Leave No Loose Ends With This Wedding Decor Checklist

Your wedding decor is a reflection of you and your partner’s unique personalities. Learn how to show your true colors with this wedding decor checklist.

By Emily Forrest

Wedding Decor Checklist
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

Now that you’ve made the big decision to get married, you’re only left with about a hundred to-do's to check off your wedding planning checklist—at least half of those will be about finding the perfect decor for your wedding day.

Wedding decor offers an opportunity for you and your soon-to-be spouse to reflect your unique style, culture, and personality. Choosing the right decor (including reception decorations and ceremony decor) for your big day is easier said than done—but the experts at Zola are here to help. With our wedding decor checklist, we’ll break down everything that needs to get done:

So, grab a pen, take a deep breath, and let’s start checking off some boxes.

12 Months Prior: Choose a Wedding Style

Before you bog yourself down with the details, let’s start with the big picture: your wedding style. Choosing a specific style will help focus your decor options and make your wedding feel more cohesive.

Run through this list of popular wedding styles to see which spark mutual inspiration and excitement between you and your future spouse:

  • Rustic
  • Vintage
  • Modern
  • Whimsical
  • Traditional or formal
  • Bohemian
  • Romantic
  • Seasonal or holiday
  • Art Deco
  • Beachy or tropical

Some couples even choose a themed wedding style based on their favorite movie or book, such as “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones.”

If you’re still unsure, use this style inspiration checklist to figure out what you truly want.

1. Draw Inspiration from Your Venue

If you and your fiance don’t already have a style or wedding theme in mind, take a closer look at the environment of your wedding venue. Some wedding venues boast existing decorative elements that naturally complement certain themes.

A barn wedding, for instance, lends itself to a rustic-chic look. You can decorate wooden ceiling rafters with natural greenery and fairy lights, or use mason jars filled with wildflowers as your centerpieces. Zola’s list of pre-screened vendors includes amazing local wedding florists that can bring your vision to life, whatever direction you choose.

If you’re hosting a destination wedding at the beach, the sea-and-sand backdrop naturally lends itself to more beach-inspired decor elements, like seashells, vases filled with colored sand, or coral-inspired centerpieces.

If you're not sure which style would best match your venue, talk to your wedding planner or a venue representative; they can deliver insights into what styles tend to work best in the space—and may even be able to share decor inspiration from recent weddings.

2. Tie in Tradition

Traditional and cultural wedding elements will easily guide your planning process in a particular direction. You can use any culture-specific must-haves as a springboard to deciding a larger overall theme.

In traditional Chinese weddings, for instance, the color red is used to symbolize joy, good fortune, and happiness. This can mean choosing red lanterns for lighting, designing floral centerpieces that feature pomegranates and red dates, or using red text for your ceremony programs.

Adding traditional elements allows you and your SO to celebrate your unique cultures, and they can also help ease the stress of decorative decision-making.

3. Infuse Your Unique Personality

While choosing a style can help narrow down your decor options, the real fun of decorating a wedding is making it your own. Wedding themes can be a great way to reflect the couple’s aesthetic and personality—so ask yourself what kind of decor would be the best fit for you and your partner's style. Are you beachy and bohemian? Modern with a pop of Art Deco? Or maybe you and your partner have two different styles—and you can find a way to bridge the two to create something that feels unique to you both.

The point is, no matter your vibe, you'll want to use style and decor to make your wedding as unique as you and your significant other.

6-8 Months Prior: Finalize Large Decor Rentals

Once you’ve decided on a wedding style, it’s time to tap into your inner designer and get to decorating. Like any good wedding checklist, we’ll start with the biggest considerations and work our way down to the tiniest details on the smallest decorations.

Jump into the planning process by locking down rentals for the big-ticket items (or figure out what’s already included in your venue and work from there)—use this checklist to make sure that you don’t miss anything major.

1. Decide on Ceremony Seating

Often, wedding venues will provide seating for your guests, but if you want to spice up your wedding ceremony and lean into your theme, you can rent your unique seating.

Some ideas include:

  • Mismatched chairs: For a bohemian or whimsical wedding, mismatched chairs provide a fun, playful feel.

  • Wooden benches: Rustic outdoor weddings often incorporate wooden furniture for a more natural vibe.

2. Create the Perfect Backdrop for Your Nuptials

When it comes time to exchange vows and say your “I dos,” the focus should be on you and your partner. Using a decorative arch to frame your special moment will create a picture-perfect image that you can cherish for years to come. (Arches can also be a great backdrop for other wedding photos, like pics with the families, bridesmaids, or wedding party.)

