Planning a wedding is hard work -- sometimes more difficult than the marriage itself -- and it only gets tougher for wedding planners every year. The biggest struggle? Keeping things unique and fresh for every couple.

"I get a lot of brides coming to me and saying `I don't want my wedding to feel like anyone else's wedding.' They want a non-cookie-cutter wedding," said professional wedding planner, and founder of A Polished Plan, Sarah Taggart. "Now more than ever, people are more than willing to break traditions. There really are no rules. All of sudden people are willing to embrace that for one reason or another."

So if you are going to a wedding in 2012, chances are you may not see a typical cake cutting or a bouquet toss.

"Brides have always wanted things to be unique, but it used to be more limited to their dress and floral arrangements," said Tasha Green, a wedding planner available by referral only based out of New York. "Now they want everything to be one-of-a-kind, from the dress right down to the seating arrangements."

Green, who has done weddings for celebrities and high-profile executives, said new and offbeat seating arrangements are trending in 2012. Forget the whole bride's side and groom's side everyone is accustomed to.

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"I have a bride this year who really wants both sides of the family to get to know each other. So we are going to have white chairs for her friends and family and light blue chairs for the groom's friends and family," Green said. "They are all going to be mixed around so people from both sides have to sit next to each other."

The seating for dinner gets even zanier.

"I still have not figured this out yet because it might be impossible, but she wants the largest round table possible for all 180 guests to sit at," Green said.

"We may have to get two or three smaller round tables, but we'll see how it works. We would also need two separate ballrooms because the dancing would not be able to happen in the same room as dinner if the tables are that large. I'm racking my brain to improvise with this one."

Taggart also had to improvise several times at previous weddings, but it was mainly because of mother nature. She was not expecting a hurricane to hit the Belle Haven Club in Greenwich Aug. 27, 2011, but that is exactly what happened.

"It was definitely a stressful time. I really had to think on my feet and were lucky to at least have a venue that had power unlike other places that had real extensive damage," Taggart said. "We had to get really creative with transportation because people were coming from New York and the bridges were closing and transportation companies were weary. We managed to get everything done properly and safely and it turned out to be a really great wedding. And it really taught me how to roll with the punches and improvise."

Weather is something Taggart has become and expert with. Her conclusion? Mother nature has her own agenda.

"There is only so much you can do when weather is involved. Look at this year's winter. It has been so incredibly mild compared to last year. It affects the business, especially flowers," she said.

Taggart said 90 percent of her brides are doing neutral color flowers, inspired by Kate Middleton's royal wedding last year. However, with the warmer weather this year, some flowers that were expected to be in season in May could already be out of season before the usual date.

"I would not want to be a florist right now. It gets difficult with all the weather related changes but we can compromise. Brides these days are more amenable to using things that are local. If they cannot get orchids flown in from China then we can work to get a combination of flowers that resemble the orchid aesthetic."

The weather plays a large part in how brides want their weddings done as well. Taggart did a December wedding at the Country Club of Darien five months ago, and it was certainly not a typical December.

"It really is the luck of the draw. The bride at the Darien wedding in December was envisioning a light dusting of white snow, but obviously it was much warmer than it usually was," she said. "The main issue in a winter wedding is photography. The pictures have to be taken in a place and atmosphere that is comfortable for the bride and groom. It obviously would not be conducive to do it in the middle of a blizzard but if the sun cannot be blaring either. You want the pictures to show that it was winter in one way or another. So you have to get creative."

Taggart has to employ that same ingenuity when it comes to locations as well.

"I'm working with a bride right now who wants a garden with a waterfront for her venue," Taggart said. "People generally go for lush gardens or a waterfront, not generally together. Obviously, in Fairfield County, that is really hard to find. So we may find some middle ground and have a ceremony with some lush gardens and then shuttle everyone to a nice waterfront for the reception."

Taggart has noticed that engagements are lasting longer these days for several reasons, leading to a much longer planning process.

"Engagements are longer now more than ever. A lot of that might have to do with the economy. Couples are paying for the costs themselves or sharing it with their parents," Taggart said. "But more than anything else, I believe it's because people are not willing to settle. Obviously they want everything as they envision it and they are willing to wait as long as necessary to make that happen."

Green has noticed smaller weddings are also getting more popular.

"A lot of my clients are getting away from the large, out of this world, 400-plus guest list," Green said. "I've done weddings for a few celebrities a few years ago, and that was when I first started noticing smaller weddings were getting more frequent. Celebrities do it to be low-key, but that intimate setting is something that has become attractive to everyone lately."

Green said she did a wedding for a business executive in Waveny Park two years ago with only 15 people.

"It was the parents and siblings of the bride and groom, who both came from small families," she said. "That was very unique and it involved a changed mind set on my part in order to cater to what they wanted. There was no band or DJ, they simply had their iTunes playlist going in the background."

Which is not to say elaborate presentations for music and entertainment are not still happening. Taggart said a big thing people are doing these days, in terms of themes, is something vintage with a modern twist. So sometimes couples hire groups to come in and perform vintage 1920s revivals and other themes for their wedding.

"It is really spectacular, actually," Taggart said. "They get these people to come in costume and sing just like the old days. They are basically getting professional actors and entertainers. If you have the budget for something along those lines, it really is exciting."

The vintage theme with a modern twist is what Taggart has seen the most of in the past year.

"It means a lot of different things to different people, but they may select a venue of an old loft or art studio with vintage bones and bring in 2012 products to fill it in," Taggart said. "Those products might include ghost chairs with that lucid quality or modern floral collections."

Green has also seen the modern trend move forward.

"Modern has a very loose meaning but I think people can see it better than they describe it," Green said. "It is tough to keep up with the whims of women planning their bag day."

Green says all she is sure about is the uncertainty.

"It changes every year. It keeps me on my toes," Green said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

pjha@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; www.twitter.com/pjhancnews