This is the third part of a series of articles about my wedding, The Corder Merger. For an overview of our special day, check out the second installment, Mack Got Married: Inside the Corder Merger.
The devil is in the details, right? Outside the program elements, food, and photography, one of the biggest concerns for couples planning a wedding is the guest experience. Those aforementioned areas tend to be key in making memories, but the overall look of a wedding sets the tone for the event. Here’s how we went about visualizing The Merger, and how you can plan the look of your next event.
Planning any type of event can be an arduous, daunting task. Add in the constraints of time and MONEY, and it can be downright overwhelming.
Storytime: I was rummaging around Ross one Sunday evening minding my own business when I was approached for my opinion by a random lady. Nothing new. Anyway, we were in the home goods section of the store, and she was looking at a number of decorative items for her friend’s bridal shower. She had also been tasked with decorating for the subsequent wedding. The lady asked me if the items she picked up matched. Y’all…this lady had a complete hodgepodge of items in her basket. Talk about no particular order! There was no relationship between any of the items she had picked up. So, I asked her some key questions:
Me: What's the theme for this shower? Her: Um...There's no theme. Me: Ok. What are her colors? Her: She doesn't have colors... Me: Ok...What is her aesthetic? Does she have look? What is her personality like? What does she like? Her: Um...I know she works in an office; she dresses up for work. What about this salt lamp?
This lady had a hard road in front of her because she didn’t have a game plan. Many brides stress out and overspend because they find themselves grasping at straws. Approach the process like you would any other grand undertaking: with a plan.
Getting A Game Plan
We approached planning the look of our nuptials in a few basic steps:
Step 1: Determine the aesthetic of your event.
Consider your personal style – Is it Boho? Rustic? Mid-Century Modern? Rocker-chic? Also, think about your love story or themes that reflect you as a couple.
Our love story involves a series of interviews and an internship, so our wedding was coined “The Merger” by one of our close friends. We leaned toward a “professional” aesthetic – clean lines, less-is-more decor, etc.- with a few exceptions. I will say I encountered some challenges, in that modern farmhouse is the new black. Now I’m not knocking the Joanna Gaines-inspired design phenomenon – it’s really beautiful – but it’s just not me.
Tip: Yes, Pinterest is a rabbit hole, but it can work in your favor. Search weddings, parties, events, etc. At first, create a wedding board and pin everything that really speaks to you. Then try to find the common thread in your pins. Remember, Pinterest is a search engine. If you can’t find the thread in your board, Pinterest’s recommendations may help you. You can check out my board here.
Step 2: Pick a color scheme.
For whatever reason, at the time, I was really inspired by peacocks, so I opted for a plum, turquoise, and silver color scheme.
We used white and clear items with splashes of the other colors in the scheme, to elevate the overall look of the event. I made glass signage for all of our tables with hints of our colors for a modern effect. Also, in terms of metallics, gold and rose gold were trending at the time, but not silver. I love the modern look, but I had to be very creative to stay within budget and achieve the results I wanted.
Tip: DO NOT shop until you have Steps 1 and 2 completed (or try not to). It’s so easy to get excited by all the shiny, pretty things you see, but if you don’t have a plan you will buy stuff you don’t need. Like the rolls of white tulle I bought on clearance after Christmas, just because it was on sale.
Step 3: Decide what is most important to you.
This step is true of everything in this wedding planning process, but if you don’t do it with your décor, you will waste mad time and money. Trust me. For example, I decided that if I had flowers, they absolutely needed to be real. However, since we had a limited budget to outfit 18 guest tables and several display areas, it meant that I had to be strategic about the quantity and use.
Step 3b. Decide what to buy and what to DIY.
If you don’t have an unlimited budget, and you are crafty, there will be plenty of places where you will find it better to make what you need. Don’t be scared; go for it! BUT, unless you have unlimited time, you may not be able to make EVERYTHING you want. Know when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, and when to RUN. Thank me later.
Step 4: Review your logistics and secure your volunteers.
You have to be realistic about how much you can accomplish during set up and break down. It would be tragic to plan elaborate tablescapes and installations only to find out the day of the event that you and the people helping you don’t have the time or the right conditions to pull it off.
Tip: Make sure the venue is very clear with you about how much time you will have in the actual space to set up. Also, ask them about any staging and prep space you may need. You may also make a general list of people that may be able to help you set up and any special skills they may have. Confirm with them early so you set your expectations about what is really possible.
All events have various decorative elements that come and go with the trends, but weddings tend to have a few that are staples, like flowers. These nuances aren’t absolutely necessary, but they are very nice to have. Here are some of the choices I made and tips I learned.
I love fresh flowers. I don’t knock silk ones at all, but depending on the application, they are more expensive than real ones. Also, I didn’t see myself wanting to keep them long term. Flowers were strategically placed where they would have the most impact, but they were supplemented with candles to keep the cost down, and keep the decor from looking too “busy.”
