– By Dan England –
It wasn’t rain on her wedding day that made Kristina and Egan O’Keefe’s celebration a bit difficult. How about a foot of snow instead?
The snow began three hours before the ceremony. Kristina wanted an outdoor wedding and found a spot on top of an overlook in Morrison, a location remote enough that the participants rode a bus to get there. Weddings are difficult enough without them being in a blizzard.
It sounds terrible, maybe, and sure, the bus that shuttled the wedding party and guests up the mountain slid on the way down (it did eventually stop, ensuring that it was just a fun toboggan ride instead of a Lifetime movie). But O’Keefe chose not to be a Bridezilla. They moved the wedding inside and took some great photos in the snow. She remembers the weather as just one of the things that made her wedding special and different, even a bit unusual. And that was important to her.
“We did want something a little more unique,” Kristina says in late January, two years from the day. “I am not big on traditions.”
The O’Keefes of Fort Collins, after all, got “paper” married in 2019, when they exchanged vows and signed the documents, and they already had two children by the time of their wedding. There were other ideas that made the ceremony non-traditional. A gold metal arch overlooked her and Egan as they said, “I do” (again). She put the flowers in terrariums in all geometric shapes. They did a shot together and wrote letters to each other and placed them in a special box in addition to exchanging rings.
Trends were not as important to her as they are to other brides: Her Pinterest board was a mishmash that she told her planner, Jessie Rule, to “run with” in the months before the ceremony. The trendiest piece was probably incorporating pampas grass. But her relaxed attitude made the wedding a reflection of her personality. Her colors looked fantastic against the snow, for example.
“The pictures were so pretty,” she says.
Trends can be goofy or funny or downright wacky—and the latest trends reflect that, including disco balls everywhere, even as bouquets, says Rule, the owner of The Rule Events + Bar Services out of Loveland. But couples ultimately should do what feels good to them.
“The number one thing I tell my clients is, ‘It’s your day, so it should be wrapped around you,’” Rule says. “Don’t worry about Pinterest or what your soon-to-be mother-in-law wants.”
Terrible trends that try too hard
Pinterest can be pretty wild for as tame as it is, and wedding shows and magazines tend to highlight unusual trends. That doesn’t mean they’re good.
“Some can be pretty awful,” Rule says and laughs. “You’re trying way too hard to be different.”
That’s why, instead of hunting around for the latest trends, Rule prefers to get to know her clients, a strategy that nearly all planners, photographers and others in the industry employ to have a good wedding. Any wedding should reflect the couple, she says.
“The interview is really important so we can decide if we are a good fit for each other,” Rule says. “We are going to be spending a lot of time together, and you really do need to get to know someone so then you can make that call about the details of the event.”
Rule also comes armed with knowledge about the reasons why wedding traditions exist. Some traditions have existed for thousands of years, she says, and when clients want to get rid of them, she can help remind them that they’re having a wedding, not just any old party.
“I go out of my way to give history,” she says. “Some traditions are really special, and I’ve seen some new-age weddings eliminating those things. If I tell them why they’re doing that, that helps keep some traditions in there.”
Trends, however, can help make an important day memorable, and that’s important to nearly all couples, says Stacie Carver, the owner of Carver Coordination in Windsor.
“Every client says to me, ‘We want our wedding to stand out,’” she says. “They are usually in their mid-20s and early-30s, and they have gone to a ton of weddings, and they want their wedding to stand apart from all the others.”
This can lead to some pretty crazy ideas, since there are only so many ways you can be different (nudity’s already been done, for instance). Rule had a client who wanted lime green and neon orange colors, even the tablecloths, because her wedding was close to Halloween.
“I was like, ‘Are you sure?’” Rule says. “I get that it’s Halloween, but how about black?”
Other recent trends include bedazzled veils, colored wedding dresses, neon signs, pets that act as ring bearers or flower “girls” (especially dogs, since cats would probably just find a way to ruin the day) and drink carts dragged along by donkeys.
