After you’ve celebrated your newly engaged status by popping the bubbly and hashing out the proposal details over FaceTime, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics. One of the first wedding planning tasks that you’ll tackle is choosing your wedding aesthetic. This overarching concept basically refers to the style and vibe of your nuptials. It’s a guiding principle that creates the overall look and feel of your ceremony and reception, from the venue and color palette to the place cards and napkins. “A wedding aesthetic is defining what you want your guests to experience and feel from a tactile and visual perspective throughout your wedding,” planner Michelle Rago explains. Broadly speaking, some common examples are modern, glamorous, or bohemian styles. Other aesthetics are more specific, like a color-blocked summer wedding or a soirée inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Selecting a cohesive style for your nuptials allows you and your planner to produce a thoughtfully designed event that encapsulates your union. “We think curating a customized aesthetic for each of our clients' weddings is so important because it helps tell the story of each couple,” Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco of Estera Events says. “If you're bold and bright people, your wedding should speak to that!” Sticking to one theme will also help you navigate the wedding planning process with ease. After you’ve identified your aesthetic, you can start finalizing additional details, whether it’s your table linens or your first dance song.
Although some might have known their aesthetic even before getting engaged (thanks to endlessly scrolling wedding Pinterest boards), others might struggle to nail down a vision that captures their style and relationship in one fell swoop. To alleviate some of the pressure, we’ve tapped some of the best in the business to learn their tried-and-true tricks for pinpointing your overall style. Here are nine tips to help you determine your wedding aesthetic, according to the experts.
Meet the Expert
- Michelle Rago is the founder of Michelle Rago Destinations, a full-service boutique planning firm. She has 25 years of experience in the field.
- Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco are the co-owners and lead planners of Estera Events, a Chicago-based wedding planning company. They’ve been working in the industry since 2010.
- Summer Newman is the founder and lead designer of Summer Newman Events. She has been planning Southern California and destination weddings since 2013.
Browse Real Weddings
We may be biased, but one of the best ways to get ideas for your own wedding is by exploring other weddings. “If you are the kind of couple who doesn't know where to start and has never really thought about design, start looking at real weddings that you love,” planner Summer Newman recommends. Start by scrolling through the beautiful real weddings on our website or buying wedding magazines. Notice which affairs resonate with you. What decorations did the pair use? Where did they swap vows? How are guests involved in the celebration? Using another couple’s big day will help lend inspiration to your own aesthetic.
Take Note of Your Likes and Dislikes
“While social media has been an incredible influence and resource, the challenge can be that there is a lot of repetition,” Rago notes. To throw a wedding that represents your own personal preferences instead of a popular trend, brainstorm a list of your favorite things. Rago advises looking at the movies, magazines, and works of art that speak to you. Why does it inspire you? Maybe it’s the Greek island setting in Mamma Mia or the colors displayed in Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”
Assess Your Design Preferences
In addition to the media that you’re drawn to, consider the elements of interior design you lean toward. Evaluate the style of your home, the hotels you tend to stay at on vacation, and the restaurants that you frequent. This will help you figure out whether you prefer sleek lines and neutral tones, bright and boisterous spaces, or glamorous designs with lots of sparkle. “The atmosphere we create is the primary key to creating an aesthetic that speaks to your clients, and we want to ensure our client feels comfortable above all else,” Hall and Vanco share.
Consider Your Venue
Although your aesthetic will likely take shape throughout the wedding planning process, you’ll probably start thinking about your overall vision around the same time you’re on the hunt for a wedding venue. “The venue is the foundation that aesthetics will be built on, or in some cases, used for inspiration,” Newman notes. Your locale will most likely inform your wedding style. For instance, getting married on a rooftop in New York City is better suited for a modern aesthetic, while a beach bash in the Bahamas lends well to a tropical vibe. To help you finalize the overarching concept, take note of the existing décor and the colors of your venue, plus the natural environment around it.
Look to the Season
Another factor that will inform the style of your celebration is the time of year you intend to tie the knot. While the season doesn’t have to determine your entire aesthetic, you can use it to settle on details, such as your color palette, dress code, flowers, and menu. If you’re saying “I do” in the spring, you may want to add tulips and pastel shades to your décor, while greenery garlands and rich jewel tones are more fitting for a winter wedding.
Reflect on Past Travels
If you’re trying to figure out the type of aesthetic you want for your big day, Hall and Vanco suggest looking back on the best vacations you’ve taken, whether it’s the spot you got engaged or the annual trip you take as a couple. “If someone answers ‘Lake Como’ as their favorite place they’ve stayed, we can draw inspiration from the architecture and cuisine,” the planners elaborate. “If someone loves a boutique hotel in Mexico, we can draw inspiration from the textiles and hospitality.” You don’t have to necessarily be hosting your wedding in that location, but rather can use it as a guide.
Examine Important Traditions
One of the best ways to personalize your wedding is infusing traditions from your background. Representing your culture can also help shape many of the day’s events and decorations. For instance, if you want to honor your Colombian heritage, you might decide to incorporate a candle lighting unity ceremony, serve a tres leches cake, and incorporate an hora loca dance, which all dictate the look and feel of your celebration. Hall and Vanco note that you don’t have to follow the tradition to a T; you can find new ways to make them feel personal to you and your love story.
Think About the Guest Experience
Of course, your wedding is a reflection of you, but your guests definitely play a role in setting the mood. Newman advises considering “what you want yourself and your guest to feel throughout the wedding day, and choose things that help enhance those feelings.” Want your guests to feel relaxed? Throw an intimate dinner party reception amid candlelight. If you’d rather create an energetic and upbeat atmosphere, focus your post-ceremony party on a packed dance floor with a killer playlist.
Talk to Loved Ones
If you still aren’t exactly sure what you and your partner want for your special day, Newman recommends asking your friends and family members for their opinion. Since they know you well and have a different perspective on your relationship, they’ll have a pretty good idea of what aesthetic might work well. You can ask your loved ones to help you brainstorm types of aesthetics, or you can have them approve your final vision. However, remember that you and your fiancé's opinions are the most important ones.