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  • Writer's pictureGiselle Smith

Design & Styling for Real Weddings + Updated Inspiration

If you're like most brides, you want your wedding to be beautiful, to showcase your unique style and to impress your guests. You probably have tons of inspiration and ideas filling your mind, overflowing into every element of your life, but that doesn't mean you're sure on how to organize those ideas to create a wedding design plan that WOWs your guests and ties each piece together into a perfect day packed full of style and loveliness. Today we are sharing the ins and outs of styling your own wedding in part three of our wedding planning series. This post will help you choose wedding colors, find your style or choose a theme, get organized and implement a cohesive design plan.

If you haven't yet, click here to join our email list and get your FREE Wedding Design Outline PDF. You can print this neat outline, hole-punch it and pop it into a binder with your budget and vendor contracts to keep your inspiration in order.

What Are Your Wedding Colors?

Aside from "When are you getting married?", "What are your wedding colors?" may be the most commonly asked wedding question of all time. Choosing colors is as simple as 1-2-3.

  1. Do you want an all white/neutral wedding? If so, stop here. Your colors will consist of white/ivory and natural tones perhaps with black, grey or metallic accents.

  2. If not, what is your actual favorite color? Or what colors appear most in your wardrobe, throughout your home or in things you love?

  3. What colors pair well (compliment or contrast) with your color from question 2?

White/neutral weddings are timeless and easy to achieve, so if you've been having white wedding visions all of your life, move onto the next section. To use color and instantly tie your wedding in with your personality, choose colors based on your favorite color or colors that fit into your every day life. Avoid choosing colors based on any one Pinterest photo or magazine clipping or what you have seen at friend's weddings (because copying your friend's wedding is weird).

Let's say your color is pink. Whether that be your favorite color or maybe half of the clothes in your closet are pink, it is the color for you. Pink is an awesome wedding color because, no joke, everything pairs well with pink. The palette we are showcasing today is a combination of pinks and light blue and is a perfect example of a wedding palette because of its flow and is versatility. Monochromatic weddings are very difficult to accomplish as tones and exact colors in each element coming from different companies are going to be hard to match. Being realistic about this and using it to your advantage will leave you happier with the way it all turns out. Think of your main wedding color like a paint chip card from Home Depot or Lowe's. The main color and a range of similar colors are shown on each strip creating a palette that flows. You want to choose your wedding palette like a paint chip card and then add in complimenting or contrasting colors in single tones to accent. For a pink wedding, that might look like hot pink, coral, blush, deep pink and slate blue.

Come to terms with the fact that white/ivory/neutrals and green are going to be a part of your wedding colors no matter what because neutrals are a common base and greenery is everywhere especially if you plan to marry outdoors. Floral arrangements and bouquets featuring greenery as a base are also usually more cost-effective than those made completely out of flowers.

Finding Your Style or Choosing a Theme

Have you really thought about your wedding style? Your wedding style will reflect the personalities of you and your fiancé. Avoid choosing a style based on trends which change every year and opt for timeless options within a certain genre such as classic/romantic, rustic, bohemian or modern. I am borrowing this example from our previous post: If you love going to wine dinners and fine dining, a classic, romantic wedding probably fits your personality. If two-stepping in cowboy boots and bottled beer is your idea of a party, it would make sense for you to have a rustic wedding. Trendy colors, textures and patterns with eclectic elements shout bohemian bride. If you’re boujie and you know it, opt for a modern wedding. Most weddings can fit within one of these four categories. Which does yours fit into? If you have no clue, email us and we can help you figure it out (

For themed weddings, your style still will tie into the theme. Example: Mikaela and Danny's wedding shown here was Kentucky-themed and hosted at a beautiful outdoor horse farm, but had a classic, romantic feel fitting their style. Destination weddings are always themed weddings. Beach weddings and mountain weddings are themed with their setting, but have a certain style paired with those themes. If you want your wedding to be themed and you haven't chosen a venue yet, you can choose a venue setting the stage for the theme like an art-themed wedding at an art museum or a bourbon-themed wedding at a distillery. The possibilities are infinite. Like your wedding style, choose a theme based on what you love. Mikaela went with the Kentucky theme at Hermitage Farm because she is in love with her horse Zammy and wanted to include him on her special day. She tied it through each element all the way down to the throw pillows on her lounge area sofas.

