Watch for these wedding design trends in the coming year, and learn how creatives can respond and adapt to a rapidly changing wedding culture.
felt-more-meaningful-and-long-overdue-an-overly-organised-and-polished-affair-now-seems-frankly-old-hat-if-not-impossible-for-weddings-in-2021-perfection-is-out-and-authenticity-is-full-heartedly-in">After a restrictive year for couples and a crippling one for the wedding industry, getting married has never felt more meaningful . . . and long overdue. An overly organized and polished affair now seems frankly old hat, if not impossible. For weddings in 2021, perfection is out and authenticity is full-heartedly in.
In this wedding design guide for photographers and designers, discover the wedding trends to know now, from unfiltered portraiture to elopement photoshoots, experimental stationery to social media storytelling, and help make your clients’ big event even more memorable and extraordinary.
Wedding stationery designed by Daniel Ioannou, featuring illustrations by Christopher Delorenzo.
Wedding Culture in 2021: The Weird and the Wonderful
2020 has been a testing time for all, with the wedding industry being amongst the hardest hit. With many couples postponing celebrations or opting for smaller ceremonies, the pandemic has ushered in a completely new style of getting hitched. Luckily, as the pandemic starts to ease, 2021 is set to be quite different for couples and the events industry as a whole. Though, many of the new traditions established during the pandemic are set to have a lasting impact.
A whole new language has sprung up around pandemic-era weddings. Minimonies (mini-ceremonies), micro-weddings, and even shift weddings (during which guests arrive at different times throughout the day) have all become unexpected features of the wedding industry over 2020. While some of these adaptations will devolve or disappear as the pandemic eases, there’s still the possibility that couples may be restricted by shorter guest lists and have to abide by distancing and hygiene rules for some time in the near future.
The wedding ceremony’s new normal. Image by contributor Visual Riz.
Of course, when life gives you lemons—make lemonade! Couples are finding new, creative ways to make their big day memorable for the right reasons, from nature-filled elopement to intimate backyard ceremonies. While 2020 has seen massive setbacks for the wedding industry, in 2021, many couples will find that the new social acceptance of an anything goes style of wedding will be liberating, refreshing, and just as romantic.
Photographers, illustrators, and designers should take note, and adapt their wedding-themed work to accommodate these new interpretations of what it means to get hitched. From elopement-themed imagery to Zoom photoshoots, experimental wedding typography to evites, the message for weddings in 2021 is that everything and everyone is welcome, whether physically or virtually.
The landscape for weddings in 2021 is changing its tune. Image by contributor Shunevych Serhii.
Read on to discover the wedding trends for photography, stationery design, and social media. Plus you’ll find actionable tips for photographers, graphic designers, and marketers looking to venture into the wedding market in 2021.
Wedding Photography Trends
In 2021, wedding photographers should expect to shoot events that are as unique and eclectic as the individuals getting married. The pandemic has deconstructed many of the social conventions surrounding how weddings should be conducted. So, couples will be looking for wedding photography that offers a unique angle on unusual ceremonies.
The photography trends to look out for in 2021 include:
Intimate and unfiltered photographyElopement imageryTake it to the dance floorFur babies
Let’s take a closer look at these trends and how photographers can put them into action.
1. Intimate and Unfiltered Photography
Authentic, unfiltered portrait photography is trending. Image by contributor Happy Max.
Part of a larger trend towards authentic and unfiltered portraits in photography (Identity Unfiltered is one of Shutterstock’s 2021 Creative Trends), this trend throws the traditional wedding convention of polished perfection out the window. Images that are raw, unfiltered, and unedited have a greater level of intimacy and authenticity. They’re also much more effective at communicating the emotional impact of the event.
Cool couples have always known that natural wedding photography produces the best results. But, this trend is becoming more commonplace, and it makes an effortless pairing with the low-key affairs that have become the standard in 2020.
A good working relationship allows for a more relaxed environment. Image by contributor Muskoka Stock Photos.
Of course, unfiltered doesn’t equate to sloppy photography. Rather, photographers will find that achieving that perfect, natural shot can take some work. It’s about shooting subjects when they are at their most unguarded, striving to capture the secret expressions shared between a couple, and developing a good working relationship with subjects to allow them to feel completely comfortable and relaxed in the camera’s presence.
Did you know that you can check Only Authentic when browsing for Shutterstock images? Discover images with natural warmth and authenticity with our new search filter.
The trend for intimate and unfiltered wedding photography is also a celebration of quirk and difference. For stock contributors, try to set aside the usual conventions for wedding subjects. Older subjects, same-sex couples, and individuals with diverse backgrounds should feature in wedding imagery as much as young, straight couples. Avoid airbrushing subjects’ unique features, such as scarring, tattoos, or wrinkles—these authentic features will only serve to make your images feel more genuine and emotionally powerful.
