My favorite weddings are the ones that veer towards originality, that show you something unique about the couple and their personalities. The kind of wedding that lingers in your mind as you begin to attend a dozen weddings a season, and they all begin to blend together. One of the great things about choosing a theme for your wedding is that when you look back on that day and at your pictures, it clearly captures who you were at that moment in time. We often see this in weddings where the bride and groom met in unique circumstances – through travel, artistic careers, or through serendipitous circumstances.
For me, eight-and-a-half years ago, I was marrying my college sweetheart, and I was teaching, reading, and seeing all things Shakespeare. Right after I got engaged, I even spent a summer studying Shakespeare at Cambridge University. Needless to say, when it came time to plan the wedding, the Bard was very much on my mind. We knew we wanted to get married outside on a farm in Vermont, and we had to do it in the summer since I was teaching at the time. The venue we wanted was available on June 25th, which happens to be the day of the summer solstice, otherwise known as Midsummer. And so, “A Midsummer Night’s Wedding” was born.
Since I know I am (mostly) alone among my family and friends in my devotion to Shakespeare, I did not want to be too heavy-handed with how I incorporated this play into our wedding day. As an English teacher, I was more excited about the correspondences and readings as opposed to the cake and flowers, so this is how my theme slowly emerged. My save-the-date card was modeled after a theater playbill. On the cover of the card was a picture of the round barn and farm at which the “play” would unfold. Inside I listed the “players,” “setting,” “synopsis” and all other pertinent information. I’ve always felt like the save-the-date card is the first impression of your wedding and as such, it illustrates what can be expected.
On the wedding day, my theme was evident during the ceremony only in one of the readings, a monologue from the play. I did not have my bridesmaids come in period costume or ask my guests to recite lines (though I was tempted). I did have quotes from the play littered throughout the wedding program, and I borrowed from the language of Shakespeare whenever possible. For example, the scene read: “Waitsfield, and a Wood not far from it.” I also tried to match these quotes with the appropriate sections, so before a remembrance of family members who have passed, I included: “The best in this kind are but shadows.”
Afterwards, during the reception I planted my theme visually around the room. At the entrance of the barn we had a large chalkboard that listed all of the characters in the play to give the guests a context. At this welcome table we also placed a few masks which guests were free to wear throughout the night or in Polaroids for our guest book, and a beautifully bound hardcover copy of the play that my bridesmaids had given me as a group gift. Since I had some extra mini chalkboards I also included a few quotes about love from the play. Each of the tables were named after one of the characters in the play – such wonderful names like Pyramus and Puck and Peaseblossom could not be overlooked. Our main table was, of course, William Shakespeare.
Other than comparing my sister, who was my maid-of-honor, to the character of Puck – as a magician who doesn’t show her tricks, during my toast, that was it for the Shakespeare theme at our wedding. I’d like to think it was subtle and nuanced. It was something my guests definitely remember about our wedding, but it did not prevent anyone from appreciating what the day was about. Of course, not all themes will be as specific as mine, and do not have to be so hard to come by. Themes can be easily attainable through venue – like sailing or nautical themed weddings held at a yacht club or somewhere on the water, or a more rural or rustic themed wedding held at a farm or even in someone’s back yard.
So to recap and few further ideas:
· Themes can be attained simply through your correspondences – in your save-the-dates or formal invitations, in the programs for the ceremony, or in your table assignments or place cards.
· Choose readings for your ceremony that reflect the type of wedding you’re having. Think beyond biblical passages and classical poems. Don’t be afraid to use scenes from a play or a passage from a modern novel.
· Select appetizers, dinner, or cake that reflect your locale or your roots.
· Scatter small but significant touches around the space to create a visual reminder of your specific theme. You can do this through the type of flowers you choose, the lighting, signage, or simple props like masks, other costume pieces, or flip-flops if you want to encourage dancing on comfortable feet.
· Think about how you will be sent off at the end of the night. I’ve seen couples leave via horse and buggy, by sailboat, in antique cars, or simply holding hands and walking together to the after party (as we did).
Liz Matthews is a Connecticut based mother, teacher, and freelance writer who blogs on children’s books and related topics at La La La. Her work has appeared in Quarterly Women’s Fiction, Town and Country magazine, and is forthcoming in Literary Mama.