Updated Inspiration

You don't want a wedding that everyone has seen a million times over. Pinterest is great if you're following wedding professionals or bridal magazines and blogs, but be aware that Pinterest never deletes old content. This means that a photo may pop up in your search from nearly a decade ago (literally as Pinterest officially launched in 2010). While an idea may seem new and fresh to you as you live outside of the wedding world, searching for pins in the boards of wedding pros who constantly update their Pinterest with new content is the only way to be sure what you are seeing on Pinterest is fresh.

Instagram is the absolute best platform for updated inspiration. Follow wedding vendors you love but especially wedding blogs and bridal magazines. These ladies and gentlemen live and breathe weddings every day of their lives (me included @_giselle_smith) and are constantly sharing the newest and hottest wedding trends on the scene. On Instagram, you can search hashtags to find inspiration on certain elements like #floralcenterpiece and #bridalbouquet or even find local vendors by searching geotags such as #louisvilleweddingphotographer. Here is a quick list of my favorite blogs/magazines to follow on Instagram:

If you're anti-social media and hate the Internet, I am not sure how you found this post, but bridal magazines are going to be your go-to for wedding inspiration. Hit the racks at your local grocery store for the newest issues of all of the wedding publications in your area. Avoid books on Amazon or in Barnes & Noble unless the books have just been published as the shelf life on books is longer than that of magazines and they are more likely to feature dated photos and content. My favorite national magazines are hands down Martha Stewart Weddings and The Knot, but local magazines such as Kentucky Bride will actually showcase close-to-home vendors you can afford to hire.

Wedding Elements

OPTIONS! OPTIONS! OPTIONS! The options are endless. Start by dividing your wedding into different areas or elements. All weddings have pretty much the same basic elements, give or take, if budget allows. Although there are cost-effective choices for each element option, unless you have a budget of $35,000+ you likely won't be able to fill in each and every blank on this list. That's A-OK. It is also okay to forgo some options in order to have nicer options in different areas. Here we break down each of the different elements explaining why each is important and listing the element options couples often have. Remember that each of your elements have to fit together and pair well with your venue to form a cohesive whole. To achieve this, you will use some options throughout the entire design.

A good example is candles. Let's say on the head table you plan to use a mix of votive candles set in gold cups and gold lanterns filled with pillar candles. To create a cohesive feel, you can also use a combination of those types of candles/lanterns on your entrance table, down your ceremony aisle, on your cocktail tables, on your cake table and as centerpieces. If your venue has a large fire place or shelving, you can also use those there. You do not want random, mismatched options throughout the wedding unless of course you are going for a very eclectic, bohemian vibe. Even then, you still want to have some elements that tie together. Candles are easy, but you can also try incorporating textures such as velvet or silk or even patterns such as marble, geometric shapes or something else. Flowers are not a stand alone element, but they are listed as element options in every single area and should finish the complete, cohesive look. Stationery is similar but does also have some stand alone elements. Be sure to choose element options that not only pull together the look, but that also fit with your style, theme and color palette.

For those of you that have our Wedding Design Outline PDF, you can go through each element and fill in the blanks for different options to see how it all will tie together. If you don't have it, click here to sign up for our email list and get yours today!


Why is stationery first? It is that important. This is the first piece of your wedding that guests will come in contact with. I personally believe that stationery and signage, while more budget-friendly, are as important as flowers in the overall look and feel of your wedding day. Fine paper products should carry through each area of a wedding beginning with save the dates or initial invites. You can have a stationery designer create a custom logo or monogram and design every element option with the same monogram/logo, fonts, patterns and colors for a perfectly branded event. You can even get custom or curated stamps. If you are on a tight budget, you probably cannot have custom everything, but you can still go to and get options that all match. Minted ALWAYS has 20% off if you sign up for their email list. Ask you florist for a few extra blooms to be styled with your stationery as quality photographers will be sure to photograph it.

