Countdown to a great wedding: Fairmont Chicago wedding specialist Alice Fay shares the top 10 trends for weddings this summer:
1. Craft cocktails: Brides and grooms are interested in featuring creative, custom cocktails. Bitters are a must, and old-school drinks with a modern twist are also popular. Giant ice cubes are a big hit, especially with bourbon drinkers.
2. Beer pairings: Microbrews are very popular in the Chicagoland area as well as other locales around the U.S., so brides and grooms are displaying their favorite labels and pairing them with casual items such as mini pretzel bites, a custom bar mix or passed hors d’oeuvre paired with a mini sampling of the appropriate brew.
3. Pre-ceremony libations: A trend that is becoming more common is greeting guests of an on-location ceremony with a mini glass of bubbly or a non-alcoholic, festively garnished flavored sparkling water.
4. Notable quotables: Thoughtful quotations pertaining to the specific couple about their love story, relationship, favorite movie or song quotes can be printed or written and placed in a frame, on a napkin or on a chalkboard and displayed for all to see and chat about during the reception.
5. Finger foods for cocktail hour: Buffet lines and carrying around plates during cocktail hour are becoming outdated. Instead, serve smaller, passed bites on fun, printed cocktail napkins (maybe with a notable quotable on it!), and why not pair a tiny version of a signature cocktail or favorite microbrew along with them.
6. Coursed dinners: It’s on trend right now to serve a coursed dinner that allows guests to sit, relax, enjoy the beautiful centerpieces and table decor and eat. To make the most of the evening, brides and grooms can plan speeches and dances in between courses.
7. Coursed wines: As a complement to the coursed dinner, brides and grooms are more frequently choosing a special wine to pair with each food offering instead of a house red or white. The couple might choose a wine with a significant meaning, and the extra glasses on the table can add a tasteful decor element.
8. Custom menu planning: Another popular trend is to serve food that is meaningful to the couple. If the bride and groom were engaged in Italy, serve a regional Italian course, or, if the family is from the South, it could be fun to serve biscuits as part of the bread selection. Or, the couple who loves gourmet doughnuts might serve these pastries in place of a cake, and each guest may take a couple home for a late-night snack.
9. Unusual tables: It's on trend to move away from cookie-cutter tables and opt instead for a mix of round, square and rectangle options. The centerpieces may vary as well, with candles and floral arrangements placed on alternating tables.
10. Candlelight and natural ambient lighting: The popularity of shows such as "Downton Abbey" has made intimate and romantic lighting very fashionable.
Alice Fay, wedding specialist at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, will celebrate her 500th event in May. Her 15-year career includes events in Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and Washington; she has also appeared as a judge on the "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" series on The Food Network.