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how to pick your wedding colors

Wedding Styles: Picking Your Wedding Colors

Wondering how to pick your wedding day colors and make them work? Here's a guide to creating a winning palette.

Photo: Justin & Mary

The hottest thing happening at wedding receptions isn't just on the dance floor -- it's on the wedding cake, the invitations, the centerpieces, and even the bride's gown. It's big, bold color. Years ago brides used color to accent their white wedding day decor, but now they're using color to cover every inch of the wedding. We've developed a step-by-step guide on color coordination (from choosing it to decorating with it) to help you dream up a bright wedding day.

Choosing Your Color

First things first: location. When deciding on a scheme, you must consider the reception space or choose a space without decor or color. If you've chosen a country club with navy and maroon Oriental carpets, a color scheme of lime green and hot pink won't work.

Next, become aware of color combinations that you like, whether browsing art galleries or flipping through a stack of fashion magazines. You might be able to narrow down your color choices to a half a dozen. To help you choose the exact hue for your wedding details, visit a local fabric store or paint shop and collect swatches or chips of colors you might want to use. This will help you get specific, so that when you decide on green you'll know if it's lime green, kelly green, sage green, or forest green. If you have access to a Pantone book, use this collection of colors to select your shade the same way graphic designers do. Many invitation designers mix ink to match the colors in this book, and many cake bakers use Pantone numbers as a reference when creating dye for frosting. Can't decide on just one or two colors? Don't worry. In fact, many extraordinary weddings feature a variety of colors, sometimes up to five, that work together to create a specific sensibility -- like an "English garden" with green, yellow, pink, red, and brown, or "Fall in New England" with orange, red, brown, and gold.

The Knot Note: For specifics on choosing your winning color combo, read more on choosing your wedding colors.

Where & How to Execute Color

Where and how you use color really depends on the mood you are trying to create. The best way to get started is to figure out what emotions you want your celebration to evoke. A peaceful, Zen-like retreat? A regal, romantic affair? A jumping, high-energy party?

For instance, a vibrant summer yellow mixed with chocolate brown (think sunflowers and bees) is perfect for a country-chic wedding style; add gold to the mix, and the combination becomes more reminiscent of Northern Italy. As another example, leaf green paired with cantaloupe is pretty for a waterside wedding; but pair this green with copper, and you have a color scheme that's formal enough for a ballroom or an estate setting. If your wedding takes place in multiple spaces, each room can have its own color scheme.

The Elements of Style

Attire Your gown doesn't have to be solid white, especially since color accents are increasingly more available. A blue or red sash around the waist is striking and still very bridal. The groom and his guys can also sport color in their ties or on their cuff links. But color will be most prominently displayed throughout the day in the bridesmaid dresses. Some fervent folks might want to match the dresses to the invitation ribbons, the favor tags, and the bouquets but this isn't the only way to define a style. Mixing and matching dresses in varying shades -- pink and orange, or pale green and yellow -- can sometimes make a statement stronger than uniformity.

Invitations Your invitations set the stage for the event, so remember that mood you want to evoke? This is your time to show it off. Coordinating the invitation colors with those of the wedding can be as easy as choosing a color font, ribbon, or monogram or as elaborate as layering colorful cards.

Flowers & Decor No matter what color you've chosen, chances are you'll be able to find flowers in that shade -- but that, of course, does not mean the blooms will be available or affordable. If your dream flowers aren't an option, use neutral white flowers with centerpiece containers or other decor elements in your color.

Wedding Cake The cake is one of the easiest places to add color -- all it takes is the right mixing. The color should reflect the other style elements used throughout the wedding. But when it comes to cake, your color options are the most flexible. White icing makes a marvelous background for colorful sugar flowers, sugar-paste stripes or polka dots, or other effects. Fondant can also be created in any number of shades. For instance, a yellow and brown country-chic wedding might have a wedding cake iced in a light brown basket weave and topped with fresh sunflowers.

Favors Ultimately, it's more important to give something meaningful rather than something that matches, but it can be a nice touch to your favors package in your color scheme. Use gift tags and ribbons to incorporate your colors into your favors. If favors will be left at each place setting, consider how they will look with your wedding linens and flowers.

New Ways to Use Color

We should point out that overdoing it with a matchy-match look is entirely possible. (You don't want your guests thinking, Um, yeah, lavender...we get it.) Begin with the five essential wedding elements (attire, invitations, flowers, cake, and favors) and see where you can -- or should -- add more color. Then consider details, such as napkins, candles, signature drinks, your ring pillow, or your guest book, made from the same fabric and in the same color as the bridesmaid dresses.

See More: Wedding Reception Ideas , Wedding Colors , Wedding Style , Real Weddings: Theme Weddings