The Charlottesville Wedding Blog

Wedding Design

Define Your Design: Classic Romantic Weddings on a Budget



Like many women, my guess is that you have spent at least some time (or, let's face it, too many hours to count) daydreaming about your Charlottesville wedding day...the dress, the florals, the perfect sunset silhouetting your wedding vows. If you are a romantic sort of gal, your fantasies might include your wedding florist handing you piles of lush peonies, warm shades of pinks, peaches, and creams, and those effortlessly elegant details that make your guests feel like they are in the hands of a very gracious host at an intimate dinner party.

If any of this rings true, then you are what I like to call a Classic Romantic Bride. And if your vision includes pearls, julep cups, and khaki-clad groomsmen, then you have a healthy dose of Preppy Bride in you as well! In our second DEFINE YOUR DESIGN installment, let's figure out how to set your big day soaring with all of the loveliness, femininity, and rich touches you have in mind without losing touch with (your checkbook's) reality.


Although this wedding style is, by definition, all about the over-the-top details, there are still plenty of ways to manifest your visions of formal elegance while sticking to your wedding budget. Whether it's a matter of choosing where to splurge and where to conserve, or choosing a similar but scaled-down version of a particular look that still exudes your classy vibe, achieving this picturesque package is possible with a bit of re-imagination and a few savvy styling tricks.

A common desire for brides seeking a classic wedding look is show-stopping reception decor: a room that, upon entering, takes guests' breath away. There's often no better way to achieve this sheer splendor than with tall floral centerpieces overflowing with lush blooms - the first two photos below demonstrate the effect, as you can almost feel the powerful presence of these arrangements through the computer screen. Of course, putting a six-foot-tall tower of orchids and roses on every table will cost you a very pretty penny. For some "wow" factor without the "wowza" pricetag, consider staggering only a few tall arrangements throughout the room rather than every ten feet, or even replacing vases with a non-floral centerpiece such as a lavish candelabra. With glass hurricanes or a bevy of graceful taper candles, a candelabra accomplishes the same romantic atmosphere and striking height while costing sometimes a third less than a massive floral firework.

If florals are way too important for you to forego - as is often the case with you classic romantics - then take a peek at some cost-saving alternatives to pricey roses, orchids, and peonies. The photos below illustrate how single varieties of less expensive stems, when piled high en masse, deliver the same drama. Spring green bells of ireland in the first photo pack a fresh punch when paired in simple glass cylinder vases, as touches of light pink in smaller surrounding arrangements keep the look light and feminine. For those hailing from south of the Mason-Dixon line, pay homage to the botanical icon of the South by incorporating glossy-green magnolia branches in simple vessels. Even without the fickle blooms, they make an elegant statement.

Tulips, though best available in the spring months, are graceful alternatives to pricier garden roses, peonies, and orchids. Their swan-like stems give beautiful movement to the tall centerpieces seen below; keep the look clean and classic by going with a cascading profusion in a single neutral color. Another simple but striking take on this wedding design feature is to create a centerpiece of varied heights and materials, such as a cluster of soaring pedestal candles and submerged single stems of rosy tulips, forming an understated but very elegant visual display.

Another styling detail used to glam up a ceremony or dinner reception are chair garlands: artistic swags of flora gracing the back of the bride and groom's chairs, or perhaps covering a full row of ceremony chairs for real impact. Going the full-blown route (a festoon of flower heads and greens, as seen below with garden roses and ribbons of delicate orchid petals) can really cut into your wedding budget, so consider trying this look using elegant lengths of aromatic greens, such as bay leaf, eucalyptus, olive, or rosemary for a fresh-from-the-garden feel. Sheer white fabric can also be used to great affect, and what could be more romantic than swathes of dreamy gauze enrobing reception chairs (or really, anything that stands still)? Look for discounts on bolts of inexpensive sheer material at fabric stores, and weave thin strips in between the openings in your chair backs - this works especially well on ever-popular Chiavari chairs.

