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Romantic Wedding Style Ideas

When isn't a wedding romantic? We know you're going to have a super sweet celebration, but if you're looking for something that's over-the-top romantic, read on.
Lauren Kay
by Lauren Kay

When isn't a wedding romantic? No matter what the style, every wedding celebrates a love story --literally, spiritually, and aesthetically. We'd never tell you to hold back from injecting bucketfuls of romance into important elements of your wedding day like the setting, the scene, the music, and, of course, whatever you'll be wearing. Standard images certainly come to mind—heart shapes, yards of lace, reams of roses, graceful swans, lute-strumming troubadours -- for obvious reasons. But today, truly romantic weddings lie in the realm of personal taste, experience, and association, and they unfold through a series of sensorial gestures and creative planning. Even so, where does the line between charming and cheesy begin and end? Here's our take on romantic revelry.

The Inspiration

To get romance on your radar, simply let your imagination soar. Look to your senses and figure out what sends you. Is it picture-painting images: light streaming from a stained-glass window; ethereal fabrics floating in the breeze; the Tuscan landscapes in A Room With A View (1996); the window displays of a fanciful Greenwich Village emporium; fireflies emerging at dusk. Maybe your muses are more whimsical and playful. Do you see Cinderella? Sand castles? Pirate ships? Willowy ballerinas? Carousels? Sometimes the essence of romance is almost indescribable. Think of the tactile language of a love poem; the smell of lilacs or autumn leaves; the rustle of taffeta; the taste of honey; or the silvery strains of Puccini.

As you ruminate about your reception, try to concertize your definitions of romance as best you can -- they'll spearhead the basis of your wedding plans. Jot down your ideas so that you can better communicate them to your wedding vendors. That way, if you're having trouble, they'll be able to help you establish a more cohesive look or theme. Remember, romance is about taking risks, indulging passions. If you're a true romantic, you know very little about restraint.

The Sweet Beginning

Many couples equate romance with the simple, classic ecru invitation with black engraved script. Still, don't be afraid to explore other terrain. We love three-dimensional designs and unconventional materials. Rice paper has a delicate, ethereal quality, while parchment paper evokes the past. Handmade papers (made from natural organic materials like cotton or hemp) and industrial papers like corrugated cardboard offer a charming Arts & Crafts look. Vibrant colors can only enhance the invitation's impact, and don't just settle for the usual white organza ribbon closures. Opt instead for more evocative colors and textures such as an apricot organdy sheer or moss green velvet. Subtle stenciled artwork or a single, dainty embossed motif might be embellishment enough. Whimsical wording is a nice touch, too. You even can include a lovey-dovey quote from a favorite poet or philosopher.

Finally, calligraphy, in all its florid, curvaceous glory, is a must. Experts cite "Traditional Copperplate"; "Spencerian"; and "London" as the most romantic hands. There are endless variations, all of them distinctly beautiful. Have your calligrapher show you examples.

The Setting

Certain settings seem exceptional for romantic celebrations. If it's an outdoor affair, you have only to consider the landscape. A park or botanical garden is popular choice. Other ideas include a vineyard; an olive grove; a meadow in the mountains; a craggy beach; or a Tolkien-esque half-moon of trees in the forest. Investigate your options through your local Parks & Recreation department and/or National Forest Office. Many couples love the magic of partying beneath a poetic-looking white tent at sunset. A cocktail hour unfurling on a broad veranda with porch swings and ceiling fans creates a sultry, deep-South ambiance. Meanwhile, the manicured grounds and opulent interiors of a Beaux-Arts mansion offer numerous nooks and crannies -- perfect for moonlit strolls, ballroom dancing, and other sumptuous experiences. Conversely, bucolic bed-and-breakfasts often can accommodate limited guests, which makes for an intimate gathering delightfully steeped in warmth and charm.

The Lighting

Once you've secured your location, have fun transforming the space into a visually stimulating wonderland. An easy way to create a romantic mood is to focus your attentions on lighting. Lovebirds that you are, you're probably quite familiar with the mood-altering powers of candlelight, so use them to your advantage. Candles -- floated in glass fish bowls; in clusters on the tables; arranged on the mantels in varying heights; in massive hurricanes lining the walkway -- can anchor the entire romantic bent of the bash beautifully. There are plenty of other imaginative lighting options to consider. Pastel lanterns hung from a canopy of tree branches or glistening twinkle lights strewn along the room's or tent's perimeter can instantly turn a lackluster setting into a glowing fairyland that conjures the dreamy romance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Backdrop

Use dreamy, diaphanous linens like tulle, voile, organza, and organdy to adorn tabletops or use them to create drapes and dramatic swags, allowing them to fall in airy, light-diffusing cascades. To set the scene, we love the idea of dulcet harp music or strolling violins during cocktail hour. During dinner, consider having a pianist play a gleaming Baby Grand -- the über-lush Chopin, Settee, and Debussy are can't-go-wrong composers. A passionate dance floor could mean Latin jazz, a 12-piece orchestra, or a DJ who knows his Soul and R&B classics. The presence of children, especially when clad in adorable frocks, automatically brings enchantment to the mise en scene. We know a couple who had their child attendants don butterfly wings (find them at crafts or costume stores), and referenced them as "cherubs" in the wedding program.