Carver has had weddings with photo ops with llamas and tequila shot seating charts, where guests down a drink before finding their table. Her most unique wedding in recent memory featured a ceremony in a hot air balloon.
“That one was fun,” she says, “but definitely harder to orchestrate.”
Carver, like Rule, finds it easier to make unique ideas happen in the reception more than the ceremony, since there are hundreds of ways to make a bar, party or dinner different. Sometimes it can be as simple as serving tacos if a couple, say, loves Mexican food.
In the end, it’s not a planner’s reluctance or tradition that keeps some of the strangest ideas from coming to life, Carver says. It’s money. Everything at a wedding, just like Disneyland, costs more money than you think it should.
“That’s the downfall,” Carver says. “A lot of ideas are so accessible, but they aren’t affordable.”
And because of the cost, sometimes couples choose a memorable event over big crowds, says Caitlin Steuben, a wedding photographer based in Loveland, with a guest list of less than 100.
“I’ve seen less wedding guests and more on the menu,” she says. “I’ve also seen smaller weddings and people making it a little more simple.”
Trends can make weddings less goofy
The best way to avoid a circus wedding is to keep up with trends, planners say, because the new ideas help couples feel as if their ceremony will be special instead of coming up with ideas on their own.
“You have to know what’s coming up and what they are looking for,” Carver says. “It’s pretty crucial. You have to have the freshest stuff.”
Still, the crush of social media and the proliferation of Pinterest can make it difficult for a bride to know what she wants.
“I think Pinterest has helped in some ways and made it harder in other ways,” Rule says. “People can find ideas on their own, but then brides see all these things and they think, ‘Oh, that’s what I can do’ when it can be really difficult.”
Some in the wedding industry have chosen to ignore trends and relied on their own talents and abilities. This is, admittedly, probably impossible for a planner, but others, like photographers and musicians, have that luxury if they’d had some success.
Steuben, for instance, will take posed shots, but she prefers shooting candid photographs.
“It makes you feel like you are in that moment,” she says. “You’re right there with them instead of the cake-top poses. I think people hire me for a reason. They want a certain candid shooting style with realistic-looking photos that I won’t over-edit. I love what other photographers are doing, but that’s not what I do.”
Steuben welcomes ideas—one couple exited while the guests blew bubbles, which turned out way better than she thought—but she tells her clients to have an open mind instead of controlling everything.
“Really that’s the goal, to trust me completely,” Steuben says.
Not a little girl anymore
Even little girls dream about their weddings, but when it came time to plan her wedding with her husband, Trent Lussenhop, Taylor found herself straying from her 8-year-old self.
“I always knew I wanted a nice, big wedding,” Taylor says, who now lives in Castle Rock with Trent, who is from Loveland. “But my style has evolved.”
She wanted glamor and moody fall colors and did most of it in a boho vibe: It felt like Colorado to her. She had some touches that were her own: Trent wore a deep maroon suit without a tie, and she stuck roses in the ground to line the aisle. She also followed a few trends. She had a drink donkey, for instance, carry around a cooler. But even that was a reflection of her.
“I want a house of animals so bad,” Taylor says, who has a golden retriever.
She’s happy about her September outdoor wedding and believes it went well, in part because of Rule’s planning.
“We wanted it to be lighthearted and fun,” Taylor says. “We just wanted to spend time with friends and family and celebrate.”
Carver tries to keep an open mind as well about what her clients want. Sometimes those details make things more difficult: Even cold sparklers, for instance, require a permit, which means more work. But she’s ready to do that if the couples want it.
“I’m pretty much game,” Carver says.
After all, when it comes down to it, wedding planners are there to help someone else have the day of their dreams, even if, well, it could be a bit strange.
“If they want neon orange, you gotta support it,” Rule says. “It’s their day. My job is to create an experience. What really matters is the moments they create that day.”
Dan England is a mountain climber, ultrarunner, freelance writer and coach who lives in Greeley with his three kids, a son and twin girls, his singing wife Valerie, and his herding dog Pepper.