This list of arch ideas might have the perfect detail to fit in with your theme:

  • Floral arches: For a beach wedding, use tropical flowers or monstera leaves. For a winter wedding, you could cover your arch with poinsettias and evergreens.

  • Wooden arches: A wooden arch will echo the natural beauty of a rustic, forest, or backyard wedding.

3. Finetune Your Arch According to Cultural Traditions

Arches are also a beautiful way to honor you or your spouse-to-be’s culture.

If you’re having a Jewish ceremony, for instance, you and your fiance can assemble your chuppah—a four-legged canopy under which you’ll be married. Building the chuppah together symbolizes building a new home together, so you can incorporate personal elements, such as cloth heirlooms.

If you’re having a Hindu ceremony, you and your significant other can exchange vows and rings beneath a mandap. This beautiful ceremonial structure is traditionally made of wood and can be adorned with drapery, wedding flowers, and crystals.

4. Lock Down Your Lighting Rentals

Lighting and hanging decor play a huge part in creating the ambiance of your reception. Regardless of what type of lighting your venue offers, consider adding your own to further set the mood.

Here’s a checklist of lighting options that you might need:

  • String lights: Do you have an outdoor terrace that needs some added ambiance, or a rustic, bohemian theme that practically demands overhead fairy lights?

  • Tiki torches: Does your beachside wedding need some thematic mood lighting? While you don’t necessarily need to reserve smaller items such as torches and lanterns this early, it doesn’t hurt to place large bulk orders as soon as possible.

1-3 Months Prior: Nail Down the Details

Now that you’ve taken care of the biggest items that require the most amount of pre-planning, there are still tons of smaller, yet equally important, decor decisions to make.

Follow this checklist to hone in on the essential decorative add-ons, from aisle markers to centerpieces.

1. Design a Gorgeous Wedding Walkway

Your walk down the aisle is more than just an opportunity for your guests to oooh and ahh at your wedding attire; it represents your first steps into your newlywed future. With aisle markers and runners, you can embellish your path to highlight its significance and make it a walk to remember.

Aisle markers can be placed on the end of each row of chairs or pews to line your center walkway. Something from this list of common aisle markers might check the box for you:

  • Candles or lanterns: For an evening ceremony, candles or lanterns can further set the mood of a beach wedding, a garden wedding, or a rustic wedding.

  • Floral arrangements: When it comes to wedding decor, you can never go wrong with florals. For a bohemian look, choose natural wildflowers. For a vintage feel, go with classic roses, peonies, or carnations.

Aisle runners can also vary depending on your wedding style. If you don’t want a traditional runner, try lining your walkway with vintage Persian rugs, colorful flower petals, or rustic planks of wood.

2. Select Your Signage

With decorative signs, you can set the tone for your wedding while welcoming guests into your venue. Run through this checklist of optional signage to add to your venue:

  • A welcome sign to greet guests.
  • Use signs to guide your guests to their seats
  • Display the wedding schedule for all to see.
  • Point out important venue locations, such as the bar, reception area, and bathroom.
  • Set certain “ground rules,” such as encouraging an unplugged ceremony.
  • Present the wedding party and any special guests.

While these signs may be practical, they’re also aesthetic decor elements of your wedding. Depending on your theme, consider displaying signage on:

  • Wood: Simple, yet versatile, wooden signs can be incorporated into almost any wedding style, particularly rustic, romantic, or beachy.

  • Chalkboards: For a unique, modern look, consider decorating with chalkboard signs.

3. Refresh Your Bar Decor

Whatever you used for aisle decorations, carry this look into your cocktail hour with similar bar decor. You can also incorporate napkins, cocktail stirrers, and glassware that match your wedding style.

For a rustic wedding, consider serving your drinks in mason jars. For a retro ‘50s wedding, break out those classic red-and-white-striped straws.

And don’t forget about your stylish signage from earlier. This too can be re-incorporated into your cocktail hour decor as drink menu signage.

4. Present a Gift Collection Table

For guests who come bearing gifts, provide a table or collection box during your cocktail hour. This way, they don’t have to worry about carrying your gift around after the ceremony.

Browse this list of unique gift collection ideas to decide which one would work for your wedding:

  • Reclaimed wood box: The rustic charm of a reclaimed wood box is perfect for a vintage, barn, or bohemian wedding.

