Wedding Decorations and Themes
Article thanks to Lauren Sargeant Bride Online Columnist

Wedding Decorations FAQs


When do I need to make my decorating decisions?

You should arrange your decorations months in advance. Rentals are handy, as you can pay a deposit and forget about it until you receive or collect your decorative items from them on day of the wedding. If you’re buying any decorations, be prepared to store them somewhere safe and dry in the meantime and arrange for their journey on or before your wedding day. Don’t wait to buy them at the last minute, as they could run out of stock or stop selling the item in the months between planning and purchasing, buy them at the same time as you pay the deposits for your rented items. This includes everything from photo booths, candy floss machines, balloons, candles and ribbon arches. If you have booked your venue, you can sketch out ideas or write a list based on the structure of the rooms. It’s worth taking the time to ensure you have enough space for everything you want before you buy so you don’t waste your budget.

If you’re making your own decorations, allow ample time for creation. If clay is involved, do they need to be air-dried over days, or baked in an oven? Perhaps the glue needs time to dry, or you have to wait for the beads to arrive from your online purchase. Make sure you have finished making them at least two months before the day, otherwise you’ll be rushing to complete them when you’re in the midst of other wedding day preparations. You wouldn’t want to be late for your hen night because of this! Also, once you’ve made them, store them somewhere safe and secure with your purchased and/or rented decorations.

I'm having trouble picking a colour scheme. Should I just go for the traditional white?

If you really want traditional white then that's no problem, but don't use it because you feel you must. If you want something a bit brighter or a bit more fun, you can find something with these easy steps. Ideally, your wedding should reflect you and your groom. The atmosphere of a wedding can hinge on the decorations – imagine a bare room for your guests. You would still have a good day, but it wouldn’t be the same.

So, if you’re a pampered pink princess or a rainbow-loving hippy, embrace the colours and patterns you love! Don’t shy away from the things you love – use them to your advantage. If you love dark purples and reds, your loved ones think it’s out of character for your wedding to wholly cream and peach colours. Choose colours that you like, that reflect you, your hobbies and your personality. If this doesn’t help, or if you don’t have anything definite in mind, consider the time of year. Is it a winter wedding? Then cool blues and silver could be perfect. Bright red shades could compliment a hazel brown for an autumn wedding - whatever the season it could be the help you’re looking for. Summer might be great for a beach theme, or a Halloween theme for horror fans having autumnal nuptials.

However, if you have something specific in mind you can use these tips to brainstorm and find exactly what you want. To start, make a list of your favourite colours. Then see how they match them! For example, too many colours can work against you, creating a cluttered, messy effect. For this reason, choosing just three colours will create a professional, glamorous style. Some colours naturally work well together, such as purple and pink, because they are complimentary colours. However, red and green is generally an ill-advised choice because the colours are contrasting. However, this would be entirely appropriate for a Christmas wedding. You can search for a "colour wheel" online to further explore complimentary and contrasting colours.

How do I select my wedding's colour scheme? Everyone has an opinion and there's so much choice!

It's vital not to be pushed into choosing anything that you're not happy with, particularly the colour scheme. You will see your choice again and again, on the day of your wedding and throughout your marriage. If you only went for that ghastly pink because your best friend or co-worker really wanted you to, you won't be happy in the long run. If you’re struggling to say no just remind them (and yourself!) that they can choose on their own wedding day. It’s your and your fiancé’s day, and no-one else’s. Ensure your groom is happy too – you might be sure that he won’t like purple, but you never know unless you ask. Although simplistic colour schemes are fashionable you can choose from any of your favourite patterns, colours and designs. This will also depend on your wedding venues(s)- if you’re hiring a room with a particular colour scheme that often includes non- removable parts such as curtains and carpet, there is no way to completely change that colour scheme to suit your desires. You’ll have to work within those limits. If you're having a themed wedding, this may also influence your colour scheme. For some helpful hints, see this helpful article on ‘choosing your wedding theme colours according to their meaning’.

Which wedding decorations are essential?

No wedding decorations are truly essential but they are a pleasant, personalised touch and using them is highly recommended, no matter what your budget. If you’re at the lower end of the financial scale it doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful wedding. DIY centrepieces are a great compromise, as time and effort can be more valuable than expensive decorations. The main thing is to ensure you allow yourself plenty of time to buy and install the decorations; if you’re making them yourself, always allow yourself extra time to create each item. Check online forums and sites such as pinterest, designsponge, and craftgawker for inspiration if you’re struggling.

However, there are certain decorations which are an ideal minimum to really provide the right atmosphere for your day. You may not feel a wedding throne is essential, but you can replicate the effect easily with chair covers (which can again be homemade if your nana is a dab hand at sewing!) if you like. Items such as chair covers are perfect because they’re low in cost but have a huge impact on the wedding atmosphere. There are certain decorations which are absolutely vital such as invitations, flowers, the cake decoration, spare tables for the wedding gifts and a knife for the cutting of the cake, as well as a cake stand of course, but there are endless inexpensive ways to really personalise an area. Just some of these include elegant centrepieces, tablecloths, place holders, ribbon arches, an ornate ring pillow and hanging lanterns.

