How to Narrow Down (and Stick to!) Your Wedding Style

A design pro turns this daunting task into a fun exercise full of inspiration

Updated 02/21/17

Photo by Stoffer Photography

Long gone are the days when wedding design was standard, when you topped white tablecloths with soft pink centerpieces and called it a day. With a huge range of venues, nearly endless rental options, and inspiration running the gamut from soft and timeless to eclectic and edgy, deciding which style works for you might seem like a huge challenge. But don’t let having too many ideas get you down!

We asked Annie Lee, founder of Daughter of Design, to walk us through how she helps her clients figure out what their wedding style is—and then how to stick to it. These tips will turn this task into a fun and inspiring way to kick off wedding planning, we promise!

Photo by Stoffer Photography

Where Should You Start?
“I like to encourage my clients to look for design inspiration in disciplines other than the wedding world,” says Lee. “I ask them to pinpoint designs and styles others have already created, like sets in films, interior design, and graphic art.” Some of her favorite sources? She points her couples toward their favorite hotels, restaurants, or retail stores; window displays and styled nooks in their favorite furniture store; scenes and spaces they love from movies and shows; and more tangible items like wallpaper designs and rental linen catalogues.

Photo by Stoffer Photography

How Do These Ideas Become a Cohesive Style?
The hardest part of the process is eliminating things that don’t fit the bigger picture. “If you’re getting married in a traditional ballroom, those rustic details you love may not quite ‘go.’ I try to stay as true as possible to the venue and locale of the wedding to make it feel authentic,” Lee advises. Still have a folder full of cute ideas? Save them for other outlets: Your shower, the design of your new living room, or even a future baby shower—that inspiration doesn’t have to go to waste!

Lee encourages her clients to begin with rentals. Why? “There are only so many rental options available in your area,” she explains. “Unless you’re planning to buy 150 plates, napkins, and chairs, you’ll need to work with the resources you have at hand.” She begins with a tablecloth and a chair, which make up the largest visual square footage in your venue. Then, she starts adding elements and layers that line up with the venue and the selections you’ve made. “When you have a narrowed scope of design, it helps you pull the other details together,” says Lee.

Photo by Stoffer Photography

Already Got a Theme in Mind? Here’s How to Support it Without Getting Carried Away.
“I like to use the essence of a theme, rather than a literal interpretation,” Lee begins. “It’s all in the small details, from the choice of font to the color or shape of an object.” Take, for example, a Gatsby theme. Instead of towering feather centerpieces, place a runner of feathers down the center of the table. Skip bridesmaids in fringed flapper dresses in favor of a fringed detail on the tops of the chairs. “Take elements from the theme and deconstruct them, so they’ll allude to your style without being so exact,” says Lee.

“Diluting the actual item that’s inspiring you helps keep your event from feeling ‘themey,’ while still sending the right signals to your guests. Don’t invite Captain Obvious to the wedding!”

Photo by Stoffer Photography

How do You Avoid Getting Sidetracked?
“I put blinders on my clients...just kidding!” Lee jokes. “But honestly, I encourage my clients to stop looking once they’ve narrowed it down. It’s the same as once you’ve met your fiancé: You don’t get back on Tinder just in case there’s something else!” A huge source of design-related stress comes when you continue to search and re-search for ideas once your decisions have been made, so save yourself the headache.

“There are so many options—really, too many—for design out there. It’s about finding what you like and what works in your space, and being happy with it,” Lee continues. “And remember, once your event designer and florist have placed orders, there’s no going back! It’s literally the point of no return.” The same goes for those last-minute details and ideas. “It’s like over-accessorizing your outfit. You looked good in your gown with a pair of earrings and a bracelet, but if you keep going you’re going to make your wedding look like Iris Apfel!”

Photo by Stoffer Photography

How Can You Keep Your Theme Authentic and Accurate?
Research, research, research. “Make sure to study your theme thoroughly,” Lee advises. “I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Indian decor at a Moroccan-themed event! There are nuances between different historical and geographical themes that, while they do have things in common, also serve to set the themes apart.” Pretend you’re a historian fact-checking for accuracy in a period movie: You don’t want to look foolish by using the wrong details that you could have easily confirmed, so double-check!

Related Stories