How to Have a Low-Key Luxe Wedding

You want your wedding to be elegant but easygoing. The latest trend in weddings is a perfect mix of these two styles.
Luxe, rustic reception venue
Braedon Photography
Lauren Kay the knot wedding expert
Lauren Kay
Lauren Kay the knot wedding expert
Lauren Kay
Executive Editor, The Knot + The Bump
  • Lauren manages, writes and contributes to the strategy of The Knot’s print editorial content.
  • Lauren oversees The Bump’s editorial strategy and execution.
  • Lauren has a degree in magazine journalism and lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

A low-key luxe celebration is equal parts relaxed and exceptional, from the decor details to the cuisine. It's the kind of party your friends will want to attend—fun with unique surprises and personal touches present in all of the elements. Follow these tips to pull off a flawless, totally balanced affair.

Perfect Place

Choosing the right venue is essential. Opt for a space that will allow you to embrace both casual and luxury decor details. A ballroom might be super-fancy, while an industrial building could appear a little too laid-back. An outdoor space is a perfect choice—the natural setting will appeal to your low-key desires and you'll still have the flexibility to add elegant design elements. Historic buildings, vineyards and barns are great options if the seasons aren't on your side. These specialty venues are in high demand (and, in most cases, low supply), so book early to get the best date.

Color Cues

Once you've settled on a place, pick a palette that coordinates with the location and season. Pastels and neutrals, like blush, champagne and sage, will give your celebration a sophisticated feel. Use nature as a guide, especially if you're hosting guests outside—fresh greens and even light browns can keep things from feeling too formal. To give your palette some personality, choose one pop of color, like candy-apple red, sunny yellow or robin's-egg blue, to break up the softer hues. If you want to highlight the glam factor, add a metallic to the mix. Gold and silver are expected, but a rich copper feels fresh and is a nice blend of the two styles.

Enticing Invites

Copper Willow Paper Studio wedding stationery

Round out your wedding style with a motif. Perhaps it's a modern monogram or a drawing of the historic property where you'll say "I do." Your stationery is a great place to introduce this design. Then you can carry it out in other details throughout the day. Sending a save-the-date? Opt for witty or casual language to clue guests in on the fun they'll have celebrating with you. Your invitation may be more traditional, but this first piece of correspondence should show off your personalities. Relaxed calligraphy, illustrations and touches of foil are all great options. Or add some color to the suite in the envelope or another unexpected place. An envelope liner and coordinating stamps are luxe touches guests will love.

Wedding Wear

Hanging green garland decor

Brides, skip the ball gown and go with a fuss-free yet elegant dress. A sheath or one with sleeves will wow while looking totally effortless. Add an element of opulence in your accessories, like sparkly shoes or stunning drop earrings. Choose bridesmaid dresses in varying shades of your colors or go glam with a metallic or sequined gown. Grooms have two choices: classic tuxedo or a more understated suit. Either works—just make sure your ensembles complement one another and that you both feel comfortable. Groomsmen should follow his lead with slight variations, like in the bow tie for example. If you want your guests to be outfitted in their best, request it on the invitation ("black tie welcome" or "cocktail attire will impress").

Dazzling Decor

Flowers are the easiest decor element to balance. Rather than letting one color or bloom dictate your arrangements, choose in-season stems. Opt for big-headed, lush flowers like Juliet garden roses, ranunculus and dahlias in various shades. Then mix in non-floral accents like seeded eucalyptus, berries or ferns. Texture is the key here. If you're getting married outside, choose flowers that not only look the part but can stand up to the heat. Hand-tied bouquets with cascading leaves strike the right balance between grand and easygoing. Opt for low, slightly undone centerpieces in gilded urns or mercury vases for a touch of opulence. If your budget allows, upgrade standard furniture rentals in favor of mismatched chairs and farm tables. Add sparkly or luxe linen runners to tabletops and go for specialty flatware and glassware (with gilded edges). The table finery will make a big statement!

Good Ambience

Antique furniture lounging area in reception venue

Lighting may be one of the least exciting style choices you have to make but arguably one of the most important. And if you're planning an outdoor wedding, good lighting is crucial—you'll want your guests to be able to see once the sun sets. Market lights, oversize lanterns and candles are great alternatives to spotlights. They'll provide a nice ambience and ample light. Be sure all walkways are well lit to avoid any accidents. An indoor celebration can greatly benefit by the right illumination too. Oversize chandeliers and candelabras can double as striking decor.

Delicious Eats

Spirited sips and scrumptious cuisine are key party elements. Your choices can hit both styles, like comfort food presented in an elegant way (think: mini hot dogs with artisan mustard passed by white-gloved waiters). Let locally sourced, seasonal ingredients inspire your menu. Clever cocktail pairings, interactive food stations and passed treats (roving oyster shucker anyone?) will delight your guests. Instead of a signature cocktail, opt for artisanal spirits and a professional mixologist. The cocktails will be delicious and the resident bartender will entertain guests while they await dinner. When the dance party is in full swing, pass surprises like mini cheeseburgers and shakes or cotton candy, which can look luxe when served in gold cones on acrylic trays.

Tasty Treats

Two-tired white buttercream wedding cake

You'll have to decide if you want your cake to feel extravagant or more laid-back—it's hard to design something that hits both notes. If you want to glam it up, opt for a tall, multi-tier confection with a metallic dusting or a cascade of gorgeous sugar blooms. Keeping the look more low-key? Consider a naked cake with a beautiful, fresh floral topper. Either way, delight guests with unexpected flavor choices that reflect your personal tastes (don't forget—it is your wedding cake!). If you two want to offer a mix of desserts, commit to one element for your cake and offer up another treat that's more representative of your style, like cake balls, colorful macarons or pots de creme from mini jam jars.

Party Time

Let your carefree nature shine through in your entertainment choices too. Hire a nontraditional band, like bluegrass, funk or swing, to croon during cocktails and dinner. Then switch to a DJ for the main dance party. Instead of setting up a photo booth, surprise guests with a caricature artist. Source some inexpensive frames and let the jovial sketches double as party favors. Or really go outside the box. If you share an alma mater, consider a surprise performance by the marching band!

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