ALTONA - What little girl hasn't dreamt of her fairy tale wedding, her chance to be Cinderella for a day?
Today's brides may still want the fantasy, but they're more savvy, more informed and more budget-conscious. They may want the fantasy, but they want it on their own terms. At the North Country Bridal Expo 2008, held at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall Jan. 27, future brides had the opportunity to see all the North Country has to offer them. From chocolate fountains to coffee bars, to pamper parties to dragon-theme showers, vendors are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that each wedding is unique and memorable.
According to wedding planner and event organizer Sherry Crouse of A Reflection of You, the average North Country wedding now costs about $10,000, still well below the national average of $28,800. She recommended brides make a budget with which they feel comfortable.
"It doesn't have to be expensive to be elegant," she said. "Real expensive weddings don't have more fun! "
In her seven years as a wedding planner, she has seen a number of trends starting to catch on in the North Country. Amongst those, has seen more theme weddings. For one hockey fanatic, she recently created a hockey stick arch for the couple to walk through. Another trend is the honeymoon registry, particularly for established couples who may not need all the household items of a couple just starting out. Instead, guests can sponsor activities for the couple to enjoy on their honeymoon a horseback ride on the beach, a sunset picnic or a massage, for instance.
Crouse is also happy to see second marriages being celebrated. In the past, second weddings tended to be quiet affairs, but now many are enjoying the festivities typically reserved for first-time brides. One area where Crouse encourages brides not to skimp is their photographers.
"Just say no if Uncle John from Duluth wants to take your photos," she said. "It's your one chance to have the memories and you want to know they'll be done right."
Jason Greer and Vanessa Cicarelli of Greer Cicarelli Photography agree. With new technology, they are able to create truly one-of-a-kind customized albums for the special day. Magazine-style composite albums are extremely popular right now, as are on-line proofing galleries and spot color photos black and white photos with just a touch of color.
One tradition that's still going strong, though, is the bride and groom don't want to see each other until the actual ceremony. Perhaps the one item brides dream about the most is the dress.
Heather Long and Victoria Heroux of Laura's Bridal & College Formals have seen dresses become more simple and elegant, although there are still lots of romantics who want the full ball gown. The corset-back dress, which laces up the back, is also a practical and comfortable option, plus it saves on alterations.
Color is also making an impact in bridal fashions. Rich, deep jewel tones are showing up on bridesmaid dresses, and even the wedding gowns themselves have pops of color. Brides also now have the option of diamond white, a color somewhere in between white and ivory without the harshness of white or the starkness of ivory.
Pre-ceremony, a growing trend is that of the pamper party. Denise Garnot of Hairstyles Unlimited introduced this service at her salon nearly four years ago, and she has seen its popularity take off. The entire bridal party is treated to a day of indulgence, including manicures, pedicures, facials and for hair a scalp massage and deep conditioning.
As far as hairstyles, Garnot believes brides are looking for something they cant do at home perhaps braids and twists mixed in with curls.
As receptions have become larger and more elaborate, so has the focus on what's being served long gone are the days of finger sandwiches and crudit in the church basement. Instead, brides are choosing menus which reflect their unique tastes.
Peck Sample, owner of the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall, has seen this in the more than 200 weddings he hosts each year.
"People want to be filled up," he explained. "Buffet-style is also very popular. "
Sample has also seen a surge in unusual styles of wedding cakes. When he first started making cakes in-house, square cakes were extremely rare now they're the most popular style he makes.
One advantage of visiting wedding shows is brides have the opportunity to compare different services side-by-side.
Attendees at the North Country Bridal Expo had the added benefit of knowing they were supporting a good cause the North Country Regional Traumatic Brain Injury Center in Plattsburgh. The event this year raised more than $4,000 to help people regain functioning after a traumatic brain injury.