New, Now, and Wedding Wow

Six Paradise Coast wedding planners dish on the most charming trends, the elements that are here to stay, and what’s in the forecast

Lisa Radlovacki, table scape, photo by SET FREE PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo by Set Free Photography

Expert: Lisa Radlovacki

Lisa London Weddings & Events

This luxury event production company specializes in exclusive soirees of all sizes and styles. Director Lisa Radlovacki believes weddings should look beautiful, sound unbelievable, taste divine, and leave the couple and their guests feeling like they’ve been part of something fantastic.

Kara Cardinal, SKENDERIS, photo by Matt Steeves Photography
Photo by Matt Steeves Photography

Now Trends: With the lockdowns and uncertainty in other states, Radlovacki says she’s quickly filling slots for 2022 in Southwest Florida. She has also noticed many weddings using more architectural structures, including hexagonal arbors and oversized wooden gazebos.

Next Trends: Radlovacki predicts that contrasting textures, such as combinations of dark woods with light, airy fabrics, are here to stay. Farmhouse tables, for example, can be draped with soft linens, multicolored florals, and candles running down the center—a change from formal white coverings with a centerpiece. Additionally, she says, large hanging lanterns and flowers will elevate the feel. “I think the real trend going forward is to have the wedding you want and not the wedding you think you should have,” she notes.

Stephanie Meiser, THE-WILLIAMS-WEDDING, photo by Jayleigh Flood Photography
Photo by Jayleigh Flood Photography

Expert: Stephanie Meiser

Along Came Stephanie

Focused on a range of client preferences and details, Along Came Stephanie thrives on thoughtful, timeless celebrations. With 12 years of wedding planning and design experience in the Naples area, creative director and consultant Stephanie Meiser strives to incorporate innovative ideas into her events, while maintaining the beauty of tradition.

stephanie meiser - Jen_Dan, photo by Sarah Roshan Photography
Photo by Sarah Roshan Photography

Now Trends: Meiser notes that pandemic weddings mean downsizing, but not compromising on the emotions of the event. This can lead to a guest list of 200 whittled to “an intimate dinner party for 50 of your closest friends,” resulting in opportunities for wonderful conversations and moments. To Meiser, this lets you “truly make your wedding about you, not what you saw on Pinterest.”

Next Trends: Couples are thinking outside the box, Meiser says, in terms of venues—renting a private home or a local restaurant—and being more creative with colors. While weddings were previously filled with white and green, now “they’re not afraid to add color,” including muted, natural tones or colored candles instead of traditional white. She has also seen a shift toward wedding favors that people can eat or use. For one wedding, flower bulbs with guests’ names tied to them served both as escort cards and favors that attendees could take home and plant.

Kara Cardinal, SKENDERIS, photo by Matt Steeves Photography
Photo by Matt Steeves Photography

Expert: Kara Cardinal

KC Weddings & Events

Naples-based KC Weddings & Events specializes in complete event design and wedding planning. Lead planner and designer Kara Cardinal gets to know each couple in order to create a memorable event with intention and authenticity.

Kara Cardinal, Paredes wedding, photo by The Hendricks Photography
Photo by The Hendricks Photography

Now Trends: Even before the pandemic, Cardinal noticed wedding sizes decreasing, as millennials shied away from inviting distant cousins or their parents’ friends. As couples focus on providing incredible ambience and entertainment, elements like live music are making a comeback. “You can actually watch someone perform their craft in front of you,” she explains. “That enhances the guest experience.”

Next Trends: Dessert tables also cater to attendees. Couples still have a cake, Cardinal notes, but it’s often only two tiers. Slices are put out, but everyone can also choose a cookie, cupcake, cannoli, or another option from the dessert table and get back to dancing. To-go bags allow desserts to serve double duty as wedding favors. “The guests still feel like they’re getting something extra,” she says.

Carrie Darling advocates for embracing unique ceremony layouts. Photo by Hunter Ryan Photo
Carrie Darling advocates for embracing unique ceremony layouts. Photo by Hunter Ryan Photo

Expert: Carrie Darling

Carrie Darling Events

Carrie Darling Events has provided whimsical concepts and one-of-a-kind experiences for 14 years. The wedding and event planning company custom builds its own decor items, bringing magical designs to life.

