Bettina Looney

After a pandemic shut down large weddings for a couple of years, the “big day” is most certainly back and bolder than ever.

Wedding experts forecast that some 2.5 million couples will tie the knot this year, which would be the highest number of weddings the U.S. has seen since 1984. And the wedding business is booming locally, which Camilla and Kayla Matthews of Making It Matthews, who specialize in designing and coordinating dream weddings, learned recently when they hosted a “Making Your Day” bridal social at the stylish, historic barn venue Protea Weddings & Events, just south of Ocala. Hundreds of guests sipped champagne and handcraft ed drinks as they sampled food and desserts, chatted with beauty professionals, checked out the work of various floral designers, met with photographers and consulted vendors from a wide variety of specialties about all the aspects of creating their perfect day.

“The response was amazing,” Camilla explains. “We always have a jump in the number of wedding inquiries following New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day; however, this year we had a record number during the entire first quarter of the year. We are nearly fully booked for 2022 and our prime week-ends are mostly all booked for 2023.”

And we’re not talking about the intimate affairs that dominated the last few years because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our couples are so excited to be socializing again that they are leaving no one off the guest list,” she asserts. “We’re getting requests for large celebrations with plenty of personal touches.”

“The trend for the past 18 months has been ‘Go big or go home!’” reiterates Mary Weaver, the owner of Floral Architecture, who is known for her innovative florals for weddings and events. “It’s been wild.”

Hue and I While Weaver says traditional green and white color schemes and the boho trend are still going strong, many couples are wanting to break free of cookie-cutter weddings.

Gown above by Monique Lhuillier

“What’s most exciting for us is that bold colors are coming back,” she offers. “And there’s a lot of out-of-the-box thinking regarding style and design.”

Weaver reveals that some of that thinking includes mid-century modern design elements and the push for “lots of greenery,” elaborating that one of her recent projects was an “all greenery” wedding at Golden Ocala.

Gown above by Monique Lhuillier

Isn’t It Romantic
Blame it on Bridgerton, but the “seen one and you’ve seen them all” lingerie-inspired wedding dresses—with lots of cutouts, trans-parent skirts and visible corsets that have dominated the last few seasons—are being swept off the scene by a fresh take on the ball gown. The silhouettes that are trending are grand scene-stealers and bridal designers are incorporating lots of color and some modern floral motifs into their collections.

“We absolutely love it!” proclaimed Bride’s magazine of the new shades for 2022 and the bold and statement-making silhouettes, which they describe as “show-stopping” but still al-low the bride to express her individuality and personal taste.

On the topic of tastemakers, Ocala’s own Bettina Looney, who currently lives in London—where she works as a fashion stylist and shopper, brand ambassador and consultant—inspired countless brides around the globe with her breathtaking wedding fashions and adventures. While she wore a delicate vintage A-line gown for the intimate ceremony at Sholom Park, where she and her husband, Carlos Segovia, exchanged their vows in front of their parents and her family here in Ocala, she staged an epic wedding weekend in Cape Town, South Africa that landed her in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar. Over the course of the weekend, Looney showed her deft fashion sense by styling herself and her bridal party in sumptuous dresses and gowns in an array of dreamy colors. Her custom wedding gown, a delicate silk tulle confection that featured an off – the-shoulder design, gathered bodice, voluminous sleeves and flowing skirt, made her a vision of contemporary grace.

Looney chose to keep her accessories and makeup minimal, forgoing a traditional veil for a half-face net veil that elegantly framed her face and a flawless “natural” makeup look consisting of “a lashing of mascara, a swipe of nude eye color and a soft berry matte lip.”

Bettina Looney
Gabriel & Co. rings at Gause & Son

“We’re seeing more and more brides lean into clean beauty looks this year,” shares local hair and makeup artist Nicole “Nicci” Orio of Pretty n’ Pinned, who is known for her luxury bridal services. “My favorite way to achieve this is by using luminous finish foundations, cream bronzers and powder setting mostly where you may catch a little bit of extra shine, like your T-zone. On the eyes, I love to use cream shadows to achieve a more dimensional feel that really compliments that understated vibe. Smudging your lash line instead of a harsh black liquid liner will also help achieve a more natural look that still makes the eyes pop.”

Diamond Life
What can also make the eyes pop is the right engagement ring. Elegant and traditional are still the dominant themes in engagement rings and bridal jewelry, but recently there is a bit more variety regarding the mountings, gold colors and diamond shapes that couples are choosing.

“Your round brilliant diamond is still number one,” offers Cammie McLeod, buyer, CEO and third-generation proprietor of Ocala’s esteemed downtown jewelry emporium Gause & Son Jewelers. “But oval, cushion and pear shape diamonds are trending. We are seeing more rose and yellow gold styles, where white gold is always your classic. Another trend is to wear two diamond wedding bands stacked or wearing one on either side of the engagement ring, which makes it fun and different.”

Getting Personal
What is apparent is that weddings are becoming less about tradition and more about personalization than ever. Industry insiders say couples are breaking with established conventions and the conservatism of the last few years, seeking new ways to put more “them” in their weddings. This can be anything from swapping out the tradition-al wedding cake for a dessert bar or ditching the bouquet toss to making more environmentally conscious choices. Couples are making choices based on what matters most to them and that’s something worth saying “I do” to.   OS

Gabriel & Co. rings at Gause & Son

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