Special Events

PROP ART

CREATIVE MANUFACTURERS ARE giving bridal equipment and props a design makeover to address the changing face of today's wedding industry.

ARCH LOOKS

When designing a temporary environment for wedding ceremonies, gazebos and columns make a sweet setting for vows.

“White bridal equipment has always been popular,” says Chris Mortensen, president of Oldtown, Idaho-based B & C Mortensen Wood Products. “However, lately we've seen a trend toward wedding equipment in a natural wood finish.” His company meets that demand by custom-manufacturing a wide variety of wedding display items, including lattice archways, portable gazebos, and ornate backdrops, which Mortensen says are “especially popular when they can be used to highlight a head table.”

While wood wows at B & C Mortensen, Brownwood, Texas-based Rotonics Manufacturing Inc. specializes in creating bridal equipment made from durable polyethylene, including chuppahs, balustrades and floral urns. Popular products include columns, which are replicas of classic Greek Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles. The columns, which range in size from 1 feet to 8 feet tall, can be combined with the company's other products to create personalized gazebo and chuppah designs. “Brides want their weddings to be unique and personal, so they look for items they can alter to reflect their design personality,” says Terri Carruth, sales engineer. She adds, “Florists love to work in conjunction with our products,” noting that they often like to top the columns with the company's planters and urns, filled with floral arrangements.

FLORAL MATTERS

Flowers have long been an intrinsic part of weddings, but to show them off to best advantage, they can use a little lift. At Dawsonville, Ga.-based American Floral Container, help comes in the form of the company's Party Riser centerpieces, which are available in 24-inch and 36-inch heights and more than 50 different finishes, including a wide range of marbles, granites, metallics and pastels.

The risers are also great multi-taskers, adds marketing director Pat Grayson. “Creative planners have cut the riser pole down to shorter lengths to make candy dishes or high-rise cake plates for the reception food tables,” she says. Grayson's advice to wedding planners on a budget: “If you can afford Party Risers on all the tables, great.” Otherwise, she suggests, “Try a ‘high-low’ effect around the room with risers and matching design bowls or vases.”

A top-selling wedding product at Kent, Ohio-based Smithers-Oasis is Rainbow Foam. Unlike traditional foam, which is often hidden beneath the flowers and leaves, colorful Rainbow Foam adds to the design of floral arrangements. Available in a variety of hues, including popular wedding colors such as baby pink, fuchsia and ivory, the foam can be cut or sculpted into a variety of shapes. The foam can be used wet with live blossoms and dry with artificial flowers, adding to the floral options for weddings. “Rainbow Foam allows florists to be more creative because it lends itself to an overabundance of design and display options,” notes Barbara Perzanowski, marketing communications manager-floral. Smithers-Oasis also recently debuted the Elegant Bouquet Holder, a tussy mussy filled with the company's floral foam, which keeps bouquets fresh on the wedding day.

ON THE SCENE

Bridal equipment can also transform a venue's decor and lighting.

At The Canvas Nursery in Fort Myers, Fla., handcrafted palm trees and plants made from white cotton canvas are a popular choice for weddings with a tropical theme, says Matt Lawton, director of sales. Clients have used the palm trees — which are available in more than 30 styles and in sizes ranging from 2 feet to 15 feet in height — to line the wedding aisle, as well as to decorate the reception venue. Lawton notes that because the canvas is translucent, the use of colored lighting, such as red or pink spotlights, to highlight the fabric “creates a spectacular effect.”

Equipment for lighting a wedding venue is on the mind of Christopher Dingman, marketing communications manager of Evansville, Ind.-based Koch Originals, which manufactures wedding products such as candelabras, cake stands, arches and centerpieces. He notes that when brides are choosing candelabras, “The church or hall is a determining factor in selection because of some open flame restrictions.” To solve this problem, the company makes several styles of candelabras with glass chimneys; all of the candelabras can accommodate glass votives, including the popular Angel Wings model.

Dingman notes that his rental company clients are always on the lookout for the newest products, which means his company's designs are constantly evolving. “Customers are continuously looking for a competitive advantage,” he says. “They want to have a new, exciting piece of equipment before their competitor down the road has it.”

Today's savvy customers are also demanding better-quality products, resulting in equipment that has both style and staying power.

“When we started this business 28 years ago, the items that we mostly sold were the inexpensive archways and other low-end products,” Mortensen observes. “The biggest change that we've seen has been the demand for better quality, and [for] props that are more aesthetically pleasing.”




RESOURCES

American Floral Container, 800/448-0843; B & C Mortensen Wood Products, 208/437-5665; Koch Originals, 800/457-3757; Rotonics Manufacturing Inc. 325/646-1566; Smithers-Oasis, 800/321-8286; The Canvas Nursery, 800/226-3335

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