My no-theme wedding: you don't need a theme to get hitched

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Tessa B.
Original photo by Vera Devera. Remixed by CC license.
Original photo by Vera Devera. Remixed by CC license.

Nobody believes me when I tell them I don't have a wedding theme. Conversations go something like this…

Them: "But you're going to, right?"
Me: "Nope. Can't really think of a single thing that would really capture all our interests in one go."
Them: "Oh, so you're gonna have, like, several themes then!"
Me: "No… no themes."
Them: "Well, what's your color then?"
Me: "Rainbow."
Them: "I… what?"
Me: "I want all my bridesmaids to be different colors, and for the general party to be as colorful and fun as possible."
Them: [Stunned silence followed by] "Just you wait. Pretty soon you'll suddenly pick something and become obsessed. OBSESSED, I tell you!"

Now, I'm pretty sure this has more to do with others' perceptions of "proper wedding planning," and much less to do with some sort of mysteriously themed and color-coordinated life that I've been leading without realizing it.

Do you need a theme for your wedding?

Spoiler alert: NO.

My old roommate did point out to me that I enjoy collecting things (totally true) and giving myself mini-missions throughout life ("I must find the perfect leather jacket for under $100!" or "Life will be incomplete until I discover the best vindaloo in all of Berkeley!"). And that, in all likelihood, I would just get bored and decide I need to put together the world's biggest collection of Doctor Who paraphernalia — just because — and then use the wedding as an excuse for my newest eccentricity.

Which means I do, in fact, now have a theme: PROVING THEM ALL WRONG. You heard me right: my theme is totally just to be a stubborn jackass and refuse to have a theme so that in six months I can do the "I told you so" dance in my pretty dress surrounded by my mis-matched bridesmaids under my pinata and next to my peach cobbler.

  1. I went through the same thing! I realized the best answer was "shit we think is awesome". Pretty much summed it up! Themes can really limit your creativity because if you are having a Star Wars theme and then decide you want a TARDIS card box instead of R2, you just blew the whole thing! Ok, not really, but it really is better to have everything you like all mashed together.

    • We do not really have a theme. We do have a limited color pallet, but this totally happened to us with the food! Everyone wanted to know what our food theme was going to be… Basically it is "we opened up each of our favorite take-out menues and ordered all of the food we love off of each."

    • THIS THIS THIS! Thank you for articulating perfectly what I'm dealing with in planning our wedding. We don't have a theme either and I've resorted to calling it "random nerdy stuff" but "shit we think is awesome" fits even better.

  2. We've been telling people our theme is Marriage.

    Everyone assumes we are having a beach theme since we are getting married on the beach but people don't have golf theme weddings if they get married in Country Clubs…

  3. A friend asked me yesterday what our theme is going to be. I said, "Whatever will not send us into debtor's prison, plus emphatically non-religious, and maybe (possibly?) Star Wars." Which means if we can afford to have a wedding where people other than witnesses and a courthouse clerk attend, MAYBE I will put some Star Wars related symbols on things. But no stormtroopers or lightsabers.

  4. When I started out, I failed to realize that themes were the norm, I just thought they were something hyper-productive really over the top people did. Then I found out that as usual, I was really the weird one for not having a theme. The only problem with themelessness is if you're apathetic about something, you still have to choose from a wide range, you can't narrow it down to fit the theme. It should also be noted that we're not doing "offbeat as theme" either with scatter shot "oh, that's 'offbeat' let's do that" thinking. If it really came down to it, I guess we're having a gamer, fashion nerd, DIY glam affair so we could have a "theme" if we desperately needed one.

  5. So true! Our colors are "blue…just blue". And I don't understand the need for a theme…I thought the theme was Our Relationship.

    • Haha, we had the same blue thing, because it's my favorite color and the color I was wearing. And then it went way too far into smurf-ville when people assumed I ONLY wanted blue things, and I really didn't care. I just wanted to wear blue.

      • I had this exact same problem. I picked a blue dress purely because I love the way blue looks on me.

