Wedding traditions aren't going away; they're just changing to fit the times.
That's the word from vendors this season, as well as from those just married and brides-to-be planning their weddings.
OBSERVER Photo by Rebecca Schwab
Guests at the wedding of Lindsey and C.J. Howlett signed the photo mat which now frames a picture of C.J’s painted proposal of marriage.
David Winchell, chef at Shorewood Country Club in Dunkirk, explains that while he still sees much of the traditional reception fare, he's also seeing couples branch out and try new things.
"Traditional favorite foods I'm still seeing, which we never seem to get away from, are all the basics, such as beef, stuffed chicken and fish; also cheese, fruit and vegetable displays; and of course the famous stuffed mushrooms!" he said.
But it's not all same-old, same-old.
"Patrons are expanding their palates," Winchell said. "They're being more open and creative when making their menus. Stationary displays for food have become a huge hit for the past five to seven years to bring more unique variety to guests' tables."
And it's not just the food and the way it's served that follow trends. When and how often guests eat is also changing.
"One new trend I've been seeing is including late night food or snacks for guests," Winchell added. "Bringing in things like pizza, dips, or even S'mores hours after dinner makes sure no one goes home hungry."
And what would dinner be without dessert? Owner and operator of The Cakery in Fredonia, Peggy Rose, makes sure she stays on top of wedding trends so that she can offer her clients the latest in dessert fashion.
"Cake trends do follow fashion," Rose said. "One new thing is the 'ombre' cake, where one darker color fades to white. You see the same thing in dresses and hair color."
With Rose, couples don't have to pick between traditional and the latest look. One popular cake design that Rose creates is the "half and half," a cake decorated on one side with classic white icing and embellishments, and on the other with bright, whimsical colors and decorations. It's a unique look that makes everyone happy.
"I get a lot of orders for cupcakes for weddings, too," Rose says. "They can be decorated however a bride wants, with cupcake skirts and a cupcake tower to match the decor. They're a little more casual and convenient - guests can take them home or try a few different kinds. And no forks needed!"
Brides are playing with the concept of tradition, too. Dunkirk resident Lindsey Howlett, who got married May 24, 2013, paid homage to wedding rituals while putting her own unique spin on the proceedings. Instead of lighting a unity candle at the ceremony, she and her groom, C.J., poured colored sand into a glass vase, symbolically blending their lives while creating a keepsake in their wedding colors.
And, instead of the usual guest book, Howlett invited friends and family to sign a large photo mat, which now frames a picture of her fiance's painted-on-the-wall proposal.
"We wanted something we could see and display," she said. "This was something we could have in our home to remind us of our wedding and all the people who came to support us."
Recently-wed Amanda Bird, of Fredonia, wanted to put her own personal stamp on her wedding while paying respect to her family through honoring tradition.
"We kept quite a few traditions," Bird said. "We sent out paper invitations by mail, even though a lot of brides are sending out email invitations now; I just feel it is very classic and respectful and is something I wanted to makes sure we did."
Other traditions Bird and her groom, Chris, stuck with included having a bridal shower, asking the bride's father walk her down the aisle, doing a champagne toast, and fitting in father/daughter and mother/son dances.
"We knew honoring our families this way was important to everyone," Bird said.
However, Amanda also chose to skip certain traditions, and not everyone supported those choices.
"I didn't have a 'color,' and man, you would have thought it was a crime!" she remembered. "I didn't have a color scheme because I wanted the punch of color to come from the natural outdoor setting. We got married at the Red House in Cassadaga, and we wanted the colors behind us and the unique venue to really stand out."
Bird and her groom also had one of their close friends marry them - going so far as to have him get an online certification so he could do the honors.
"We wanted someone who really knew us and cared about us to be the one who not only shared our day but also signed our wedding certificate," Bird explained.
As for "new" elements, Bird had plenty.
"I had a groom's cake made for my husband in the shape of a Converse sneaker," she said. "() and we hung up the quilt that my grandmother made for us as a wedding gift. We had a chalkboard set up so people could leave messages, and I used old china and champagne glasses I had purchased over time from flea markets and estate sales."
The table decor was also collected by Bird.
"We put single wild flowers into old antique colored glass bottles for the centerpieces," she said.
One of the most unique elements of Bird's wedding, though, was daughter Emmy's idea.
"At the end of the night we all released 'wish lanterns;' my youngest daughter saw it in the Disney movie 'Tangled' and asked if we could do it. Since I had our girls be part of the planning, I thought it would be a great addition," she said.
Although some family members had issues with Bird's non-traditional wedding elements, they all agreed that everything came together to make a beautiful, memorable experience.
