Photo by Joe Del Tufo/Moonloop Photography
Add a new twist to your big day with creative save the dates, intricate gift baskets or even exotic birds delivering the rings.
A flight of doves signaling the launch of a newly hitched couple’s journey together isn’t anything new. After all, these white birds of peace symbolize good fortune, fidelity, prosperity and everlasting love—key ingredients for a happy forever after.
Although savvy wedding planners likely have their favorite dove whisperers on speed dial, they’re about to add another contact to their preferred list of specialty vendors: celebrated bird and animal trainer Phung Luu.
As founder and operator of Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections in Dover, Luu is passionate about connecting people with animals through live presentations featuring domestic and exotic birds that underscore the importance of wildlife conservation. Luu and his birds have wowed audiences from the Bronx Zoo to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, and even appeared on the Today show in 2017. He also provides consultation services and animal and staff training for zoos, educational institutions and wildlife management programs through a second enterprise, Behavior and Training Solutions LLC.
“I’ve always been connected to nature,” Luu explains. His affinity for animals ignited as young boy chasing lizards, snakes and frogs in rural Vietnam. At age 10, Luu, his mother and his sister immigrated to Delaware to join his father, who was already in the U.S.
Attending the University of Delaware brought Luu’s calling into clear focus, drawing him deeper into animal behavior and biology. He became involved with a wildlife rehabilitation facility in northern Delaware, where he says he “learned to appreciate and connect with animals in a different way.”
Caring for sick and injured birds and releasing them healthy back into the wild inspired in Luu a profound connection to these enigmatic winged creatures. “They’re so free,” he muses. “The ability to just take off and fly wherever you want is such a beautiful, romantic notion.”
Until recently, elevating wedding ceremonies with his well-behaved flock was not even the tiniest blip on Luu’s radar, but his uncanny knack for training birds of all feathers segues nicely into this peripheral service.
When he addresses the importance of conservation in his presentations, Luu uses retriever birds, such as ravens and cockatoos, to demonstrate how easy it is to recycle. He asks willing participants to hold out a soda can or other trash item. On his command, a bird swoops down, gently picks up the item and properly disposes of it in the appropriate receptacle. The transition from shiny discarded objects to, say, a diamond-encrusted wedding ring personally delivered to the bride on her big day was relatively seamless.
To some, entering the wedding space might seem like a natural progression. For Luu, it was organic and quite accidental—a favor for a friend who was getting married. In the inaugural outing, Luu and his birds remained hidden from view throughout the event. As the ceremony drew to a close, he released a tropical burst of red, yellow and green parakeets that circled above the wedding party before floating away into nearby trees, where they awaited Luu’s command to return.
“It was a fun and memorable moment,” Luu recalls, adding that he never expected this simple favor to morph into a flourishing side business.
But the word spread, first among friends and acquaintances, and Luu found himself fielding multiple requests for his wedding birds. He admits that at the time he was resistant because it deviated from his educational and conservation-driven mission. Realizing that weddings presented another avenue to bring birds and people together helped reconcile his confliction.
“My wedding work may not necessarily educate others about birds directly, but we certainly do make the connection while bringing cheerfulness and, hopefully, instilling a cherished memory and an appreciation for nature,” he says.
With several ceremonies under his wing, Luu now considers requests from those beyond his inner circle. As this adjunct business grows, he plans to donate a portion of his fee to wildlife and conservation organizations.
For bridal parties fortunate enough to experience the charm of Luu’s avian touch, it’s the cherry on top of the wedding cake; for Luu, it’s another chance to share his passion while raising awareness and encouraging conscientious stewardship of the planet and all its inhabitants—winged and otherwise.
For more information, email [email protected] or visit the Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections page on Facebook.
—Mona de Crinis
So, you’ve opted to keep your date but have your dream wedding on a smaller scale—outdoor venue, pared-down guest list, COVID-19 comforts. Check, check, check. Here, Larissa Crossley, marketing manager at Terrain Events, highlights a few musts for making your affair safe yet stylish during the pandemic.