The Flowers

Roses, in shades of red, white, and lavender, are the obvious choice. There are many other blooms, however, that boast the same romantic properties and evoke the same emotions. Gardenias and peonies are equally as old-fashioned but are arguably more lush and lavish in form. Plus, both have a fabulously heady, nostalgic scent. Water lilies can suggest a lyrical Monet painting or the peaceful quiet of a pond in the English countryside. Hydrangea, camellias, and plumeria are other popular favorites, as are use of evocative wildflowers like cornflowers, honeysuckle, and foxglove. Most flowers bear a symbolic message dating back from the Victorian era, another consideration that might appeal to your sensibility. Among the sweetest sentiments:

Daisy=Innocence
Stephanotis=Happiness in Marriage
Calla Lily=Beauty
Orchid=Love.

Try to decorate in a spontaneous, carefree manner, using flowers in unexpected ways. Display them on the ledges of a birdhouse, or in a wreath around a dog's neck. Tuck them into the bridles and manes of horses, or dangle small baskets of blossoms from tree branches or shepherd's hooks.

The Look

A gorgeously outfitted bride and groom are practically the epitome of romance but there are certain looks you two turtledoves will definitely want to check out. The bride might look to one of several romantic prototypes for inspiration such as a regal European princess, an ethereal, luminescent fairy, or a mythical goddess. Look for voluminous tulle, heavy satin, or vintage-looking fabrics like cibeline and guipure lace. The look-defining design details include (but aren't limited to) long trains, lavishly draped bustles, trumpet sleeves, sparkly beading, and embroidery. For the veil, the longer the better, while your tresses can be windblown and unkempt or swept up into a chignon and crowned with a tiara. A strand of pearls, a crystal beaded choker, or a heart-shaped platinum pendant complete the picture. The romantic bride's debonair counterpart can be alluring in classic black tails or sporting a long, elegant jacket a la the dashing male protagonists in novels of the Pride & Prejudice persuasion. A mod romantic dude will be utterly irresistible in a velvet suit, preferably scarlet or midnight blue. To accessorize his swoon-inducing costume, the groom also might sport an heirloom watch or set of cufflinks, with a boutonniere bearing his granny's favorite flower in his lapel.

The Fare

A romantic meal lies somewhere between the discreetly sensual and the all-out hedonistic. Let both realms dictate the palate of your wedding day feast. Look to regions with reputations for romantic cuisine for inspiration, too: Provence, Morocco, Tuscany, Thailand, India, and Brazil. Play with aroma by serving dishes featuring fragrant exotic spices and herbs like basil, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamom, and cilantro. The essence of lavender or rosewater adds a delicately sensual dimension to a variety of dishes, too. Poached scarlet pears, about-to-burst blackberries, figs, and champagne grapes seem decidedly provocative, too. A romantic presentation might mean garnishing entrees or salads with roses or serving the food atop infused oil in an intricate, swirling pattern (chile has an amber tint, raspberry is a delicious crimson, and basil is bright green). An elaborate spread of voluptuous grilled fresh vegetables awash in different colors and textures, while a mountainous raw bar is equally ideal for tantalizing both the tastebuds and the imagination. Serve the meal "family style" where guests sit at long tables and pass huge platters of food back and forth in the midst of convivial, candlelit conversation. This format is particularly picturesque when dining outdoors, recalling the romantic feel of alfresco feasts in artsy movies. We know a couple who scattered the lawn with quilts, and furnished guests with baskets filled with bread and wine (buffet fare was set up nearby), urging them to dine picnic-style upon the ground. For drinks, we think champagne cocktails are this side of paradise. Try ambrosial concoctions such as Bellinis and Kir Royales or just offer an endless supply of merlot.

The Gesture

Like so many things, it's the inspired, contemplative details and moments that will infuse your celebration with romance. At a scenic spot, and weather permitting, consider inviting guests outdoors to enjoy the champagne toast in a special outdoor niche, maybe on the front lawn or at a nearby beach. Similarly, later in the reception, perhaps before cake-cutting, invite guests outdoors to watch the sunset, maybe while a bagpiper plays "Amazing Grace." Other romantic ideas: Furnish guests with old-fashioned garden fans or Asian parasols to keep them keep them comfortable in hot sun. Dedicate tables to loved ones, both "in honor of" someone living or "in memory" of a relative who has passed away. Lay a rose at every place setting or tuck a spray of baby's breath or lavender into the napkin rings. Another way to make 'em weep: Grab the microphone and serenade your sweetie with a moving melody.

The Gratitude

Your final mission is to share the love. Use your penchant for all things romantic to dream up the most romantic attendant gifts imaginable. Ditto for favors. Both the bridesmaids and groomsmen will thrill to a weekend getaway for two at a romantic bed-and-breakfast. Brides may want to thank the ladies with a year of delivered flowers -- every month, your pal receives a beautiful bouquet. For favors, we love compilation CDs comprised of your favorite love songs, tulip bulbs in ribboned boxes, personally-penned love poems, homemade cookies, origami cranes, and last but not least, anything as decadent as chocolate.

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