Wedding Reception Decorations: Integrating 3 Color Themes

Wedding planning advice, rules and ideas for incorporating a color scheme into your ceremony and reception design and decorations.

There's a lot to think about and many decisions to make when planning your wedding. From the ceremony site to the amount of food at the reception, the perfect first dance song to the best favors, you want everything to be perfect, right down to the color scheme.

It's traditional to have two colors that compliment each other as your wedding's colors, which will then be used in everything from the invitations to the flowers to the decorations on the cake. It's a big decision, and maybe you don't want to choose just two colors. Maybe you like three colors that you think will go together well, but you aren't sure how to integrate three colors into your design scheme.

This is one thing about your big day you don't have to worry about. You can use as many colors as you want and still leave an elegant impression as long as you follow a few simple rules.

Rule No. 1: Choose colors of the same value. That means all dark colors, or all bright colors, or all pastels. Colors from the same value family will look great together, no matter how many colors you choose. If you don't believe me, consider a bowl full of pastel-dyed Easter eggs or a roadside meadow full of bright wild flowers. These mixes of colors are all over the map but they look good together because they are similar shades. Throw a dark magenta egg into the mix and the only thing your eyes will notice is that one off note. It is much better to have the colors blend.

If you want to incorporate this kind of color scheme into your wedding, consider carrying a bouquet of wild flowers. Pick a couple of colors (say yellow and purple, or red and orange) to highlight in your bouquet. Leave the greenery and stems on where possible (green then becomes the third color) and further highlight your color selections by tying the flowers together with ribbons of the same color.

Rule No. 2: Hues rule. Another possibility for choosing different "colors" is to look at the hue or saturation of color in the different colors you choose. Say you're a big fan of blue (a great color for weddings, of course) but you don't know exactly which kind of blue of the millions out there you would prefer. So instead choose a pallet of different values of blue, from barely-there pastel to periwinkle and violet. This is a way to break the rule of having all the colors be in the same value because the eye sees this mixture of blues as more pleasing than it would if you had a light pink with a dark blue, for instance.

To get ideas for using a one-color multiple color scheme, visit your local fabric shop. It will have a selection of fabrics for quilting, all arranged by color and then by the value of that color. This will give you an idea of all the possible color combinations, and you can pick three or so differently valued colors to create your effect. If you do this, you'll want to try to mix all three colors together (rather than, say, having a light blue ring-bearer's cushion and a dark blue flower girl dress. This will look like a mistake rather than sophistication.

Rule No. 3: Mixing Compliments. This is where it gets a little more complicated. If you have access to a color wheel (you can find a ton of pictures on the Internet) it will help. This rule goes hand-in-hand with No. 1 and will help you pick the colors of whatever value you have chosen. Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered compliments, which means they look good together (especially if you stick with the same values). Examples of this are green and red, blue and orange, and purple and yellow. If you're trying to choose a color scheme and have one color you really like, say, green, then it's easy to see that pairing red with green will make a beautiful backdrop for your ceremony (particularly if it's at Christmastime).

But if you want three colors that will look good together, it's easy to get confused. But there's an easy way to pick a third color, and it has to do with rule No. 2. Let's again take green as our example. Look across the color wheel and you see red as the compliment. But on each side of red is what's known as a tertiary color, red violet and red orange. You could use these two colors instead of red to give your wedding a much more sophisticated look. Think fall leaves, a winter fire, or a bouquet of sunflowers and you'll see how well these colors could work for a wedding. Another example is if you like the color blue but don't want bright orange in your wedding (and who could blame you?) Choose flowers and d├ęcor in both yellow orange and red orange for a toned down look. Or start with yellow orange and add blue violet and blue green for a different look.

When using complimentary colors, you will again want to incorporate the colors together as much as possible. This is really easier than it sounds. Two great ways to play with color on your wedding day are the flowers and the cake. Ask your florist to design arrangements that include your key colors, and have the cake decorated with the same color flowers (real or made from icing). Decorate reception tables and chairs with ribbons in your colors, or light small votive candles, one in each of your colors, in a little group on each table.

Incorporating color into your big day doesn't have to be a big hassle. The bottom line is, pick colors you like, using complimentary colors, values or hues, and have fun with coming up with all the places you can use your special colors on your special day (hair pins for the flower girl, bridesmaids dresses, napkins, etc.) Make your wedding a day to remember for you and guests by filling it with color.

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