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How to Plan a Wedding That Reflects Your Personal Style

Wedding planning can become very overwhelming, very quickly. Even for a bride like me, who has had a running wedding Pinterest board since early high school.

The fun part of the planning -- other than the anticipation of actually getting married -- is seeing a vision come to life. Outside of work, how often does that happen? I am sure many of us have a lovely plan for our homes that definitely is not happening on our current budgets. I bet we could also create a wonderfully aesthetic designer wardrobe if given the access and resources. Same goes for extravagant dinner parties we want to host, travels we want to take, etc. etc.


What I'm getting at here is this: we rarely get to dream, plan and execute on something big that we truly love. We build up to the things we want and we wait patiently to see our visions come through but we know it is a long game.


Your wedding is different! Yes, we all have budget constraints that might keep us from making all of our wedding fantasies come true, but what's important is planning the vision for the day and executing it in the decisions we can make within our means.


I'm talking about way more than "wedding colors" here. I actually had to shift my mindset when doing my planning because the idea of "what will my colors be?" was taking over the real question that needed to be asked: What do I want my wedding to feel like?

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Photography by Natalie Schram.

Start with a vision board


I hope my wedding planner and cousin (looking at you, Courtney Goolsby) reads this and rolls her eyes because of how all over the place my "visions" were at first. Although the first step, it is the most difficult. Why? Because we all like a lot of things. We can all find something to like in most wedding inspo pins on Pinterest. We can even have a "wow!" reaction to a traditional church wedding and then again to an informal backyard wedding.


As I consulted my wedding Pinterest board filled with years' worth of inspirational photos, I began to feel very confused. I went into the search with the word "unique" in mind. Helpful... but not that helpful. I liked a lot of unique ideas and looks but the things I liked about each one were not very cohesive.


What was helpful was reframing to think about the feel of the wedding. I wanted it to feel whimsical, bright, dreamy and artistic. Cheesy, I know, but each word was actually really important to the narrowing process. Once I had these words in mind and started to notice some trends in my pinning/magazine saves, the vision board started to come together.


Another consideration: once you find your key words and general look, decide to stick with it. As things began coming together on the board, I started to feel that I was being too boring in my vision. Courtney and I had a come-to-Jesus moment after I sent her a screenshot of an outrageously boho wedding that looked nothing like the other inspiration photos I selected. This was a classic example of panicking and feeling trapped after finally deciding on the art direction for the wedding. Be prepared, because it will happen! It was (and will be for you, too) an understandable reaction but ultimately was not helpful for moving things along and making selections. We all need some people who will be honest with us in the planning process, because decision fatigue is real.

But just in case you were interested... check out this DREAM wedding in Big Sur


Here are some helpful steps when making your vision board:

  • Go through your saved pins, magazine tear-outs and screenshots. Try to find common themes or color schemes. Examples include: organic flowers, bold colors, flowy dresses, rose gold accents, shades of pink, pastels, dramatic styling, cursive fonts... the possibilities are endless!

  • Pick your top ten favorite photos and compile them on a "board." I used Canva to make mine. Try to ensure you have several components of the wedding present on the board. For example, try to include florals, signage, seating/table arrangements, gowns, stationery AND scenery rather than a compilation of florals alone. If you're finding that you don't have all of these components saved... it's back to the drawing board! Search for "wedding table scapes" on Pinterest until you can once again look for common themes amongst your favorite options and add them to the board.

  • Carefully examine your board. Does everything "fit" together aesthetically? You should notice some common threads in your choices. The initial vision board(s) I made for my wedding are below. I noticed these commonalities: organic florals, pastels, shades of pink and blue (emphasis on dusty blue), brass accents, soft textures and beaded/embroidered details.

If so, congratulations! You have completed the most difficult part of making the design-related decisions for your wedding.

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Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog

The vision board is your true north


All hail the vision board. Save it to your phone, tack it to your wall, memorize its every detail! At the risk of being overdramatic... the vision board should be consulted for every wedding decision made. Let's see it in practice:


Photography


I'm not getting into timelines here but only to stress: pick a photographer ASAP. And when selecting the photographer, really study their photography style. Per my words and board, I wanted my wedding to reflect the following: whimsical, bright, dreamy and artistic. There are a lot of fantastic wedding photographers out there who have a moody flair to their photography as a result of their editing process (often due to adding the "grainy" look and playing with the brightness levels). While I can appreciate this for others, it was not the look I wanted for the wedding because it didn't really match the style. Other photographers like a lot of saturation, which can be great but doesn't reflect the "dreamy" look. Also, most wedding publishers prefer clean, bright photos, so keep that in mind if you'd like to pitch your photos for editorial!

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.