        Suddenly everyone was talking about where to get blue chair covers and table cloths, whether the napkins should be the same shade of blue, how we could have blue ribbons and blue balloons for decorations…

        Now I like blue. I'd even say I love blue. But I didn't want everything to be blue, especially when I had no idea that chosing a dress would define the rest of the wedding.

        In the end we ended up with more green, gold and earth tones than anything else because we had an outdoor wedding so the decorations needed to match what was already there. But I never did quite manage to stop people trying to make everything blue.

        • When you think about it, that really doesn't even make sense. Most people wear white. That doesn't make everyone turn around and go "we need white table cloths, and napkins, and chairs, and…."

  6. Ack me too! I've been obsessed with only the colors (Maybe that IS our theme?)Mostly I've been focusing on Fun things regardless of what theme they are.

  7. Them: What are your wedding colors?
    Me: Floral.
    Them: No, what are your colors?

    Our theme was "Jeff & Kristin Get Married." It worked out quit well b/c that's what happened that day!

    • That was always a question that baffled me…"What are your colors?" People around here have color-themes, where EVERYTHING is the same color as the bridesmaids' dresses.

      • I started out with colors (purple and orange) because that was the first thing people asked me. I'm not really sure how those two colors were selected but I worked with that for awhile, until I realized I don't care about either color much at all.

        I like old trunks, LEGOS, champagne, traveling, music, super heros, friends and beautiful views. I don't care about flowers or sweetheart tables or a 4-tiered cake. So I've taken myself out of the purple/orange box and started moving toward a mashup of what we, as a family, enjoy.

        I'm liking this direction MUCH better.

  8. ah yes. similarly, my theme is "pure awesome" it looks like bright colors, mismatched plates, homemade cake, and whatever else looked good.

  9. So many people asked us what our colors were (not necessarily about theme – but I think they assumed it was the same thing). I always said "Whatever color happened to be my favorite on the day I had to make a decision about a particular item." You could easily use the same line for themes.

  10. We went through much the same thing. And I got a lot of, "So you're having a nautical theme?" No. "But you're wedding is on an island and your colors are blue." Don't care – NO THEME. And our wedding was AWESOME.

  11. This topic came up on the tribe a little while ago and someone very smart (maybe one of you) said, you know what my theme is? My theme is WEDDING.

    That made me laugh. Our upcoming wedding is inspired by certain things, sure, but the theme is certainly wedding. There will be a bride, a groom, a pretty dress, a dapper suit, food, lots of guest, some drunk, some not, and toasts. So far, I think we are doing pretty good delivering on our theme.

    I was trying to stick with a color palette, but it was proving too difficult. I love color so when my boyfriend said he wanted to wear a red tie even though everything else we've done is in hues of pastels, I couldn't say no. Screaming "But pink and red will clash!" was just silly. So at the end of the day our theme is wedding. Our colors are anything vibrant and I think it's going to be awesome.

    Thanks for this post. I love when couples have a suitable theme and run with it, but for me, it would have added to the cost and I will have plenty of opportunities to throw a theme party in the future =)

  12. Thank you for this article.
    After the "when's the date?" question, the next question is "what's your theme?" We never even considered a theme as we are both eclectic people and like things we like, never really grouping things into a theme.

  13. Thank you for the post! I thought I was a bit weird by not having a theme…

    I tried having a theme, but its really hard to pick just one thing out. Like first, I wanted to do country-ish (we live in the South), then switched to cinco de mayo (since it's on may 5th, 2012) but it didn't really fit us completely… so I switched again to a mad hatter tea party type thing, which somewhat fit us but was a bit girly.

    Sooooooo, we're not having a theme per say. Basically, we're picking out stuff that we like and that represents us best. So far, it's working out great. =)

    • When I was originally planning themes were all over the place but then I saw a response in a forum about decor or something and the commenter said they were going to include all the things we like…. It helped me loosen up any theme other than color which I chose early on. And our theme incorporates different aspects, hobbies and interests of ours. From art to science to sci-fi to dungeons and dragons it'll be about US. Which I can't wait 🙂

    • I do want to clarify here that "wedding theme" and a "theme wedding" are two different things.

