Ask any engaged folk about their ideal wedding and they're likely to mention something about a day that sufficiently "reflects them as a couple".
What they really mean, of course, is that they want the type of wedding that will send their guests into the night, shaking their heads in impressed awe and wonder at the sheer fabulosity of it all.
And in the race for quirky creativity and originality, Ye Olde strapless meringue gowns, diamond solitaires, chocolate fountains and Rolls-Royces appear to have fallen by the wayside.
"There is wonderful energy and creativity going into weddings now; couples are seeing it as an expression of their personalities as much as an expression of their love and commitment to each other," observes Sheena McDonald, of up-and-coming wedding stylists Pearl & Godiva (086-783 8298; pearland godiva.com).
"It's one of the biggest and most special days in their lives, so of course it makes sense to make it stand out."
We asked a number of insiders about how to make a 2013 wedding a modern, classy and classic affair – all while hitting that important 'wow factor' mark.
The wow factor
Celebrity PR consultant Joanne Byrne's big tip for 2013 is Kerry's 18-room hunting lodge/country house Ard na Sidhe (066 976 9105; ardnasidhe.com), which she calls the "hidden jewel in the Kingdom's crown".
"It has amazing Edwardian gardens that slope down to a beautiful lake. If I was getting married, it's definitely where I would go," Byrne notes.
Wicklow's Ritz-Carlton – backdrop for Pippa O'Connor's wedding to Brian Ormond, and Robbie and Claudine Keane's big day – is also standing as a firm favourite this year.
While in this economic climate, city weddings are on the rise; the new kid on the block is 25 Fitzwilliam Place (01-669 4646; 25fitzwilliamplace.ie), a restored Georgian house laden with original features – perfect for those after a luxe, elegant affair.
Dublin-based designer Stacey Hannan (087 759 5837; stacey hannandesigns.com) predicts that brides will be "flapper-happy" this summer.
"Since 'Downton Abbey' hit our screens, brides are looking for the bejewelled glamour of that era. Dusty gold and silvers tones are always popular colour combinations," says Hannan.
Designer Edel Ramberg (086 837 6084; edelrambergdesigns.ie) adds: "The most popular choices for 2012 were birdcage veils, which are a break away from the 'norm' of a traditional veil. The birdcage will not suit every face shape and I would always encourage trying on varied lengths of veiling to decide on what's most suitable.
"Swirls that wrap around the back of the head and crawl up around the beaded base are really popular, especially when they can be incorporated around a chignon or roll; it brings the overall look together."
Propose a toast
For a knockout cocktail – in a good way – mixologist Gareth from Dublin's Vintage Cocktail Club (01-675 3547; vintagecocktailclub.com) recommends the Purple Pearl: "Add 40ml Finlandia grapefruit vodka, 60ml cranberry juice, 30ml fresh lime juice, 10ml sugar syrup, 20ml fresh egg whites and six fresh blackberries to a cocktail shaker and dry shake (no ice) well for 30 seconds.
"Add ice to the shaker and repeat the process for another 30 seconds. Serve in a cocktail/martini glass and garnish with half a passionfruit." We'll happily drink to that.
Renowned wedding photographer Mark Griffin (01-298 0689; markgriffinphoto.com) has noticed a move away from the stilted and staged portraits of yore.
"Couples say that they want to spend a minimum time on formal shots – they'd rather be with their friends and family, not stuck with a photographer," he says.
"They have colour and vibrancy and I do very little in Photoshop afterwards," says Griffin. "I capture the stuff that is spontaneous, like a flower girl making a face. "
The experts are unanimous that 'vintage' will continue to dominate trends, but, as Myrtle Ivory's Suzanna Mills (01-675 3519; myrtleivory.com) points out, it's a term that encapsulates many looks.
"Colours such as amber, honey and liquid gold are becoming more prevalent. This is a really good thing for Irish complexions, versus stark whites and ivory," says Mills.
"We've also seen a move towards soft sensuality, such as Aoife Cogan's Amanda Wakeley dress, or Eilis McSweeney's vintage dress. Designers such as Stephanie Allin use soft fabrics such as chiffon, organza and tulle, and embellished lace bodices are big news."
