When me and Darren got married last year, our theme was Retro Movie with a Typography Twist. The obvious venue: a quirky 1930s-style cinema where we could say our vows in front of the red velvet curtains, then have the reception among the pull-down seats with popcorn and ice-cream served in the aisles and our love story playing on loop on the big screen. Not too much to ask, then…
We’re lucky enough to live right down the road from an Art Deco cinema that fits the bill, but weddings, it turns out: not their thing. Get hitched any further afield and we’d start leaving friends and family behind—Darren’s lovely elderly nan for one, not to mention rellies who couldn’t afford the trip. Then we walked into the hidden ballroom at the back of our local, The Broadway Hotel, and it was settled: we’d found The Place. We just had to make it fit The Theme.
Whatever kind of wedding you’re going for, if the venue doesn’t instantly match, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own—just look at Carrie in Sophie’s book, Room for Love (sorry, can you tell I’ve got the relaunch this month on the brain?!). Still not convinced? Here’s how to make it happen, simply and affordably, with four super-popular, super-pretty themes…
You’d be surprised how simple it is to make this theme work, as long as you’ve got four walls: think film posters for table numbers—preferably illustrated, old-school style—a hired popcorn machine, a pick ’n’ mix-inspired sweetie table and flowers in glass Coke bottles.
Ramp up the nostalgia-factor with a gumball machine on your sweetie table, and make mix CDs with labels styled to look like records as favours. Make your own table trivia with quotes from your favourite movies, and peg colourful cinema tickets to strips of lightweight cardboard for place names. Set up a Polaroid/digital camera with movie-style props (wigs, feather boas, moustaches) for a fun and quirky photo booth that costs much less than hiring. You can even get pop-up card display stands if you want to go the whole hog and serve hotdogs as your wedding breakfast.
Ooh la la, don’t mind if I do! This romantic theme is all about elegance with just a touch of insouciance. First of all, forget table scatter—substitute black-and-white postcards of Paris (read: Pareee), at about three to five per table. Put up pictures or posters of the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge and Champs Elysées, and if you’re going for menus make sure they’re all inscribed in French (with translation).
Dusky pink with gold touches is the perfect colour scheme here, especially accented with a black-and-white monogram on stationery and napkin ties. Opt for stacks of elegant patisserie for dessert, and fill glass jars with pretty sweets in your chosen colours—strawberry bonbons and golden Werther’s Originals work well. To top it all off, think pink tablecloths with matte gold runners, individually cellophane-wrapped macaron favours, a male or female head-to-neck silhouette on each place name, and my personal favourite cheap-but-chic touch: a rim of edible gold glitter to lift every glass.
There are all sorts of ways to do vintage—country fete with reams of bunting, Prohibition-era with flappers, feathers and pearls—but my personal favourite is a kind of cunning combination: the traditional tea party, all bubbly served in charity-shop china and a certain literary influence.
For the straight-up vintage afternoon tea, you’ll want lashings of lace with your jam and cream, boxed cupcakes as favours, a birdcage to collect all your cards in and a sweetie table stocked with jars of traditional penny sweets, ye olde English biscuits and maybe even a cheeky pink wafer or ten. Make a classic cameo your big-day motif and break out the worn-looking, elaborate picture frames: display your table numbers in small ones and overlap larger ones on the walls for an eccentric country-manor-away-from-home feel.
The perfect books to tie into your day: Pride and Prejudice or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Write quotes from Jane Austen and perch on rims using glass cards, or use old editions of the book in table centres, tied with ribbon in your colour scheme. If you opt for Lewis Carroll’s bonkers masterpiece, think key-shaped charms as table scatter, sugar mice on the sweetie table, watches on your stationery and the White Rabbit and Alice as your place card silhouettes.
Minimalist and Modern
White on white is the way to go for a modern, minimalist wedding: think spherical white or clear balloons as table centres—set high enough so your guests are talking around the ribbon, not the rounds—or twist one or two statement stems inside a fishbowl for affordable centres with wow-factor.
Fairy lights draping a feature wall and tea lights in glasses add warmth to the look, as does ditching the chair covers and exposing simple, varnished wood. There’s no need for a little couple on your cake—a tiered, square confection with royal icing will do—but if you want, add some romance with a typographic topper or an angular interpretation of something sweet, like Confetti’s bird salt and pepper pots.
For a flourish of glamour, consider metallic touches like those glitter-rims for your glasses, mirrors on the walls and even a light-up or shiny cut-out sign—think Mr & Mrs, your initials or that timeless classic: ‘Love’.
So far I’m the author of one book: The High-Street Bride’s Guide. I’ve written about dresses, bridesmaids and cake toppers for Brides and You & Your Wedding, and regularly contribute to the likes of GLAMOUR and Love Baking – often while eating cake in my pyjamas. I live with my husband in a chaotically untidy flat in Letchworth, which I pretend is an artfully unkempt writer’s loft in St. Albans.
About the Book
You can say your vows in a catwalk gown so beautiful it reduces your mum to tears (and not because she paid for it).
You can style a reception so stunning your guests won’t believe you didn’t hire an A-list planner.
And you can sprinkle the day with personal touches that make everyone feel like you gave them special attention before they even got there. Without spending a house deposit on it. Honest.
Samantha Birch has written for GLAMOUR, Brides, You & Your Wedding and Cosmopolitan Bride. She knows a thing or two about planning a wedding on a budget, how much you can expect to pay for everything and where to go to get it for less. And she’s put it all down here.