How to Avoid These 10 Mistakes When Choosing Wedding Colors

Get schooled in all the color rules.

Plate setting at wedding reception.

Photo by Austin Gros

Just like in interior design, color is critical to setting the scene for your wedding. How you use it, where you use it, and how much of each hue you decide to use can truly make or break your big day (style-wise, anyway). You wouldn't want to inadvertently cast the wrong tone on your joyous celebration or create a visually jarring atmosphere for your guests. On the other side of the spectrum, you also don't want to minimize the significance of the occasion by playing it too safe and flat-out boring everyone—no one want's their wedding day to be described as bland.

In an effort to save you the trouble and save face on the big day, we sat down with wedding planning experts Natasha Burton and Jennifer Arreguin Jacobson, to get schooled in all the rules of how to pick wedding colors.

Meet the Expert

  • Natasha Burton is a wedding and relationship writer and editor, as well as the author of various books including 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms: Take These Tests to Discover Your Wedding Personality and Customize Your Big Day Together.
  • Jennifer Arreguin Jacobson is the cofounder, along with Burton, of the now-shuttered Swoon California, a Santa Barbara-based event planning company.

Read on to become well acquainted with what not to do when choosing your color scheme and ensure that you steer clear from these 10 don'ts.

Thinking You Need a Set Color Palette

Let's face it: You're probably going to get asked a billion different times what your wedding colors are (it happens to all to-be-weds). The good news is if you have no clue, that's perfectly fine...seriously! As Burton points out, you don't necessarily need to have wedding colors. "You may just want to use natural linens and wildflowers." Think bohemian, eclectic cool at its finest. This idea works particularly well for woodsy weddings, garden parties, or any outdoor reception.

Waiting Too Long

If you do want to have designated wedding colors, however, waiting too long can be detrimental. Some vendors will require you to make hard choices quickly, and if you're still undecided you may end up making a rash choice in the moment. The longer you wait, the more reactive your response to the question—which could ultimately result in either a disjointed color scheme or a wedding that doesn't resonate with your style. This becomes even riskier if your wedding falls during the high season, when rental, floral, or attire options in popular colors will sell out quickly.

Choosing Colors That Are So Right Now, but So Not You

If you're not head over heels with this year's "it" colors, for the love of all things bridal, don't choose them simply because they're in style, urges Jacobson. "Trends come and go, as evidenced by your mom's '80s-style, puffy-sleeved wedding dress, so pick colors you personally love, not ones you saw on Pinterest or feel like you have to use."

Selecting Colors Not Normally Found in Nature

While a full-on neon wedding can be done, you might have a hard time finding any flowers to match. "It's best to stick with a color palette that includes natural hues so your other decor and flowers don't clash with each other," notes Burton. For example, simple white flowers will complement bright decorations whereas bold ones will just be overkill.

Picking Way Too Many Wedding Colors

Choose too many hues and your overall wedding look will seem disjointed—unless you're shooting for that whole-field-of-wildflowers boho vibe, that is. Otherwise, Burton recommends committing to three colors max (plus one metallic) to ensure everything looks cohesive. "Use neutrals, such as whites, grays, and beiges, if you'd like to keep things more low-key color-wise."

Playing It Way Too Safe

Jacobson advises to not be scared to try something out of the box if it fits you and your partner's personalities. "There are some crazy, yet totally amazing, color combinations you can use for your wedding that will look incredible. Some fun ideas: peach and emerald, coral and navy, and mint and violet."

Forgetting About Classic White

When in doubt, opt for 50 shades of white. Burton swears it won't be boring. "Whites and creams, with perhaps even hints of light, light pink, look incredible in pretty much every venue or setting," she says.

Pairing the Wrong Colors

While there's never a wrong color for a wedding palette, there are definitely many, many unpleasing color combinations. The pairing of hues, especially for a theme as all-encompassing as this, is an art in itself. And loving two colors individually, does not a perfect pair make. Regardless of whether aesthetics are your particular forte or not, it's always best to consult with experts like vendors or wedding planners before going all in.

Neglecting Your Wedding Venue's Colors

For instance, if your venue has rich red curtains and you can't remove them, doing a bright orange color scheme will clash, warns Jacobson. "Keep color in mind when selecting a venue, and please don't try to cover or hide any colorful elements you don't like, as it will probably be noticeable."

Discounting the Photographer

Consider your wedding photographer an under-sourced ally in choosing aesthetics like wedding colors. While they're probably not the first person you'd think of to consult, their unique understanding of lighting, balance, story, and composition are invaluable—especially if the way the photos will look are important to you. This becomes even more crucial for outdoor weddings where the time of day will significantly influence the way colors are perceived.

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