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The Newsroom: Articles

Wedding Themes take over

Once Upon a Theme:
For some, weddings are an expression of fantasy or culture

September 10, 2000
Blade (Toledo, OH), World Wide Web Edition
By Barbara Hendel, Blade Society Writer

Regina Jenkins leads her new husband, Roy, around the ceremonial broom, before they both jump over it.

The historic Church of Saint Patrick downtown has been the scene of countless marriage ceremonies in its long life. But when Wendy and Jedd Wissler were united in hold matrimony last June, the Gothic sanctuary took on the look of the Middle Ages, something like a scene from the mover Ever After.

Inspired by that film, the bridal couple went medieval for their nuptials, starting with their ceremonial garb. He wore an ivory moiré taffeta jacket with puff sleeves and matching pants with black knee-high boots and a burgundy cape with gold trim. She was all storybook in a velvet burgundy gown with flowing, lace-edged sleeves and ivory trim topped with a burgundy veil held by a sparkling tiara.

From the Olde-English style typeface used in the program and a trumpet fanfare before the processional, to period costumes worn by the wedding party - and a few creative guests - it was all of a medieval piece.

Later, at the candlelight reception in Gladieux Plaza, a "page" in doublet and tights announced: "Hear ye! Hear ye! The bride and groom will receive guests at the door, "as the couple arrived. Inside, rich blue fabric covered tables draped with gold lame and tassels. Tall urns with white flowers and a gold crown centered each table. Family crests hanging against gold lame swags provided a backdrop for knights in shining armor who kept watch over the crowd.

Was this carefully worked out bit of marital theater an unusual event? Not at all, say members of the local and national wedding industry.

Ron McKinney of North Shore Displays downtown says he gets calls all the time for assistance with theme weddings. So does local florist, Keith Brooks. Wendy Moyle, who runs the Internet party supply source Shindigz in South Whitley, Ind., says some 30 to 40 percent of weddings have a theme of some kind.

In one sense, every wedding is a theme wedding, as couples strive to impress their personal style on the beloved traditional ritual. But some brides and bridegrooms want to go further than choosing colors, music, wedding party fashions, flowers and favors.

Themes can run the gamut from Harley-Davidson motifs with the bride in white kid leather, to tropical settings with barefoot wedding parties, to Cinderella-esque affairs with castles. Even Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse has figured in nuptials.

Often, say those who work in the country's huge bridal industry, the theme grows from a passion shared by the couple.

Newlyweds Wendy and Jeff Wissler are honored with a toast during their medieval-theme wedding reception.

Toledo bridal consultant Brona Johnson says the themes of weddings she has helped plan, mainly carried out in the ceremony and the food, are often rich with symbolism.

For instance, a distinctive African-American themed celebration.

The groom and the entire wedding party wore brilliantly colored African garb, while the bride chose an American-style white full-skirted gown. The couple repeated their vows in the style of the Christian church. But before they were pronounced man and wife they crowned each other with African headdresses.

And, during the reception at Club 300, the newlyweds "jumped the broom" as bongo drums beat out a rhythm. They explained the broom ceremony is an African tradition that signifies that the new wife will keep the hut clean and the groom will sweep away evil spirits. The broom itself, they added, stands for prosperity and fertility.

Even the wedding cake was a cultural hybrid: a square, off-white cake with golden sheaves of wheat, bird of paradise and other bright tropical flowers, and greenery that represent prosperity. The colors used throughout the hall were traditional African: red, black and green.

Coming up on Ms. Johnson's 2001 bridal calendar is an Egyptian-themed wedding.

A quick surf on the Internet shows a variety of them wedding options, form those flavored by a world of culture and religion - Gloria Steinem, who recently wed for the first time, is said to have incorporated elements of her new husband's Native American religion in the ceremony - to more secular motifs such as golf, literary figures, fairy tales, butterflies, even Precious Moments. There's even a quirky Gothic Martha Stewart theme wedding site presided over by Trystan L. Bass.

Still, for most engaged couples, planning a traditional wedding can be complex enough. What inspires some to use a theme?

More than likely, it's something to do with a common interest, the place where they met, or family heritage. Add to that the desire to create a memorable experience for family and friends.

A Mardi Gras theme came as an obvious choice for Stacey and Kevin Douglas - they live in New Orleans.

Their June 18 ceremony was traditional, with the bride in a long white sleeveless gown trimmed with seed pearls, long white gloves, and a veil. The bridegroom and groomsmen were in black tuxedos. The bridesmaids wore black gowns.

But during the reception at the Pinnacle, elaborate Mardi Gras masks were donned by the wedding party for the grand entrance into a room filled with sparkling green, purple and gold streamers, feather plumes with flowers and multi-colored beads and masks for everyone.

Mr. Brooks said second weddings are more likely to have themes related to where the couple met. On popular theme in this area is nautical, because of all the boating activity. Another wedding he recalls was Scottish-themed, with bridegroom and groomsmen in kilts, and the bride and bridesmaids in gowns, all representing the family tartans.

For some couples, the sky is the limit. Mr. McKinney recalled that, as he planned a theme wedding with one bride, she asked him, "Do you think this is kind of ostentatious?"

His honest reply: "Certainly!"

He has refused some weddings because there was so much conflict within the families of bride and groom. Yet, he'll happily go along with nearly any idea presented by a bride and groom if they seem sure of their decisions.

After all, Mr. McKinney said, "If it's not fun, then the heck with it."

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