Plate for one: Known for their lush displays and grazing tables, Terrain’s event staff have pivoted to small, personalized servings. Think mini cheese boards, singular baked breads and petite Champagne bottles.
Good, clean fun: The latest alcohol cart? The hand-washing station, replete with water, soap and hand sanitizer. Make it fun by personalizing the bottles for your Big Day.
Cover me: Now that the face mask is more ubiquitous than the scarf or pocket square, who doesn’t get excited to wear a new one? From florals to funny sayings, personalize these for your guests and put them in a welcome bag or on their chair.
Make a statement with stylish save-the-dates and wedding invitations.
As every couple knows, the style of your Big Day starts with the right stationery. From initial notices and invitations by mail to placards, place cards and menus at the main event, we help you choose a cohesive theme that perfectly tells your story. Here, a few local experts share the latest trends in writing.
This dreamy presentation is prominent for the spring-summer 2021 season, says artist Rachel Roller, owner of Fox and Quill Paper in West Chester. “They are popular because of the romantic feel that it gives your wedding suite,” she explains, adding that “they are soft and subtle.” Add personal details like wedding florals and fur-babies to insert cards, the top of your invitation, on the back of save-the-dates or to signature drink signs.
Custom Artwork affords couples the opportunity to add meaning to their personalized wedding suite. Include a custom sketch of your wedding venue or your favorite flowers, or invite guests to share in your love story. Katy Ackerman of Lewes Lettering Co. has seen many couples opt for a more traditional and minimalistic invitation detailed with surrounding custom features. “Classic invitations with personalized details have been increasingly popular for the spring season,” she says. “Couples want to tell their story through their invitation, as this is one of the lasting keepsakes at the end of a wedding.”
Drawing outdoorsy couples, hues mimicking nature—think dusty rose, gold, crimson, green and blue—are high in demand for everything from invitations to signage this season, Ackerman says.
Vellum (or parchment paper) also takes on a pretty, romantic feel this season, Roller explains, “with detail that showcases a sneak peek” of the invitation.
Add a layer of flare to minimalistic invitations with subtle embellishments like velvet or ribbon, Ackerman suggests. Monogrammed wax seals, touches of gold foil, romantic calligraphy and envelope liners—which can be personalized using curated patterns, monograms, custom artwork and special materials—are also beautiful touches.
Bespoke Gift Baskets
As guest lists become more intimate and safety is on couples’ minds, newlyweds are providing customized gift baskets to those celebrating their nuptials. From fun soaps and hand sanitizers to monogrammed face coverings, these clean party favors are the new norm. Here are a few ideas from local vendors to personalize your flair.
1. Conversation Sweetheart soaps.
Nothing says “clean love” like these colorful heart-shaped soaps. Wash away your worries after a day of mingling, or keep them as a pretty memento.
Handmade by Middletown-based artisan Lauren Miller. Starting at $14.95; sunbasilsoap.com.
2. Logo cookies.
Give wedding-goers a sweet treat emblazoned with initials, engagement photos or an ode to the city from this Ambler, Pennsylvania, bakery. Starting at $4.50. Flour Pot Cookies, 75 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, Pennsylvania; 215-542-5951; flourpotcookies.com.
3. Face coverings.
The face mask is the must-have accessory of the year. Matching masks adorned with a couple’s name, wedding date, initials or logo adds a festive vibe to your celebration. Even better? These four-layer adjustable masks can be reworn and come in 10 colors. Starting at $4.50. Diamond State Promotions, 3211 Dunlap Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-543-7428; diamondstatepromotions.com.
4. Antibacterial hand sanitizer.
The first message: Keep your hands clean. The second: Whatever sweet sentiment you want to share on the label. Starting at $3.50. Diamond State Promotions, 3211 Dunlap Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-543-7428; diamondstatepromotions.com.