How To Choose Your Wedding Colors: An Epic Guide For Finding Your Perfect Palette

You know what is kind of crazy about this whole wedding blog thing?  I was never really one of those girls that had endless day-dreams about her wedding day.  Don't get me wrong, I spent a ridiculous amount of time sketching wedding gowns as a kid, but that was mostly because I love to design and draw (though I'm not necessarily good at it).  So, its a little bit funny that I'm sitting here writing a blog about wedding planning.  I find myself just a little bit shocked at how much I've fallen in love with this whole process (though not necessarily this part of it);  especially the fun parts that most girls decide on in childhood- like picking your color palette.  I mean, I never really put much thought into what my wedding colors would be.  Actually, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a wedding color palette, nor that you can actually hire people to help you pick one.  Amazing!  Thankfully, I've had some time to delve into wedding palettes.  I know first hand that choosing your color palette, while fun, isn't always the effortless task they make it out to be (I'm looking at you, Pinterest). 

Back when we started planning to get married, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to have an October wedding (sorry, FI...non-negotiable).  And I had a pretty good idea of the kind of colors I would/could incorporate, or so I thought.  What I didn't know was that my wedding was (is) actually going to take place ON Halloween; it just sort of happened when we were searching for venues and open dates.  The problem with this was that I wanted to incorporate Halloween colors without it look costume-y or crassy.  (Hence, my "classy, not crassy, French Quarter Hallowedding" theme I'm going with.)  It was very important for me to stay away from colors that would make the entire shindig look like a child's party, rather than an (mostly) elegant affair. 

When we settled on the Halloween wedding date, I thought it would be pretty simple because there are only so many colors that really go appropriately with that time of year.  Originally, I envisioned a classic palette of white, black, purple, and silver, with little pops of green and orange for good measure.  However, throughout the process, I discovered that finding ways to incorporate all of those colors and make them effortlessly flow has proven a little trick-OR-TREAT-ier (lamest joke ever?) than I expected.  There are more shades of purple than I can shake a stick at!  It can be extremely difficult to match your exact shade.  Thankfully, most of my other colors are fairly easy to pull off/match- like the black & white staples I'm including.

I've done a considerable amount of research on color palettes, and let me tell you, I've pretty much fallen in love with the color wheel and what they call 'color theory.'  You know how beautiful colors combined in specific ways can kinda make you feel all the feels (think of the most heavenly wedding Pinterest boards you've ever seen)?  Well, color theory is basically the set of rules that are used to create beautiful, flowing color combinations.  Six of the rules, which I briefly break down for you below, are fairly easy to grasp- especially once you see them in pictures. 

Side note: I'm not sure if I'm technically "geeking out," but I think this stuff is majorly cool!

I know, I know.  Rules?!  Steps?!  Seems like this is an awful lot of effort for just picking some pretty colors, right?  Well, I can promise you that the color theory will 1). cause you to have an amazing "AH-HA" moment (so that's how they create such beautiful wedding palettes) and 2). give you a serious advantage when faced with ANY. OTHER. color scheme decision (like home decor for your new home).  I've also included seven tips to help you narrow down the color palette perfect for you and your wedding.

Okay, you ready?  Let's begin!

Tips For Choosing Your Wedding Color Palette

1).  Consider Your Wedding Date

A great way to narrow down your color palette options is by using the time of year as a guide for your wedding colors.  Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have a warm, rustic, fall-ish colors at a spring wedding; but choosing more of a pastel palette in those colors- like lighter shades of purple and orange- would definitely be more complimentary.  It all depends on how your want your theme to flow and your general vision for the event.  A great guideline to remember for color palettes is that warm colors, like reds and yellows, are fabulous for springtime celebrations; while cool colors, like blue and green (in darker shades, of course), compliment winter weddings beautifully. 

P.S. Just remember- this is your day, and ultimately your colors!  You can totally pull an Eric Cartman if you want to.  "Whatever, whatever. I do what I want!"  Even if you choose to have the brightest shade of canary yellow for a winter wedding (which I actually think would be quite eye-catching), you can definitely find ways to incorporate other shades and other colors throughout the entire theme. 

2).  Play Off Your Venue's Color Scheme

So, if you're in the beginning of wedding planning, you're probably thinking about color scheme already, even if you haven't found a venue yet.  Don't worry, I did that too.  However, coordinating your colors with your venue is not a bad idea.  I can sum it up in two words: color catastrophe.

When I think of a color catastrophe, I imagine something along the lines of my God-awful wardrobe back in the early 90's, when I was a naive little kid.  Let's just say it involved a pair of ugly, green stirrup pants (unfortunately, you read that right), a striped, pastel button-down shirt, and a bright pink hair band.  Ew. 

Actually, it's pretty laughable, but it serves as a great reminder of what can happen when colors clash.  (Please tell me I wasn't the only wardrobe-challenged child out there, was I?)  That's why its important to at least consider what your venue might look like before making any concrete decisions on your color scheme.

