Night and Day
The hour you choose for your Big Day sets the tone for your celebration — are you a day bride or a night bride?
Chances are, one of these visions is a lot more like the wedding you’ve always dreamed of than the other. What you may not have considered when you were conjuring up your special day is whether it really is a day — or is, instead, a night. The hour you appoint for your marriage says more than you might think about who you are and what you want from your wedding, event designers and florists say. “A bride who chooses a day wedding is looking for something simpler,” says Sherri Williams, owner of Williams-Sossen Events in Philadelphia and New York. “Day weddings tend to be outdoors
Chances are, one of these visions is a lot more like the wedding you’ve always dreamed of than the other. What you may not have considered when you were conjuring up your special day is whether it really is a day — or is, instead, a night. The hour you appoint for your marriage says more than you might think about who you are and what you want from your wedding, event designers and florists say.
“A bride who chooses a day wedding is looking for something simpler,” says Sherri Williams, owner of Williams-Sossen Events in Philadelphia and New York. “Day weddings tend to be outdoors, to be more natural in style, and to have more of a garden feel. Night weddings are more dramatic and formal.” Even when a day wedding and reception are held indoors, Williams says, the looser mood prevails: “No one is in black tie.”
Sometimes a bride opts for a daylight wedding for financial reasons. “When parents are paying,” says Keith Bell, owner of Long Stems in Bala Cynwyd, laughing, “a bride tends to spend more, and has an evening wedding.” Mark Mainville, owner of Chartreuse flower shop in Philadelphia, says he’s noticed that couples marrying in their 30s, who are established in their careers and paying for the wedding themselves, like to keep things low-key. Also, the guest list is probably smaller: “It’s more like family and close friends.” These couples do save money, he says — “but it’s by choice, not out of necessity.”
“Afternoon events can be less expensive,” agrees Brian Kappra, event designer and owner of Evantine Design in Philadelphia. “You’ll get better deals on bands, photographers, caterers. And that follows through to the flowers.” But ultimately, says Kappra, it’s taste that dictates a couple’s time-of-day decision. “When people come to me,” he says, “they already have envisioned an entirely different event depending on whether it’s day or night. You don’t want to try to create a night affair in the afternoon. The ceremonies are different, the food is different, the symbolism is different — everything.”
Setting the Mood
Not to be too obvious about it, but the biggest difference is lighting. “A daytime wedding offers natural light,” says Kappra, “so we don’t do lighting” — no pin-spot lighting, no floating candles, no Chinese lanterns twinkling in the trees. “But there’s more attention to detail in the daytime,” he says. “Night is smoke-and-mirrors — you’re after the effect, not necessarily the reality.”
Donna O’Brien, owner and creative director of Beautiful Blooms in Morrisville, agrees. “You can hide things when the lights are dimmed,” she says. “In daylight, there’s more emphasis on colors and textures, and linens must be perfectly pressed.”
Conversely, hot color combos that shine at night can seem garish in daytime. Kappra has a “black-box room” at Evantine that precisely replicates the lighting at a party site, to help brides judge which combinations and shades will work best.
The effects of your time choice, Williams says, trickle down to every facet of your wedding, from the menu to the linens and even the chairs. For daytime, she prefers white chairs, which have a lighter feel to match the brunch or lunch, which is lighter fare. And she offers brides her opinion on incorporating anything that dazzles or is shimmery into a daytime affair: “I just say, ‘That doesn’t work.’ People hire me for my perspective. I’m not going to hold back.”
Kappra recalls a recent afternoon wedding at the ballroom of the Rittenhouse Hotel. “In the center of the room, we had weeping willows. It was early spring. Cocktails were served in the garden, and then the guests came back inside for a late brunch. We had beautiful spring flowers” — tulips, daffodils, freesias. “The linens were organza, soft colors, in a mix of floral patterns and stripes.” In contrast, a night wedding he put on last December at a country club featured silk linens in merlot wine; rich “architectural” flowers — including calla lilies — in eggplant, wine, purple and plum; and chocolate brown velvet draping the entire room.
O’Brien says that in her experience, daytime is “for people who want to have more fun at their wedding. Brides play up color more, and get brighter. Night weddings tend to be more muted.” While time of day sets the overall tone, that tone is achieved via a hundred small touches. “For evening weddings,” says O’Brien, “we add in a little sparkle — a beautiful brooch on the handle of the bride’s flowers, hand-wired crystals in the bridesmaids’ bouquets. We wouldn’t do that for a day wedding, because there wouldn’t be the sort of lighting that plays it up.” For an evening wedding, O’Brien might choose a rich satin ribbon to bind a bouquet handle; for day, a patterned jacquard, whose subtleties may be missed in lesser light.
When Bell thinks of flowers for a daytime wedding, he visualizes “peonies, lilacs, looser blooms. Not calla lilies or ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies — those are more black-tie.” At a recent day wedding outdoors at the Appleford estate in Villanova, Bell used pintuck cloth for the tablecovers, with whimsical arrangements of celadon hydrangeas, lacy chocolate cosmos, and ‘Tiramisu’ roses, which are chocolate brown with a cream-colored center. A contrasting night wedding had floating candles, twinkling topiaries, hanging votives and monochromatic table arrangements of mango, apple-green and hot pink. Individual blossoms, Bell says, can get lost in dim light: “An intricate flower like a cymbidium orchid, with all those dots in the throat — you could look at it in the evening and not even notice that. It’s sort of a waste.”
Michael Bruce, owner of Michael Bruce Florist in Westmont, begs to differ. “I’ve never had anyone say to me about a flower, ‘Well, I’d love it at two o’clock, but not at six o’clock.’ People who like casual flowers are going to choose them regardless of the time of day.” Presentation can help scale a haute flower down and change its mood; a hand-tied bouquet, Bruce says, “can always be depended on to look like a family gathering, not like that black-tie-family-anniversary-event thing.”
Still, designers agree that they approach a wedding differently depending on the hour it’s set for. Day weddings are just more “garden-y,” as Mainville puts it: “A little cleaner, just a little less-is-more, not so over-the-top.” Nighttime cries out for drama and elegance. So maybe it’s not the time of day that guides you toward your flowers, but the flowers you love that guide you to the time of day that’s right for you.
Best of Both
Of course, with careful planning, a bride can have the best of night and day. O’Brien did a wedding last November at the Merion Tribute House for which the ceremony was outdoors, in late afternoon: “The bride wanted all of that autumnal foliage to play in. We did all-white flowers — hydrangeas, roses — on copper pedestals, and a simple chuppah of birch branches in copper pots with green moss, draped in white linen.” The bride’s flowers were all-white, too — cymbidium orchids, roses, hydrangeas and sweet peas — and she wore a white orchid in her hair.
By the time the indoor reception began, it was dark, and the mood changed completely. “We had beautiful celadon-green linens in a matte satin, and square tables with composite arrangements,” O’Brien recalls. “There were three different sizes of glass vases: one with mango calla lilies, one with orange parrot tulips, and one with orange ranunculus.”
Williams played the trifecta at her wedding. “I was married at 6 p.m. in summer,” she says. “I hit the combination of getting married in daylight, having cocktails in the tent at sunset, and dinner in the dark. I got three lighting changes!”