Weddings provide an opportunity to tell a couple’s unique love story, so it stands that your big day should feel like a one-of-a-kind celebration of your marriage. Yet a scroll through Pinterest reveals how easy it is for weddings to look…well, similar.
But that doesn’t mean you’re destined for a cookie-cutter celebration, even if your heart is set on a trendy style. By separating thematic elements from the overall design concept, you can capture the essence of a desired look without going overboard with trite clichés.
So whether you’re enamored by rustic details or dreaming of an elegant fairytale atmosphere, rest assured that you can have your (wedding) cake — and eat it, too.
If you’re looking for a balanced approach to your wedding design, keep reading for expert advice from the pros.
Start with what you love
Your wedding is a day to celebrate you and your partner, so there’s no reason to dismiss the ideas that showcase your relationship — even if they seem clichéd. Experienced event professionals can use your preferences for inspiration while keeping your design fresh and unique, so it’s important to be transparent about what you like and dislike.
“When we are talking with our clients about design, we often start with concrete concepts and themes about colors, tastes and architecture they love, places they’ve traveled, and movies and songs that inspire the mood they are trying to create at their celebration,” shares Lori Stephenson of LOLA Event Productions.
Then, it’s a matter of “extracting the essence of those themes and weaving them into the tapestry of their wedding in a way that is more abstract but equally as joyful,” Stephenson notes.
Joan Wyndrum of Blooms by the Box shares Stephenson’s sentiment, assuring couples that there’s no need to follow trends or traditions that don’t feel right. Instead, “focus on what makes you both happy to create a wedding that reflects your genuine love and personality,” she says. “Include sentimental elements in your wedding design. It could be the flower that symbolizes your relationship or incorporating heirlooms and traditions from each family. Adding these personal touches will make the design more authentic and meaningful.”
That’s why many wedding pros encourage couples to use Pinterest to gather inspiration but caution against trying to replicate exact designs. It’s far more authentic to find some elements you love and work with a team of experts to make them your own.
Get inspired by your venue
Booking a venue is one of the first steps of planning a wedding and with good reason. Not only does it secure your date, but your venue style greatly influences your wedding day’s final look and feel. There’s a big difference between a lush garden grove and an industrial warehouse! Both offer limitless possibilities, but you’ll need to know the canvas you’re working with before considering colors, furniture, and other details.
Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films elaborates on this point, encouraging couples to “embrace the venue’s aesthetics, using them as a canvas to develop the design.”
“The venue itself can offer unique elements such as architectural details, color schemes, lighting, or specific decor,” Angelini explains. “Integrating the venue’s aesthetics allows the design to blend naturally with the surroundings, enhancing the overall ambiance.”
If you’ve already secured a venue, schedule a walkthrough with your designer to discuss ideas that reflect the property’s distinct features. That way, even if you embrace a trendier theme, you can trust that it will stand out when tied into the special elements of your venue, like a grand staircase, soaring ceilings, or a magnificent waterfront view.
Don’t overdo it on decor
While it’s tempting to order #allthethings when shopping for your wedding, try limiting yourself to a selection of must-have pieces to avoid going overboard. Katie Leonard of The Treasury on the Plaza explains that “the weddings that most successfully incorporate a theme tend to follow a ‘less is more’ approach.”
Aly Raddatz of Elevated Events agrees, encouraging couples to “avoid DIY and signage overload.”
“Focus your efforts on one well-made project and use signage strategically,” Raddatz suggests. “And by looking to your five senses, you’ll find ways to support your design concept. It could be something as simple as a scent or a certain type of music played during cocktail hour.”
If you want to adopt a minimalist approach while still having a significant impact, “stick to a color scheme rather than a specific theme or holiday,” recommends Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio.
For example, “for winter wonderland themes, instead of using snowflakes and icicles, use clear crystal candelabra to mimic the vibe and silver/white colors to carry the cool theme throughout,” Shatnaya says. “Staying away from obvious representations of specific holidays and themes is the best way to avoid cliches.”
Take it from the experts: Embracing simplicity doesn’t mean your wedding design will look dull! Instead, it lets you take a creative and nuanced approach to styles that would otherwise feel stale and unoriginal.
Refine your destination vision
For destination weddings, it’s common to lean into the location for design inspiration. And while this can produce lovely results, it’s just as easy to fall into the cliché trap.
“For instance, in Italy, decorations with lemons may be used, along with small bottles of limoncello as wedding favors, strings of bulbs for an al fresco dinner, and guitars and mandolins for music during the aperitif,” notes Samuele Gallorini of Gallorini & Giorgi Events. “A more thoughtful approach to designing the wedding could involve delving deeper into the history, traditions, and local cuisine of the area, avoiding falling into tired clichés.”
Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs agrees, adding that “the key is to avoid the predictable elements.” For instance, if you’re planning a beach wedding, “steer clear of décor that looks like something you might find on the boardwalk or local trinket shop. Instead, trade in seashells, palm trees, and beach umbrellas for full-scale watercolor oceanic landscapes, custom maritime-inspired monograms, or lush tropical florals.”
If you’re planning a wedding getaway, work with local vendors who are familiar with the destination and can help you plan a chic, sophisticated event that celebrates the regional culture without crossing the line.
Of course, hiring an experienced wedding planner will help you achieve your dream (cliché-free) wedding, whether you’re tying the knot across the world or close to home.
“Leaning on your wedding planner to help vet your ideas can be a big help,” Leonard says. “People tend to see a lot of random things online that match their theme and make purchases without a plan. A planner or decorator can help you narrow that inspiration down to create an elegant and cohesive wedding style.”
Now, here’s the thing: Your wedding is all about you and your partner. If you prefer to get a little extra, there’s no reason to cut out trends that others might consider over the top. It’s your day to celebrate as you’d like, so if you love extravagance, lean into it!
Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings concurs, confirming that the best wedding is one that feels best to you. “Go with your grandest and most amazing overly-cliché ideas!” she advises. “If that is who you are — go for all of them. Make it the most cliché wedding and OWN it! These are the things you get to own as a couple as WHO you are, cliché or not. Labels will always be there; your story is very unique to tell.”
You only get one chance to design a day that’s truly your own, so get creative and look to your team for support in creating an authentic wedding experience.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.