      Wedding theme = general vision like vintage picnik or gamer chic. Wedding themes can just be a color scheme ("teal and grey"), an era ("'50s rock"), or even more loose — my theme was "circles," which is barely a theme at all.

      Theme wedding = a high-concept event, like STAR WARS WEDDING or MIDIEVAL WEDDING. A theme wedding has the thematic element front 'n' center — guests are often dressed in costume, and the events are immersive experiences. We're talking high-concept, here.

      Theme weddings are rare, but as Tessa (the author of this post) has clearly found: wedding themes are a relatively common way couples shape their wedding planning.

      • Thanks for the clarification, I was a little confused.

        My fiance and I joke that we're having a dinosaur themed wedding, but we're just going to keep it to the top of the cake. 😀

      • This is how I see it. So when I read the post and they were insistant on not having a "theme" but wanting rainbow colors and mis-matched items, I was thinking "Well, technically that would be your 'theme'". Anything that has been organized with overlapping semblances could constitute a theme. So even if that is "Nothing to match", everything isn't matching, and that in and of itself, would be a theme.

  14. I love this post so much – it pretty much sums up the first six months of planning our wedding! Stick with it – any wedding that reflects you as a couple will be fantastic, no matter whether that turns out to be a selection of many different things, nothing in particular or the most themed day imaginable!

  15. I love this article. I keep trying to convince people that really the theme is show up and celebrate this kick ass occasion. It doesn't matter what dress you wear, there are no colors, we are getting married. thank you and goodnight.

  16. Thank you for this post!

    I've been sarcastically responding that our theme is "awesome Seattle wedding." 🙂

    We're getting married on the Puget Sound and my mom is obsessed with trying to get us to do a theme, particularly a beach theme. I explained that the great part about getting married in a beautiful, natural place is that we don't really need decorations. Why put fake seashells out on the guestbook table when you can see the *real* ocean?

  17. Is there a way to say "This!" to the entire article? Because that's exactly what I want to do.

    The most annoying thing about it was that the comments and questions just did not stop. About a month before our wedding I said something on Facebook about how, completely by coincidence, all of the songs in our ceremony were from movies and people started asking if/why we were having a movie themed wedding and wasn't it too late to change everything to match that?

    Previous "themes" included the colour blue (my dress), the Georgian period (when the venue was built), the colour red (the bridesmaids dresses), 'outside', green and gold (the centerpiece colours), 'rock music', 'Lord of the Rings' (because one song is from that movie) and probably about a dozen others.

    As far as we were concerned the theme was "stuff we like" which included all of the above and more. And you know what? It worked.

    I have to admit though from a design perspective having a theme does make things easier. Every time we needed to choose something we were back at square 1, whereas if we had a theme it would have helped to narrow our choices down a lot. But for the same reason it could also be quite limiting.

  18. Don't know if it's an Australian thing but we haven't been asked about themes and colour schemes at all! I've been to heaps of weddings with matching decorations etc, but we are gonna just get some pot plants and be wonderfully mismatched.

    • Aussie OffbeatWife here, I'd never heard of wedding themes or colours until I started looking at American wedding sites.

      • Yup, I'm a kiwi and have been to a MILLION weddings and I don't think any of them had a theme. In saying that, I've noticed some of the Kiwi and Aussie bridal magazines my sister heaped on me talk about themes – so maybe it's slowly becoming an actual thing over here as well…

  19. Did I write this article in my sleep?? Because that's exactly how mine is going too! At first I was like, "there's no theme except all kinds of colors and anything goes!!!" and everyone was like…what?? you have to have a color.

    Well, I did not give in to everyone's requests, but I did find something both my future husband and I had in common so I'm going with it. But yeah, now I'm like, we want giant inflatable punching gloves!!…but…how does that fit into our "theme". But now I'm just like…our theme is fun and giant inflatable punching gloves are FUN. 🙂

  20. And to think I was the only person who was crazy for not having a theme! I haven't had too many people ask me the "theme" but I have had lots of "what are your colors?", and when I respond with "whatever's in season" I get lots of blank and confused looks.

