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It’s personal: custom weddings 

From hashtags to invitations, how to personalize your wedding

Stuffy weddings are few and far between in New Orleans, as many couples favor liveliness and exuberant affairs that reflect not only the couples' style, but the city.

  Planning a trendy, nontraditional wedding can become stressful because there are so many options for tailoring a wedding down to the last detail, whether it's serving the couple's favorite foods, decorating in a special color scheme, inventing a wedding hashtag to share on social media or incorporating favorite music. Some couples even choose an overall theme that reflects their shared interests. The bottom line is that the event should be fun, and the amount of choices should inspire, not deter, couples from customizing one of the happiest days of their lives.

  Brittani Adams-Perret of Unique Weddings in New Orleans, a full-service wedding planning company, says she has seen a shift in the past few years toward weddings being more personalized and less generic.

  "I think clients are leaning away from tradition, and making it more customized," she says. "We're seeing a shift that's getting away from traditional etiquette. You don't have to follow etiquette any more, so we definitely see a lot more flexibility."

  For example, some couples host more casual receptions instead of formal sit-down meals after the vows are exchanged. Adams-Perret also notes that many couples, especially in New Orleans, hire a local band for the reception. Options for the ceremony also are moving away from traditional places of worship.

  "We're seeing more stand-alone venues," she says, "For example, historic buildings that have been converted into event spaces. It's not so cookie-cutter any more. Brides are way more open to just having something with more culture and local flair."

  Even wedding vows are getting a facelift as more and more couples opt to write their own vows or infuse traditional wording with something meaningful to them.

  Adams-Perret says it's important for them to get to know their clients before beginning the planning process. "We ask them about their favorite movies, favorite drinks, and their favorite dessert," Adams-Perret says. "We want to get to know who they are individually and as a couple."

  Some couples want to add international flair to their special day. Wedding planner Anila Keswani of Nirvana Weddings specializes in coordinating Indian weddings, but says even couples without an Indian heritage have been incorpo- rating Indian elements into their weddings. Keswani, who also operates Taj Mahal restaurant, provides catering for vegetarian weddings.

  In some ways, planning a wedding in 2017 is like organizing a branded event. For example, many couples invent hashtags they share with their families and friends and encourage them to use social media leading up to the wedding and for posting shots of the celebration.

  Liz Maute Cooke of Lionheart Prints has spent the last five years creating custom invitations and stationery (in addition to wholesale product lines). Everything can be customized, she says. Couples can design a signature logo, monogram napkins and glasses and personalize souvenirs and even project the logo onto the dance floor during the reception.

  "Wedding hashtags are a big thing right now, so that your guests can upload photos to social media," she notes. By inventing a unique hashtag, guests can find all the photos in one place on apps like Instagram. Couples can even include the hashtag on the save-the-date or wedding invitation.

  If the bride and groom like to use the Snapchat app, "You can get a custom geo-tag of the event," Cooke, says, referring to adding geographic information to photos.

  The invitation itself is an important element that sets the tone for a wedding and gives guests an idea of the style of the nuptials. For example, for a formal wedding, the invitation may include a traditional font, whereas contemporary brides often choose print that is modern, trendy or colorful.

  "[Planning a wedding] can be a very overwhelming process for people," says Nic Rock, co-founder of White Rabbits, a customized gift-giving business."There's so much information. You can go on TheKnot.com or Pinterest and get lost for hours and hours," she says." Her aim is to streamline the process and make it easier by offering consultations and handling purchasing and delivery. She also suggests local vendors to clients who want to make contact themselves. Rock and her business partner, Kristen Bykowski, also work with wedding planners by providing the latest market research in wedding trends.

  New Orleans has a wealth of interesting and romantic elements that can be incorporated into the theme, and many couples focus on using local businesses for their wedding supplies.

  Rock says one of the best parts of her job is being able to duck into boutiques along Magazine Street and find new artists and creative vendors who can provide memorable, unique elements to special occasions.

  Since the city is such a popular place for destination weddings, even the welcome gift, which couples traditionally leave for their guests in their hotel rooms, can offer insight into the couple's personalites — and give out of towners some lagniappe.

  "Everyone used to get water, chips and Advil," Rock says. "But we're the No. 1 city for destination weddings, so that welcome gift should be telling a story and starting the theme." White Rabbits offers New Orleans-themed "survival kits," which can include locally made snacks or candy instead of generic offerings.

  "The bottom line is that it's supposed to be the most fun day of your life," she says. "We try to keep it fun and simple. People want it to speak to them. ... It doesn't have to break the bank to be customized. We don't have to have a huge budget. It's the little touches that can make people remember and make the biggest impact."

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