Think about how much time and effort you spend looking for the perfect venue.  You ask yourself questions like, Is it within my budget?  Can it accommodate all of my guests?  What type of packaging do they offer?  Is it inclusive?  But its also really important to ask, "Does this venue go with my overall vision?"  If you have your heart set on aquamarine, beach themed colors, a venue with dusky maroon painted walls might be a deal breaker.  It really depends on your preference and what you're willing to work around.  In my opinion, it certainly would be difficult to walk-away from a venue that is perfect for me on every other aspect except color; let's be real, finding great venues at reasonable prices is no easy feat. 

If you're absolutely dead-set on a color scheme, then should definitely opt to choose your venue based more heavily on color and theme; try to go with a setting that either compliments your vision or one that is a "blank canvas" that you can make your own.  But, if you're more flexible in color, find an ideal venue within your price range, and figure out your color palette from there. 

3).  Start with the colors you Don't want

If you love color schemes and could stare at pretty colors all day, you might find the task of color palette picking a bit daunting.  (Especially if you have a serious issue with indecisiveness, like me...)  Narrowing down the colors by eliminating the ones that you know you don't want- like 'puke' green- might make the decision a little easier.  Just make a little list of colors that you either don't like or don't fancy for a wedding celebration, and keep them with you when palette browsing.  Cross of any schemes that incorporate your 'hell-no' colors.  Easy, peasy.

4).  Remember your overall theme

Consider your overall desired theme for the day.  I was pretty lucky on that front.  A Halloween wedding pretty much rules out a wide range of warm, spring-summer colors.  But, if I were to have my wedding at a different time of year, I would pick colors that complimented the overall vision I had for the day.  For example, are you dreaming of a ethereal, beach day celebration?  Start with colors like dusty aqua or sea green and find the perfect shade for your taste.  Same goes for my classy, French Quarter Hallowedding.  I started with the colors I wanted and then varied the shades until I found what I liked.  (We'll get to shades/tones/tints in a minute.)

5).  Create Contrast

You might be lucky enough to know the general color you want to go with already, which is awesome sauce for you.  But when choosing a palette, you should keep in mind that a little bit of contrast goes a long way.  Many brides make the mistake of picking a single or dominant color and then incorporating it into EVERY. SINGLE. ASPECT. of the wedding that they can think of.  It can be a smidge overwhelming.  Think of a private school that requires the students to wear uniforms.  Everyone kind of looks the same, don't they?  Well, that's what you want to avoid here.  You may be obsessed with your chosen wedding color, but having an event that's decked out in baby pink EVERYTHING- place cards, chargers, aisle runner, groomsmen pocketsquares, etc.- won't flow as beautifully as it would if you just tweaked the color a bit (see the monochromatic rule below).  You want to create a little bit of contrast by changing up the tones, and adding in a few different colors for variation.  Besides, its fun to have variety!

6).  When all else fails, start with your favorite color

Remember when you were in grade school and you spent days playing silly games, like "What's your favorite color?"  Well, revert back to that frame of mind for a second and think about (if you don't already know, that is) what your favorite color is.  If you HAD to choose?  Mine's a light sea green type of shade, for future reference.

Start with what you love, and work from there.  There is an amazing website that you should 110% use called The Perfect Palette, and trust me, it's 50 shades of amazing (pun intended).  You've probably already guessed it, but its got inspiration board upon inspiration board of color themes that you can browse.  The best part?  You can browse by whatever color your heart desires.  Just click on the "Color Finder" page and choose your color.  Your eyes will be instantly treated to a slew of beautifully curated and styled photos with your swatch!  Its pretty amazing and definitely deserves a look; though, if you're anything like me, it will make your indecisive little heart have palpitations.

7).  Use the color theory

Okay, now its time to delve into the color theory and tell you about this amazing article I found.  When I came across this site, I instantly thought I had found the Holy Grail for finding your color palette- and to be honest, it kind of is.  Burnett's Boards is a website owned and ran by a lovely lady named Sarah.  No, I don't actually know her, but look at her website; she just seems kind of fabulous doesn't she?  Anyway, color mentor obsession aside, this article is perfect for explaining color palettes and how to develop one.  Let me break it down for you...

The Color Theory

Remember when you learned about colors in elementary school, way back when?  Don't worry, neither do I.  But for a basic recap: the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, and cannot be made by mixing other colors together (hence primary).  Secondary colors are created by mixing primary colors together, like blue and red to make purple.  And tertiary colors would be made by mixing primary colors with secondary colors to create colors such as blue-green.