  • Birdcage: For a tea party wedding, a bohemian wedding, or a vintage wedding, surprise your guests by collecting their gifts in a beautiful birdcage.

You can also leave a guestbook at your gift table so that friends and family can share their special wishes with you and commemorate the day. If you haven’t created a wedding registry just yet, there’s still time to do so at Zola and ensure that table is filled with thoughtful gifts from friends and family.

5. Design Seating Guides for Your Guests

Before your reception begins, guests need to know where they’ll be sitting. Whether you choose escort cards (which merely designate a specific table), or place cards (which designate a table and seat), the options for decorative display are endless.

To keep it simple, you can write out your seating chart on wood, chalkboard, antique mirrors, or even driftwood for a beach-themed wedding. You can also print your seating chart on specialty paper and display it in a decorative frame.

If you and your partner choose to use escort cards, take a look at this list of creative ideas:

  • Flowers: Bud vases can be used to hold a single flower, along with your guests’ table number. At the end of the wedding, your guest can take this flower home with them.

  • Champagne glasses: With champagne glass escort cards, your guests will be ready to get the celebration started.

6. Decide on Dining Table Decor

After you’ve set the mood with lighting, signage, and large-scale decor, it’s time to set the table. From table numbers and centerpieces to linens and place settings, use this handy checklist to nail each element of your wedding reception table decor:

  • Display table numbers: To keep it simple, you can place paper table numbers in frames that match your wedding style. Or, for a more unique touch, consider displaying your table numbers with items that match your wedding style, like blocks of wood, vases, or terrariums.

  • Design gorgeous centerpieces: Adorning every table, your centerpieces are an important part of your reception decor. But, they shouldn’t get in the way of cross-table conversation, either. If your table decoration isn’t lower than chin-level, use platforms or tall clear vases to raise it above the head. That way, the conversation can flow naturally amongst your guests. Choose floral arrangements that match your wedding’s theme, or surprise your guests with uncommon centerpieces, like lanterns or candles, fruit, logs, or framed photos,

  • Choose table linens: When it comes to table linens, there’s more than just the color to decide on. To add dimension and create patterns, consider layering tablecloths with table runners and overlays of varying texture and color. Explore various types of fabric to find the one that best suits your wedding style—like satin, cotton, lace, or organza.

  • Select place settings: et another opportunity to adorn your reception tables and elevate the look of your wedding, place settings include an assortment of options for dishware, glassware, silverware, and decorative accents. Depending on your style, you might try:

    • Romantic: Pair pastel pink dishware with gold silverware for a dreamy, ethereal feel. To further channel those fairytale vibes, add a delicate sprig of flowers to each place setting.

    • Beachy: For beach, summer, or destination weddings, choose bright, colorful dishware, accented with pieces of fruit. You can even use a tropical palm leaf as a placemat.

    • Whimsical: Mix and match colors, patterns, and floral accents to capture the fun and eccentricity of a whimsical wedding.

    • Art Deco: Be bold with metallic embellished dishware or dramatic onyx glassware for an Art Deco, glamorous, or roaring ‘20s inspired wedding.

7. Decorate Your Cake

While your wedding cake table will serve as a piece of decor in and of itself, adding a cake topper allows you to put your own spin on a classic wedding tradition. Plus, after the wedding, it can serve as a reminder of your special day for years to come.

Design a traditional cake topper that resembles you and your significant other, or get creative with unique topper ideas, like a wood-carved monogram or a piece of sculpted art. You can even top your cake with real sparklers to create a dazzling photo op!

For a cake that’s as beautiful as the topper that you decide to stick on top, check out Zola’s pre-screened wedding bakers. You’ll be able to find cakes so lovely and decorative that you won’t want to slice into them and ruin the beauty (but you will because they’ll be downright delicious, too).

Zola: Your Decor Resource

Choosing the right wedding decor is a key part of the wedding planning process—but the sheer number of decisions that go into decorating a wedding can feel overwhelming. But you've already made the most important decision of all when you agreed to marry your partner, so we know you can handle the rest of these decorating decisions like a pro.

Plus, with Zola’s wedding decor checklist, you can guarantee every detail of your wedding, down to the very last flower petal, is in place.

For decorations that suit any wedding style, as well as party supplies, favors, and more, check out Zola’s Boutique Shop. At Zola, decorating the wedding of your dreams is as easy as saying “I do.”

(Need help organizing the rest of your wedding details? Make sure to check out our wedding checklist for brides!)

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