Similarly, ceremony decor can be an area to go hog-wild with romantic wedding style. After all, it is the location where your declarations of enduring love and tenderness are exchanged before all your nearest and dearest, right? For outdoor ceremonies, evoke an aura of enchantment without splurging on a draped, bedazzled, and/or flower-crowned altarpiece by using the natural world around you - oftentimes the beauty of an open landscape or the intimacy of a secluded spot can trump anything your florist might put together. For a budget-friendly but charming ceremony idea, suspend glass containers filled with fresh herbs or wildflowers from low-hanging tree branches to form a lovely backdrop for your wedding vows.

And while walking down an aisle carpeted with rose petals is the ultimate grand entrance, you can save a few bucks by asking for just a light sprinkle of petals (herbs or wildflowers work great here too!) at the altar area. The flower girl below accomplished this bride's dream of a petal-filled ceremony by handing out individual peony blooms to guests as she made her way down the aisle... and the price of seven or eight peonies versus a whole aisle's length of coverage can make a big difference in your spending.

One last thought about reducing the floral budget while maximizing your classic romantic wedding style: instead of intricate bridesmaid bouquets modeled after the bride's, have each bridesmaid carry a single variety of less expensive blooms in the same color. The look of an all-tulip or all-sweet pea bouquet is charming, and bridesmaids will feel like they are being given something more personalized to hold. You can go dreamy with an all-white palette or choose a range of similar tones in one color family (think ombre!) A petite bouquet with just a few choice flowers, such as the combination of dahlias, lysmachia, and a single garden rose seen in the last photo below, also evokes a sweet sentiment.

Leaving the world of wedding flowers for a moment, another aspect of classic high-end weddings is a complex and custom-designed paper suite. Check out the amazingly personalized save-the-date below - crafted like a fairy tale storybook about the couple's journey to the altar - and its many coordinating pieces, including a graphically-inspired weekend itinerary. The pink and navy color scheme, intricate calligraphy, and playful stripe pattern contribute to the preppy wedding style. For anyone who's made a trip to their local stationary store, you already know that the cost of paper products can add up in a flash, even before incorporating custom touches and sophisticated printing techniques like letterpress or embossing. To recreate a similar look for less, follow in the footsteps of the couple who created their own navy-and-pink ceremony programs from an online template that function as paper fans. With complete creative control over the wording, the feel is just as personal and you lose none of the romantic charm.

Southern weddings especially favor the tradition of large wedding parties to attend to the bride and groom's needs, and classic romantic weddings certainly reap an extra degree of extravagance from the inclusion of dozens of 'maids in pretty pink dresses or groomsmen sporting matching ties. And regardless of geographic locale, whether in the South or New England, your wedding can get an extra dose of prep if your groomsmen are clad in seersucker, khaki, polka dots, or bow ties... and if they pull off many of these elements at once, then even more (preppy) power to you!

While it's hard to get around the extra expense of having a large wedding party - the bouquets, the gifts, the transportation, the courteous services you might cover such as hair or makeup - you can still honor many close friends and family without including them as bridesmaids or groomsmen. Consider having your florist provide some extra rosebuds on bobby pins for ladies' hair, or single flowers that you can hand out to your extended crew as symbols of special friendship.

In closing, there is a huge assortment of special details that can contribute to a cohesive mood and style without throwing off your overall wedding budget. Classic romantic weddings are made unique by these thoughtful touches, so don't be afraid to think about which small-but-meaningful items are worthy expressions of your and your groom's personalities. Jazz up a cocktail bar with preppy striped straws that make every beverage a tad more stylish, or have gold stickers printed with a custom design or monogram to embellish anything from the back of envelopes to welcome bags to menu cards. Select a handful of locally blooming flowers and herbs to soften a classic white-tiered wedding cake. The options are as endless as your love (aww . . . now isn't THAT romantic?) - so dream lushly, identify the few stylistic pieces you just can't live without, and turn your fantasies into realities that will have your guests gasping "oh my" all night long.

Need more wedding design inspiration? Visit our Facebook and Pinterest pages for more eye candy than you can handle... and stay tuned for the third installment of DEFINE YOUR DESIGN coming to your inbox soon!