How to choose a colour scheme for Wedding Stationery that you'll love
Updated: Feb 16
The short answer: Look in your wardrobe, look at the things around you; what colours make you happiest? Then you have two routes to using them: a) one lighter colour with one darker colour, b) different tones of the same colour.
Why settling for something tasteful is doing you both a disservice
Choosing a colour scheme for your wedding might at first seem like a simple enough task, but time after time couples have 'settled' on something 'tasteful'. Note a couple of the words I've used there. Settled. Tasteful.
On the face of it, 'Tasteful' doesn't sound too bad. After all, we want the big events of our life to age well, so when the book of memories gets taken off the shelf and passed around, the contents look as pleasing in that future time as they do to us today (70's textile design largely does not fall into this criteria). But so often tasteful is a byword for boring. Yes, it's ok to look at now, and it will most likely look ok down the line too, but it's a safe option which lacks personality, with nothing to distinguish it from everything else seen in wedding schemes up and down the country. Heed this warning; shades of beige are frequently called sexy names and are then considered 'tasteful'.
And 'Settled'. You should not be 'settling' for anything when it comes to a big event like your wedding! Your stationery needs to perform in a bunch of ways. At its core, it needs to communicate who, where and when. But it can do so much more than that! Your wedding stationery should bring you joy when you look at it, both now and in that golden future I referenced when you and your beloved are at an age where you both have white hair and love feeding the ducks at the park! It should show something of the personality of you and your soon-to-be spouse, so as soon as your invitations land on your guest's doorstep, they instantly think "yep, that's so and so's wedding alright!". And your suite should also set the tone for your wedding day. Is it all-out glamour with mirror balls and glitter cannons? Is it a tasteful, black-tie only affair at a grand country house set in acres of beautiful estate? Is it a wild and free shindig which you're treating more like a party than a solemn ceremony?
So with these couples who have 'settled' on something 'tasteful' when they come to me, I generally do some digging at the consultation stage to find out more about them. I've even tasked some with putting together a separate mood board of random things that they've seen and liked. From luxe paint manufacturers, sports teams, handbags, travel pictures or even a lamp or a cushion that they're drawn to for whatever reason. From here, I can start seeing some of that personality shine through, and discover what's bringing them joy, and this is the starting point of delivering them the suite of their dreams.
In this blog, I'm going to talk to you a little bit about colour theory, how you can go about finding your perfect colour palette, and some of the pitfalls to be wary of!
What do we mean when we talk about colour theory?
There are many articles on the big ol' internet about colour theory and how each colour has its own meaning. And you've probably seen colour wheels too, probably back when you did art at secondary school, that were pretty dry and didn't do much for you in terms of inspiration. Now that's all useful info but doesn't get to the crux of making any firm decisions about your wedding suite.
What these dry diagrams don't speak about are mood and emotion. And while there are plenty of articles that will try to define this for you, responses to colours are a personal thing.
Let's take red as an example. So many times we're told it represents danger, and a bunch of other times it's passion! Which is it? Well, it's both! It depends on how you read the colour in a given situation, and that is a personal decision. If we're driving a car and come across a traffic light, red is certainly a warning of danger as there is no romance when it comes to road safety. If we're receiving red roses on Valentine's Day, it's passion. As far as I know, red roses do not pose a threat to life, although there may be an odd prickle in the bouquet. And depending on your heritage, red might be seen as the colour of good fortune and fertility!
How should we talk about colour in general?
There are a couple of different ways we talk about colour. The first you're probably already familiar with, and that's primary, secondary and tertiary colours. The primary colours are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colours are the derivative outcomes when you mix any of these two colours, so orange, purple and green. Tertiary colours are the outcomes when you mix a primary with a secondary, which are magenta, vermillion, violet, teal, amber and chartreuse.
What does the above mean when it comes to colour combinations? If you're thinking of using two primary colours, that's a pretty vivid look you'll be going for, and might stray into primary school poster paint territory quite quickly. The same can be true of mixing two secondary colours. You could also inadvertently stumble across established themes which would bring a whole new meaning to your event, e.g. purple and orange are synonymous with Halloween.
If you choose a pair made up of a primary, and a secondary colour that's composed of the remaining two primaries, those pairs are called complementary colours. Complementary colours can produce striking optical effects but aren't the most chill way to combine colours in their pure colour. But we'll touch more on how that's an achievable look shortly.
The other way we can talk about colour is as 'tints' and 'shades' of the original 'hue'. A hue is the original base colour, let's say hot pink in this instance. A tint is where we add white to the original hue, in this case, the more white we use the more our hot pink moves towards a pastel pink. A shade is where we add black to the original hue, so the more black we use the quicker we get into dark, intense colours that are quite moody, in this case, different shades of plum.
What sort of colour schemes are there?
A lovely way of creating a harmonious palette is to use shades and tints of one colour. It's also a great way to create a cohesive look and feel across your entire suite. This type of scheme is called monochromatic.
Staying with hot pink as our sample, imagine some soft white handmade paper with your wedding details printed in a deep shade of plum, with some floral illustrations around the edge in a light tint of pink. Have your details card printed on a candy pink card stock, and some off-white card stock for your RSVP and have them all printed up using the same dark plum shade as used on the invitation. The RSVP envelope could be another shade of soft pink, and we can tie it all up with a plummy-coloured silk ribbon, and have an envelope that is also off-white but lined with a hot pink and white motif which matches the floral edging on the main invitation. Wax seals to finish could be a plum and white swirl. Yum yum yum, sounds amazing!
