How to Plan an Outside the Box, Themed Wedding
As reflections of the bride and groom’s distinct personalities and passions, theme weddings translate into uniquely memorable events.
The traditional wedding has something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Modern weddings, however, can incorporate so much more—whether that means carnival pinwheels or vintage bicycles or piñatas. Many of today’s to-be-weds opt to host theme-inspired weddings, allowing them to integrate interests and hobbies that they love. Read on to learn how to host an elegant theme wedding, incorporating innovative ideas that will take guests by surprise and create a day they’ll never forget.
Picking a Theme: Do What You Love
Nearly all weddings revolve around a cohesive idea, which brides and grooms can carry as far as they want on their big day. “Everything essentially has a theme, whether it’s a monogram, pattern or an obvious ‘farm’ theme throughout the whole wedding,” says Sarah Trotter, owner of Lasting Impressions Wedding & Event Planning in Minnetonka. “Brides should not be so afraid to tap into themselves and create a day they really want.”
A theme can be as simple as a color scheme that ties the event together or as grand as a Hollywood-glam destination wedding in southern California. Wedding planners agree, however, that the best themes reflect a couple’s unique personalities and interests.
Those who love the water, for example, might adopt a nautical theme, complete with lakeside views and a message in a bottle to be unsealed on an anniversary years later. Wine aficionados could host a wedding at a vineyard, featuring floral arrangements in vintage bottles and an array of fruits and cheeses that complement various wines. Couples who were born in different countries or come from different ethnic backgrounds can incorporate both of their cultural traditions by hosting a fusion wedding with multicultural food, music and dance.
Susan and Clayton Umlor’s theme wedding sprung from a holiday when the pair set the date for Cinco de Mayo. Though the couple are not themselves of Hispanic background, they saw it as a way to observe a holiday that has become more and more part of U.S. celebrations. After snapping their save-the-date photographs with sombreros and piñatas, they spontaneously decided to bring the props to their reception to carry through the theme.
“The guests loved it. They were cracking up and putting on the sombreros and bouncing around the room,” says Susan. “It really bubbled up on its own, it was a unique aspect that made the day extra-special.”
Elegant Execution: Less Is More
Flawless execution is essential for a wedding that highlights a particular theme. A common fear among brides-to-be is that a theme wedding will seem over-the-top or tacky. To avoid a chaotic or distracting ambience, wedding planners advise that less is more.
“Stick with one theme,” says Anna Senrick of Fête Perfection in Minneapolis. “Pick one or two elements, create a theme and then go with it. You can’t get too much going on, or all of the sudden your wedding looks like a garage sale!”
Planners also encourage couples to incorporate only a few personalized details, rather than going overboard with too many separate objects or motifs. “The more items you add, the more it will become kitschy and unappealing to your guests,” says Ashley Henry, owner of Simply Elegant Bridal Consulting in Minneapolis. “Add in discreet pieces that won’t overpower your décor—just touches that will supplement it.”
Loan and Brian Saycocie focused on the carnival as the theme for their summer wedding at Minneapolis’ Mill City Museum. The festive details — which were designed by Alanna Andes, along with flowers by Huyen Pham and the bridesmaids' belts by Vanessa Simpson — were part of everything, from décor to the wedding party’s apparel. Groomsmen sported red-and-white checked shirts and gray vests accented by red ties—a “Southern gentleman” look, says Loan—while the bridesmaids complemented their yellow dresses with bright crimson heels. At the reception, more details transported guests into the carnival world. Vibrant decorations included a recurring pattern of black-and-white stripes and checks; golden figurines of seals, elephants and giraffes; popcorn containers; and an arch covered with dozens of multi-hued pinwheels. The couple also ordered a photo booth for guests’ entertainment and created a lively playlist of indie rock.
“We wanted something not too outrageously out there, but different as well. So we started to piece everything together and thought, ‘We could build something out of this,’ ” says Brian. “We kept hearing things like, ‘This is the best wedding ever.’ Those are great compliments, but the most important thing is that everyone had fun.”
The Outcome: A Day to Remember
Guests remember perfectly executed theme weddings, primarily because they are one-of-a-kind celebrations of the bride’s and groom’s personalities. Kirsten Fischer, owner of Fab Event Design in Minneapolis, planned a wedding this past September that revolved around ‘Beauty and the Biker.’ Fischer incorporated the groom’s love of biking by facilitating the groomsmen’s entrance into the ceremony on Minnesota Nice Ride bicycles. She also created reception centerpieces comprising vintage handlebars draped in flowers. The bride’s interests were reflected in the reception venue—a real-life “Beauty and the Beast”-style library at St. Paul’s James J. Hill House, decorated with sheets of vellum that were inscribed with stories from the couple’s lives.
“The guests loved it,” says Fischer. “They said it very much complemented both sides of their relationship."
Most important, a personalized wedding carries profound meaning for the bride and groom. Henry thinks the most memorable theme weddings are those with deep roots in the couple’s lives. “When a theme is forced or isn’t organic to who the couple truly is, it never seems to translate,” she says. “All of our couples have really enjoyed planning their weddings, because they all selected themes they bonded over.”