what is the difference between color scheme and theme {wedding planning}

I used to work at a store called Paper Source & absolutely loved my time there. I loved helping new moms design their baby's first birthday invitation. I loved helping dads pick out Christmas gifts for their daughter based off a Pinterest board he printed out. I loved helping parents find teacher appreciation gifts.

But most of all, I loved helping excited (& sometimes very stressed out) brides design her wedding day invitation & other printed goodies.


Some girls were a week from W-Day & were finishing programs, while some girls had gotten engaged the previous weekend & were embarking on their journey.

My first question to those new brides was What is your theme?

Blue & green or Shades of neutrals was what most of them answered.

Now, let's pause on that train of thought, so I can tell you a little bit about myself.

About 5 months after I started working at Paper Source, I myself became engaged. Up until the day I began to start nailing down what exactly my wedding decor was going to look like, answers like blue & green didn't phase me. I'd just steer the bride towards the wall of blue & green papers & envelopes.

However, the further I got into designing my own wedding, the more I realized that JUST a color scheme wasn't going to cut it. I needed a THEME, which is very different than color scheme.

A COLOR SCHEME is just that–a bunch of color swatches. Think paint chips from Home Depot. If you input "blue & green wedding" into Pinterest, you get all sorts of things that may not help you, only stress you out more.

A THEME can be thought of as a list of adjectives (bright, intimate, muted, rustic, elegant, soft, eccentric). It can also include a location (garden, barn) or a type of event (other than "wedding," like "circus".) 

** I do want to stress here that I am not talking about an over-the-top theme, like Harry Potter or Disney where all of your bridesmaids are a different princess. I'm referring to a word or phrase that subtly influences your choices. **

An 'eccentric circus wedding' is going to be vastly different from an 'intimate garden wedding'!

So, let's take those two examples. For an intimate garden wedding, I imagine soft & muted pastels, white & pink roses, delicate tea cups, & croquet. 

When I hear eccentric circus wedding, I imagine bright colors, funky typography, & popcorn. A florist could go crazy with different & unique flowers.

You see where I'm going?

If I haven't lost you yet, great! Let's take the circus idea one step further. What kind of circus is it? Ringling Brothers? Or Cirque du Soleil? It's ok to be specific!

Now, back to my wedding planning days.

A few weeks into our engagement, my fiancé & I decided on an Art Deco inspired wedding, with lots of sparkly gold & bold stripes while keeping things romantic at the same time. Art Deco was an art & architecture movement in the 1920s that featured geometric patterns & starbursts. (It just so happened that the The Great Gatsby movie starring darling Leo came out that same year.)

A peek into my Pinterest wedding board!

A peek into my Pinterest wedding board!

Once we settled on that, picking between two or more options for table runners, invitation styles, & cakes became simpler than when we were going on just colors alone. For example, for our table runners, we skipped on the florals & went with the geometric patterned ones instead. 

What my wedding ended up looking like!  Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

What my wedding ended up looking like! Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

After my epiphany, I would prompt brides entering Paper Source to describe their dream W-Day in more detail if they responded with just colors. This helped me help them narrow down their options.

Once I found out they were planning a garden wedding, I would pull out the skinny & delicate ribbons instead of the bold & thick ribbons. 

Pinterest is a great tool if you're stuck or if you have too many ideas. Create Pinterest boards or physical mood boards to help you picture everything together. The key is to stay organized. If you find yourself going in a different direction than when you first started & a few pins no longer work, delete them.

Once you have your boards made, take these with you to every vendor appointment that may benefit, like your florist & cake bakery. They'll thank you!