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FOR MY MOTHER, it was people who congratulate the bride (the groom is the lucky one!) and guests who bring gifts to the reception. For me, it's bridesmaids in black (still can't get used to it) and couples who insist on having their dogs walk down the aisle.

For each of us, there is something that goes against the grain of what we think weddings “should” be. But the world of weddings is changing faster now than ever, thanks to shifts in social mores and to the mighty, mighty Internet, which puts virtually endless options at the disposal of those with an itch to hitch. In the last year, the Wall Street Journal has covered everything from the emerging market in “vow renewals” — the very happy couples who spring for marriage ceremonies over and over again — to wedding vendors pursuing the new client base in same-sex unions.

With our annual “weddings” cover story, we take a look at the growing trend of “weekend weddings.” Whether couples tie the knot on a captivating island or in a comfy hometown, today fully 40 percent of guests will fly to attend the ceremony. And with so many guests coming so far, many couples are extending their wedding celebration with a series of wonderful parties. We have some dazzling events to share with you; turn to page 26.

For the coordinators producing these weekend weddings, the stakes are higher than ever. When a wedding's floral budget alone is $250,000, the pressure can make even event pros wilt.

Yet the pros don't wilt. L.A. wedding coordinator Randie Pellegrini, who produced a challenging wedding weekend for a royal couple — well, MTV's brand of royalty, anyway — knows that with these high-stakes affairs, there's the potential for lawsuits “if you breathe wrong.” Yet instead of falling apart under the pressure, she thrives on it. In describing her wedding work, she says: “I want it to be the best it can be, but these aren't projects that are predictable. That's why I love it.”

Wedding coordinators are a unique breed. Mary Tribble, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Tribble Creative Group, heard from a mother asking about decor suggestions for the wedding of her daughter, a hard-working student who spends her free time caring for her ailing father. Mary gave more than ideas — she and her team turned a college reception hall into a winter wonderland for free. See her work on our Web site,

Whether the weddings they produce take a weekend or only an afternoon, wedding coordinators show us that a generous heart conquers all.

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