The bride may wear pink: New traditions emerge at bridal fairs

Goodbye, "Goodbye Columbus!' If Philip Roth was writing a present-day sequel to his famous "wedding novel" — and particularly if he was setting the sequel in the Bay Area — his characters would probably be completely unfamiliar with the standard `50s-style extravaganza he described in his original book, a type of wedding many East Coast Jews grew up with.

Today's weddings may be just as festive as any, but they're also more personal and are often more budget-conscious. The reason, say wedding entrepreneurs, is that most couples tying the knot today are not twentysomethings fresh out of college. Many of today's brides and grooms are older, sometimes starting their second marriages, and often paying for the affair out of their own pockets.

Whatever the reason, many couples marrying today try to be as different and as original as they can — without forsaking tradition.

Elisa Fisher, an Orinda resident who is now in her 14th year of coordinating the Modern Bridal Faire, says today's brides often take such liberties as not wearing white. Her fairs resemble trade shows or conventions, displaying cutting-edge trends. Among this year's trends, Fisher notes that wedding dresses seem to be more tightly fitted than before, with brides preferring a slim "mermaid" style. She says veils are less popular than flowers in the bride's hair, and bridal gowns are appearing in light pinks and even blues.

Instead of traditional snow-white wedding cake, many couples are choosing unusual flavors. Others add drama to the festivities, perhaps hiring a company that releases a fleet of butterflies into the air after the ceremony or a limousine service that lets its passengers soak in the luxury of a hot tub inside the vehicle.

At one of Fisher's fairs you can sample such novelties yourself. Sundays in February, more than 200 vendors will display their wares at bridal booths at the San Francisco Concourse, the Oakland and San Jose convention centers and at the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City. February, Fisher says, is a particularly popular month for planning weddings since so many people get engaged during the December holiday season.

The events feature samples of food prepared by caterers, performances by wedding bands and showings of the latest apparel for all members of the bridal party. Between 6,000 or 7,000 people visit each of the four fairs.

While the fairs are designed for the general public, many of the vendors are Jewish and specialize in catering to Jewish celebrations, says Fisher, who is Jewish herself.

Joan Leavitt of San Francisco's Cuyahoga Calligraphy and Graphics, who has participated in the fairs, offers samples of her custom-designed wedding invitations made of unusual papers as well as fancy accessories. She also works with a watercolorist in creating beautiful handcrafted ketubot, traditional Jewish wedding contracts.

She says couples appreciate the fact that she respects their budget while developing personalized invitations and announcements, including those with Hebrew and English calligraphy.

"I help people create wedding stationery that they'd never find in a catalog.''

Carol Attia of San Leandro's Elegant Embroideries also does wedding work with a personal touch. Couples can examine Attia's various styles of handcrafted chuppot, which she makes out of silks and appliquéd velvets with gold lettering. Renting one of her freestanding and hand-held canopies, decorated with biblical and Jewish cultural motifs, costs $175 . One of her personal favorites features a brightly colored peacock in a sort of yin-yang design, which Attia says many Indian Jews use in their ketubah decorations.

Music at today's weddings embraces more than just the hora and the electric slide, although these favorites are usually part of the repertoire too, says Joel Nelson, who runs Joel Nelson Productions out of San Francisco and San Jose. The company's brochure highlights bands who specialize in everything from swingtime to Motown, who are available for weddings. Nelson also offers traditional Jewish bands.

"Interactive'' music is a wedding favorite, he says, describing how a band's emcee might teach the guests Israeli dancing or lead a conga line.

Whether you choose "Eli, Eli" or an Elvis impersonator — and whether you choose a purple minidress or a white lace veil and train — today's options encourage you to create a masterpiece of a wedding.