Weddings around the world are celebrated in a myriad of ways. Some couples focus on fun and engaging themes while others look to their culture for rituals. In certain unique cities—like San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico, or New Orleans—ceremonies often incorporate local traditions.
However a betrothed duo says ‘I do,’ incorporating unique or interesting themes and moments into weddings makes the celebrations more joyful, and wedding planners frequently are the key to pulling those moments off.
“The wedding planner is like the director of the orchestra, who harmoniously combines all the elements of a wedding to provide couples with one of the happiest days of their lives,” said Esmeralda Rios, manager, International Association of Destination Wedding Professionals.
When Natasha Pancetta, 33, was planning her wedding to James Malone, 42, the theme and the location were no brainers. The Boyd, Texas-based couple love haunted houses so much that they had their first date at one, so they were married in August at Dark Hour Haunted House, in Plano, Texas.
The venue’s spooky decor, evoking a Halloween theme, allowed the couple to bypass choosing decorations and to make sure that their over 100 guests had a good time. “At some weddings, guests are like, ‘ok, when can we leave?’” Pancetta said. “I just wanted to have a party atmosphere and it was so much fun.”
She continued, “Some people were concerned about the idea at first, but they loved it. Even people who said they didn’t want to go through the haunt wound up doing it multiple times. I heard ‘that was the best wedding I’ve ever been to’ a lot.”
Pancetta’s wedding planner, Paige Mejia, co-owner Pyrotex, noted that the cocktail hour included a two-story tall witch with a cauldron and said coffins can be used as bars for spooky and Halloween-themed affairs.
“You can use a corpse bride or groom, cheese cloth that looks like spider webs, zombie cut outs for signage; people are using everything and anything for their weddings. Hotels are receptive cause they know you’re bringing in 200 to 300 people and hopefully a room block.”
On the cultural traditions front, at Hindu weddings, traditions vary widely. But one common element on the wedding day is the groom is considered a king, and therefore arrives riding a horse or elephant, according to Rios. There is also usually henna hand painting and the couple, tied together, walks around a fire. The Boca Raton, for example, recently hosted a mehndi ceremony where henna paste was used as temporary ink to apply intricate floral designs to the bride's hands and feet. Mehndi usually takes place the day before the wedding as the henna process can take hours, and is only attended by the bride's closest friends and female family members.
The henna patterns themselves contain many different bride-specific motifs and are believed to provide blessings, joy and luck to the couple. Brides often hide their partners' name amongst the artwork and watch and they try to find it as time passes. The tradition is believed to reflect the amount of patience that will be present in the marriage. The color of the wedding henna itself is also symbolic. Many Hindus believe that the darker the henna, the more a mother-in-law will be fond of the bride and the stronger the marriage will be.
In Dubai, where Arab cultures are observed, before the actual wedding, there are separate weddings for the bride and for the groom. At the groom’s affair, a female wedding planner can’t even be present, noted Patrizia Cilli, founder & CEO, Patrizia Cilli Events; based in Italy.
When couples from other places come to Dubai for a destination wedding, a planner is needed to facilitate, she noted. “Foreigners may want local food with an Italian twist so I can talk to the chef and ask for buffalo mozzarella to be used. “For entertainment we can get a spectacular belly dancer and for decor we can create a stunning Arabian tent. We try to make the impossible happen.”
For one desert wedding Cilli arranged for guests to be in 46 hot air balloons to see the dinner’s set-up from above. A sandstorm the day before created numerous challenges but Cilli and her team rose to the occasion. “It becomes a situation where things need to be done no matter what,” she said. “We take the risk and say ‘yes we can do it.’”
Cilli continued, “Bringing Italy into the Arab world is difficult, but we always maintain a global sensitivity and sensibility for both cultures; blending them with respect and creativity ensures that each event is effortlessly executed.”
Unique cultural traditions also can be found in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende. “Callejoneadas” call for wedding guests to walk through town followed by a donkey carrying barrels of tequila, according to Kimberly Richmond, director of global sales, Destination Weddings by ALHI. “There are Mariachis in tow and everyone sings, drinks and parties in the streets. The parade also includes large paper mache dolls that resemble the bride and groom.”
Big Easy Weddings
Back in the United States, from Mardi Gras beads to crawfish, New Orleans has many elements that a couple married there might want to seize upon. But two trends are very popular in The Big Easy, said Katie West, Director of Weddings at NOCCI, a destination management company.
The second line—a festive parade of the couple, a band, guests and any members of the public who wish to join the revelry—can bring the couple and guests from the ceremony to the reception or to depart at the end of the party. “It’s fun and boisterous,” she said.
For the former function, a local wedding planner is essential because the newlyweds need musicians, a parade permit and a police escort. There’s just one potential hiccup a planner can help navigate. “Our weather is extremely unpredictable,” West noted. “The wedding has to start eventually but we can delay some.”
Some brides have a ‘cake pull,’ a ceremony where charms representing wedding rings, four leaf clovers and more are hidden in the cake and pulled out via ribbons by single women. The charms predict fortunes or good wishes.
In other sections of the Southern US, brides often have pre-wedding brunches for female guests, and many couples opt for smaller weddings to make sure guests get special attention, said Samantha Howarth, event manager, Design Studio South. “The couples want guests to feel that they’re being cared for even before the ceremony, and there’s an expectation of a warm, close-knit feeling for the whole affair.”
Planners can play a vital role in creating that environment, she noted. For example, wedding organizers help engaged couples make their weddings reflect the destination of their ceremony, such as Savannah, with “a menu item, a special flower or the like.”
Hotels sometimes have been reluctant to bring in outside planners, Howarth said, but she’s seeing a shift toward a more inclusive approach.
“Working with outside wedding planners, versus strictly in-house event managers creates more opportunities for everyone—including the couple—to create great events,” she said. “Those little touches that a planner adds can put an event over the edge.”