Variations on a theme

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Want an easy way to personalize your wedding? Give it a theme. Not only will it lend your day a custom feel but it also will tie together all your wedding elements, from the invitations to the cake, creating a cohesive, well-thought-out look that will be remembered long after the party’s over.

1. DO consider picking a theme you both love

After all, it’s not just your wedding. It’s your partner’s, too, so get his input. Consider choosing a theme that revolves around activities you enjoy together. “This could be anything from the mountains you love hiking in, the bright colors from the botanical gardens you like to visit or the board game you play together every Friday night,” says Morgan Miller, wedding planner for Oakland, California-based Spreading Lovely. Like sailing? Consider a nautical theme with a blue-and-white motif, sailboat-shaped centerpieces and seashell place cards. Or maybe you two spend lots of time watching classic movies on Netflix. How about styling your wedding in Old Hollywood glamour? Use vintage film reels as the base for centerpieces; serve retro-glam cocktails like Gibson martinis and walk down a red carpet for your entrance.

2. DO Explore Different Sources for Inspiration

"You can find inspiration and create an overall theme from just about anything, be it actual patterns and colors or a meaningful motif,” Miller says. Though Pinterest is an incredible source, you may want to avoid it in the early stages of planning, she says. “It can flood you with too many ideas and push you in too many directions.” Look at other inspirational places that, depending on your motif, could include garden shops, your parents’ attic, old photos of the two of you, bridal planning blogs, eBay, Etsy, flea markets and even dollar stores.

3. DO pick a theme and venue that work together

Let’s say you’re considering holding your wedding in a sleek urban loft with exposed pipes and concrete floors. A beach theme with swaying palm trees and pina coladas would look out of place. A chic Parisian motif with a lily of the valley bouquet, lots of champagne and a majestic Eiffel Tower wedding cake, however, would fit in perfectly with the setting’s streamlined aesthetic.

4. DON’T Turn It Into a Halloween Party

Costumes easily could put a trick-or-treat spin on your special day and, unless it’s October 31, that’s not the vibe you want. Instead of masks and outrageous outfits, dial it back and concentrate on theming a few elements, such as stationery, table settings and flowers, or the food and drink, wedding cake and music.

5. DON’T Go Overboard

While you want your theme to make an impression, avoid creating a look that’s contrived, corny or over the top. Every single element of your wedding doesn’t have to be defined by your theme. “Your invitations don’t have to match the napkins, which don't have to match the flowers, which don’t have to match the groomsmen’s ties,” Miller says. Aim for balance. For example, say you’ve chosen a citrus theme. You could line your envelopes with a citrus-colored paper, then bring that element into your tablescape, like a lemon on each place setting, and have a citrus-flavored signature cocktail. “Always remember, less is more,” Miller advises.

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