Define Your Design: Classic Romantic Weddings On A Budget

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bride on a carriage

If you’ve seen “Father of the Bride” more times than you can count, my guess is that you have spent at least some time (or perhaps too many hours to admit) daydreaming about your wedding day…the clothes, the florals, the perfect sunset silhouetting your wedding vows. If you are a romantic sort, your fantasies might include 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 planning what I like to call a classic romantic wedding. In our first Define Your Design installment, let’s figure out how to set your classic romantic wedding soaring with all of the loveliness, tradition, and rich touches you have in mind—without losing touch with (your checkbook’s) reality.

bride and groom walking down aisle with rose petals

Photo Credit || Eric Kelley

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.

Get The Look: Tall Table Décor

A common desire for couples seeking a classic wedding style is show-stopping reception décor: 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 photos below demonstrate the effect: you can almost feel the powerful presence of these arrangements through the computer screen.

tall floral centerpiece of white roses in a clear glass vase at a wedding reception

Photo Credit || J. Ferrara Photography

tall wedding floral centerpiece on glass stand

Photo Credit || Jen Fariello Photography

Of course, putting a six-foot-tall tower of orchids or roses on every table will cost you a (very) pretty penny. For some “wow” factor without the “wowza” price tag, consider staggering only a few tall arrangements throughout the room rather than on every table, 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.

wedding reception dinner table in a barn with tall silver candleabras

Photo Credit || Jen Fariello Photography

wedding reception dinner table with tall glass hurricane candelabras

Photo Credit || Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay

wedding reception dinner table with tall gold candelabras with white taper candles

Photo Credit || Meew Meew Studios

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 blooms. The photos below illustrate how bold applications of less expensive stems can deliver the same drama. Broad, tropical leaves and green ferns pack a fresh punch when piled together in simple glass vases, evoking a lush jungle vibe.

large green tropical leaves in clear glass vases on a wedding reception dinner table

Photo Credit || Derek Chad Photography

Even just an enormous armful of green ferns or eucalyptus looks impressively elegant when assembled en masse in tall vases.

wedding reception dinner table with tall floral arrangement of green ferns in a tall silver vase

Photo Credit || Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay

wedding reception table with tall centerpiece of green eucalyptus in clear glass vase

Photo Credit || Corey Lynn Tucker Photography

Another simple but striking take is to fake a tall centerpiece using non-floral materials, such as a cluster of tall pedestal candleholders with floating candles. Small floral arrangements at the base keep the vibe feminine and fancy, while still reducing overall floral costs.

glass pedestal candleholders with floating candles in water on a wedding reception dinner table

Photo Credit || Erin Johnson Photography

For a modern, farm-to-table aesthetic, pair floating candles in tall glass cylinders with green garlands meandering down long rows of farm tables. Eucalyptus is greenery choice du jour (see above for proof) but even inexpensive “filler” greenery looks pretty in this design.

wooden farm table at a wedding reception laid with green garlands and tall cylinder candles

Photo Credit || Molly Joseph Photography

Get The Look: Chair Garlands

Another classic romantic styling detail used to glam up ceremonies or dinner receptions are chair garlands: artistic swags of flora gracing the back of the honored couple’s chairs, or perhaps covering a full row of ceremony chairs for real impact. Going the full-blown route with ribbons and roses can really cut into your wedding budget, so consider trying this look using just foliage (lemon leaf, bay leaf, and eucalyptus work well) or herbs such as olive or rosemary for a fresh-from-the-garden feel.

wedding reception Chivari chairs with hydrangea floral decoration and trailing pink ribbons

Photo Credit || Jen Fariello Photography

chair with garland

Photo Credit || Melissa Maureen Photography

Sheer white fabric can also be used to great affect. 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.

Get The Look: Ceremony Décor

Similarly, a classic romantic wedding frequently goes all in with ceremony décor. After all, it is where your declarations of enduring love 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-adorned ceremony arch by using the natural world around you. Often the beauty of an open landscape or the intimacy of a secluded garden can trump anything your florist might put together.

wedding ceremony outside under a live oak tree with spanish moss

Photo Credit || Eric Kelley

For a budget-friendly ceremony décor idea, suspend glass containers filled with fresh herbs or wildflowers from low-hanging tree branches to form a lovely backdrop for your wedding vows.

suspended glass orb filled with green ferns hanging from a tree branch

Photo Credit || Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay

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.

bride and groom kissing during a wedding ceremony standing on a bed of rose petals in front of a mountain range

Photo Credit || Eric Kelley

Get The Look: Fancy Bridesmaid Bouquets

One last thought about reducing the floral budget while maximizing your classic romantic wedding style: instead of intricate bridesmaid bouquets, have each bridesmaid carry a different, single variety of less expensive blooms in the same color, like the bundle of orange freesia below.

colorful flowers, red orange yellow

Photo Credit || Jocelyn Filley Photography

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, lisianthus, and waxflower seen in the photo below, also evokes a sweet sentiment. Or let each attendant carry just a single, dramatic flower—the whimsical vibe makes a huge impact.

bridesmaid holding petite bouquet of dark red dahlias and purple lysmachia

Photo Credit || Eric Kelley

Get The Look: Custom Wedding Invitations

Leaving the world of wedding flowers for a moment, another aspect of classic, high-end weddings is a custom-designed paper suite. Check out the amazingly personalized invitation set below—it’s crafted like a mini-folder filled with many coordinating pieces, all of which contain custom graphics and a signature hand-calligraphy font. For anyone who’s made a trip to their local stationery 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, consider DIYing your own paper suite. While you can find plenty of online templates to guide you, your imagination is really the limit here. With complete creative control over the wording, the feel is just as personal and you lose none of the romantic charm.


Photo Credit || Idalia Photography

Photo Credit || Amanda MacDonald Photography

Get The Look: A Large Wedding Party

Southern weddings especially favor the tradition of large wedding parties to attend to the couple’s needs, and classic romantic weddings certainly earn an extra degree of extravagance when dozens of bridesmaids or groomsmen in matching attire are present.

While it’s hard to get around the extra expense of having a large wedding party—the flowers, the gifts, the transportation, the day-of services you might cover such as hair or makeup—you can still honor many close friends and family without including them as bridesmaids/bridesmen or groomsmen/groomsladies. 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.

Photo Credit || Sparklelight Studios

orange rosebuds with green leaves getting ready to be boutonnieres

Photo Credit || Mary Veal Photography

In closing, there are lots of special details that can create a classic romantic wedding style without throwing off your 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 valuable expressions of your and your partner’s personalities. Jazz up a cocktail bar with foil-striped straws that make every beverage a tad more stylish, or have stickers printed with a custom design or your 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.

gray beer koozie with "katie & kyle" wedding monogram

Photo Credit || Richard Bell Photography

white buttercream wedding cake with greenery and gold "love" cake topper

Photo Credit || Candi Leonard Photography

The options are as endless as your creativity. So dream lushly, identify the few stylistic pieces you just can’t live without, and turn your classic romantic wedding fantasies into an event that will have your guests gasping “oh my” all night long.

Featured Photo Credit || Angela Stott Photography


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