With weddings and events that are extremely customized, flawlessly orchestrated and deeply personal, party planners are setting the bar high these days. The challenge, of course, is coming up with concepts that are creative enough to surprise your guests but not too contrived or obvious (parachuting in for your entrance might be overkill). The secret to striking the right balance is to put a simple yet unexpected twist on the tried-and-true, say the experts. Master that and you’ll have the kind of “ideas that can translate from a wedding to any kind of party,” says New York City-based event guru Colin Cowie. Start with these ten tips from area pros as your inspiration.

wedding trends
Create a romantic vibe—and flattering light—with well-placed candles.

SET A GLAMOROUS MOOD

To amp up any tablescape, “use mirrored or mercury vases and reflective surfaces layered one on top of one other,” says Cowie, who incorporates mirrors into table runners and centerpieces. “Sometimes instead of a charger, we’ll use a 14-inch by 14-inch piece of lucite with a guest’s name engraved on it,” he says. For more drama, Cowie adds votives, pillars or taper candles. “Once you start putting them on mirrors, magical things start to happen.”

MIX UP YOUR COCKTAILS

A signature cocktail is always festive but some soon-to-be-weds are taking their bar to the next level. “Couples are requesting that we do specialty cocktail bars that tie in to the theme of the wedding (i.e. pink cocktails) or something special to them, like drinks from the beer garden where they met in Williamsburg,” says chef Alison Awerbuch of Abigail Kirsch Catering.

wedding trends
Mixing candles and lanterns creates instant mood lighting.

MAKE THINGS INSTA-WORTHY

Now that we’re living in an Instagram nation, photo booths are growing in popularity. “They’re bigger than ever,” says Lauren Stanco, event coordinator and owner of LCR Events in Cortlandt Manor, NY. New options include booths with green screens, filters, state-of-the-art lighting, custom logos, full social media integration and even stop-motion movie capabilities.

LOOSEN UP FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS

Romantic flowers choices such as garden roses, ranunculus, ruffled tulips, and vanda and phalaenopsis orchids never seem to go out of style, says Jes Gordon of New York City’s properFUN Events. But how can you present them in a way that feels fresh? “Having these blossoms run down the tables makes a beautiful statement,” Gordon says. Instead of the traditional, tightly-contained centerpiece, this  more organic, deconstructed version makes a lush, bold statement.

wedding trends
Farm-to-table food and rustic flowers remain popular this year.

SERVE CASUAL FOOD AT STATIONS

In line with the food truck trend, Awerbuch says she’s making buffet style street food, gastro pub style bites and ethnic cuisines for even truly formal weddings. Popular choices include their Far East, trattoria and artisan carving stations.

THINK LOCAL AND VEGAN

“It isn’t just portobellos and steamed vegetables anymore—vegan food today is great cuisine,” says Cowie. (Think: garden fresh basil pesto and tomato pasta or veggie sushi rolls). In addition, guests these days also appreciate organic and locally sourced food, and many caterers will arrange meals for those with allergies and dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free or nut-free diets, Stanco says.

wedding trends
Spread blooms along the entire length of a table for a stunning display.

HAVE ONE BIG “WOW” MOMENT

You don’t need an entire party to be overblown. A single, well-timed moment will do, says Greenwich, CT-based event planner Meg Critchell. Maybe it’s a fireworks show, a ‘70s cover band or a procession of waitresses with drinks and sparklers. “The personality of the hosts shines with surprise details,” says Critchell.

BLEND YOUR MUSIC

Many couples aren’t picking just a band or a DJ—they’re choosing both. “A fun live band and a DJ will share the stage and do a mash-up,” Cowie says, as they fuse two different musical styles together. “For example, the band will play Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’ while the deejay plays Bruno Mars,” he says. The result offers a little something for every generation, too.

LET IT SHINE 

Reach for metallics when it comes to everything from invitations to attire to event décor. “Mixing gold, silver, rose gold, copper or bronze is really hot right now,” says Gordon. Metallics add glitz, and they’re versatile, too: They can blend into any setting, from black tie to beachy.

GIVE EDIBLE PARTING GIFTS

Token presents for guests have been a part of the wedding world for awhile, but the recent trend is toward food favors. “No matter how well you feed people, they always want something to eat on the way home,” says Critchell. Whether you station a food truck with pizzas as people depart, or a small takeaway snack like mini donuts, an egg and cheese sandwich, or even a hangover prevention drink, Critchell says these goodbye bites are sure to leave a lasting impression.

THE PARTY PROFESSIONALS

Consider this your little black book of experts at the ready to help you pull off your next big soiree.

Colin Cowie
Colin Cowie

Colin Cowie Weddings

New York, NY

Colin Cowie, colincowieweddings.com

212-396-9007

Abigail Kirsch Catering

Westchester and New York, NY

Alison Awerbuch, abigailkirsch.com

203-357-7400

LCR Events

Cortlandt Manor, NY

Lauren Stanco, lcrevents.com

914-646-4514

Meg Critchell Events

Greenwich, CT

Meg Critchell, megcritchell.com

917-406-9613

properFUN by Jes Gordon

New York, NY

Jes Gordon, jesgordon.com

212-229-2165

For more trends, inspiration and ideas, pick up the May issue of Serendipity on newsstands now!