13 Common Wedding Color Mistakes to Avoid (And What to Do Instead)

Follow these tips to steer clear of a color clash.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
by
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Jan 31, 2024

When you start planning your wedding, there's a lot of talk about choosing a color palette before you finalize your decor and flower arrangements. Colors can make all the difference, but to find the best ones for your wedding style, you'll want to avoid some common wedding color mistakes and snafus that could actually work against you. There are a few tricks when it comes to coordinating a beautiful, cohesive wedding color palette, and we've got the insider knowledge to help you master them. Here are 13 prewedding mistakes to avoid when choosing your colors—and our expert advice on what to do instead.

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1. Using Too Many Colors

We love a wedding that's full of eye-catching colors and details, but the honest truth is that there is such a thing as too much. Your wedding color palette doesn't need to be boring by any means, but it should be curated and pared down to avoid visual overload.

Wedding Editor's Tips: How many wedding colors should you have? With a few exceptions (see our next fix!), you should pick three to four colors that go well together. Using the same colors throughout your wedding decor will help create a cohesive flow, so every detail looks like it belongs. Narrowing your palette to a few colors will also keep elements like your centerpieces from looking too messy. You can play around with lighter and darker versions of the same color, too—this will add depth without looking chaotic.

2. Limiting Yourself to Only Two Distinct Colors

We're so over the strict two-color "rule." Many gorgeous weddings have a variety of colors—sometimes up to four or five—that effortlessly work together. A two-tone wedding color palette will leave you feeling boxed in, like you have to match everything to one color or the other, which is something you generally want to avoid.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Use accent colors to your advantage when you're building out the color scheme. You can offset one or two focal colors with a handful of neutrals, like cream, black, brown or gray. Another way to avoid the two-tone look is to use multiple shades of the same color for a tonal, ombré effect. One example: try a summery color palette inspired by the many shades of hydrangeas, including dark and light blues, with pops of white and green.

3. Choosing Trendy Colors Just to Be Trendy

It's easy to get excited about what you see in other weddings, but just because you love an idea on paper doesn't mean it's the right choice for your wedding. Your color palette should be one that genuinely resonates with you, since you'll be looking at photos and videos of the day for decades to come—long after the trends have gone.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Trending wedding colors can be a great starting point for your inspiration, but if you're not personally a fan of something, don't force it. Instead, think about the colors and patterns you surround yourself with daily. Ask yourself: What colors make you happy? What color is your favorite vase or sweater? The simplest meaningful objects, like a scarf or even a pillow, inspired some of the prettiest weddings we've seen. After you've answered these questions, you can revisit any trends that first caught your eye to decide if something actually works for you.

4. Not Choosing Colors That Balance Each Other

One of the biggest wedding color mistakes is forgetting to add some "breathing room" to your color palette. You don't want to overwhelm the eyes by using multiple dominant colors without incorporating some secondary colors to tone them down.

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Wedding Editor's Tips: A good rule of thumb you can follow is for every statement color, add a neutral tone or softer accent color to complement the first one. So for example, if bright fuchsia is one of your dominant wedding colors, you can pair it with a pale blush or mauve tone to take the edge off. Or, if you have two dominant colors, like orange and red, you can balance the palette with neutrals, like ivory and metallic gold. You want your colors to be complementary to your decor, but not distracting. Using secondary colors to create balance and contrast will let your main colors shine instead of clash.

5. Choosing Colors Associated with Something Else

What comes to mind with red, white and blue—or red and green? Certain color combos come with obvious connotations, which you might not want for your wedding day. Unless you're having a holiday-themed wedding or intentionally want your color palette to reflect something else, do a double-take before your final decision.

Wedding Editor's Tips: To switch up a predictable palette, the trick is to change at least one of the colors to downplay the resemblance. In December, you might use emerald green and blush instead of red if you're worried about your wedding looking too Christmassy. You can add another color to downplay the obvious combo, too. Red, white and blue—plus bright yellow—feels like a retro-inspired palette for an outdoor summer wedding instead of a Fourth of July cookout.

6. Not Incorporating Textural Details

Don't underestimate the power of using unexpected textures and materials to build out your color palette. When you're choosing wedding decor, look for items that not only match your color scheme, but also add interesting texture and dimension to the overall wedding aesthetic. Need some examples? Think about the warm peachy-orange color of terracotta pots (they make great centerpiece vessels for a rustic wedding) or the iridescent, silvery tones of satin tablecloths for a formal setting.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Once you know the general direction of your wedding colors, think about how you can bring them to life by layering textures, patterns and prints. Make an impact with printed tablecloths or napkins that incorporate one of your key wedding colors. Or create visual balance throughout the room by adding repeating elements (like matching wooden chairs) to ground the space. Texture especially comes into play when you want to pair items together that are similar in color. You'd be amazed what texture can add to a simple color scheme—turn a monochromatic white palette into a modern masterpiece by layering white tablecloths with limewashed stone vases and white flowers. Even though all of the items are similar in color, the combination of multiple textures creates visual interest.