Just bear in mind the amount of space available to you and your wedding party. All of your amazing decorations may technically fit, but the guests and tables take up room too! There are also some wonderful modern innovations to decorate your spaces. Personalised wedding arches are readily available to brighten up an entrance. And if you provide some polaroid cameras, a corkboard and some pins your guests can create a display board of pictures from the day (an extra wedding present for you!). Remember, you don’t have to buy every type of wedding decoration available to create a beautiful look for your wedding event.

I’m looking for some decorations that are unique, something a bit different to help make my day memorable. Is there anything available like this?

Modern weddings have become increasingly inventive, and you can find all sorts of fantastic temporary structures containing entertainment for you and your guests. Companies are popping up all over to accommodate such needs. Photobooths are becoming extremely popular, and they can even incorporate HD video messages for the happy couple as well as digital and printed pictures. Check out our photo booth FAQs and glossary for more in- depth info.  

Other unique touches could include candy floss stalls. These are becoming increasingly popular, along with stalls containing sweets of all kinds, slush drinks, ice cream and hot food. Perhaps you could have a chocolate fountain, or hire a caricaturist, or you could have fireworks to end your night. Regardless of budget, only hire one of these – you don’t want to distract your guests too much, just provide a little extra entertainment. Photobooths are the most popular because they can also serve as mementoes of the day, for you and your guests, but you don’t have to go mad! Think of your budget, but you can still find something wonderful that your whole wedding party will enjoy.

Should I buy or rent my tablecloths and chair covers?

The decision is yours. But if you buy them, you’ll have to take them home at the end of the day. You could always sell them in a car boot sale or on ebay, but on a practical level, when will you use these tablecloths or chair covers again? If you often throw large parties or would regularly use them yourself, buying could be worthwhile for you. Rental is slightly more hassle as you have to return the items after the party, but it is usually worthwhile as you will save money. If money isn’t an issue, rental is still generally preferable.

 Is a themed wedding for me?

If you like fancy dress and acting a themed wedding may be ideal for you. It simplifies the difficult decision of colour schemes, as themes often suggest their own. It is highly recommended to make fancy dress compulsory amongst the guests otherwise it can spoil the spirit of the wedding when large numbers aren't joining in. Make it clear on your invitations.

Two of the most popular themes are beach and winter weddings; the beach suggests the colours of the sea, sky and sand. Meanwhile, you might use cool blues and silvers for a winter wedding. There are some wildly creative themes, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to a role play video game wedding, during which the groom heroically saved and then married his bride! Anything you can think of is possible, regardless of budget, with a little imagination. DIY decorations are better in many ways because they are homemade, and it's nice to know who made them, to see the effort and love that went into their creation. Bear in mind that a themed wedding requires plenty of decorating, which can be more of an organisational burden than a fancy one. Be as organised as possible to avoid any problems.

Do I have to use flowers for my centrepieces?

They are the traditional choice because they’re naturally beautiful and widely available. However, this doesn’t mean you absolutely have to use them. There are disadvantages to having flowers. Fresh flowers require a vase, which can be spilt with children or drunk guests around, whilst plastic ones can look unrealistic. There a vast array of centrepieces available that aren’t related to flowers at all; you can buy them, or if you have the time you could create one. You can find endless such items online, beginning with this helpful article. Such centrepieces are becoming increasingly popular, not because it’s inexpensive but because it’s a beautiful personal touch. Any form of bottle, jar or container can be used to contain candles, beads, petals, sweets or feathers. These are just some of the materials that have been used by artistic brides and their loved ones.

If you don’t want to make your own, there are many non-floral centrepieces available to buy. Paper flowers, fruit and even goldfish bowls have been used before. You can also buy artistically designed miniature trees, bird cages and wonderful metallic lanterns. If you have a colour scheme or theme for your wedding, ensure your centrepieces match. If you’re having a fairy tale theme, you could buy a centrepiece adorned with miniature fairies; if you’ve chosen pastel greens and yellows, a clear vase full of pastel green and yellow sweets could be your perfect choice of centrepiece.

There are so many tablecloths available! What material is the best to use for my wedding?

Wedding tablecloths are available in a vast array of materials; some of these include cotton, linen, paper, polyester, vinyl, silk… There are too many for the untrained eye to easily pick one. For most indoor weddings, any one of these materials is more than acceptable. But if you’re having an outdoor wedding, or if you have specific or specialist needs for your tablecloths, it’s worth comparing the fabrics. The traditional choice is often white and lacy, which is practical and stylish, but this isn’t in keeping with everyone’s tastes. Consider your wedding. If it’s entirely based outdoors, or there will be lots of children, plastic tablecloths might be best. If you’re planning on using table runners this may affect your decision. Every type of material has its advantages and its benefits, so the choice needs to be personalised to you and your needs. Taffeta tablecloths are created in various colours, fabrics and designs, so they might suit your needs because you’ve chosen a taffeta dress. Organza is available in various patterns and colours and has a beautiful shimmering effect, while satin is another beautiful choice.

