Wedding inspiration can come from anywhere—a shoe, your grandmother’s earrings or a painting you saw in a museum. But once you’ve found an idea, what do you do with it?
Event Designer Matthew Robbins’ new book, Inspired Weddings: Designing Your Big Day With Favorite Objects & Family Treasures, is filled with beautiful images of unique items and the party décor and details that arose from them. We asked Robbins to share some of his advice for setting the stage for a magical and memorable wedding. Here’s what he had to say.
Where do you look for wedding ideas?
My initial inspiration comes from clients. Designing a wedding or special occasion is so specific to each person, with their own style and their history, so I rely on unique bits of creativity I can extract from our meetings with new clients.
Where do you suggest brides look for wedding ideas?
It is always best to start with your own style and lean into the things you are already drawn to, such as certain colour palettes, patterns or decorating styles. Once you have an overview of what you like for interiors, fashions and food, peruse great interior design magazines and visit museums, showrooms and galleries for wedding ideas. Bridal magazines and web sites like this one are also a great tool for editing out the things you don’t like and finding new concepts, as they are intensely focused on wedding trends and recent weddings.
Which comes first: choosing the date, budget and venue, or picking a palette, theme and overall style?
Start with a palette and overall sense of style before you secure the date, budget and venue. You need to have and idea of what you would like to create for your wedding. If your ideas don’t match up to the correct season, specific venues and most importantly your budget—you can revise these ideas before settling on these major pieces. You might think you want to be married in May, but if your style and colour palette lean more toward autumn, you might want to consider an October wedding instead. The same goes if you’re considering August or September but are in love with peonies and a soft spring palette. Rather than feel let down that you can’t have these things, or spend a fortune forcing something that is not readily available—consider moving your date.
How much does the season influence your design? How much does a venue or the location?
The season always influences my design, and this is true for everything ranging from flowers, fabric, colour palette, lighting, table settings and more. Good design lives comfortably in season. It should echo the tones, flavours and textures of what nature is providing as inspiration and ultimately as the backdrop for your wedding. I also believe timeless design is enhanced by the venue, the location and the spirit of a place. Don’t choose a venue if you hate all of the architecture, as it will only look like you are forcing a design scheme into a space that doesn’t welcome such elements. Find a space that already lives in the vision you are creating, or go with a wedding venue that is completely minimal and empty so you can start from scratch and create your own location.
Do you have a Pinterest page? Who do you follow and why?
I do have a Pinterest page. Though I only recently started using Pinterest, I already love it! I follow other designers, as I love getting a glimpse of what they find inspiring. I also enjoy following some of my clients, as it sheds some light on what brides and grooms are looking at and working with to create their own design ideas.
Do you make inspiration boards for your events? Can you share some advice on how to create one?
My studio creates what I like to call a visual file for each client. We start with an initial inspiration board to illustrate big ideas and the general direction for each segment of an event. Later, this is edited and revised until we end up with a very specific style sheet detailing each and every décor element. I prefer to do all of this digitally, as I can revise it quickly and easily move images from file to file. The old-school version of inspiration boards feels outdated and awkward. I always have Pantone chips, fabric swatches and dimensions to accompany our digital files.
There are so many wedding details—florals, linens, favours, stationery—do you have a must-include list for every wedding? Like, “Every wedding should definitely have _______”?
That’s a good question and not an easy one, as each couple has their own ideas for creating something special. I do feel every wedding should have great food, elegant and considered décor, and wonderful music. You need all three to create a memorable and magical party. The décor can be insanely simple and inexpensive, but it still needs to be executed carefully and properly.
Let’s talk about colour. What are the best ways to incorporate colour? Should you limit the colours in your palette?
I love to incorporate colour in the paper goods such as escort cards, menus and programs. Flowers are always an easy and great place to bring in seasonal colour. I always suggest using colour as the thread that ties your event together. It can bring a sense of continuity to the various pieces of a wedding day. It’s also a great way to bring cohesion to your design without relying on a silly theme or a specific motif. Limiting your palette to complimentary tones is always a great design trick. Try using a full range of one colour from light to dark, and don’t forget every colour palette needs a little contrast and whimsy or it will go flat and boring very quickly.
You can have too many colours in a wedding or design scheme, so choose wisely. Think about your event space as your home for the night. How would you go about decorating your dining room or living room? Use some of those design rules to edit your palette!
In your book you find inspiration from a range of sources—a spool of twine, a pitcher. What do you pull from each item to create a wedding’s palette, theme and style?
I start with the mood, or the spirit, of a special object. Everything tells a story, so I run with the story that tells the object’s history. From there, I move into the colour palette, the form and feel, such as modern, vintage or romantic. Finally, I work in the textural details. Is there a particular pattern or a metallic finish? These textural elements can stir tons of wedding ideas. You don’t need a pile of design books to create the perfect event; you can start with one simple object if you love it and it moves you!