Another local business owner who is familiar with catering to traditional favorites as well as trendy tastes is Kirk Frey of Kirk's Jewelers on Vineyard Drive in Dunkirk. Like Winchell and Rose, Frey keeps up with the latest styles so that he can show brides - and grooms - the very latest in wedding jewelry fashion.
This season, Frey is most excited to offer engaged couples the new, broad selection of men's wedding rings.
"You don't want to lose your personality when you get married," Frey says. "Marriage is a big step, but you still want to be you."
It's easy for grooms to be themselves with the array of ring styles Kirk's has to offer. For the motorcycle enthusiast, there is a motorcycle tire band, complete with treads. For the hunter, there is a camouflage band, with or without a diamond, and another band with deer tracks printed on it. There are bands featuring baseball stitching, fish hooks, wood grain and barbed wire. Kirk's offers bands made from traditional metals, like gold, to unique and strong metals, like titanium. Grooms can choose from shiny or matte, thick or thin, multi-colored or solid hues. It's not just the brides anymore who get to be selective!
"We want our customers to be able to express their personalities," Frey says. "We make sure we can offer them everything they want, from traditional gold bands to unique designs and metals."
Of course, Kirk's doesn't leave out the ladies. They offer engagement ring stones in every cut and color, from diamonds to emeralds, and an array of settings to show off the stones' cuts and hues. Wedding bands come in a variety of thicknesses, and brides can choose from classic gold bands, diamond-covered bands, "jackets" to surround and show off their engagement rings, and more.
It's true that for weddings, food, desserts, decor, jewelry and activities are evolvingand that's not all. Laws are changing to keep up with the times, too.
New York law has changed in a way that affects many of its residents, the way weddings are "allowed" to be conducted, and who can get married. As of July, 2011, same-sex couples can legally wed in New York State, making it one of now 17 states to allow same-sex marriage.
For many same-sex couples, this is excellent news.
One of these now happily-married couples is Leah Collins and Heather McEntarfer, residents of Dunkirk who will celebrate their one-year anniversary this summer. McEntarfer explained that their wedding followed many traditions, including family traditions.
"We think ours was the sixth wedding in Leah's family to be held at her mom's farm, Barlow's Mill - and there's a tradition of getting a picture in front of the house, so we did that," she said. "In terms of more general wedding traditions, we had a flower girl and a ring bearer (though the ring bearer, my nephew, carried the rings attached to a plastic stegosaurus, because Leah loves dinosaurs and really wanted a dinosaur in the wedding somehow!). We did a father-daughter dance, and a first dance with each other."
Some traditions were modified for Collins' and McEntarfer's wedding in order to involve more of their loved ones. Men and women stood up on each bride's "side," since they wanted their closest friends and family members next to them on their special day, regardless of gender. Each member of the wedding party also chose his or her outfit, with the loose guidelines of "wear a green dress" or "show up in brown or khaki pants and a vest." It made the brides happy to see their friends and sisters comfortable and in clothing that suited their tastes.
But one member of the wedding party was particularly revered, looking distinguished in a black bowtie and sporting just a touch of gray hair.
"Our dog Bailey, as Best Dog, was walked down the aisle by our junior bridesmaid, Leah's niece, Emma," McEntarfer said.
Other ways the brides personalized their wedding were that Collins' sister, Ruth, sang for the father-daughter dance, and McEntarfer's father's band, US, played accompaniment. Collins' aunt, a minister, married the couple. The Barlow's Mill family dog, Pepper, even joined guests on the dance floor.
"And of course, it was held at the farm where Leah grew up," McEntarfer added.
Both brides and their guests agree that their wedding was a fun and warm event, and not just because of the late-night bonfire. The family farm was the perfect place to celebrate the union of two people perfect for one another, and everyone enjoyed the mix of old-school class and personal touches.
Looking for more ways to make a wedding special? Here are some other trends for the 2014 wedding season, according to top-rated wedding sites like The Knot, the Huffington Post and Pinterest:
Sophisticated pink schemes, like blush, peach and nudes, as well as neutral palettes
Vintage flair and a return to elements like lace, crystal, and pearls
Themed weddings, like Halloween (brides in black!) and speakeasies (think Prohibition style)
Greenery and succulents rather than flowers
Short or tea-length dresses instead of formal ballgowns
Dessert buffets and family-style food service
Soft, tousled hairstyles instead of sprayed-stiff updos
"Green" weddings that use recycled materials and promote sustainability
Remember, though - fashion trends come and go, and there will always be a new "latest style" to replace the one before it. Despite this, certain traditions will remain integral to a successful wedding - like focusing on two people who love each other, having family and friends share the day, and including details that celebrate the couple's style and personalities. Whether brides wear white or don't, whether the newlyweds are the same gender or not, whether there's one cake or a table full of cookies, basic elements endure. Weddings are all about love, and the Beatles got this one right.
It's all you need.