Get Inspired! Choosing a Theme for your Wedding

by Anna Kelly

I use the word theme for lack of a better one. Tone? Ambiance? Flavor? You don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) go so far as to require period-correct costumes of your guests, but you do need a common thread on which to base the design of your day. Today, we’ll look at some everyday (or not so everyday!) objects from which you can take inspiration.

This day, and the celebration you plan, should reflect your tastes and style as a couple. Look around your life together, and cull ideas to decorate and personalize the official beginning of your partnership. Whether you’re saying “I do” on a cliff-side with no one but the officiant present, or planning a bash for 500, you can weave your personal style throughout the celebration in myriad ways.

Let’s explore some ideas to help get you started!

Object #1: Feathers
Whether you love the saturated colors of a peacock or feel more at home amidst the organic shades of a pheasant, feathers are a great jumping-off point for design ideas.

A peacock feather may inspire you to use a jewel-tone palette of bottle green, rich royal purple, shiny black, and (well, duh) peacock blue. Silks such as those used by LulaKate are particularly good at taking dyes and tend to have more vibrancy than synthetic fabrics. For a particularly striking look, dress your bridesmaids in a range of greens and blues (but keep their bouquets on the simpler side to avoid a cluttered appearance). Peacock feathers have been used as royal decoration for thousands of years, so let the glamour fly!

If bold shades aren’t your cup of tea, think of the subtle neutral tones of a pheasant or guinea hen. Chocolate brown, white, tan, and inky black can be dazzling and sophisticated, or played down for a more homey or casual feel. Keep the natural element at the forefront with wallet-friendly floral options like wheat or other potted grasses on tables, or cover hay bales with eclectic quilts as a resting place outside the party tent. Pedestrian fabrics like burlap can become simple and eye-catching table or aisle runners, adding texture and rough-hewn appeal.
Want to go all-out with a feather theme? Many florists offer feather bouquets and centerpieces, and feather boutonnieres give a rich look against the lapel of a tuxedo or suit.

Object #2: Flowers
An obvious choice, perhaps, but still an excellent source for palette ideas and overall design. Did your beloved give you daisies in the early days of your relationship? A fresh palette of white, ivory, and pale yellow can be sumptuous and formal, or relaxed and cleanly simple for a more intimate gathering. Magnolias are a symbol of all things sweet and Southern – picture a garden party with parasols to shield your guests from the sun while they sip mint juleps or a signature peach cocktail. Prefer an injection of strong color? Take your cue from bold Stargazer lilies and wrap the party in fucshia, candy red, and white. Stunning white anemones have a velvety black center that begs for an elegant, intimate black and white wedding. Introduce some texture and depth with linens in a bold black and white damask, or wrap black velvet ribbon around the stems of bouquets. A black sash can be a dazzling addition to a white or ivory gown, especially when enlivened with a glitzy brooch.

Maybe you tire of convention and instead use flowers as your anti-inspiration. Try to think of all the ways flowers could be replaced in the classic uses: a bridal bouquet of wired Swarovski crystals, a boutonniere utilizing a vintage tassel or lapel pin. Who says that centerpieces have to be made of cut flowers? Bowls of fruit, trays of candles, potted plants, vintage artglass, or jars of candy could all give your guests a gaze-worthy focus on each table. For the ultimate in party-throwing ease, combine two aspects into one by arranging artful stacks of favor boxes as the centerpieces.

Object #3: Leaves
Not far off from the previous topic of flowers is this inspiration idea: leaves. I don’t mean just the ones on the stems of flowers, but leaves and trees that stand on their own as decoration. Are you marrying in Charleston? There’s no more fitting decoration than the state’s own Palmetto. Their large, sturdy leaves make them perfect for all aspects of your celebration, from pew markers and bouquets to cake adornment and centerpieces.

Let your history steer you towards inspiration. Did you spend a summer together in the mountains of Colorado, or both grow up in the backwoods of Maine? Pine trees and pinecones make for a lovely motif on invitations, and guest could enjoy favors of tiny saplings to plant in their own yard. Use your imagination to envision a personal “brand”, and build on that brand in each detail of the day. The possibilities are endless!

Object #4: Fauna
For my own wedding in Beaufort, South Carolina, we took advantage of the fact that almost none of our guests lived nearby – and therefore, had yet to be introduced to the unique and quirky Lowcountry. We chose alligators as our inspiration, as there were three large ones in the lake behind my parents’ home. The save-the-date cards were adorned with a tux- and top hat-sporting alligator, and the favor bags included a chocolate alligator alongside miniature versions of two classic Southern sweets, pecan pralines and Moon Pies. Boiled peanuts were offered for snacking during cocktails, followed by a top-your-own grits bar and tiny, salty ham biscuits. While alligators were not present in every aspect of the wedding, we built on the starting point they lent us and continued the feel with lots of green (bridesmaid dresses, floral, and linen accents) and Southern accents in the food and decor.

Whether they’re sweet bluebirds or glam peacocks, birds are a no-brainer when it comes to inspiring creativity. Some of the boldest colors in nature appear in the plumage of birds, and can be borrowed to great dramatic effect.
Swans mate for life – always a nice idea to highlight at a celebration of love, or another excellent start to a bold black and white soiree – and have an elegant shape for a motif on your papergoods or cake. Other animals known to form monogamous bonds include French angelfish, turtle doves, and bald eagles.

If Mother Nature isn’t the inspiration you had in mind, maybe an animal closer to home could help spark new ideas. Family pets engender much loyalty and love from their human parents, so why not include them in the festivities? While a cat may not be the best bridesmaid you could choose, well-trained dogs make for excellent ring bearers (and look adorable dressed for the occasion with a wreath of flowers or bejeweled collar). Just be sure to have a human counterpart to accompany Fido up the aisle, in case all of the excitement proves distracting.

Object #5: Your Ring
For many, there’s no item more personal than their engagement ring. As a tangible sign of your commitment, an engagement ring serves an iconic purpose, as well as allowing you and your beloved to express your personal style. Is your finger graced with a classic, Tiffany style solitaire? A romantic and traditional ceremony and reception, layered with white roses, stephanotis, and hydrangeas would align perfectly with your classic sensibility. White, ivory, and shades of pale gold and champagne are always classic, and the perfect backdrop for an opulent floral scheme.

The bearer of an antique, Deco-style ring may choose to inject the festivities with heirloom pieces, eclectic vintage linens, and vintage-inspired attire. Do you love your modern, shoulder-bearing strapless gown, but admire the more demure and covered styles of times gone by? Accent your look with a vintage fur, lace jacket, or funky capelet.

Art is everywhere, and the humblest object can often spark beautiful and exciting ideas. We hope that this small sampling will help you get inspired and envision a wedding that is personal, meaningful, and fun!


Retail marketer who loves shopping, fashion, design, travel and dining out. NOLA native, Francophile, and DC-lover living in Charlotte since 1998. Married to a die-hard Wahoo for over 25 years, mother of one Princeton Tiger, a labradoodle and two cats. I'm the creator & editor of scoopcharlotte and scoopthelake - if you think you'd like to join our program, email me at scoopcharlotte [at] today!