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Planning Weddings, Parties and Celebrations in Delaware

Planning a wedding, party or celebration is no simple feat. When you’re choosing a venue, picking out appropriate attire and creating the perfect menu, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

But experts say it’s possible to keep it simple and still have a successful celebration. Here are some hot party trends for 2012, as well as some classic dos and don’ts.

One celebration trend that experts notice is a shorter turnaround time in the planning process.

“For weddings, couples are booking about three to six months in advance,” says Lea Asti, manager of the University of Delaware conference centers in Newark. “Three recent weddings we hosted were booked merely six weeks prior. Venues today need to respond right away or they will lose out on business.” 

Lucy Scotto, manager of the Waterfall Banquet Center in Wilmington, sees a wedding trend of simplification.

“Brides are maximizing their dollars,” she says. “Many are pulling back from the fluff and frills and focusing their budgets on just a few areas to make a more memorable impression.”

Margaret Reilly, catering coordinator at the University & Whist Club in Wilmington, agrees. “Many brides today choose to have their ceremony and reception in the same place, which helps make the planning process more efficient,” she says.

Reilly says many nuptials balance this simplicity by having more creative ceremonies. “Several brides are making favors, place cards and centerpieces themselves. They are also expressing their personalities with unique offerings such as dessert, candy and mashed potato bars as well as photo booths.”

Bethany Keith, owner of Gloss Salon in Newark, says many wedding trends have been inspired by the 2011 royal wedding in England.

“Classic styles and white weddings are coming back,” Keith says. “In the past few seasons, light and tousled have been the hot looks. Now we’re getting back to formal and polished looks. Pulled-up hair is replacing all-down and curled hair. Darker matte lipsticks are taking the place of glossy pouts.”

Keith also notices that many current wedding dresses are purchased at local boutiques and department stores such as J. Crew, Anthropology and Nordstrom.

“The dresses are downplayed but the hair and makeup are more glamorous,” she says. “You will still see flowers in hairstyles, but they will now be accompanied by jeweled hair bands and vintage style hairpins.”

Lace continues to be popular for wedding dresses, according to Colleen Wilson, owner of Claire’s Fashions in Wilmington. “Ball gowns are also making a comeback this year, as well as shades of soft pink for the bride who wants to be unique,” she says. “Elegant understated beadwork and soft flowing skirts are perfect for the bride-to-be who wants a traditional look with modern updates.”

Reilly says informal dining is increasingly popular. “There are still diners who want high-end and challenging cuisine, but they are no longer the norm,” she says. “It’s just a sign of the times. People can’t be as extravagant as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean they stop entertaining or going out.”

Barbara Scotto of Tutto Fresco in Wilmington notices that party goers are ordering more seafood. “Fresh fish dishes are becoming popular,” she says. “Our barbecued salmon and lobster are just two dishes that are on the rise.”

Formerly known as Lamberti’s Cucina, Tutto Fresco means “everything fresh.”

“We changed our name because we use fresh ingredients every day for our menu,” Barbara Scotto says. “Whether you order fish, meat or pasta, you’re going to get a quality meal.”

To accommodate larger groups, a new party room was recently added that can hold up to 40 people. Barbara Scotto says Tutto Fresco diners will soon be able to enjoy an outside sitting area, as well.

When it comes to drink trends, Mike Whitwell of Premier Wine & Spirits in Wilmington stresses quality over quantity. “Our craft beers are selling very well right now,” he says. “Good wine blends around $15 are also really exploding. Customers still want to enjoy their drinks and will pay reasonable prices for taste.


Dos and Don’ts

The party experts also offer tips on what to do and not to do as 2012 progresses. Choosing a venue, for example, can be a daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be.

Asti says the first step in planning a wedding, party or celebration is to make sure the location can fit the number of guests you are inviting.

“This may seem obvious, but many people select a venue based on who they think will attend instead of the entire invitation list,” she says. “Nothing is worse than spending several hours in a crowed room. Guests won’t be able to enjoy themselves and the staff will be unable to give their best service.”

