From a timeless design aesthetic to a smaller guest count, here's what this expert suggests all couples prioritize.

By Sarah Schreiber
March 20, 2020
Steven Moore, the insider
Credit: Courtesy of Steve Moore

If you're in the thick of wedding planning, you've likely already discovered the importance of prioritizing a select few vendors or details. This priority list, of course, varies by couple. The same is true for the vendors who actually bring weddings to life-they have priority lists of their own. The difference? Theirs come backed with years of industry experience. To help you shape up your own big-day musts, we've tapped the biggest names in the wedding sphere-from planners and photographers to florists-to share their three wedding must-haves. Follow along with The Insider to learn which wedding-related details professionals can't live without.

Steve Moore walked away from the first wedding he ever contributed to in tears, afraid that at the age of 23, he'd peaked. "I felt like that was the best that I would ever experience. I felt incredible sadness at 23, thinking, 'What if I never get a client like this again?'" he tells Martha Stewart Weddings. This first experience, however, wasn't the one you'd expect: Moore, the lead creative behind the full-service wedding planning and design company Sinclair & Moore (which he helms with his wife, Jamie Sinclair DeBell), actually designed and created the wedding dress for the bride. "I had just graduated from college about six months before. This family had hired me to make their daughter's wedding dress—I originally started my business as a dress maker. They hired me in in 2001, and the wedding was in 2002."

Over the course of that year, the bride and mother of the bride invited him to assist with the planning process. "And then I got to also help set up. It was my first wedding when I did flowers (I think I told them I did flowers on the side, which was not true). I didn't know what I was doing—the flowers were falling apart left and right. I was holding the centerpieces together with cardboard inside—it was a nightmare," he recalls, laughing. Stress aside, the experience was nothing short of transformative: "I didn't know people actually had weddings like that. I think if you look at the photos at that wedding, you can see where my brain came from. You can see the long tables, the centerpieces coming down the tables, the candlelight. You can see the start—and that was 18 years ago. It changed my life in such a beautiful way."

It was the start of a career full of meaning, he says, one with "lots of ups and downs and hard years," but incredible highlights, and beautiful years, too. "My highlights have not necessarily depended on the wedding's details, or how big, or how much money was spent," says Moore. "It has always been how kind [the clients] were, and learning about graciousness, and learning humility, and generosity, and just about the goodness in people. Those are the highlights for me, and that is what has kept me going through." Ahead, Moore shares all of the important things—his top wedding essentials—that he's learned along the way.

A design aesthetic that steers clear of trends.

"Remain true to your story and true to what will resonate 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and 50 years from now," says Moore, speaking from experience. "When I look back, I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of the wedding [my wife and I] had, and I wouldn't want to redo it." Some trend influence, however, is inevitable—your nuptials should be of the times. Keeping trend-forward details to a minimum (around five or ten percent, notes Moore) will prevent your big day from feeling too contrived: "From color palette, to the way you are doing flowers, to the type of fonts you are using—think classic, timeless design," he says.

Simple, not minimal, décor.

In addition to culling a classic and timeless design aesthetic, Moore also preaches the concept of "intentional restraint," which boils down to his décor manifesto: "I think my slogan is, 'There is confidence in simplicity and refinement in restraint.'" The reason for this? "So many times, I've watched couples try to impress other people. They get lost in and overwhelmed by the details—and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of stuff they are trying to have at their wedding."

But don't confuse restraint with minimalism, he says. "You can still have a very layered and textured event with lots of depth to the design," Moore continues. "But to me, the idea of restraint means there is intention behind each decision—there is meaning behind it. There is a purpose behind what we do. We try to make every detail count and be a reflection of our couple's stories."

A small guest count.

"We made a decision back then to stay intimate and small with our guest count. Including my wife and I, there were 98 people. I would encourage that, too," advises Moore, who has experienced, first hand, how the nature of luxury events has changed over the last two decades. "I've been doing weddings for 18 years now, and I have watched how the economy has affected weddings. After 2008, people began having much smaller weddings—and they were still so beautiful."

But guest tallies are booming again, he says—something he advises keeping in check, for reasons that go beyond your wallet. "You are seeing 200, 250, 300, 350 people invited to these weddings, and I watch my clients feel just overwhelmed. It's a lot to take in. They are not able to talk to each person, to really engage with each person," he says. "Have a small wedding that is intimate. My wife and I personally [knew] each person at ours—and there was a reason that they were there. We were able to say, 'This is the significance and impact you've had on my life.' That's why we wanted you to be at our wedding, versus inviting you out of obligation."

A next-level food experience.

Think of your reception meal as "the most important and special dinner party of your life," advises Moore. This framework allows for the food to take center stage. "You are sitting down for a dinner party and breaking bread together—and bringing your community together," says Moore. "Conversations are shared, relationships are strengthened, and memories are built—which means the food is such a powerful thing." Ask yourselves these questions, he suggests, before selecting your menu: "What does the food mean? How is it going to be served and keep people at that table for that conversation?"

A design landscape that keeps guests at the forefront.

It's not enough to plan a wedding that is beautiful—it needs to be comfortable and considerate of your guests, too. "Will they have felt like they were just another number, or will they feel like they matter and their comfort was important?" explains Moore. "We try to design weddings that are very approachable and plan details that just think of the guest first. Because if the guests are having an amazing time, the bride and groom will, as well."

So how do you do that? There are several paths to prioritizing comfort, explains Moore. Sure, you want your attendees to walk into a room that is visually exciting, but it's important to orient that space in a way that allows your loved ones to sit down and touch things—and interact with the décor. "Everything that is there should add to their comfort, [such as] the kind of chair they are sitting on. Maybe the chair is beautiful, but would you want to sit on that for two-and-a-half hours? Maybe not," he says, noting that this hospitable experience begins long before the party starts. "How far are they going to have to walk to get this space? Are you providing shuttles for them, are you making their experience easy? That idea of hospitality, and bringing that to the forefront to your planning, is huge."

A kind, compassionate approach to planning.

"To couples who are reading this, treat your vendors with kindness. Something I hear in the wedding industry a lot is, 'Oh my gosh, this is so expensive for just one day.' It's not just one day—your wedding vendors are working on this sometimes for two years and they want to see this as the most successful day of your life," says Moore. "I watch a lot of people who are just disrespectful or very unkind to their vendors. They take advantage of them—and their expectations of how they should be able to work around the clock is just unreasonable. Just be kind and thoughtful to your vendors."


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