For the altar, I went with big arrangements of white hydrangeas, purple stock, blue delphinium, snapdragons, calla lilies, and Italian Ruscus. On the guest tables, I chose the simple elegance of single submerged snapdragons, topped with silver floating candles. I also bought white roses to be placed as buds in votive holders, but they ended up flanking other tables, presumably due to time constraints (see Step 4). The display tables were anchored by bubble bowls with the same hydrangeas and calla lilies as the altar.
Tip: If there is a particular flower really love that is too expensive for you to use throughout your event, consider using it in the places that are most significant to you.
Our bouquets incorporated all the same flowers and greenery as the other arrangements with one special touch – blue and purple dyed orchids. The orchids were my favorite florals of the bunch, but they were also the most expensive. I originally wanted them in other places, but I due to cost, I ended up eliminating them from some decor arrangements and consciously using them where I felt they were most important. We ended having leftover stems (yay!), so they were placed on display tables and some buds were used on our cake.
Tip: If you feel comfortable with flowers, consider buying them wholesale and doing them yourself. See if your city has a wholesale florist, or check out one online (like Sam’s Club, FiftyFlowers, etc.)
We had 4 display tables: a welcome table, gift table, display table, and a cake table.
Welcome Table – We outfitted this table with escort cards in our color scheme to denote meal choices, our guest book, and our unplugged ceremony sign. For our guest book, as with most of the other decor we bought, we wanted something that wouldn’t end up in a box somewhere, never to be seen again. Since we are both musicians, our guests autographed records that we will hang in our home. I made mirror cubes for this table and two others to use as centerpiece risers.
Gift Table – I set out to make a fabric covered card box, but in the midst of our planning, I had to make honest decisions about what I really had time to do. I ended up getting a clear David Tutera card box from Michael’s and adorning it with the sparkly peacock I used in my bridal shower decor. We also laid out blank postcards for guests to give their well-wishes and words of wisdom.
Display Table – This is the table where we shared a visual history of our love story. We displayed the letter my husband wrote to request our first date, a shadow box with photos of the flowers he sent during our courtship and a thank you sign listing all the names of our vendors and others who went the extra mile to make the day possible.
Cake Table– I looked high and low to find cake stands that weren’t frilly and didn’t cost an arm and a leg until I had an aha moment the week before the wedding. I had an extra mirror box that didn’t have a home. We used it to display the layer cake and flanked it with the accompanying cupcakes.
I wanted our overall aesthetic to be modern and elegant, but not necessarily “traditional”. We went with a square cake and cupcakes in an ombre of our wedding colors. Now, remember when I mentioned my peacock inspiration. As I began to flesh out the vision for our wedding event, I started to feel like some of my peacock ideas were too whimsical for what we were going for. By the time I made my décor choices, I had cut all the poor peacocks out! At the last minute, however, I couldn’t find a cake topper, so I bought three peacock picks from the floral department at Hobby Lobby, and they were the perfect addition. To satiate my peacock fancy, my bridal shower was peacock-themed. Crisis averted.
Tip: Flower picks can run as cheap as $1 per piece. You’re welcome.
Our guest list had us estimated around 18 tables in total. Big elaborate centerpieces on all those tables just were not a realistic option for our budget, and thankfully our look didn’t warrant them. The venue offered a choice of their standard centerpieces free as part of their package, so we built with the elements they provided. They also gave us a choice of linens. There were tons of options, but we stuck with our “white with a splash of color” aesthetic. Doubletree was able to set out alternating plum and teal napkins for a nice pop of color.
I added two submerged single-stem floral arrangements to each table. We also planned to add rosebuds, but they ended up being re-distributed. Given the arrangement of the room, this worked perfectly, in terms of allowing all guest to see and freely converse.
Tip: Make your centerpieces less than 12 inches or greater than 24 inches tall. Anything between these heights may have your guests craning their necks to have a conversation.
As a personal touch, our tables had names, instead of numbers. The names were virtues that make great relationships and scriptures to support them. Needless to say, their meaningfulness was a great hit.
The final touch was wedding favors. We gave our guests glass coasters with our wedding info and a peacock feather printed on them. The coasters were set out on the table as decor (and a reminder to grab one at the end of the night).
The intent was to make this a “purple carpet affair.” I ended up having my precious grandmother make a purple aisle runner the night before because I couldn’t find one at a reasonable price that would get there in time. When we viewed the ballroom the first time, I had this elaborate vision of getting married in the center of the room on the dance floor. I then built a PVC backdrop to be draped with sheers and lights. Thankfully, I realized before we finalized the room diagram that some of our guests would end up sitting behind the backdrop! We ended up shifting everything to the front of the room. I also abandoned any kind of aisle decor and pedestals for our tall centerpieces. No one missed them. We ended up placing them on three cocktail tables provided by the venue.
Tip: Share your decor plans and ideas with your venue. They may have decorative elements in storage that you can use free of charge. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
All in all, be encouraged that is possible to get the overall feel and look of the event you want on time and within budget. Research, ask questions and be decisive. Narrow down your preferences and stay focused. It is daunting, but it’s DOABLE.
What tips do you have for decorating weddings and events? Or what questions do you have about pulling things together? Drop them in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next installment of The Corder Merger series.