Rethink the Theme: Motifs You Should Not Use for Your Nuptials

A list of popular wedding "themes" you should probably skip for your big day.

Rethink the Theme: Motifs You Should Not Use for Your Nuptials

Photo: Alucinarte Films

Having a clear vision of your ideal wedding concept is an important factor in the planning process. While you may not start out with a cut-and-dry motif, as time goes on, one may present itself to you. By the time you begin making choices on details, you should understand how everything coordinates and blends together. This is where many anxious brides and grooms decide that their wedding has a theme. Generally speaking, the “theme” of a wedding is, well, wedding. Frankly, themes are designated for birthdays and costume parties. A concept for your event, however, will determine the design elements, the wedding party ensembles, and the overall atmosphere. 

Still, some couples pick out a “theme” under the impression that something is romantic, exotic, or 100% unique. While certain elements of these overarching “themes” might work separately or out of context, as a whole, these ideas can be misrepresentative. To help explain, we’ve listed five “theme” categories and expanded upon why each should be passed up for your wedding.

-  Stories that misrepresent love. It’s terribly popular for modern pairs to want to create their nuptials around a familiar story – a book, a play, or a movie. For example, the acclaim surrounding The Great Gatsby has prompted many an engaged individual to call their wedding “Gatsby-themed.” This book/movie, along with other classics such as Romeo + Juliet and Gone with the Wind, might have excellent plots, interesting characters, and stunning concept art, but these are not true love stories. Spoiler alert: each one ends badly. What’s more, reading further into each story, the underlying themes have nothing to do with love or commitment. Daisy only represents the idea of a perfect life to Gatsby, not his time-tested affection – and what’s more, when all is said and done, she doesn’t truly seem to mourn him. The Great Gatsby was written about the disillusionment of the Jazz Age: not a concept you want to base the beginning of your marriage off of. So what’s a Gatsby fan to do? Have an Art Deco or 1920s-inspired big day: take the design elements of the time and place of that tragic story that you love so much and focus your motif on them. There’s no need for the word “Gatsby” when you have “vintage!”

-  Cultural appropriation. Some brides and grooms feel that their own country or culture doesn’t have any interesting traditions, or they believe the average wedding to be repetitive and dull. While those inklings can spark a stroke of creative genius in some, they can start others down an insensitive path. To be culturally appropriate is to use elements of a background – cultural, racial, or otherwise – without consent. In terms of your wedding, this most often means incorporating practices, traditions, décor, and dress from a culture to which you do not belong, and unfortunately, it happens more often than you think. This is a multi-faceted concept, and we encourage you to do your research and educate yourself on the subject. If you admire a certain aspect of another culture and want to include it in your wedding, be prepared to evaluate its deeper meaning and how you would be representing it.

-  One-sided taste. There is a rumor that’s been floating around for decades: that a wedding is the “bride’s day.” This assumption has gained a lot of popularity, and in doing so, it’s damaged the concept of weddings and marriage. This idea is the root of many problems that tend to arise with the planning process. Based on this assumption, the groom’s biggest part in all related activity is to propose – after that, society has dictated that he more or less checks out until the day itself, wearing a tuxedo and standing where he needs to be. Many people have grown up with this format, and thus, it is very easy to fall into: men fill the role of the disinterested fiancé while women pride themselves on knowing their color scheme since they were five. Unfortunately, this can result in a fairly one-sided wedding day: one partner doesn’t care enough to add in their opinions, so all of the elements of the day end up strictly representing the other person’s (often, the bride’s) taste. Contrary to popular belief, “she planned everything and he just showed up as needed” does not a healthy “theme” make. Though it’s entirely probable that one partner may have stronger opinions on things, collaboration is key in any marriage – you may as well start with your nuptials. 

-  Specifically dictated guest attire. Though your wedding will likely involve some level of formality, it isn’t your right as the bride or groom to select your friends and family members’ outfits for them. It is in this territory wherein a “theme” can turn your “I dos” into a glorified costume party. For example, if you’ve decided that blue is your favorite color, and therefore ascends to the title of “wedding theme,” you cannot require your guests to wear all blue. You can make every wedding invitation, every décor element, and every inch of your gown in the same blue hue, but your control stops at your loved ones. You can make suggestions (“There will be grass in the ceremony space, so ladies may want to wear flat shoes.”) but never demands (“Our theme is ‘love under the sea,’ please come wearing strictly nautical clothing.”) No one will appreciate being used as a simple prop.

-  Something that “transcends trends.” It’s time to face facts: your ceremony will take place in a time period, whether it’s this year, next year, or 20 years from now. There will always be wedding trends going “in” and “out,” fashion and style will change time and time again, and new technology will develop while others fall into disrepair. For those couples challenging themselves to create a truly “timeless” event, we’re here to tell you that it’s impossible. We understand the notion: you want to be able to look back on your big day without a twinge of regret for the colors you chose, the outfit you wore, the food you served, or the flowers you carried. Unfortunately, one day your gown will be out of style, no matter what it looks like. We recommend taking away the effort you’re putting into rising above popular culture and focus on incorporating the trend you like – the memories of your happiness and excitement will always win out in the end.

Read expert tips on incorporating vintage elements into your big day and get inspired from our gorgeous real weddings.

Opening photo by Renee Sprink Photography