Element options include: Save the Dates, wedding invitations, welcome bags and/or tags, signage, guest book, programs, escort cards, place cards, reserved signs, table numbers, menus, bar napkins, bar signs, GOBO discs, gift wrap, thank you cards.


When guests first walk up to your wedding, they get a vibe for what is to come. Greet them with a romantic candle-lit entrance table complete with a guest book matching your stationery or a drink display offering cold beverages and fun signage. Escort card displays or signage telling guests which table they're assigned to are big right now and offer one more way to show off your wedding style. Prior to the festivities, guests may need to use the bathroom, so consider additional candles and florals tying in those spaces as well.

Element options include: Entrance table, drink display, escort card display, linens, floral arrangements, signs, guest book, escort cards, photos, candles.


The ceremony site in which you will say your vows may be made up of various combinations of chairs, arbors, altars, unity ceremony tables and/or decor. I know that some planners say to dial back on ceremony florals and decor to leave more budget for guest table and reception decor, but I do not agree. The ceremony will be a highly photographed element and one could argue that the ceremony is the entire reason for gathering.

Elements options include: Ceremony chairs, arbors/arches/altars, floral arrangements, candles, pedestals/columns/barrels, signs, programs.

Personal Attire & Personal Florals

Bridal gown and suit selections play an important role of the overall feel of the wedding day and wedding photos. It is important to wear whatever you feel most beautiful in and since your wedding is tailored your personal style, the dress you choose and the decor should fit together well. Bridesmaids dresses should also fit the style of the event. Personal florals should be similar to the style of florals throughout your wedding. BONUS: If your bridesmaid bouquets are big enough, they can be used as centerpieces set into opaque vases after portraits and to save you money on reception decor.

Element options include: Wedding dresses, bridemaid dresses, suits or tuxedos, jewelry, shoes, accessories, hair styles, bridal bouquets, bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages.

The Bar & Cocktail Tables

After the "I do" portion of the event, everyone heads to the the bar. Some venues have built-in bars while others may require you to use linen-topped tables or to rent a bar through a rental company. Bar shelving and stemware are basics, but it is okay if shelves and fancy glasses are not in your budget. Guests will still be happy with clear plastic cups and bottled beer. Cute cocktail napkins are fun for any budget. Cocktail tables are typically hightop tables at which guests can place their drinks during cocktail hour before taking their seats or later in the evening while dancing.

Element options include: Bars, tables, linens, shelving, floral arrangements, stemware, bar napkins, signs, garnishes, bar stools, candles.

Catering & Bartending

Maybe your guests are hungry during cocktail hour an need passed hors d'oeuvres. Talk with your caterer and bartender to be sure the food and drinks you are serving fit with the overall style and theme of your wedding.

Guest Tables

Once guests grab drinks and mingle for a few minutes, they are likely going to attempt to locate their seats. Guest tables include the actual tables at which guests will reside for the reception (round/banquet/farm) and the chairs in which they will sit plus decor. Table configuration plays a big part in how your reception layout will flow. I personally love a mix of banquet (read: rectangle) and round tables. Standard 60” round tables seat 8 guests with full place settings and 10 guests without full place settings. The standard tables require a 120” linen; avoid 72” round tables as most rental companies do not carry 132” linens and the rental will cost more. Regardless of the types of tables you have, each table should have a centerpiece. Keep in mind that centerpieces for round tables are typically more cost effective than centerpieces down the length of a banquet table. A variety of centerpieces will add interest to your space. A rule of thumb on linens if you are on a budget is to use higher end specialty linens for the entrance table, cake table, cocktail tables and sweetheart/head table and then use affordable polyester for guest tables as they will be surrounded by chairs anyways. I bet in scrolling through Pinterest, you have come across some gorgeously set tables complete with chargers, china, stemware, flatware, napkins and rings plus menus. If you can dream it up and afford it, it most likely exists and all of these details allow for more ways to showcase your wedding style. While full place settings are nice, average weddings cannot budget for the rental cost nor the associated costs of setting tables and washing/packing the said rentals at the close of the event. It is okay not to have full place settings.

