The Pendulum Swings of Wedding Themes in 2021

Posted On February 3, 2021

What’s trending in the Sandhills, both a destination and a home to so many communities

By Elizabeth Sugg  »  Photos by Melissas Souto

Weddings are still happening. After the initial shutdowns from March to May 2020, couples began rescheduling their weddings, swapping out larger, grander affairs to more intimate ceremonies celebrated with a handful of friends and family. Life has gone on, and just as we have adapted to the New Normal and even found some new solace, there is a breath of fresh air about some of the pendulum shifts in the wedding world that the pandemic has brought forth. From my experience working with couples, I credit the Game On! attitude of this generation of newlyweds who simply want to go on and begin their lives together and not outwait what they can’t control. This independent streak is at the root of what’s trending in 2021 weddings.

Bring the Destination to You

Maybe a couple had an original wedding destination or a dream honeymoon that they have had to forego. Harper’s Bazaar’s Wedding Trends 2021 suggests bringing those themes to their venue, and weaving those tastes, textures and colors into their ceremony and reception. Was it going to be a tropical destination? Create bouquets with tropical colors and don the tables with the lush greenery of Jamaica. Serve a Caribbean menu complete with a specialty cocktail that serves up some sultry cheer, and bring the tropics to North Carolina. This June a couple getting married at our farm, Rubicon, is bringing some of her native Hawaii to their celebration to share with their guests, and it will be exciting to see the weekend unfold.

Extended Celebrations

The Sandhills is the home of American golf, and with its nearby pottery country, hiking and outdoor opportunities all around, in addition to its increasingly diverse music, local brewery and dining scene, hosting family and friends here for a few days around a wedding extends the celebration longer. Wedinspire made this theme one of their “predictions for 2021”, and it fits our region to a T. “With intimate weddings on the increase, couples will look for extra ways to impress and spoil their smaller guest list and what better way than celebrating longer,” suggests this England-based website full of ideas. Our region’s golf resorts, bed-and-breakfasts, area venues coupled with VRBO and Airbnb options can become the home base for a fabulous few days with a couple’s closest family and friends. Look to the Sandhills Wedding & Events Association and the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) as sources to help make plans and find vendors.

Themes in Décor

“Cottagecore” – a new term. According to the knot, cottagecore is an aesthetic being popularized by Gen Z, and “simply put, romanticizes the purity of simple pleasures…Visually, cottagecore is represented by light and airy fabrics, pastel colors, floral prints, earthy flowers, farm animals, homemade crafts and freshly baked goods.” This style and the sentiments behind it lends itself very well to the micropolitan area we call the Sandhills that’s bisected with farmland and horse country. A couple can book a locally sourced food truck, pre-order their flowers through a farmers market vendor or florist, and find a bucolic spot in the countryside to say their wedding vows. Getting married can be as simple as that! My favorite line from the knot’s article was a quote shared by a bride that described cottagecore style as “Your grandma, but like, hip.”

Flowers & Colors

Lots of greenery and natural looks with fresh, locally sourced flowers will remain a common theme in 2021. WeddingForward, an Ontario-based online wedding service that gathers information about trends, believes that “silver sage, mustard and dusty rose” will be a popular combination, while a New York-based event planner Jove Meyer declares, “Color is the new white.” Harper’s Bazaar advised to “design in technicolor after sitting around in our neutrals for most of 2020.” To my ears this means that anything goes, so choose what you love. My favorite thing that make fresh flower bouquets all the more special is when something meaningful is attached to it — a lace handkerchief or pendant from a grandmother, a medal from a doting grandfather. This fits into the cottagecore theme. And remember to choose a bouquet style that complements the dips and tucks of the bride’s dress so each are shown off to the best effect. There are wonderful, creative florists in the Sandhills; describe what you like and then let them craft their beautiful magic.

Mood Lighting & Twinkly Lights & the Outdoors

With more outdoor wedding receptions and tents in use to accommodate the safety of an event held in the fresh air, lighting to set the tone is key. Lanterns have long been a popular component of weddings, so bring on a grouping of sizes and hang them from the trees. There are so many online sources for string lights so look for some that after the wedding a couple can hang over their patio at home.

Eco Weddings & Sustainability

According to Wedinspire and Harper’s Bazaar, one of the newest trends in the wedding industry is for couples to upcycle aspects of their wedding, for example, to find a source for their flowers to be taken to so they can be used again, or to make a commitment to have zero plastic. Because weddings have gone to a smaller scale, they are more locally sourced than ever which saves on carbon emissions in travel, and many couples are able to afford transportation for their group because it is smaller. One of my goals this year is to try to lessen the amount of single-use disposables used at our farm. When there are micro-weddings there up to 25 people, there are enough dinner plates and wineglasses to accommodate that size, so less waste. Webstaurantstore.com has biodegradable and compostable disposable choices, another option.

Custom Cocktails

A signature cocktail adds a fun dimension to a wedding reception. This trend has growing options around the Sandhills and beyond. Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines and Burly Bartender out of Youngsville are two vendors I can highly recommend from our experiences at Rubicon.

The Dress & The Shoes

Cottagecore fashion is a cousin of boho-chic style but with an emphasis on billowing sleeves and ruffled skirts in wedding dresses. Harper’s Bazaar advises picking out a simpler dress style for a more intimate wedding that might also be worn at a large-scale anniversary celebration in 2022, so a bride gets to enjoy her dress twice. In regards to shoes, trending are mules, under-three-inch sandals and evening slides — or no shoes at all! Being comfortable is in. Cowboy boots, flats, even fun sneakers have all been worn down the aisle at our farm.

The Nanomoon

Nano means very small, minute, so the “nanomoon” is the new term for the opposite of a far-flung, exotic honeymoon. Couples are seeking out relaxing stays near home and enjoying extended time off together, or they are taking a road trip to a place they have always wanted to go with an emphasis on the outdoors. The idea is less flying, and staying close to home base until the pandemic and quarantines become so “last year”.


With the micro-weddings trending, restaurant-style service, even seated dinners, are being considered by couples who might have chosen a buffet for a larger event. Stations are still popular as are anything s’mores. Brunch weddings are also a small wedding concept that really lends itself to a great time by families with an all-age guest list. Food truck options abound in the Sandhills as do local breweries and a cider maker, so consider those options as well.

Wedding Cakes

Single tier and mini-cakes treated as wedding favors are becoming very popular according to the knot. Last fall an October wedding served a trio of cheesecakes, and they were displayed on top of a mix of cake plates on a 200-year-old door. Increasingly cakes are just what the couple wants, both traditional and non.

And finally, The Toast

According to my reading, “tiny toasts” where many friends and family simply share a story of the couple is on-trend versus more of the master-of-ceremonies in the past where a good friend “roasts” the bride and groom. Couples are also proposing toasts back to their guests, particularly those who have made a special journey to come. This sweetness inherent in the wedding weekends has been a pleasure to witness, and may it soften the journey of 2021.

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