These colors all exist on the color wheel and can be divided into warm or cool colors, as I talked about earlier- red and yellow would be warm colors, blue and green cool colors.  Each color can then be broken down into different variations of shades, tints, and tones (finally getting to that!).  For example, to achieve variation, you would mix either black, white, or grey to change your chosen color; mix black with your color to shade, white to tint, and grey to tone.  Both the 'temperature' of the color and the variation of it can drastically effect a color palette.  And as Sarah suggests, you should always include a neutral with your color palette, such as white, grey, or beige, for balance.

As I mentioned above, 6 ways of creating color schemes are monochromatic, triadic, analogous, complimentary, split complimentary, and tetradic.  If you want to jump right in and play around with some color combinations, head over to here to Colors on the Web and try out their color wizard!  I especially like that it not only lets you play around with the 6 different color theory rules, but it also lets you adjust it by the color Hex, RBG, or other color codes, for any designer-friends out there.

Monochromatic Rule:

The monochromatic rule breaks down a color into its family of tints, shades, or tones.  To create a monochromatic palette, you choose a color, create some variation (by varying the shade/tint/tone of it), and then add a neutral.

A monochromatic color scheme I created on the Palettes Pro app for iPad.

Burnett's Boards monochromatic example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards monochromatic example.  Photo Credit.

Here's an example by way of flowers.  Notice how this gorgeous bouquet incorporates different shades of pink (to the point where it almost looks purple) with some neutrals?  Classic.

Triadic:

The triadic rule basically combines colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel from each other (see the wheel graphic).  This is definitely for brides with a bolder taste, and will require a variation of shades to create softer looks. 

A triadic color scheme I created with the Palettes Pro app for iPad.

Burnett's Boards triadic example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards triadic example.  Photo Credit.

Notice how all three colors are equally spaced apart on the color wheel (count three)?  Photo Credit

Notice how all three colors are equally spaced apart on the color wheel (count three)?  Photo Credit

Analogous:

The analogous rule uses between two to four colors on the color wheel that are right next to each other.  Think of it kind of as a variation of real life shades you might see, such as a darkening yellow-green on a flower.  These are usually very complimentary.

An anaologous color scheme I made using the Palettes Pro app for iPad.

Burnett's Boards analogous example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards analogous example.  Photo Credit.

Analogous color palette courtesy of nature (Hydrangea's: our IRL example).  Photo Credit.

Analogous color palette courtesy of nature (Hydrangea's: our IRL example).  Photo Credit.

Complimentary:

The complimentary rule uses colors that are exactly opposite from one another on the color wheel; in Burnett's example, purple and yellow.  For softer palettes, break your selected colors down into varying shades, tints, or tones and add a neutral color.

A complimentary color scheme I made using the Palettes Pro app for iPad.

Burnett's Boards complimentary example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards complimentary example.  Photo Credit.

See how the colors are complimentary (purple & yellow), but tweaked with a bunch of different shades and tints?  Gorgeous!

Split Complimentary:

The split complimentary rule basically adds on to the complimentary concept, except once you choose a color and find it's complimentary color on the opposite side of the wheel, you select the colors on either side of the complimentary color in your palette.  For example, if you choose yellow, purple is its complimentary color on the opposite side of the color wheel.  Therefore, you would use the shades on either side of purple (dark blue, magenta) in the palette, along with yellow.  Don't forget to changes tones and tints for variation!

A split complimentary color scheme I made using the Palettes Pro app for iPad.

Burnett's Boards split complimentary example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards split complimentary example.  Photo Credit.

A beautiful split complimentary color scheme compliments of Lucky Break Consulting.  Photo Credit.

A beautiful split complimentary color scheme compliments of Lucky Break Consulting.  Photo Credit.

Tetradic:

The tetradic rule is essentially two sets of complimentary themes (discussed above); it is basically choosing four colors that are in complimentary pairs.  So, for example, maybe yellow and purple, and green and red.  Hint: it will usually shape a rectangle on the color wheel.  As Sarah suggests, you should choose one color family as the dominate color, while allowing the other colors to be supporting swatches, with one used just as a 'pop' of color. 

A tetradic color scheme I made using the Color Wizard app on Colorsontheweb.com

Burnett's Boards tetradic example.  Photo Credit.

Burnett's Boards tetradic example.  Photo Credit.

Another color palette from Lucky Break Consulting->>>Tetradic.  Photo Credit.

Another color palette from Lucky Break Consulting->>>Tetradic.  Photo Credit.


Okay, so is it just me or is the whole color theory thing pretty fun?  I think so!  I really want to know, what's your favorite way to combine colors?  I honestly had never really realized how much thought can go into color palettes; but now that I do, I love it! 

And for those of you that have chosen your colors, how did you go about it?  Did you have help or did you design it all (or mostly) on your own?  Many brides change their colors several times before the big day!  How many of you fall into that category?

Find me on Twitter!  I'll be hashtagging #weddingcolorpalettenola and would love to hear from you!  And be sure to follow me on Pinterest and Instagram!

Until next time,

-The Newly NOLA Bride