Bear in mind that your room will look best with co-ordination; your tablecloths should not only match the colour of the chair covers, other decorations and the outfits of the wedding party, but the fabric too. And in the same way that you should choose one or two colours for your overall colour scheme, one or two fabrics are best. So don’t worry too much, just pick a two or three types of fabric, ensure that your choices that match the colour scheme and are of a suitable texture, and you can have beautiful tables at your wedding.

I’ve designed the perfect layout for my decorations, in my head or on paper, but it feels like something is missing. Are there any little touches I can add?

As with so many things in life, it’s the little details that make all the difference. Place a few scented candles in the bathrooms, some ribbon arches over the doorways, and you can really enhance the wedding atmosphere. Once you’ve decorated your reception area or any other rooms, grab a friend and take a good look; consider any neglected spaces and fill them with spare ribbons or flowers. You don’t need to be too extravagant to create a wonderful area for your loved ones to celebrate the big day. Bright table sprinkles are a fantastic way to subtly accentuate a tablecloth, paper hats and poppers will add to the party spirit, and even a piece of lighting equipment projecting a pattern or array of colours around the room is guaranteed to get guests dancing.

Who should I put in charge of arranging the decorations?

This should always be someone you trust, whether they are a relative, a close friend or a hired professional. You need to guarantee that one person will lead a group who will put the decorations together, usually the night before or the morning of the wedding. You don’t want to be in charge of this; no matter how good you are at multitasking this is not a job for your wedding day! You should have no problems finding volunteers, but remember that professionals are paid to be on time – your loved ones aren’t. If that friend or sibling is always late they will probably be late on the day of your wedding too, I’m afraid. Remember that it takes time and co-ordination to set up a room or a series of rooms. If you’re a perfectionist it’s best to explain or draw out your plans in fine detail, then explain them to someone you trust so they can carry them out. A wedding planner could also be of help in this area.

When do I need to decorate my venue?

Ideally, you may wish to set up your wedding decorations the night before, particularly if you’re having a morning wedding. However, this isn’t always possible. In this case, you must be organised to ensure that you have enough hands with enough experience to put everything together on the wedding day itself. The best way to protect yourself from this eventuality is to ask when the nearest preceding wedding will be held when you are booking the date of your wedding with the venue. Most venues allow for at least several hours between each wedding, so you should have a decent amount of time to set up. But just to be safe, organise to have as many hands on deck as possible, and pre-prepare as much as humanly possible!

The wedding day isn’t far away now, and I haven’t got all of my decorations! What do I do?

If you’ve left everything until the last minute, don’t despair. Many brides like to meticulously plan every tiny detail of their day months in advance. However, this strategy isn’t for everyone, as some people prefer spontaneity or struggle with organisation. Over-planning can backfire if the bride has built up specific expectations for her day, whilst under-planning can leave you panicking and unprepared. Find a balance between these two extremes by being involved in the wedding plans without worrying unnecessarily to ensure you have the fabulous day you deserve.

For those of you who aren’t fully prepared, decorating one or a number of rooms doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Once you’ve got the very basics of your day arranged (invitations, tables, chairs and a venue) you can fill out the space with many cheap, readily available decorations. These include candles, balloons, paper lanterns, fairy lights and tulle, a material often used for various decorative purposes during weddings. Choose a colour scheme that is also realistic and readily available in your local shops – finding a set of ochre vases for your centrepieces might not be realistic in two weeks before the big day. If you’re already in these last few weeks avoid ordering decorations online, particularly from abroad – you’ll be disappointed if they don’t arrive on time. Get yourself to the high street and take a shopping list; don’t buy everything you see, as this is easy to do in a rushed panic. In this way you can get your decorations ready at the last minute.

I think I’ve got all my decorations ready… Is there anything I might have forgotten?

It’s easy to forget one or two details, especially as there’s so much to organise when it comes to wedding decorations. Don’t worry too much – if you can create a checklist containing the most essential items, your day won’t go awry because the balloons were forgotten. To avoid this as much as possible, ensure you know who’s in charge of bringing the decorations, setting them up, taking them down and taking them away. Usually, this will be the same group of people, and ideally one of them will be in charge and liaise with you as necessary.
If you’re arranging your own decorations, ask yourself who will be bringing and setting up the flowers on your wedding day? Do you need a changing area for your magician to prepare himself? Do you have a way to attach the backdrop to the wall behind the head table – does the venue provide hooks? There are always little organisational details that come hand in hand with wedding decorations, so bear that in mind.

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