weddings in 2012.
1. Cake Pops Are the New Cupcakes
Desserts are going full throttle this year, with elaborate sweets tables offering enticing after-dinner treats, from ice cream and pie to candy buffets. "Guests are staying later, so couples are putting more effort into the dessert hour," says event planner Ariana Stecker of Ask Iris Fields Weddings in New York. Especially popular is "anything that's mobile," Stecker says, so "you can be dancing and drinking, and grab something without having to sit down to enjoy dessert." The star of this movement is the cake pop, a two-bite ball of cake on a stick, done in any flavor and finished with pretty frosting. The treats have become so popular they're now regulars at Starbucks, but couples are dressing them up in their wedding colors. Serve them on a fun display (DIY alert!), or pass them around butler-style as a sweet ending to the evening.
2. Tangerine Dreams
The color forecaster Pantone declared Tangerine Tango the star of 2012, so expect to see the sunny shade in everything from table linens and flowers to bridesmaid dresses. Designer Jenny Packham uses the hot hue in romantic, flowing, honeymoon-worthy dresses. The perfect pop of this sexy shade: A pedicure peeking out under the wedding gown.
3. Photo Booths
Traditional table shots are so old school. A new twist: photo booths, which are a fun way to get great group pictures -- and keep the party going. "Not every guest is a party animal that spends the entire reception tearing up the dance floor," says Massapequa-based photographer Alan Abrams. "For them, the photo booth is another way to interact with the couple as well as with other guests." Party planner Jill Gordon recommends a vintage 5-and-10 booth or a simple backdrop spiced up with hats, boas, sunglasses and signs.
4. The Stylish Groom
Not to be outdone by the women, dapper grooms and groomsmen are stepping up their style, too. Rather than renting a tux, more guys are commissioning custom suits and shirts from made-to-measure tailors like Michael Andrews Bespoke or The Andy & Evan Shirt Co. in New York City. Evan Hakalir, co-founder of Andy & Evan, says grooms are customizing their wedding-day duds with initials on the shirt, a monogram on the back of a tie, or cool hidden accents inside a cuff or collar. Need more evidence that dandy days are here again? Consider that this spring, Men's Warehouse will launch a new Black by Vera Wang tuxedo collection to match the designer's gorgeous gowns.
5. DIY Style
Couples are including do-it-yourself touches into wedding design, whether it's a small celebration on a budget or a blowout bash -- think cute signage, homemade desserts and centerpieces in antique bottles. "We're seeing a lot of DIY projects taking a turn for the modern and chic, with sparkles, sequins and gorgeous washes of color," says Abby Larson of the popular wedding blog Style Me Pretty. In the new DIY trend, even the simplest creation can look chic. For a recent wedding at The Reform Club Inn in Amagansett, East Hampton wedding planner Jill Gordon says the bride created escort cards using a photo of each guest. The images were then clipped to clotheslines and displayed next to vintage valises filled with flowers. "There's lots of room for individual creativity and attention to detail," Gordon notes.
6. Teas and Thank You
Whether it's for a bridal shower or part of a low-key bachelorette weekend, afternoon tea parties are primed for pre-wedding bonding. Fancy hats and pearls are welcome when brides and their besties gather over delicate cups of Darjeeling, finger sandwiches and scones. To arrange a full-on girlie bash, enlist the help of tea salons like Chat Noir in Rockville Centre or Teapot in Bellmore. Or, throw an at-home fete with the help of The Royal Tea Cup, a New Hyde Park company that supplies custom brews and all the trimming starting at $29 a person. Visit theroyalteacup.com.
7. Pre-Wedding Detox
Crash diets have fallen out of fashion, but to get healthy for the big day, brides (and grooms) are juicing up. Replacing the controversial Master Cleanse, more filling veggie and fruit-centric juice cleanses are said to help kick intense sugar cravings -- a byproduct of all those wedding cake tastings. Cleanses like Cooler Cleanse (co-founded by svelte star Salma Hayek) will overnight its popular 3- or 5-day fare (with spicy lemonade, almond nut milk and watermelon lime juice that actually taste indulgent). Meanwhile, Organic Avenue plans to open its first Long Island location in Roslyn this spring.
8. Modern Menus
Instead of the same old stuffy sit-down dinner, couples are mixing it up with stations, small plates and dessert tables. "We are doing a lot of weddings this year that, though they are actually dinner parties, are structured more like an extended cocktail party with a lounge feeling," Gordon says. "Meals are a combination of passed hors d'oeuvres, small plates and stationary food, so there's plenty to eat throughout the course of the night." Larson says she's seeing a rise in less-traditional wedding-menu items, such as brick-oven pizzas, bowls of sides served family-style and innovative food trucks (think doughnuts or hot dogs) to close down the party. "The more creative and personal a couple can get with their menu, the more guests will enjoy the experience."
9. That's Entertainment
From belly dancers and acrobats to opera singers and fireworks, showstopping entertainment makes a reception unforgettable. "If you're seeking a cool edge, consider the sensuality of an electric violinist," suggests celebrity event designer Colin Cowie, who recently launched the planning site colincowieweddings.com. "The surprise comes in the combination of the classic strings with the pop beats of the DJ or band."
10. Glam Accessories
Just as important as the wedding dress (or sometimes even more so), brides are seeking out spectacular accoutrements like shoes, belts, brooches, purses and headpieces to complete their wedding-day look. No longer an afterthought, important accessories are splurge-worthy and investment pieces that can be worn again and again: After all, a white, strapless, satin ball gown isn't exactly something you can don for another gala, but a sparkly pair of peep-toe Louboutins or a crystal-encrusted Amsale sash are sure to get a few more spins on the dance floor. For some, it's a way to work a high-profile designer name into the bridal ensemble or jazz up a gown in need of a little oomph.
11. Creative Ceremony Seating
This year, weddings have a new view on the aisle. Instead of traditional rows of Chiavari chairs, couples are playing with interesting groupings. Colin Cowie suggests seating guests on ottomans lining a serpentine aisle -- a less conventional and more intimate idea. "Line the aisle in flower petals, and you'll make a gorgeous statement guests won't forget," he says. Or mix up old and new, with floor pillows and poufs for the younger set, and sturdy benches for the grandparents.
12. Honeymoons on Hold
Rather than jetting off to Maui right after the last dance, many couples are waiting days, weeks, even months after the wedding for the official honeymoon. "People are seeing the value in having something to look forward to rather than doing it immediately -- you have something else after the huge high of the wedding," Stecker says. Demanding work schedules or post-wedding exhaustion are reason enough to put a big trip on the back burner, plus it gives couples a brief reprieve to save up for the honeymoon suite. In the interim, many brides and grooms are opting for a mini-moon -- a quick getaway for a few nights of alone time -- right after the reception.