Find a Theme
Want to make your wedding memorable? Find a common chord to play through all the elements. Ideas: choose a motif, like butterflies; pick a palette, such as turquoise and coral; or mimic a mood, like a chic, retro cocktail party. Sticking with a theme will help keep you focused and make your style decisions (somewhat) easier.
Think the Unexpected
For example, guests expect leaves and pinecones at a fall affair, so surprise them with ferns and green apples -- you can go sophisticated (real ones dusted with shimmering gold sparkles and placed in copper-color bowls as decor) or sweet, literally (caramel-dipped Granny Smith's wrapped in cellophane as wedding favors).
Pick a Palette
Flip through home decor and fashion magazines for color combinations that catch your eye. To help you choose the exact hue for your wedding details, carry around paint chips in your wedding colors to make sure everything you choose works in your palette.
Get Inspired by Nature
Can't decide on just one or two colors for your wedding? Don't worry. In fact, many extraordinary weddings weave a variety of colors, sometimes up to five, that work together as a whole to create a specific sensibility. For example, you might pick bright green, summery yellow, pale pink, rich red, and caramel brown for an English garden look; or leap into autumn in New England with pale green, ruby red, burgundy, and gold.
When it comes to working with your invitation designer and cake baker, pay as much detail to color as you do to design. 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 the frosting.
Personalize Your Flowers
The Victorians had a strong belief in special meanings of flowers, and they chose their floral arrangements accordingly. Daisies represent innocence, while Stephanotis ensures happiness in marriage. Orchids symbolize true love, mums guarantee wealth and abundance, and mixing freesia and gardenias alludes to your innocence and purity. To be sure you pick meaningful flowers for your wedding, learn about their symbolic meanings
Give Extra Meaning
Keeping the guest list small means that you'll have more money for extra details -- providing limousine services, loading up the gift baskets, and six-course feasts for your guests. Think boxes of chocolates instead of a single truffle, the best champagne rather than sparkling wines, and luxurious arrangements of roses and rare orchids as far as the eye can see.
Don't forget that your space should influence your design decisions. For example, beaches and lakes are breezy, so keep decorations simple and well secured. Also, consider providing a small throw blanket on each person's chair as your wedding favor since it's always a bit cooler at the shore.
Size It Up
Consider setting up different sizes and shapes of tables (circular, square, rectangular) and use different textures or designs for the fabrics (pin-stripe fabrics on round tables and tiny polka-dot covers on square ones).
Customize With Customs
Even if you're planning a fairly traditional American-style ceremony and reception, you can still incorporate ethnic customs. In France, for example, the bride and groom drink from an engraved two-handled cup at the reception; to represent joy and celebration, the Chinese decorate with the color red; and in Indian tradition, guests sprinkle flower petals over the heads of the bride and groom after they've taken their vows. Just research the origin of the customs so you know you're not offending anyone.
Top it Off
If you're marrying in a holiday season, give a little extra cheer. Saying 'I do' on New Years' Eve? Make sure the countdown to midnight is merry. The waiters should start pouring champagne a good 15 minutes early to make sure everyone is able to hold a glass aloft during the final seconds of the countdown.
Go For Glam
Going all-out-glam? Don't overdo it! Glamour is best displayed in subtle, unexpected moments: Violinists greeting guests at the sidewalk and escorting them to the event makes for an impressive (not over-the-top) entrance.
Be sure to have the 411 on your wedding site before you start making big plans. Having an outdoor wedding by the water? Be sure to check the tide schedule! Tides coming in are noisier than tides going out, plus you risk the chance of water creeping up on you as you wed. For a tide chart, visit www.tidesonline.com.
Find Your Focus
Keep bride envy in check. Every time you hear another fabulous idea, don't feel as though you need to find a place for it in your wedding.
Just Say No!
Make a pledge that for the last three weeks before the wedding you will not take on new initiatives. Yes, that includes those DIY flip-flops!