Mills adds: "In terms of a more alternate look, Claire Pettibone – worn by Una Healy on her wedding day – combines soft laces with 1920s Paris." Designer Sarah Foy (086 178 0220; sarahfoy.com) agrees that colour is a key trend.
Adds designer Anne Gregory (01-201 1748; annegregorydesign.com): "The latest 2013 trends are showing huge breadth, from simple sophistication to red-carpet readiness, with nude being the colour of the moment, and hints of gold making a comeback.
While Kathy deStafford, who designed Caroline Morahan's wedding dress – yes, 'that' dress with the 35 metres of Italian silk – says the bridal palette is leaning towards delicious hints of blush, cappuccino and champagne.
Want in? Her standalone boutique De Stafford is giving away a designer wedding dress worth €2,500 on page 32.
What lies beneath
Luxury lingerie retailer (Susan Hunter (01-679 1271; susanhunter lingerie.ie) says the cliché of white bridal lingerie is fast receding.
"The dress usually demands a corseted piece, and the bride will change and have something gorgeous for later," she explains. "Some things don't change – corsetry, basques, suspenders, stockings, silk and lace are all still popular."
Vintage pieces are also on the rise. "We've definitely noticed a 1950s resurgence – we're back to the high-waisted knickers, full-cupped bras and peachy colours," adds Hunter.
Ice-cream vans still raise smiles with guests. "People hire them for their reception, or for after the ceremony at the church," notes Jonathan Kirwan of Le Creme (lecreme.ie).
Vintage-style photobooths are a relatively new concept, but increasingly fashionable at receptions.
Says Daniel Reilly of Dublin Photobooth (01-894 9931; dublin photobooth.com): "We're replacing disposable cameras and/or party favours at each table. It's a unique way to offer your guests a personal keepsake from your special day."
Home is where the heart is
Asking friends and family to decamp to sunnier spots is a big ask in this economic climate.
"Perhaps people are more conscious of their guests, and other people's budgets, but there has been an uptake in city weddings," notes Joanne Byrne.
To those still looking further afield, she offers a caveat:
"Brian McFadden and Vogue Wilson wanted to get married in Florence because it was supposed to be guaranteed sunshine, but it lashed rain on the day anyway."
This year's couples are all about the pared-down entertainment.
"I know a lot of people who send 20 of their best friends away to come up with an iPod playlist," says Byrne. "I sourced a ceili for a recent wedding; initially, I thought that 22-year-olds wouldn't want to dance to it, and then I had to worry about there being heart attacks on the dancefloor."
Wheeling and dealing
For true individualism, take a leaf out of rugby player Gordon D'Arcy's book. "Gordon saw a Honda Civic in a car showroom, and thought it would be hilarious to show up to the church in it," reveals Byrne. "He and his groomsmen could fit in, but it took a while to get them all back out."
Set and setting
Vintage-style teapots, jugs and teacups are now being used for floral and table arrangements.
Maria Morrison from china rentalcompany Me Auld China (086 833 5253; meauldchina.com) says:
"Our china collection reflects a vast array of periods, from the Art Deco patterns of the 1930s, to the flowers and afternoon tea style of the 1950s."
The morning after
"To show an appreciation to out-of-towner guests, we are seeing lots of couples throw a brunch/lunch the day after their wedding as a thank you to guests before they travel home," says wedding planner Claire Barry of Limerick-based White Sage Events (086 814 0409; whitesage.ie).
Food trucks, already a hit in the US, are frequently deployed by couples looking for a unique way to cater for a post-wedding shindig.
"Food trucks are not only cool but can work out cheaper than many catering companies," says Cathy Pearson of Little Piggy vintage truck hire (01-287 8631; littlepiggy.ie).
"A lot of brides are also interested in snacks before or after their church ceremony, munchies in the evening or a pick-me-up cocktail before the dancing begins."
Increasingly trendy two-spot honeymoons prove that newlyweds won't scrimp on their post-nuptial break.
