Decorating a park ramada

I have been going round and round in my head for some idea on sprucing up a park ramada in a state park that we are using for our reception. The picnic tables I am not so worried about – those can be covered! But I am trying to make it look fun and festive with out it looking like a) a carnival b) country bumpkin – no offense on that cause I am one! or c) like a 5 year old's birthday party! Any suggestions on helping me with keeping the natural element but making it look special? -Rebecca

Sarahbella in control

To answer this question, I brought in the best expert I know — my friend Sarah Kelly, better known to those of you who have read the book as Upper Location Manager Sarah! Sarah is an interior designer specializing in organic decor working out of Los Angeles.

• Fabric is good and can be your friend. Drape it, layer it, cover it, use different colors for depth. For a dramatic effect, use deep or contrasting colors. That said, there is such a thing as too much chiffon and organza.

• I am going to go on the record and say that balloons, if ever used, should be used sparingly and only for an effect that can not be achieved by other means.

• I love flowers I know there can be some controversy about using a lot of fresh cut flowers. I get it — call it my eco-sin. I love flowers!

• I'm a big fan of lighting. Here are a few examples of lighting that, if modified and used right, could easily be applied to a ramada:

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• Some of the best sources of inspiration come from the seasons themselves. For example, if you were having a fall wedding you can cover the ramada in different layers of yumminess. Maybe start with a base fabric with deep jeweled tones and add on to layers of corn stalks, wheat stalks, sunflowers, branches with fall leaves on them – you get the picture.

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Below are a couple examples of layering or attaching natural elements or floral bouquets that are lovely and not too over the top.

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Thanks to Sarah for her input! And now I'll open the question to offbeat brides — any amazing decor fetishist ideas for how to decorate a park ramada to make it look extra awesome? No balloons allowed.

  1. What's not to love about white lights alone or drapped in fabric? They say festive, but not tacky anytime…IMHO!

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  2. I like the idea of white "icicle" xmas lights, but just attached randomly to the ceiling. Of course, you would need several sets to make a dramatic effect, but I think it is worth it.

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  3. If there's one thing I've learned about decorating (and I mean home or wedding) it's this:
    Go big or go home.
    People aren't going to notice the tiny stuff. Little things get overlooked. And when you start little, you just keep adding little, and little by little you end up with a cluttered wedding. Go for a few, big, dramatic accents. Try making a 'chandelier' out of oversized lanters, strung together. Use this as a focal point and everyone's eye will be drawn to it.

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  4. Ugh, I have the same problem. It's the one last detail about the wedding that is seriously stressing me out.

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  5. I agree with Kat. Decorations need to be in scale with the surroundings and outdoor decorations that are too small can get lost and look puny. I had an outdoor wedding and I chose to focus all of my decorating energy on the "stage" space where we got married. I did nothing to the chairs and nothing to the aisle even though I considered a lot of options.

    And in the end, it was all beautiful. I was surrounded by sheer cloth and flowers while getting married and my guests were mostly looking at us getting married (and seeing those flowers and other decorations).

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  6. Speaking of go big or go home…So I'm completely in love with paper lanterns. But my location is going to be outside. So we have the added challenge of not being able to hang anything from anybody's ceiling. And then I found this website (www.culturalintrigue.com), where they sell dirt cheap paper lanters with BATTERY OPERATED LED LIGHTS! And voila, I have giant lit orbs peppering my outdoor beach location in just about any color I can imagine. Best of luck!

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  7. Any sort of designer would be able to give you advice on this, and Kat is totally on spot. If you look at any example of good design, there are one, two, maybe three large, eye-catching elements that are the central focus. Everything else is there to accent these focus items. It is important to keep in mind that people are visual creatures, so a lot of little stimuli is going to get lost in itself and basically cancelled out as "noise".

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  8. Go for as many classy white fairy lights as you can, and i they can intertwined with many vine type flowers then even better. I think delicate white fairy lights always make a place look special. Are there trees in the area? I adore the romantic look of white lanterns hanging from the tree branches, the more the better. You can do this for cheap too – try jam jars hung with wire, you can cut out (or buy) some stencilled white paper to wrap around the outside of the jars for beautiful shades. Good Luck!

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  9. If you love flowers and want to make it slightly less "eco-sinful." Try your local farmers market. Depending on the time of year we have local growers selling the most beautiful flowers. Some also make bouqets, centerpieces and just about anything else you want for a wedding at a fraction of the cost of a florist.

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  10. you can hang sheer fabric around the perimeter- either white or a color- to transform the outdoor space into a more controlled, indoor one. bulk fabric can be really affordable. alternatively, you could make panels to hang along the perimeter.

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  11. This might sound a little… trashy (pun intended)to some of you, but florists often will give/throw away flowers that they do not need. You can check their dumpsters or go right on in and ask. Most places will be happy to see their cuttings go to good use.

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