If you’re planning a wedding this year, you’ll have spotted a number of new trends on TikTok and Instagram, including bold use of colour, statement florals, mismatched bridesmaid dresses, generous grazing platters, food trucks, signature cocktails, and rollicking after parties – including outfit changes for the bride and groom.
But BON Hotels CEO Guy Stehlik says the three biggest trends they’re seeing in 2023 are, in part, thanks to destination weddings, with the very best aspects of a destination wedding informing a couple’s big day – whether they choose to travel or stay close to home.
Wedding trends come and go, and pre-1980s it was common to have your wedding ceremony earlier in the day – with a reception later that night. According to Stehlik, more and more couples are returning to this classic take on timing, keeping the actual ceremony small and intimate, with the majority of guests invited to a rollicking reception in the evening.
“A small ceremony has a lot of advantages,” says Stehlik. “Couples can keep it small and meaningful, at a chapel or venue of their choice, without worrying about numbers, seating, or additional budget. Couples love sharing vows in an intimate ceremony and then celebrating with friends at a reception later.”
In fact, as Stehlik explains, the ceremony doesn’t even have to take place on the same day as the reception.
“For many years, most weddings were on Saturday afternoons and evenings. But destination weddings changed all that, with couples happy to get married during the week, as long as they could secure the venue or destination they wanted. We’re seeing more and more of that, with couples choosing to be free and flexible – which of course opens up more availability when it comes to your venue and wedding suppliers, like florists and photographers.”
The bottom line? Even if brides aren’t jetting off to Mauritius or the Seychelles, they can opt for a smaller ceremony earlier in the day, or even earlier in the week, and then celebrate their wedding where – and when – they want.
Welcome parties, after parties and relaxed receptions
“We’re seeing more welcome parties and after parties – bookending the reception itself. It’s always been a feature of destination weddings, but now we’re seeing more couples request welcome drinks a day or two before a wedding. They also want to end off the reception with something special at midnight, in other words another food and beverage experience like espresso martinis or late-night snacks to soak up the alcohol. And post-wedding breakfasts are huge! We love seeing the guests the next day for a buffet breakfast, it’s a wonderful way to end a special few days, share stories, and say goodbye.”
But for Stehlik, the biggest trend is around relaxed receptions.
“Couples really want their guests to relax and enjoy their special day, so today’s receptions are warm and generous. Think bountiful buffets, sharing platters, enormous cakes and dessert stations – and plenty of dancing. This is all about letting your hair down, together.”
Of course, if you are having a destination wedding it’s impossible to transport hundreds of gifts and wedding favours. It’s often a simpler, pared down affair. Sustainability is now a key consideration for couples, who want to avoid wastage at all costs. They’re also choosing their venues based on their sustainable initiatives, including solar panels or water conservation practices.
Stehlik says local, seasonal ingredients, eco-friendly décor and potted plants or flowers (instead of cut flowers) are all gaining popularity.
“Chat to your venue,” says Stehlik, “and find out the different ways you can reduce waste and recycle. For example, say no to fireworks, single-use plastic, and any party favours that will just end up in a landfill post-celebration.”
Ultimately, says Stehlik, today’s trend is towards informality, whether you’re talking outdoor ceremonies, mix-and-match bridal outfits, picnics, bush braais and buffets rather than formal dinners, and smaller, more intimate weddings rather than large, society weddings.
“We’re very lucky with the BON portfolio of hotels, that you can choose a celebration that fits your personality and lifestyle. Whether you want to be in the Kruger National Park, in the heart of the Karoo or at a rooftop bar in Cape Town, the BON team can help you plan a wedding to remember.