"Vietnam is becoming increasingly popular," says Jonathan Bridge of Trailfinders (01-881 4990, trailfinders.ie/honeymoons). "Many couples tend to love the complete relaxation of a week or 10 days in a water villa in Asia followed by the buzz of a city, such as Dubai, with its huge choice of great restaurants and shopping.
"The USA is also still very popular, with many couples taking in multiple cities or fly-drives, with the West Coast in particular proving a big draw. We've also seen some couples going to Las Vegas to get married; they then start their honeymoon from there, flying on to Australia, New Zealand or Asia," he adds.
Bad news, brides: the best way to achieve results in a relatively short space of time is with a tough bootcamp regime.
The personal trainers and therapists at Wicklow's The Ritz-Carlton have combined their skills to develop an overnight bootcamp which promises participants will leave feeling lean and pampered (priced from €350 per room, per night, based on two people sharing; includes meals and fitness sessions). Tel: 01-274 9628 or email email@example.com.
Most brides still want a healthy wedding-day tan, but gone are those much-maligned orange hues.
"For 2013, it's much more subtle, more true," says MAC's Lesley Keane.
"Nuances of golden honey and caramel shades enhance the skin while still looking natural. Metallics on the eye add texture and depth to this look.
"This look was seen at so many of the spring/summer 2013 Fashion Week shows, such as Alberta Ferretti and House of Holland."
Liz Adderley at Trish McEvoy in Dundrum Town Centre is an advocate of the nude look. "It's still one of the hardest looks to achieve and has to be done just right in order for it not to look too plain," she notes.
"This year, the nude look is all about flawless, glowing skin, contoured cheekbones and lots of mascara to enhance the eyes."
Want to stand out from the pack? Try mint-coloured invites.
"It's fresh, pretty and works beautifully if planning a vintage wedding," says Kate Rose Crean of Dusty Boy Designs (dustyboy designs.ie).
"Pair with blush colours for a soft look or gold for a more glamorous feel. Then silver or gold hot foil stamped on to bold typographic stationery creates a stunning first impact for your guest. It's modern and chic and very 2013."
All that glitters
Not surprisingly, the brooch bouquets of old – as used by Emma O'Driscoll on her wedding day – are making a comeback.
"Our Vintage Dream Bouquet was a huge part of her look, incorporating family heirlooms for a sentimental statement piece," says Ruffled Ruby's Barbara McDonagh (087 904 3656; ruffledruby.com).
Shoes glorious shoes
Cocobelle owner Catherine Kelly (01-707 1818), a firm favourite with Amy Huberman – who wore Nando Muzi shoes from the store on her own big day – predicts that white stilettos, nude shades and metallics will all be big news.
"These influences were seen on the catwalks at Saint Laurent, Lanvin and Alexander Wang," she says. "More brides are opting for a mid-wedge or a mid-heel like Kate Middleton."
Ruth Monahan of Appassionata Flowers (01-672 9425; appassionata.ie) has noticed a more 'earthy' approach. Everyone wants their flowers to look freshly picked out of a garden, but it's not an easy thing to present. It can be achieved with a lot of texture, for example with foliage and herbs such as mint, rosemary or lavender."
Beef or salmon
Garry Hughes, executive head chef at The Shelbourne Dublin (01 663 4500), has seen many trends come and go. "Something that has been around for a while, but guests really enjoy, is having a mini soup course in cappuccino cups," he explains. "His and hers sorbets are also a current hit – gin and tonic sorbet/pink Champagne sorbet, for example."
Mint is also a big winner on the wedding cake front. "There's an element of fun colour palettes, such as requests for mint green – especially cakes – and citrus colours for summer," says wedding planner Rosemarie Meleady (theweddingplanner.ie).
"Dessert tables are big news this year," adds Claire Barry. "Couples are now opting for informal cocktail-style weddings, where food is served on grazing plates throughout the evening."
The Wedding Forum at The Shel- bourne Hotel takes place next Thursday.
The Wedding Ideas Workshop at the Radisson Blu Galway takes place on Saturday, February 23 (091 538300), and the Bridal Shopping Village at Druids Glen Resort is on Sunday, February 24 (contact Aileen Strachan on 01-287 0859