From food, invites, decor, dress, wedding shows feature items, ideas outside box

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TORONTO - For couples tying the knot, activities and events leading up to and including the big day are more than just a celebration of their union - they're an opportunity to infuse the proceedings with some personality.
Suppliers and vendors catering to soon-to-be-married clientele are helping to fuel these creative fires. Recent wedding shows featured products and ideas that encourage couples to go beyond the cookie cutter ceremony and reception.
For Lori Hutchinson of the Caketress, she actually makes a point of not repeating cakes she's already created for other clients.
"I will not do it because that's someone else's, it reflected their style, their day," she said recently at the Wedding Show in Toronto, showcasing a selection of her elaborate custom cakes with such disparate influences as Marie Antoinette and designer Ralph Lauren's runway.
Hutchinson said she prefers to take inspiration from a couple's personal style, incorporating everything from the bridal gown and even a client's favourite drink into her creations.
She recalled one bride who wasn't sure of what she wanted, but showed off a beautiful graphic print which they then handpainted onto a cake.
"There really is not one set of styles anymore with weddings at all. It's fun."
For those seeking an alternative to traditional sweet table fare, marshmallows - typically the domain of campfire cookouts and hot chocolate toppings - are being used as both favours and desserts.
"It's such a beautiful kind of background for any sort of flavour," said Jessica Smith, pastry chef at Cake Opera Co., who said they dip and coat the spongy sweet treats in white or dark chocolate, nuts and coconut.
Catherine Lash, creative director of the Wedding Co., which organizes The Wedding Show, said those seeking to stack their sweet table with their favourite late-night treats like chocolate chip cookies or candy shouldn't shy away from doing so.
The former wedding photographer said couples should do what mirrors them - not their venue or caterer. She holds a similar go-your-own-way philosophy when it comes to wedding day attire.
Lash said she didn't feature formal rental companies at her event because she believes grooms should take the opportunity to purchase the custom suit they'll actually wear again, or, if they can't afford to splurge, at least buy a new tie.
As for bridesmaids who lament shelling out big bucks for a dress that will likely be mothballed in a closet, there are options for modifying an outfit. Twobirds Bridesmaid offers a one-size-fits-all dress made of jersey spandex and nylon that can be wrapped in 15 different styles without alterations.
While professional invitations are customized with standard details, Holly Hatam, owner and designer of TearDrop, decided to push the envelope of creativity with her creations.
The graphic designer said she had been noticing a similarity among wedding invitations which she felt didn't necessarily speak to a couple's personality.
She consults with couples to gauge their personal interests and to see how best to weave them into her designs, which are first hand-drawn, then scanned and digitized. Hatam is able to recreate a couple's likeness for their invitations. For one pair having a Monopoly-themed wedding, the invitations featured the iconic Mr. Monopoly complete with top hat.
"I thought this is what I would want for my wedding - just something cute and fun that would make someone laugh when they open the envelope," said Hatam of her creations at the recent National Bridal Show.
For the first dance at their wedding last fall, Corrie and Norman Oliveira sashayed over their own names monogrammed on the floor.
They hoped their customized vinyl adhesives would leave a lasting and unique impression on their guests - even if the decor itself was only temporary.
"I've been to so many weddings, everybody's got the same thing," Corrie Oliveira said at the National Bridal Show where she and Norman were exhibiting Event Graffiti, which creates removable custom vinyl lettering and graphics for special occasions. "We just wanted something different - that people (would) remember our wedding."
Even items not typically thought of as decor can be used to make a statement.
A stand at the Wedding Show featured a wedding genealogy chart showcased on Etsy, an online community specializing in buying and selling handmade items, which traces how the bride and groom are connected to their guests.
For those stuck on how to put their best creative foot forward in developing their wedding day vision, Lash suggested creating an inspiration board. Gathering together items you've collected like a vintage button, photos from a magazine or swatches can be helpful, she said, and the board can become a keepsake.
Uploading a favourite photo and using a colour palette generator can help someone pluck out specific hues to show to florists and decorators, she noted.
Another trend is to encourage couples to pick a single statement to thread throughout their whole wedding.
"You have to sit down as a couple and you have to decide what is important to you - what is important for you to make the best party for your guests, but as a reflection of you," said Lash.

Organizations: Cake Opera Co., Wedding Co.

Geographic location: TORONTO

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