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Fashionable and up-to-date

Although overall wedding traditions stay true year after year, trends definitely change. (Look at any wedding album from the 1980s for evidence.) Today the dresses are simpler, the cakes are sleeker, and decor is more minimal. More specifically, here are the top five trends predicted for 2007:

* A return to romance. Strapless gowns are still in, but cap sleeves and off-the-shoulder necklines are coming on strong, says Beth Daruszka of the Bridal Chateau in Williamsville. Soft and subtle romantic touches - like lace, ruffles and pleats - will make an entrance. And color is still big. Whether it's a full pink gown or touches of color, like a mocha sash or black embroidery, brides are going beyond white and ivory. As for accessories, rhinestone-adorned hair is all the rage.

* Not your big sister's bridesmaid dress. Have you noticed the gradual change in bridesmaids' dresses over the past five years? They're practically making ugly bridesmaid-dress jokes obsolete. As for 2007, they continue to get cuter. Daruszka says that pretty bright pinks and vibrant oranges are popular choices. And Maureen Bartley of Maureen's Buffalo Wholesale Market, who helps brides coordinate their flowers with wedding colors, says Tiffany blue bridesmaid dresses are going to be big.

* Decor that's cool and contemporary. This year's centerpieces and flowers are sophisticated and modern, says Maureen Bartley. Simple, clear glass cube vases and tall, sleek cylindrical looks are popular. She also said that brides are requesting more exotic and unusual flowers than ever.

"Brides are coming in with a knowledge of what they want," says Bartley. "Martha Stewart popularized fine taste ... even on a budget."

* More memorable menus. While the formal sit-down meal remains a staple, interesting and creative food choices are also popping up. Consider including ethnic favorites like sushi spreads and tapas (small, tasty dishes that originated in Spain), a decadent dessert spread or fondue chocolate fountain, or "tasting stations" with unique food choices located throughout the room. Remember - it doesn't have to be "chicken or beef" anymore!

* Brides who give back. Yes, couples are spending a lot more than ever on their weddings. But they're also making an effort to help those in need. More and more are donating money to charities in lieu of favors or fancy centerpieces. Ideas for your own wedding might include donating funds to plant a tree for every guest - with a pretty printed card at each place setting to explain. Or, consider donating a percentage of the money you receive in wedding gifts to a cause close to your heart.

- Jennifer Rung

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