20 Ways Event Planning Has Changed in 20 Years

Mary-Frances Hurt of DFW shares what she's learned since being in business.

Take a look at Mary-Frances Hurt's insight, below, on 20 ways event planning has changed in the wedding industry in 20 years.

Photo: Ahava Studios

To celebrate 20 years in business, Mary-Frances Hurt of DFW Events is sharing what she's learned over the past two decades as well as how wedding planning has changed over the years. Though based in Dallas, Texas, the DFW Events team designs gorgeous weddings and events around the world, producing more than 1,500 events both nationally and internationally since Mary-Frances founded the company in 1997. While nuptials are always special occasions, the personalization of today's celebrations are certainly notable and have created an especially exciting time to get married.

Take a look at Mary-Frances Hurt's insight, below, on 20 ways event planning has changed in the wedding industry in 20 years:

1. You're Invited. “Twenty years ago, it was exclusively Crane and William Arthur for invitations, and engraving and thermography were the only options for differentiating your typography. Today’s couples have the option of incorporating calligraphy, foiling, letterpress, and a variety of colors into their suites. Ecru paper with black ink is no longer a must-do – invitations have become wildly inventive and representative of each couple’s personality and style.” 

2. Say "I Do" to Specialty Venues. “Churches, country clubs, and hotels used to be the only venue options. Now there are a wide array of specialty venues – in Dallas, Hickory Street Annex, Brake and Clutch, The White Sparrow, Empire Room, Marie Gabrielle, and Arlington Hall all come to mind.”

3. Have a Seat. “Chairs and table linens were always rented from your venue – white, cream, silver, or gold only. Today, a variety of specialty rental companies exist that provide truly unique linens and residential-style event furnishings in the entire Pantone spectrum.”

Lounge furniture outside of wedding reception

Photo by Sarah Kate, Photographer; Lounge Furniture by Perch Event Decor, Planning & Design by DFW Events

4. Dinner is Served. “Twenty years ago, seated dinners were a must! Then came buffets, and then food stations. Now we’re seeing a hybrid—everyone takes a seat, the first course is served, and then guests go to serving stations. This provides the elegance of a seated dinner with greater menu variety and mobility.”

5. Second Chance for the Second Look. “While second looks were really popular in the 40s and 50s – brides of that generation typically changed into a travel suit after the reception – the practice fell out of fashion in the 90s. Today the trend is en vogue again, with many brides wearing two or even three gowns over the course of the evening.”

6. Dressing Down. “Grooms almost exclusively wore black tuxedos with tails twenty years ago. We see a stronger preference for suits today. Grooms have a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from thanks to upscale online rental companies.”

7. Choose Your Shoes. “In addition to matching their gowns, bridesmaids always wore matching shoes. Today we see bridal parties wearing complementary looks in a variety of styles for the wedding ceremony. The new trend is to gift your bridesmaids with matching Converse or Keds for the reception!”

8. Just Dance.“Dance floor props and photo booths are reception staples today, but they weren’t around twenty years ago.”

9. Sweet Somethings. “In the Dallas area, there used to be just three cake bakers. Today there are many more, and designs have gotten so creative. No more plastic pillars in between cake layers! Faux cakes were also unheard of when I first started planning weddings, but they’re common now – a great way to achieve visual ‘wow factor’ in a more cost-effective manner.”

10. Love in Bloom. “Floral was loose, then transitioned into tight, formal, ball-shaped bouquets and arrangements. Now we’re back to loose, yet stylized, floral arrangements that truly look like works of art.”

Pretty bouquet cascading flowers mexico destination wedding

Photo by Karlisch Photography; Planning & Design by DFW Events

11. New Developments. “Wedding photography was exclusively done in film; there was no digital photography. Videography equipment consisted of fifteen-pound cameras, whereas today drones are often brought in to capture a bird’s eye view of the ceremony and reception.”

12. Hitch a Ride. “I used to hire seven limos on the day of a wedding for the wedding party, and the bride and groom always left in a limo or a vintage car. Now we see couples exiting in bicycles, side cars, pickup trucks, and more!”

13. Light the Night. “Until ten or twelve years ago, there was no pin-spotting or uplighting at events. Now it’s a mainstay at every event we produce.”

14. Do Me a Favor. “Everyone gave guests take-home favors, like candles or picture frames. Now the trend is to surprise guests with after-parties, food trucks, and late-night snack passes.”

Bride and groom at club theme after party wedding

Photo by Karlisch Photography; Planning & Design by DFW Events 

15. Now Introducing. “The bride, groom, and the wedding party were announced, but there were no choreographed dances… unless you count the macarena and train dances.”

16. Spotlight on Entertainment. “Bands and ceremony musicians have always been around, but musical selections have definitely changed. Some church weddings are incorporating secular music in addition to traditional liturgical selections, and receptions are featuring vendors like tap dancers and live artists to keep guests entertained throughout the evening.”

17. Vendor Search. “There was no social media or custom event hashtags… because there was no internet! Until wedding-centric magazines and blogs came along, you had to rely on a printed directory to find vendors.”

18. So Gifted. “Couples registered exclusively at department stores. Now couples have the option to work with registry specialists like Consilium Lifestyle Collections, to register at stores like Anthropologie, to request honeymoon contributions, or even to sponsor charitable causes through services like The Good Beginning.”

19. Grand(er) Exit. “Birdseed, rose petals, and bubbles were given to guests before the couple’s getaway. Today it’s confetti, streamers, and sparklers!”

20. What We Owe to J.Lo. “Last but not least, when I got married, there were only a handful of wedding planners and they all catered to exclusive zip codes. There were not many who worked with ‘regular brides,’ which is what motivated me to start my own business. That all changed after Jennifer Lopez starred in The Wedding Planner in 2001 – there was a huge jump in interest after that!”

Beautiful dance floor photo with crystal ceiling installation live band

Photo by Karlisch Photography; Planning & Design by DFW Events 

For more wedding inspiration, discover 2018 wedding trend predictions, view hundreds of real weddings here, and discover planning and design tips and advice here.