Monochromatic is a superb way to use one colour to give you a scheme that is both clean and polished. However, you should note that this type of scheme comes with its limitations. If yellow is your favourite colour, for example, monochromatic is probably not the solution for you. Yellow is pretty hard to read on white as there's not a great deal of contrast between those two colours. If you're only inviting hip 20-year-olds to your wedding that have eagle-eye vision it might not be as much of a problem, but if you're inviting your lovely Nanny Doris and Grandpa Frank, they might well have a hard time reading the information on that invite!
If you want something with a little more colour variety, an analogous approach is where you pick a main colour on the colour wheel and pair it with the colours directly to either side of it.
Let's take green as our example for this one. Green is a secondary colour, so we'd want the two tertiary colours that sit next to it and this instance that would be chartreuse and teal. So imagine the main invitation in deep forest green ink on a mid-green card that has a scalloped edge. Your details card and RSVP are printed on a true-white card in the same forest-coloured ink with a chartreuse envelope for the RSVP. They all come in a teal-coloured card slipcase with a white matt foil print and a scallop edge pattern, all bound with a white silk ribbon. The main envelope is forest green to tie things together, with white calligraphy on the front and a white printed return address on the back, and a chartreuse wax seal to finish. Very chic!
This approach will give you something that creates a little more visual interest but still looks purposeful and well-thought-out. As it's nearly impossible to stick to the exact same tints or shades for these three colours across papers, cards, envelopes, inks, wax, ribbons etc, you should still be mindful of deviating too far from them. You can quickly lose the visual harmony you'd expect from an analogous scheme and just end up with a bunch of different shades of green.
As you might have guessed, this scheme uses two colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel. With this sort of scheme, it's best to pick one colour as your main, and then use the other for accents and embellishments.
For this example let's use a vibrant peacock blue and opposite that on the colour wheel, we have a lovely tangerine orange. So imagine a warm white card for the front of the invitation with all the details printed in peacock blue, with a beautiful swirled border in peach, and the white card is mounted on a deep terracotta card stock so it's a dual-coloured invitation. The details card is on a soft peach stock with peacock blue ink (we can go all the way to navy if necessary) with some swirled flourishes. The RSVP is on warm white to match the invitation with peacock blue ink and more swirled adornments, and its envelope is a tangy orange. These will be placed in a vellum wrap and tied with orange string and sealed with white wax. The outer envelope is navy with white upright calligraphy and the liner features a scenic illustration of the venue in different tones of orange. Bold and beautiful!
A complementary colour scheme certainly provides impact! With a complementary scheme, it's important to stick to a single hue from one side of the colour wheel, in the above example, it was peacock blue. Where we did deviate, it went a shade darker to navy. But we were able to have some fun with tints and shades of the tangerine which is opposite peacock blue on the colour wheel, looking at peaches and terracottas but in gentle amounts so it didn't overwhelm the blue.
There are numerous other colour schemes to explore, but they're not ideal for working out a colour scheme for a wedding as they make balancing lots of contrasting colours more difficult. If you're interested in doing some further research of your own (and impressing all your friends with your new knowledge of colour theory) they're called split complementary, triadic, square and rectangle.
Where to get inspiration for your ideal wedding colour scheme
I'm a big fan of my couples choosing colours that are personal to them. I've had very understanding brides that have found a way to accommodate their soon-to-be spouse's love of a certain football team into their suite. Other couples have had a shared love of a particular country to draw inspiration from. Others have a piece of art that they both love that has formed the basis of their colour palette.
However, if you're still stuck for ideas there are some online tools that might help make things easier for you. The first is ColourLovers. You can happily spend hours searching through different premade palettes to find something that you like the look of. Another option is Adobe Color, which also has premade palettes under the Explore and Trends tabs. If you go into the Create tab, you can upload a picture and cherry-pick some colours from that image and choose what 'mood' you'd prefer, which gives you slightly different options around the same key colours.
The main thing to consider as you're picking your colour scheme is contrast. In an ideal world, we should be able to take one of the colours and get a reasonably dark shade that we can use for the text on the pieces of your suite so Nanny Doris can read all the details. We also want to be able to get some lighter tints to soften the zingy colours that you want to use, which will make the final suite look cohesive and refined.
You may have noticed when I was throwing out ideas in the colour schemes section that I was off-setting those strong colours by using different types of white. White acts as a neutral colour in strong palettes to bind everything together. It alleviates the heaviness from lots of dense colours being used and brings a touch of timeless beauty to a suite.
Colour is a personal preference; it's emotional. It reminds us of people, places, and things that we love. Don't be afraid to embrace it and the endless possibilities it offers!
The best route to getting a wedding colour scheme that you love is to put some thought into what brings you the most joy. I've gone through phases of loving pink to distraction (I couldn't get enough of it when I was young), adoring purple (it's my partner's favourite colour), to having my heart sing at anything sunshine yellow (which reminds me of a dear friend every time I see it).
And I will ask a personal favour from everyone who reads this blog entry: please don't 'settle' for something 'tasteful'. Get some good advice from your stationer if you are really at a loss on colours; you really do deserve the best!
Are you looking for a colour scheme for your very own wedding invitations, head over to my bespoke wedding suite gallery!