The wind certainly helped on this shot, but Natalie Schram Photography perfectly captured the feel of the day because it was in her wheelhouse! I studied her work beforehand to know that she had an editing style I liked, would get unique shots and would think outside-of-the-box when it came to posing us, etc. It looks like this photo could have fit right in with the style of the other shots in the vision board, which is the goal.

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.
Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.

Florals


Few things set the tone like the flowers. When finding a florist, as with any other decision to be made in the planning process: do your research. I knew I wanted an organic look, which actually requires a lot of detailed planning to achieve! I looked at the websites and social channels of several florists who seemed to specialized in very formal, structured looks. It would not have been wise of me to select one of these florists based on their past work. If you're looking for a specific aesthetic to your wedding -- which we should all be doing per our boards -- you need to find someone who has achieved that look before or who can at least do a test run for you.



Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog

God bless you, Florals by Kimberly! She created the most beautiful, organic arrangements for the ceremony. I was blown away and couldn't have been happier with how well they executed on the vision. I had no clue what they would look like but trusted her after showing her the vision board during our conversations leading up to the big day.


Invitation Suite


Because I am a stationery fiend, we prioritized custom stationery and were able to move some money around in the budget to make it happen. Regardless of whether or not this is something you do for your wedding, the principles of aesthetic still apply. Sites like Minted have some amazing, semi-custom options. Or, like I did for a quick stationery add-on to our small ceremony, you can commission work from a freelance graphic designer.


Whichever route you take, make sure to tie the invitation suite into the rest of your aesthetic choices. Using a lot of brass accents at your wedding? Consider gold foil in the invitations. Combining several shades of a certain color in your florals or bridal party attire? Go for an ombre look with your invitation, reply card and envelope. Using a lot of interesting, organic textures on your table scapes? Use a live-edge ribbon to hold the invitation elements together in the envelope. There are countless additional options here, especially if you're going custom.

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog, wedding stationery, wedding details
Photography by August Blume
Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by August Blume.

*I've removed some personal information from the invitation for privacy reasons, so the images above are slightly incomplete and the ring shown is not actually mine (long story!)*


The save the date was flat printed on cotton stock with a tonal wax seal featuring a custom illustration of the mountains surrounding Smith Mountain Lake. The wedding invitation suite was letterpressed on double thick cotton paper with a dusty blue painted edge, coordinating with the inner envelope’s custom blue velvet liner. The letterpressed details card, reply card, and elopement announcement layered colors of nudes and blush, along with the illustrated oval wax seal. The suite was tied together with a dusty pink silk ribbon in a soft knot. There is a painted edge on the invitation that you can't see in the photo, which is also amazing! Sarah of August Blume did such an incredible job with our suite.


She works with brides all over the country, so be sure to check her out. As you can see, we worked off the feel of the wedding -- whimsical, bright, dreamy and artistic -- and the look of the wedding -- shades of pink and blue, textural elements -- to create a cohesive look.


The final product


I could go on and on about how to approach the various design decisions you make for the big day in relation to the vision board, but I am hopeful that the examples above give you a good idea of how the process works.


Below, I took my vision boards and some photos from the actual wedding to show how referencing the board paid off. If I was stuck on a decision, I would sometimes screenshot two options and place them beside the vision board to see if they complemented or completed the look. I even did this with my dress, which I have a post about coming soon.

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog

I was really pleased with how the actual event mirrored the look and feel I dreamed of when we first started planning. We held a very small, COVID-friendly wedding this year and will be moving forward with our "wedding"/one-year anniversary party next year, which will have the same aesthetic as this year's event.

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.
Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.

All of that to say, some of our vision board items didn't get to come to fruition this year (farm tables, the large tent, the tiered cake, vintage seating arrangements around the property, etc.) but I am excited to add them into the mix next year!


And, as you also might notice, some of the grand ideas in the vision board were executed differently and on a smaller scale than the board showed. For example, the flower garland on the brass structure in my vision board was very large and ornate. We didn't have the budget to copy that look exactly, so we did a smaller garland and a gorgeous arrangement on a small table to accompany it. Different execution but same feel and overall look. That's what it means to achieve your vision on your budget -- take the grand idea and figure out how to make it work for you.

Wedding, wedding florals, martha stewart weddings, published wedding, organic flowers, pinterest weedding, smith mountain lake wedding, virginia wedding, covid wedding, small wedding, lakeside wedding, lake in virginia, brass candlesticks, wedding place setting, caroline mccroskey, caroline harding, contemporarie, personal blog, interior design, style blog
Photography by Natalie Schram.

Thanks for reading along! If you or someone you know is in the process of wedding (or event!) planning and is feeling overwhelmed, send them this post! Comment and let me know what you think or what else you'd like to see.


XOXO