    Glad to know I'm not alone on not having a theme!

  21. Hah! You totally read my mind about the Doctor Who collection. I was also feeling weird about not having a theme for our wedding. So far, the only thing I've thought of is kidnapping Matt Smith and making him perform our ceremony.

  22. Our theme is Just Us. I want everything to be really colourful, because I love colour. We both want nerdy references, because we're both nerds. Some things are a bit traditional, because sometimes when I look into the meaning of the traditions, I actually kind of like them. There will be elements of the theatre that FH loves, and the music I love. No one single thing defines who we are, so no one single thing shall define our wedding.

  23. Yes, OMG, THIS.
    Our theme, after being pestered by his mother for one, is "Love." We love each other, and elements in our wedding come from things we love – I love cornflower blue and yellow (my parent's wedding colors), he loves black and gray (his Belegarth fighting unit's colors)….so our wedding colors are all of those. Do they go together? Eh, well enough. Our invites and some of our decor will include mason jars, because they will always remind me of my papa, who I love. His groom's cake will include his 40k models and an assault set up, because he loves 40k, and we're nerdy. Our flowers will be fabric because I love crafting (and other grumblings about flowers being the least sustainable part of a wedding). Our stamps? The Pixar stamps from USPS because we love Pixar movies. And I don't care if all of the things together look cray cray….because we're both a little crazy, and we're crazy together, so it makes sense.

  24. Ahhahahaha! Seems that so many of us are/were not alone! I asked my bridesmaids to 'buy a blue dress' after I was told that I HAD to give them SOME direction. WELL. In the end I had to make the blue more specific ('duck egg', which thankfully has several interpretations) AND give the ok on the dresses before they were bought. Because I MUST have a vision for this wedding. Did no-one consider that maybe we just wanted to get married without spending hours thinking about colours and themes? Yeepers!

  25. I have a colour, red, because it is both of our favourites. And because it is a budget wedding, the theme is crap we like, because I want to be able to use it again. It may end up looking more like a traditional 'theme' wedding because I like certain things, but it wont be deliberate.

  26. I love this discussion! I was taken by surprise when people started asking me what my colors and theme are — suddenly I felt I had to pick, when I actually like lots of things a bit, and nothing super-much. (Even in my regular life I can't answer when asked what my favorite color is! My favorite to wear? My favorite on a wall? My favorite in flowers? Appliances? … Also, not the best decision-maker in general, I must admit.)
    But, what happened is that we chose a historic building as our venue, which fit us perfectly because we love used/antique/weathered in general. Then my fiance discovered personalized guitar picks online! They're just cool! He promptly ordered them as favors, since he and a lot of his friends are musicians. Does it fit together? Uh, sure — "Vintage Rock and Roll"!
    I totally agree that a wedding does not need a theme, I've been to tons that don't, and if we veer off ours I don't care. But in my case it helps make deciding a little easier. For instance: I've seen so many awesome card boxes on this site and I can't decide which I like best — but we're going to copy whoever converted a guitar amp into a card box, because it's rock and roll…and we're done with that decision.

  27. Yeah my Mum asked me what our theme would be. I said that our theme is "Spring Wedding at Cool Winery Venue." Done!

  28. My wedding ladies finally cornered me and made me pick something more than "ALL THE COLORS!" so I went with the colors on a peacock feather. Jewel tones. The "theme" is, glibly, "Waste Not, Want Not." I told them that I didn't really want decorations, but if they insist on it, everything has to be bought second-hand or recycled somehow, and EVERYTHING has to be reusable after the wedding. I don't want anything, anything at all, with the sole purpose of looking pretty then being thrown away. No fresh flowers, no chair covers, compostable dinnerware, and local organic in-season fruit as centerpieces.

    • Plants or herbs could make great center pieces and then could be given as gifts or used in your own garden/ home.