Image by contributor Iryna Kalamurza.
Image by contributor Bricolage.
Image by contributor Rawpixel.com.
2. Elopement Imagery
Elopement is on the rise. Image by contributor Alexandra Lovtsova.
Is there anything more romantic than the idea of elopement? The spontaneous, low-budget marital option is surging in popularity, with more couples opting for private and far-flung ceremonies that cut out the stress of organizing a large wedding event.
In Pinterest’s annual business report, Pinterest Predicts, the site noted a 55% year-on-year increase in searches for “desert elopement” in the U.S. and Canada. A surge in similar search trends, including “getaway car,” signal a move towards elopement and small destination weddings in 2021.
Small destination wedding ceremonies are also on the rise in 2021. Image by contributor Happy Max.
This wedding trend also ties in with another theme we identified as one of our 2021 Creative Trends—The Sublime. Footage and photography themed on vast, wild places and wanderlust experiences speak to our desire to escape confinement and reconnect with nature. After a year mostly spent indoors, more couples will be seeking memorable outdoor experiences for their big day, from mountain hikes to desert dune picnics.
What does this mean for photographers? Savvy creatives should keep in mind that couples will still be looking to capture memorable imagery of their elopement ceremony, and these images could be imbued with more importance given that they are likely to be shared with the couple’s nearest and dearest after the event.
Free of the usual restrictions of conventional venues and settings, photographers can capture elopement imagery that communicates the sense of epic romance that outdoor environments can offer. Be playful with angles and composition—this is as far as you can get from traditional wedding photography, and eloping couples will be looking for something that reflects the excitement and difference of the situation.
Image by contributor Lux Blue.
Image by contributor AnastasiaNess.
3. Take it to the Dance Floor
After 2020, a high-energy, fun-filled reception is much-needed. Image by contributor Bogdan Sonjachnyj.
Alongside more laid-back wedding trends, we can also expect to see an increase in demand for fabulous, fun-filled wedding parties in the year ahead. After months apart from friends and loved ones, individuals are in the mood to celebrate, let loose, and hit the dance floor.
For couples who have had to reschedule a big celebration, or returning elopers throwing a post-event party, 2021 will be a year for reconnecting with friends and family. So, party photography will be an important part of helping couples and their loved ones to remember how much fun was had after a long spell of separation.
Capturing spontaneous moments is as important as intimate portraits. Image by contributor Rawpixel.com.
Capturing the spontaneous and energetic atmosphere of the reception will be just as important as intimate portraits of the ceremony itself. For event photographers, immerse yourself in the action and aim to capture dynamic images that have a sense of movement and elation. Blurred light, offbeat angles, and natural expressions will help to make your images feel more natural and immersive.
Image by contributor IVASHstudio.
Image by contributor IVASHstudio.
4. Fur Babies
Fur babies are increasingly becoming a part of wedding ceremonies. Image by contributor Rachynska Nataliia.
Fifty-four percent of American households now keep a pet, with 73% of those owning a dog. With pet ownership at an all-time high due to more families acquiring companion animals over the pandemic, the trend for millennials investing time, energy, and love into their pets will only grow in 2021.
While making your fur baby a central part of your wedding ceremony isn’t new, it’s becoming increasingly common for dogs, in particular, to be a focal point of wedding photography. Outdoor weddings allow couples to integrate their pets into their ceremonies more fully, and an increasing number of venues are becoming dog-friendly (or indeed, risk missing out on valuable business).
Image by contributor Madra Rua Photography.
Never worked with animals? Events photographers will need to quickly familiarize themselves with the joys and tribulations of photographing furry friends. Whether it’s enticing a schnauzer to sit still for a photo with the bridal party or capturing a memorable image of the couple’s pet with their rings, wedding photographers may need to give as much attention to animal subjects as their owners in 2021.
Image by contributor Ruvinska Tetiana.
Image by contributor AS project.
Image by contributor LovelyColorPhoto.
Wedding Design and Stationery Trends
With uncertainty in the mix over 2020’s wedding season, many couples were forced to (repeatedly) reschedule events. With stationery already being a costly part of any couple’s wedding budget, this might have forced some couples to rethink the value of an expensive printed invitation set, given that it might have to be followed up with a “Change the Date” card. As a result, digital invitations are on the rise, and social media is stepping up to play an increasingly vital role in helping families and friends take part in the big day, albeit remotely.
On the other hand, printed invitations will never lose their charm and can remain as a treasured keepsake for couples for years to come. In 2021, printed stationery will have to pull out all the stops, with maximalist color, kooky typography, and bespoke illustration helping print designers to convince wary couples that print is still the most romantic choice for wedding stationery.
