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  • Writer's pictureJp Vigliotti

To Theme or Not To Theme, That is the Question

The tightrope one has to tread between elevated inspiration and an obvious on-the-nose theme party can be razor thin and unforgiving. But once you have some information on execution, we promise it’s not as scary as our intro (or using the word execution for that matter). Let’s get to it, Ampli-family!

When we begin to do Full Planning with a couple, we’re able to begin working their design influences uniquely into all of the event facets. Since a wedding is generally composed of 5 Key Wedding Elements, we begin to think about each of those elements in how it relates to your inspiration point in transcending guests with you in your vision. And incrementally, you have a fantastic, cohesive event with a clear focal point.

The 5 Key Wedding Elements*

  • Invites/Stationary

  • Cake/dessert

  • Cocktail Hour/Signature Drink

  • Tablescapes

  • Reception space/venue

*With destination/3 day events, welcome party and farewell event are two extra opportunities to express your event inspiration!

Those are 5 chances to connect your inspiration and think outside of the box. Let’s take our carnival themed couple, they opted out of cake entirely and instead gave out treats you’d find at any great fair, including a blue-ribbon pie bar sourced from local farmers.

Industry insiders explain that a heavily themed reception can feel like a children’s party. Since those parties are for the younger clientele, not as much thought is put into making it experiential for the guests beyond delicious snacks and bounce houses. And–can we be honest here–we love a children’s party BECAUSE it’s allowed to be kitsch and campy! However, most people want a more polished wedding day. That elevation happens in wedding design that’s inspired versus themed.


Inspired Vs. Themed

As if I were Sophia Petrillo, picture it: You’re in the most precious antique store you’ve come across recently, you see this beautiful, ornate accent mirror. You want the aged lux of this one item to be your point of inspiration for your event. You want to find out what era the mirror is from and examine the sounds, sites, tastes and smells of that time period. That’s inspiration!

Using a simple enough example of theme birthday parties vs. an inspired one. If someone wanted a Mickey Mouse themed birthday party, the easiest thing for a planner to do is to simply get linens, napkins and stationery peppered with the beloved mouse's likeness printed all over. You’d sprinkle in some balloons and boom: a party.

However, when someone asks for a Mickey Mouse inspired birthday party. We may, say, pull the color palette from his original introduction “Steamboat Willie” and use red, black, grays and whites. Maybe the music of the event follows the swing-jazz that preceded the original cartoons. Or Maybe, we flip the theme and throw the whole expected color palette out of the window and focus on something else as ubiquitous and easily recognizable as the Mickey ear’s shape.

Instead of this:

Pictured above, a perfectly good party pack--a little too easy for us (Photo credit: Amazon)

Think this:

A more common Disney theme we see often in weddings and showers alike, is one that lends to the Alice in Wonderland & Mad Hatter motif. Instead of getting carried away in the characters of the story, the play is to concentrate on the lopsided shapes, optical illusions and greenery. There’s magic that happens when linens, florals and rentals come together in a whimsical dream of an event.

Instead of this:

An unfortunate Mad Hatter of fact. (Amazon)

Think this:

To properly pull off a perfectly inspired party, it has to be completely experiential, meaning each of the 5 senses (Smell, touch, taste, look and sound) are engaged. The difference is in the experience. When you choose to have an inspired event, we’re taking that inspo., plugging in your story and elevating it to where the party transports your guests, turning an otherwise regular party (one of many in a year) into a transcendent moment.

Simply putting black and gold together then tucking a champagne tower in an venue is a cute nod to the Gatsby-era but thinking of the cuisine, music, food presentation and how events were generally carried out back then are all great starting points to really plan a party with intent. If you’re doing a real roaring 20s party, think about what walking into a cocktail hour in that era would be. Would you hear Django Reinhardt plucking his guitar or Ariana Grande advising everyone that she’d have one less problem “without you?” (Don’t worry, you can still have your Ariana moment at the reception once everyone gets the point).

Instead of this:

A garish Gatsby Banner; just a bit too spot on. (Ali Express)

Think this:



Talk to your planner! There is so much fabulous wedding-inspiration out there and if you take enough online quizzes you’ll come out of that rabbit hole unsure if you’re a boho couple with a glam edge or ultra modern minimalist or something completely bespoke of your own. You can love a vision on Pinterest but themes are best when you’re connected to it. In wedding design, the story behind the inspiration can open up doors for you and your planners. As creatives we can find inspiration and beauty in anything and our couples having a connection to a color, location or thing guides us to want to build a world around that connection. So while you may love the way a barnyard bistro light wedding looks, ideas that may wind up moving you the most may not yet be on your radar.


Be Purposeful with Space

If you’re set on a very specific vision for your wedding, shop for wedding venues with purpose. Realistically, sometimes the vision for your event and what you choose as a venue space may not always be congruous. You may have wanted a beach wedding but you booked a catering hall with no shoreline in sight. Instead of trying to convert a room into Poseidon's Lair, examine what in the space lends to any specific moment that appeals to you. Become familiar with what you can and can’t do in a space before you marry a theme idea (pun intended, we’re sorry!)


Sweat the Small Stuff

No, no, not to a nightmare-ish level. We’re talking to you, type-A family! We just mean that there are so many areas to help set the tone of your reception. Stationary is the smallest vendor item with maybe the biggest impact. Your invite suite (including save-the-dates), website and such are most of your guests' introduction to the look and feel of your wedding reception so, don’t take for granted the power of paper. Want to take guests back in time? If you’re the DIY type, have your team help you antique stain the paper. Or maybe you simply want to add in small mementos that share the important milestones in your relationships. Met on Tinder? Try featuring personalized “You’re a Match” matchboxes in bathrooms and exit tables. The options are really endless!


Don’t be Afraid of Personal Touches

They say there’s nothing new under the sun and that’s almost true. One thing that will always be unique to us is your love story and also who you are individually and as a couple. Incorporating that into your wedding inspiration helps to really envelope guests in an immersive experience. When Jp and Tim got married, their connection to New Orleans was explained in a website and coinciding stationary and their hashtag of #Ikea2Ido became a part of all of our vocabulary as we were let in on the in-joke that was their first date turned wedding hashtag!


Edit Edit Edit!

If you love baubles like I do,It’s said that before you’re leaving the house you should take off one accessory. Similar can be said for the editing of wedding inspiration. The elegance happens in the pull-back and refinement. It’s important to break from inspiration to let your vision breathe.

It’s thought that a theme should whisper, not shout. But it’s your party! While working in tandem with your event designer, you can come to the perfect temperature for how saturated or simply you’d like your inspiration to be.


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