  29. We don't really have a theme (because when we tried to pin one we always changed our minds and then it doesn't fit our theme of the moment. GACK. I kind of agree with the first comment saying that themes limit your creativity in a way, especially if you're a more eclectic couple.) so when I get that question I say that our theme is "Us". We just want a wedding that's fun and is a total reflection of who we are as individuals and as a couple. We basically want this day to celebrate the love we have for each other and celebrating the next natural step in our relationship.

  30. When suppliers and people ask me, "what's your wedding's theme?" I had to pause and think.

    Then I thought, "what's our wedding theme?" I searched the net looking for inspiration but to no avail. I keep changing my mind when I see something that we like but we won't fit the theme. So I gave up.

    In the end, we decided not to have a theme and just make the wedding laid-back, colorful and 'us'.

  31. we started out having a color theme to go along with our themeless wedding, but now we don't even have that! lol ah well, we'll look awesome anyway!

  32. Haha, i love that there are so many other people without a theme! I get funny looks, people go
    'So whats the theme?'
    'No theme, just a lovely wedding?'
    'Ok well, if there was a theme, what would it be?'
    'Fine, the theme is rainbow, butterflies, spring, family, flowers, love, music, country garden, fun fair, feathers, beads, homemade, reusable, FUN!'
    'So there is no theme for your wedding?'
    (also, i think the word 'bridezilla' should be banned. makes you feel like a crazy selfish bitch for wanting your relationship represented in a nice way and happy guests…!)

  33. *Dances*
    I love that post!
    I dont know where i would be without offbeat bride, that post just sums it up!
    Big love!

  34. THIS POST HAS BEEN AN EPIPHANY! I don't want a theme! Neither of us do! We kept trying to think of, maybe, a "VIBE" we wanted rather than a theme, but really… what is this, Disney World!? We're grown up people, I don't need a cowboys & astronauts party. And colors, I think that makes it look even more childish. Thank you to everyone who has posted, I'm not the only one… HOORAY!

  35. I didn't need the reassurance, but I sure enjoyed reading everyone's post! I'm actually dyeing the edge of my train multi-hued from turquoise to blue to purple and sending everyone a piece of dyed sample fabric and just telling them to pick something that compliments or blends. I'm even hand dyeing the best man (no "wedding party") and dads' ties! FUN is our theme. Even having an open house dessert reception instead of the "performance-based" full reception. I'm looking forward to having time to actually visit with all our guests!

  36. I'm tired of the theme pressure, too. If one more person asks me what my colors are, I'm going to say, "Well, David and I are white, but our priest is black."

  37. It's like hearing myself talk!
    Luckily, themes aren't so much a thing in The Netherlands. Actually having more theme then flowers, ribbons, a nice car and a special location is quite offbeat overhere.

  38. Ha, love it! We also have a "themeless" wedding. Well if you need to put a lable on it, it is a "everyone is wearing their favourite clothes that makes them feel good" theme. Right down to the flower girl, my 4 year old niece who wants to wear her fairy custome with wings….and she will. So we will have an ecclectic mix of colours and styles but whats important is everyone will be smiling!

  39. When I eventually get weddinged, at the moment, I'm thinking 1940s vintage meets rock n' roll meets burlesque. In a couple of years, who knows – this might change. But I wouldn't expect my own mum to dress in a feather boa so… I can't image my enforcing a theme on anyone. I know what *I* find aesthetically orgasmic (and selfishly, it'll be MY wedding and *I* am paying for it so I get to do what I want), but I don't believe it is necessary to enforce some sort of uniform on your guests. I kinda enjoy seeing the multitude of styles people would come up with. And if I'm forking out all that money to make people have a good time, I'd rather they were comfortable rather than self-conscious. But on that note, does anyone find that, despite how offbeat male guests can be, many still turn up in suits and tuxes? Is that for lack of choice or is it the most obvious and easiest option? (I'm only wondering because my finace is trying to find his feet when it comes to picking out his own wedding outfit. He's not a suit/tie/tux kinda guy so he's trying to find what he's comfortable with.)

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