While having a venue that’s too small can be disastrous, party planners should avoid going the other way, too. “There is such a thing as too large a venue,” Reilly says. “Your location should comfortably accommodate the maximum number of guests you are expecting. Make sure the venue is within your budget and has a reputation for great food and service. An all-inclusive package will make it easier to plan and will be cheaper than having to choose everything a la carte.”

When planning a big event, thoroughness is essential. “Always tour the venue at least once, if not a couple of times,” Asti says. “Many venues will place the date on hold for you with no obligation. Do not hesitate to share as many details as possible with the event manager in advance. The more information the manager has up front, the more he or she can help you determine whether the venue is a good fit for you. It’s a team effort.”

Whitwell observes that many celebration planners are overwhelmed by seemingly endless beverage options. His solution is simple. “Buy drinks that you personally like,” he says, “and your guests probably will too. If there are leftovers, they won’t go to waste.”

Whitwell urges party organizers to hire a planner or experienced person in the industry.

“There are people who do that for a living and will be able to calculate a rough figure for you,” he says. “This will help give you peace of mind. If you are worried about not having enough, don’t be afraid to ask if you can return any unused or unopened products. This will ensure that you won’t run out of drinks for your guests.”

Many people dream of a perfect outdoor wedding or party. The weather, however, can rain on your parade. “It can be hot and humid in May or rainy and chilly in June,” says Asti. “There will always be bugs, bees, sun glare and other factors that you may not think of. If you really want an outdoor event, adjust your expectations and be prepared to spend money. Tents may need to be rented, along with cooling, heating, and possibly lighting generators.

Lucy Scotto says it’s important to focus on your budget. “When you compare venues, you should carefully examine the pricing,” she says. “Many places say they have a low cost, but have hidden fees. These fees can add up and stretch you out financially.”

Barbara Scotto stresses the importance of food at a party. “Good food is essential for a well-done party, but you don’t need to spend a fortune,” she says. “Just choose a few delicious items to have, such as lemon torte or tiramisu. Combine that with great service and a comfortable atmosphere and your party will be a hit.”

Keith’s motto for wedding makeup is “use what you have to get what you want.” This means that the bride should choose styles and pictures that represent her style, face shape, and coloring.

“A major misconception I run across is that many women believe they should not wash their hair if they are going to have a formal hairstyle on their wedding day,” she says. “That hairdressing theory is outdated. Modern hairdressers generally carry products that can create hair foundations.”    

The biggest wedding planning mistake many new brides make is waiting too long to find their gown, according to Wilson. “Most gowns have to be ordered from the designer if they are not in stock at the store,” she says. “This can take three to six months depending on the time of year and the type of gown. You also have to allow time for alterations. It’s never too early to shop for the gown of your dreams.”

Wilson discourages women from bringing too many friends when shopping for a gown. “As much as you would like to include everyone in your gown shopping experience, too many opinions can lead you to get confused and create a lot of stress,” she says.

Most importantly, remember not to rush decisions. “The whole point is to have fun and enjoy your shopping experience,” Wilson says. “You should never feel pressured to purchase a gown. If you don’t love it, it’s not for you.”

Keith echoes this sentiment. “The best advice I can give a bride,” she says, “is when the day arrives, know that you have prepared all you can. Enjoy yourself!”


Cape May-Lewes Ferry
43 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes, (800) 643-3779

Celebrations Design Group
950 Ridge Road, Claymont, 793-3893

Chase Center on the Riverfront
815 Justison St., Wilmington, 425-3929

Chesapeake Inn
605 2nd St., Chesapeake City, Md., (410) 885-2040

Christiana Hilton
100 Continental Drive, Newark, 631-1546

Claire’s Fashions
1312 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 798-1312

The Duncan Center
500 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 674-0400

Everything but the Kitchen Sink
425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-7066

110 South West St., Wilmington, 658-6626

Gloss Salon
276 E. Main St., Newark, 737-8080

The Perfume Shoppe
42 Rehoboth Ave., Ste. 3, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2444

Premier Wine & Spirits
29 E. Commons Blvd., New Castle, 323-9300

Serpe & Sons Bakery
1411 Kirkwood Hwy., Elsmere, 994-1868

Waterfall Banquet & Conference Center
3416 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 792-2600

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