Element options include: Tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, chargers, china, stemware, flatware, napkins, napkin rings, menus, place cards, reserved signs, table numbers, candles, condiments.

Sweetheart Table/Head Table

The more formal sweetheart tables and head tables in which couples will share their first meal as man and wife include parallel but more elaborate options than guest tables. You want your table to WOW; you just got married, so sit somewhere fabulous and enjoy your first meal as man and wife. Even if you cannot afford it for every table, it is okay to splurge on yourself and your bridal party with upgraded linens, full place settings and fancy chairs. Let your photographer know the items that you have gone all-out on so they can capture those details.

Element options include: Tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, chargers, china, stemware, flatware, napkins, napkin rings, menus, place cards, reserved signs, table numbers, candles, condiments.

Cake & Dessert Display

Cool dessert displays really take the cake! Pun intended because I try to be funny at times. As shown in Mikaela and Danny's wedding, an impressive cake table or dessert display can really impress your guests and make the photos pop. Be sure to have the basics such as a cake table and cake stand, but don't be afraid to go all out if budget allows. Your florist should have some neat ideas and can also provide cake flowers.

Element options include: Tables, linens, cakes, cake stands, desserts, dessert stands/containers, serving sets, utensils, dessert plates, floral arrangements, signs, candles.

Lounge Areas, Lighting, & Installations

Lounge areas are set up for guests to have casual spaces to relax and converse with other guests who may not be seated at their tables. Think pretty sofas and soft seating. Side note: Photo booth backdrops don't really fall into any of the element categories and photo booths are not a must, but backdrops can easily be rented from furniture rental companies. Lighting sets the tone of any event. Lighting should be considered not only for the overall space, but also individual areas throughout the event. We have already used candles in an example, but there a tons of options for unique lighting if your budget allows. Floral and art installations are all the rage and most weddings in magazines and on blogs. Reach out to local artists or production companies for custom pieces and talk with your florist about creating some mind-blowing flower magic in the form of a staircase, mantle or floral chandelier.

Element options include: Sofas, chairs, benches, ottomans, rugs, coffee tables, side tables, floral arrangements, candles, chandeliers, string lights, pin spots, uplights, dance floor lighting, custom installations.

Monthly Design Overviews & Personal Decor

You have come up with the perfect design in your favorite colors that let's your style shine and you have begun hiring vendors. Read over your design plan/outline monthly and be sure the items you are purchasing fit with your overall style and theme. When purchasing personal decor try to find pieces at local boutiques, specialty stores like Anthropologie, World Market or Pottery Barn or at least online. Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Walmart are great for votives, tapers and pillar candles (cylinders to drop them in from Dollar Tree), but try to avoid big box store decor as it tends to be over-used and repeated time and time again in weddings. Don't over-buy on perosnal decor; someone has to set up all of the things and pack them away at the close of the event.

In addition to reviewing your selections to be sure they remain aligned with the wedding aesthetic, check back in on your budget every time you meet with a vendor. Things to consider that may not come to mind are damage waivers, sales tax, shipping costs, delivery costs, installation costs (never assume that any company or individual would set up decor for free as they need to cover labor costs and labor is likely to be high if multiple hands are needed and time is limited), breakdown and packing costs, pick up and late-night pick up.

Thanks so much for reading along today for the third post in our wedding planning series. For more inspiration, check out our Instagram at @_giselle_smith. Be sure to subscribe to the blog to receive monthly email updates and to get your FREE Wedding Design Outline PDF if you haven't already.

I cannot wait to see your wedding style in 2019! Happy Planning! XOXO

Perfectly planned real wedding at Hermitage Farm shot by Ashley and Zac Brown of Shining Light Photography with fabulous florals and styling by yours truly. Other vendors include Hair by Maddie Woff, makeup by Jordyn Biery, rentals from Canvas Event Furniture and Pizzazzle Events, ridiculously delicious cake by Louisvillicious Cakes, stationery by the bride herself (is it really DIY when your J-O-B is actually graphic deisgn?) and Bit by Bit Events for coordination and expert horse handling for Zammy.


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