HOW TO PLAN A PHOTOGENIC WEDDING: DECORATIONS
Decorations are often the most time consuming part of Wedding Planning, especially for the DIY Bride.
With trends swinging between vintage class and wooden/barn details, the Wedding inspiration industry is flooded with everything from beautiful centerpieces to seating charts and signage to suit every theme. The issue becomes, what all do you need?
The answer, in this photographer’s opinion, is simple. Your decorations should reflect your style as a couple, and also serve a purpose. If you are looking at a decor item that does not fit that description, do yourself a favor and move on to something else.
One of my favorite Weddings in 2017 featured decorations that the bride went on to use as decorations in her new home. Not only is this economical, it makes choosing pieces much easier.
From a photographer’s viewpoint, I recommend always looking at the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in thepinterest induced haze of ideas. To avoid this, think about what you want to accomplish in every area of your venue. I also recommend sticking to a theme. Too many weddings try to hash together several design themes and wind up looking too busy. If you can’t decide between several ideas, then separate them by event. For example, if you can’t decide between jewel toned decorations (big in 2018) and barn wood-rustic pieces, decorate the ceremony area with the wood and your reception area can be more colorful.
When you are planning decorations for tables, think about what they will look like in the reception venue, and in duplicates. Are they too big? Too flat? Do you want your guests to be able to see each other across the table or do you like big centerpieces that break up the room? Are they too small (votive candles or flat wooden boxes for example), making them invisible in photographs? Do the colors pop or fade into your tablecloths?
The head table is perhaps the most important piece of your reception. It will likely be in the backdrop of many of your reception photos, and should be both pretty and functional. The best decorations are usually garlands hung on the front of the table. Try to avoid large pieces that will cut off facial expressions, and don’t clutter the table. Also consider asking a member of the wedding party or wait staff to help you keep trash and used tableware off the table.
The Gift table, cake table, and guest book display should also be kept simple. Don’t give in to the impulse to set every homeless handmade sign or decoration on one of these tables. It stops up the flow of your room as many guests will pause to read signs, makes your tables appear cluttered in photographs, and generally confuses guests who are looking for a particular table. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 sign or instruction display on each table, accompanied by something visually pleasing but not interesting enough to draw much attention (vases, flowers etc.). Don’t neglect your cake table… make sure to have a garland, flower petals, or a pretty piece of fabric that compliments your cake available for dressing the table once the cake has arrived. Your decor here should draw the eye to your cake, not distract from it.
If you are displaying large signage in any area of your venue, be sure it will not stop the flow of traffic without a purpose. A sign that directs traffic is the only one that should be in a doorway or walkway.
Candles, while pretty, will not turn up well in photographs. If you don’t need the light they provide, don’t bother with the fuss of trying to light them and keep them lit. Christmas lights or fairy lights are much more visible in pictures… not to mention more friendly to fire-martial standards!
The Ceremony itself is often the most overlooked when it comes to decorations. If we are looking at the Ceremony specifically as a backdrop for beautiful photographs and a stunning visual for your guests, there should be plenty of good light, and a cohesive color scheme. If your ceremony is in a church or other venue with colored walls and a busy stage, keep the decor simple with neutral colors to maximize the focus on the bride and groom. In a venue with mostly white walls and minimal distractions, or in an outdoor wedding, feel free to add color and pretty details. The isle is always prettier with something sprinkled down the center, even in the absence of an isle runner. Try flower petals, coins, glitter, pine cones, confetti, anything small and uniform that can be distributed up the whole isle.
Once you’ve chosen your decor items, be careful that you have the help to get everything set up in a timely manner. The most organized system I’ve witnessed was plastic containers (totes) with photographs of what the finished set-up should look like and a list of contents taped to the lids. This allowed the set up to go quickly, and nobody was running around asking where something went or what the bride wanted it to look like. If you are a DIYer, don’t forget to enlist people to tear down the decorations after the reception!
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your photographer if you have any questions or concerns about how your decorations will look in photographs!