The design and stationery trends to make note of in 2021 are:
Maximalist and unconventional colorBespoke illustrationFlexible stationery and social media storytellingExperimental typography
Read on to discover more about these trends and how graphic designers and illustrators can integrate them into their wedding projects.
1. Maximalist and Unconventional Color
Not so long ago, couples might have felt obliged to opt for tasteful white wedding stationery, or designs with a polite smattering of pastel florals. In 2021, the anything goes attitude pervading the wedding industry will allow couples to feel more liberated in their sartorial stationery choices.
Maximalist color, bold patterns, and unusual color combinations are growing in popularity, and feel more unique and exciting than traditional color choices. Mid-century-inspired palettes of navy, cherry red, mint green, and orange make for a refreshing and ultra-stylish palette for invitations and place names.
Boldly-colored wedding stationery designed by Barcelona-based graphic designer Alba Pérez.
A green and pink pairing is definitely having a moment in the sun, and feels like the perfect pairing of nature-inspired earthiness and romantic femininity.
Olive green and pink wedding stationery designed by Daniel Ioannou.
If maximalist color still feels too full-on for your wedding stationery, 70s-inspired earth hues of terracotta, burnt orange, and olive are a rising trend and give invitations a bohemian, Mediterranean feel, even if a destination wedding is off the cards.
2. Bespoke Illustration
In 2021, individualism will reign supreme, with couples seeking out style quirks that’ll make their big day feel more unique to them. Commissioning bespoke illustrations for invitations, venue maps, and wedding websites is becoming more widespread, with individuals seeking out illustrators whose work they admire. Often, these illustrations are, at their heart, not particularly wedding-themed or simply there to function as décor, but instead are meaningful and kooky illustrations of the couple or of things that are important to them.
Illustrated wedding stationery by Jakarta-based graphic designer Claudia Mandagie.
For illustrators looking to offer something extra for their clients, applying your visual style to a range of wedding media—from table plans to wedding favors, evites to social media posts—will allow the couple to apply their unique wedding style to everything that helps to bring the event together.
These beautifully illustrated invitations by Polish designer Kasia Rusin feature a bear couple—a reference to the groom’s family name.
Line-drawn styles are particularly popular right now, and have a modern, delicate quality that pairs well with strong color choices and contemporary typography.
Image by contributor abstract_art7.
Image by contributor mart.
3. Flexible Stationery and Social Media Storytelling
Print designers might despair at this growing wedding design trend, but digital wedding stationery is a practical outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to grow in popularity throughout 2021.
After couples have had to reschedule ceremonies and communicate with family and friends at short notice, who may live long distances away, more weddings are being planned over email and video calls. Evites are inexpensive to produce and share, and can be easily tweaked to accommodate revised dates or details.
Savvy designers might want to offer digital, as well as print, options to their clients for invitations, RSVP cards, and Save the Dates. Or, consider supplying beautifully-styled website templates alongside stationery designs to give an event a holistic brand identity.
floral.jpg?w=750" alt="Digital Floral Invitation" class="wp-image-161691" />
Floral-themed digital and print invitations for designer Alessandro Borrelli’s own wedding ceremony.
Social media will also play a larger role in wedding culture in 2021. More couples are preparing content for Instagram Stories or choosing to livestream ceremonies for loved ones who are unable to be physically present on the day. Saying “I do” over video chat might not have been anyone’s vision of romance in 2019, but we now know that technology is able to bridge the gap when circumstances keep individuals apart.
4. Experimental Typography
This year, forgo a typical wedding font style in favor of a geometric sans serif, an old-world serif, or a chunky display font. Typography is a perfect reflection of individualism and personality, so it seems a little on the dull side to restrict wedding stationery to a choice of French-style scripts and calligraphy alone.
A quirky take on the expression “when you find your other half,” these clever combined invitations by Karin+Sondre=Sant use mixed typography to ultra-stylish effect.
We’re seeing a shift towards more experimental type styles in graphic design as a whole, making eclectic font choices a thoroughly modern choice for on-trend couples. Quirky type works best without other embellishment, so keep stationery and website designs otherwise clean and minimal. And, of course, don’t be afraid to embrace the transformative power of a beautiful ampersand.
Vector ampersands by contributor kovalto1.
Cover image by contributor Lux Blue.
Looking for more wedding inspiration? Don’t miss these wedding-themed tips and tutorials:
How to Build a Website for Your Wedding Video BusinessWedding Ideas: 18 Free and Unique Wedding Fonts for Invitations5 FREE Lightroom Presets for Wedding PhotographyMicro-Wedding Images We Love and How to Capture Them2021 Font Predictions: Trends in Type to Know and Use
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