Carrie Darling, Dancers, Photo by Hunter Ryan Photo
Photo by Hunter Ryan Photo

Now Trends: Lead designer Carrie Darling has seen more brides and grooms embracing unique ceremony layouts, such as circular configurations with the couple in the center. “It’s an easy way to switch up your wedding,” she explains. She adds that specialty entertainment is popular, like live dancers that make a surprise entrance to start the party. “Everyone’s looking for a new ‘wow’ and new things to do.”

Next Trends: With couples increasingly focused on wanting to be good hosts, she says they’ve been using more welcome displays. These can include hydration stations with flavored water or creative shoe valets where guests can drop off their footwear during beach weddings (a tiki hut with baskets, for example, or a more elegant version with a shoe rack and chandelier). “These are little experiences that guests get to enjoy beforehand,” Darling says. “Couples get excited to use them because they’re very inviting.”

Paige Simpson-designed wedding, photo by Sydney Marie
Photo by Sydney Marie

Expert: Paige Simpson

No Worries Weddings

Paige Simpson started No Worries Weddings 12 years ago after spending 15 years in catering and event planning for high-end resorts. She uses her vendor relationships to offer a stress-free experience while tailoring weddings to each couple.

Paige Simpson-designed wedding, photo by L’amour Weddings and Events
Photo by L’amour Weddings and Events

Now Trends: Simpson explains that using local vendors for things like catering and flowers is popular, as couples aim to support small businesses that may have been hurt over the past year. The pandemic has also led to more intimate weddings that allow brides and grooms to spend more time with their family and friends.

Next Trends: Simpson says many couples are using the extra budget from having a smaller wedding to throw full-blown welcome parties the night before. Guests are “traveling and spending a lot of money to be there,” she notes, “so couples are spending money on them that night.” She adds that next-day brunches are also becoming more prevalent and offer even more time to visit and reminisce with loved ones. “Family means more now that everybody’s been through a major pandemic.” 

Stephanie and Ali Antoniou-designed wedding, Photo by Aislinn Malayter Timmons
Photo by Aislinn Malayter Timmons

Experts: Stephanie and Ali Antoniou

Stali Events

Sisters and Stali Events cofounders Stephanie and Ali Antoniou aim to give clients a hands-on experience with a fresh perspective. They personalize and customize every detail to suit clients.

Chelsea Antoniou-designed wedding, Photo by Matty Vogel
Photo by Matty Vogel

Now Trends: This team has noticed couples seeking a party feel over a traditional sit-down event. This is reflected in one popular decor choice for weddings and bridal events: balloons. “They are so fun and playful, and they add elegance and whimsy,” says Stephanie. While photobooths have been a longtime wedding feature, Ali says, a balloon-covered backdrop gives guests a spot to take snapshots for social media.

Next Trends: Grooms are getting into fashion, using more color, such as green or maroon, over traditional grays and blues. “They really want to shine on their day, which is fun,” says Stephanie. Your wedding “is for you and not for anyone else,” she adds. “Our happiest couples just do what they want.” 

Big Day Countdown

There’s a lot to do before a wedding. Here, Carrie Darling shares a plan to help you get ready.

1 year to 6 months out: Reserve the ceremony venue, reception venue, and main vendors, all of which can book up well in advance.

8 to 6 months out: Collect guests’ names and addresses, book the rehearsal dinner venue, create your wedding website, and order the wedding dress.

6 to 5 months out: Mail save-the-date cards.

5 months out: Finalize colors, flowers, room layout, and other design elements.

4 to 2 months out: Time for the fun part: cake tasting, meal tasting, and bridal hair and makeup trials.

3 months out: Mail the invitations.

1 1/2 months out: Finalize a song list and toasts, follow up with guests who haven’t RSVPed, and finish the seating chart.

1 week out: Obtain a marriage license and get ready to celebrate happily ever after.

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