Once Upon a Theme

Like iPods, Crocs, and dozens of other dubious-but-now-ubiquitous trends that have cropped up over the past few years, themed weddings have become a big hit.

When guests were invited to the weddings of yesteryear, all they expected were cake, roses, and plenty of white, white, white.

These days it seems a wedding just isn’t a party without some sort of recurring motif or concept. While themes used to be reserved for birthday parties and senior proms, now weddings are come with titles: “Winter Wonderland;” “Backyard Paradise;” “City of Lights.” Whether it’s a signature color combination, palm trees representing a tropical destination, or, heck Ashlee Simpson-Wentz’s Alice in Wonderland vibe, the happy couple usually clues their guests into their big day theme long before the big day actually arrives. And some even ask their guests to dress the part.

The trick is to make everything come together cohesively without overwhelming your guests — or yourself — with your theme.  Think of it this way: you’ll be planning your wedding for anywhere from four months to two years.  If you can’t live with little paper umbrellas or fall colored maple leaves that long, tone down your theme-ing.  Suggest rather than scream your theme!

But once you’ve settled on your theme, you can announce it right away: a couple’s save the date cards can go into the mail as far as eighteen months in advance of the wedding.

The "Capitol Love" save the date from WeddingPaperDivas.com is a great way to prep your guests for a Capitol-city-themed wedding -- or just to let them know where you'll be exchanging your vows!

The "Capitol Love" save the date from WeddingPaperDivas.com is a great way to prep your guests for a Capitol-city-themed wedding -- or just to let them know where you'll be exchanging your vows!

Just make sure that you don’t send a themed save the date until you’re 100% certain you’ve settled on your theme. Imagine mailing out an umbrella-dotted “April Showers” save the date for a lakeside wedding, only to switch to a glamorous “Night on the Red Carpet” cocktail reception!

Next up come the actual invitations. Many stationers sell coordinating save the dates and invitations, so you can send a matching set. But for couples who want to same-themed but not identical paper goods, custom invitations may fit the bill. That’s what I’m looking into doing. I’ve visited Paper Dance, a tiny stationary superstore near my home, several times, trying to decide on the right shape, size, colors, and designs. They’ve been helping me create unique invitations to fit the secret garden feel I want to create for my wedding. Of course, your paper goods don’t stop once the invitations have been sent. These days, chic weddings feature programs, place cards, table numbers, and menu cards that carry on the day’s theme or design.  Try to shake things up as you go, though — don’t include the same rose symbol on every piece of paper you put in front of your guests. For a garden wedding, try a different type of flower on each paper good, or expand beyond flora and fauna to include skeches of gazebos, watering cans, and picket fences.

Aside from the obvious ways to incorporate your theme into the day, look for ways to tie it into any aspect that you’d like.  For a beach wedding, for example, instead of going overboard with shells decorating your cake, ask your pastry chef if she can create an impressionistic coral pattern on the icing.  Save the shells to subtly incorporate into your bouquet, as shown at Martha Stewart Weddings.  Drape your tables in shades of blue that exude the tranquility of tropical waters.  Dress up your bridesmaids and yourself with jewelry made of coral, abalone shells, and pearls; give the groom and groomsmen sea stars or sand dollars instead of traditional floral boutonnieres.

As you plan your wedding, let your theme be a springboard for your creativity — don’t let it become a limiting set of style constraints.  Also keep in mind that sticking to a strict theme may push your costs up: if you’ve decided on an Old World theme, you might not be willing to buy the beautiful but decidely Art Nouveau candlesticks you find on sale.  With that in mind, try to pick a theme that allows you to be flexible (and budget-friendly).  But most of all, enjoy letting your imagination lead you to your perfect day.

~ Laura

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