7. Ignoring Your Venue Colors

It helps to have a color scheme in mind as you're touring potential wedding venues, but try to stay open minded, too. Details like wall coverings, artwork and carpeting could potentially clash with your chosen wedding colors, so it's up to you to decide what's more important—the venue or the color palette.

Wedding Editor's Tips: The other way to approach this is to keep your color options open until you find a venue you love. In a country club with navy and maroon carpets, a color scheme of lime green and hot pink will clash, and there's really no way around it. (Try to pull it off anyway and you'll end up spending twice what you normally would in decor to cover it up.) That's not to say you have to choose a venue where your colors perfectly match the floors, but you should factor in the venue's existing decor for the most seamless look.

8. Neglecting Your Stationery and Paper Elements

Your wedding stationery sets the stage for the whole event, so use it to introduce your wedding colors from the start. The colors can also convey the theme and formality of the wedding without you having to explicitly say so. Black and white invites with calligraphed envelopes indicate a black-tie event, while bright watercolors are more in line with a beach wedding.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Coordinating the invitations with your wedding palette can be as easy as choosing a colored font, ribbon or monogram, or as elaborate as colorful paper embossed with your wedding details. Most importantly: Don't sacrifice readability for style. The typeface should contrast with the paper so that it's easy to read. Work with a professional wedding stationery designer who can help you create something you love.

9. Trying to Perfectly Match the Flower Arrangements

Don't make the wedding color mistake of thinking that your flowers have to match your wedding colors perfectly. Instead, put your trust in your wedding florist to pick complementary flowers that make sense for your style and budget, even if they're not an identical color match.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Remember when we talked about incorporating different tones and shades of the same color? Flowers are a great way to do it naturally. There are very few flowers that will perfectly match your wedding colors, especially if blue is one of them (only a handful of flowers are naturally blue). Stay open-minded about using flowers in variations of your wedding colors to achieve a more dimensional color palette.

10. Relying on Attire to Convey the Color Scheme

Your wedding attire and accessories are all details that can tap into your wedding colors, but they shouldn't be the driving force. Focus first on choosing a look that you really love—then you can think about how to weave your colors into the ensemble (if at all).

Wedding Editor's Tips: Colors like olive green and pale yellow might look amazing for tablescape details, but they aren't always wearable. When you're choosing bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen suits or other wedding attire, we recommend looking for pieces that are flattering for a range of skin tones and body types to help everyone feel their best, which is the most important thing. If you really want to incorporate your wedding colors, do it subtly through jewelry, socks, ties or flowers (bouquets and corsages).

11. Choosing Colors That Don't Fit the Vibe

A wedding theme or wedding vibe can guide your color choices too. Cheerful coral might be your favorite color, but it's not the best pick for a glitzy New Year's Eve wedding. Likewise, shimmering metallic silver might not set the right tone for a cottagecore wedding in the countryside.

Wedding Editor's Tips: If you're set on a color but you're unsure it will work with the wedding vibe you're trying to create, think about what you can do with your accent hues. Pairing coral with dark navy blue or black makes it seem more formal, while pastel accent colors would take it in a whimsical direction. Your color scheme will ultimately set the mood for your wedding, so decide how you want the event to feel before making any final decisions about colors and decor.

12. Limiting Yourself to Seasonal Color Rules

Some colors are closely associated with specific seasons: pastels for spring, orange and yellow for fall, red for winter—you get the point. Choosing a seasonal color palette has its benefits, but you should feel empowered to branch out and get creative, too.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Your color palette doesn't need to be blatantly inspired by your wedding season, but you can tailor it a little bit through accent colors, flowers and decor. Pastels in winter? Switch them up by using a gray-based mauve instead of a rosy blush pink or dusty sage instead of mint green. Pairing your color palette with seasonal flowers and seasonally inspired decor elements will bring everything together without seeming overly themed.

13. Not Giving Visual Examples to Your Wedding Pros

"Light blue" might mean something totally different to you than it does to your wedding planner or florist, so it's best to over-communicate when you're sharing your wedding vision with your team of pros.

Wedding Editor's Tips: Avoid this wedding color mistake by sharing plenty of visual examples of what you want. The goal isn't for your wedding vendors to copy those ideas exactly, but rather to understand the mood, color palette and level of formality. Interactive color wheels and color palettes from weddings you like are good places to start. Create an inspiration board with paint chips or fabric swatches, or share inspirational photos for the tables, flower arrangements, attire and decor. Another tip: Look at Pantone color guides and take note of the names and color codes of hues you like. Graphic designers and stationery pros often use Pantone colors as their source of truth, and some cake bakers use Pantone numbers as a reference when decorating with colored frosting.

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