Go big or go home! That could have been the theme of Stephanie and Jared's Vieques Mardi Gras wedding Thursday night on "Wedding Island" on TLC. There was nothing too crazy or too over-the-top for this bride and groom, who kicked off their destination wedding preparations by sending out a Save-the-Date that consisted of a message written across their foreheads.
As my bride Stephanie Nieves-Sanchez-Moyer (did you decide to hyphenate that, Steph?) has explained to me, she was my "original" HuffPost Weddings blogstalker for a very, very long time before she ever contacted me about planning her wedding. We had to move the original wedding date they'd chosen -- which fell much closer to the actual Mardi Gras in New Orleans -- but when she and Jared selected the first weekend in May to definitely get married, they wanted to keep the same theme. Purple, green and gold -- Mardi Gras everywhere. Even the bridesmaids' dresses were originally in all the theme colors but an unfortunate (or lucky, depends on how you feel about theme weddings) glitch with the dress shop resulted in a slightly toned-down color scheme on the wedding party. But only slightly. We made up for it with the flowers. Even the groomsmen were rocking the Mardi Gras theme colors. So were most of the guests. And so was this wedding planner.
I've written about theme weddings in the past because I've actually had a leprechaun greet guests as they arrived at a St. Patrick's Day wedding reception (oh yes, complete with green beer and a chocolate Guinness shamrock cake). And I escaped a Christmas wedding replete with elves and the bride dressed as a soon-to-be Mrs. Claus by the skin of my teeth this year (I'm sorry the engagement didn't last, but mostly because it would have been hilarious to execute).
Here's the thing, IF you have enough flare and enthusiasm to pull off a themed wedding, and that's what you want, GO FOR IT. Have a blast with it! But own it completely. Don't be like my clients who got married on Valentine's Day without acknowledging it wasn't national "their wedding" day. Would have been nice to see some red somewhere in the décor.
My first year in business, I had bride and groom who were both doctoral candidates at The Ohio State University, my alma mater. When we first started planning, they were about to move to Columbus to start school. I was so excited -- I had all sorts of Buckeye-themed ideas. Jen and Mike Phelan put the kibosh on that pretty quickly. They weren't feeling the "Buckeye Spirit" just yet. A little more than a year later when they came to Vieques to get married, their entire wedding party was decked out in scarlet and grey at the wedding rehearsal. They even brought new Ohio State t-shirts for my crew to wear. They hosted a "tailgater" beach party with a traditional football tailgate menu and homemade Buckeye candies for dessert (my recipe, of course). That's what a year at OSU will do to you. Go Buckeyes!
A lot of brides and grooms use a conceptual theme for their wedding, such as "garden party" or "tropical escape." The themes are reflected in their décor selections without being totally in your face. For example, you'll have lanterns in the trees, mason jars sporting blooms, and tables on the grass for a garden party. For a tropical escape, it might be hot hot hot shades of all the brightest colors, reflected in the table décor and the wedding party's attire. In other words, you don't have to pass out leis at the door to have a tropical wedding. You can do it at the welcome party to be silly, but spare yourself at the actual wedding. Twenty years from now when you're looking at your wedding pictures, you'll thank me.
Stephanie and Jared were exactly the right kind of people -- both in personality and spirit -- to not only host a themed wedding, but to throw the best Mardi Gras parade ever seen at a wedding on any island. Here's the advice I gave Steph when we first started her planning:
Go upscale theme. Meaning stick with more upscale décor and avoid the cheesy backdrops available. We considered a backdrop her mom, who conveniently lives in New Orleans, had found to create a courtyard effect. It was cool but impractical for the space, and no matter what we did with it, it would still be plastic and a little too reminiscent of a kid's birthday party. Instead Stephanie stuck with rich purple, gold and green hues for everything and used lots of fabric and candles and glass and LEDs and genuine Mardi Gras beads to decorate everything from the cake table to the bar.
Own the theme 100%. I didn't really have to push this one on Stephanie and Jared because they're goofy in a good way and they couldn't wait to tell everybody it was Mardi Gras in May on Vieques. Plus her mom was totally on board (she actually went to this year's Mardi Gras and caught tons of the really, really nice beads with a group of her friends and that made up a large chunk of the table décor at the wedding). But for some brides considering a theme, this would be important advice. If you don't have the guts to really do it, really don't. And if your family will fight it and not have fun with it to celebrate your big day, reconsider. Not saying don't do it if others make fun of you -- they're just not brave enough -- I'm saying make sure the key players are on board. Stephanie's bridesmaids couldn't wait to pose for their "mugshot" photos and everybody really got into it and had a blast!
Create an activity that goes with your theme. Stephanie and Jared wanted to do an old-fashioned parade stroll with a parasol. I made the mistake of having too much fun joking around with Stephanie brainstorming and being silly. Before I knew what had happened, we were figuring out how to build a float we could drive around the circular driveway. (See how it turned out in an exclusive clip below).
So it's possible to have a beautiful, upscale, themed wedding reception at a waterfront villa in the Caribbean, as you'll see Thursday night on "Wedding Island" on TLC at 10 pm EST/PST. But it's also possible to note a significant holiday or sports team or something else you really love and want to share with your family and friends. Stephanie and Jared were all about Mardi Gras... and they did it right!
Click through the slideshow below for photos from Stephanie and Jared's wedding.