This Circle Breathes Life Into Wedding Designs
By Nancy Flottmeyer, PBC™, Weddings by Nancy, and Publisher, Wedding Planner Magazine, La Crosse, Wis.

Taking a trip without a map often becomes a fabulous journey with memories to last a lifetime. As they say, it’s the journey not the destination. Not so when using color in wedding design. Without a map—or guide—the end result may be a chaotic display of either too little, too much, or just plain awful color usage.

No matter how incredibly talented, organized, and creative you are—even if you consider yourself an expert in color design—the fact is that everyone needs a guide or a “cheat sheet.” Enter, the color wheel.

First created by Sir Isaac Newton in 1706, the color wheel has been the go-to essential for the visual artist and interior designer for years. It is used in design school as a basis for all color theory. It should also be an essential piece in any wedding planner’s library because strategic use of color will make or break a fabulously “planned” wedding. At a wedding, first impressions are typically visual. The experience must be designed as welcoming and impressive, while also illustrating the couple’s style using color.

Color terminology 101
Before diving into the color wheel, learn to speak like a color expert:
•    Another name for color is hue.
•    Adding white to a color, creates a tint.
•    A shade is when black is added to a color.
•    Adding gray makes a tone.
•    When colors are very intense, they are saturated.

There are also neutral colors that work well with any color palette. These are gray, tan, white, cream, green, and black. Keep them in mind as you design. They are a great background for any color palette, and sometimes are the palette themselves as with a trendy “white” reception.

Understanding the color wheel
The color wheel is comprised of 12 colors organized in such a way that they flow from dark to light colors, and warm to cool, or vice versa. The base of the color wheel begins with three primary colors. They are red, blue, and yellow. These are positioned in a triangle on the color wheel. Incidentally, all colors are created using combinations of these three colors.

When two primary colors are combined, the end result is a secondary color.  These colors are violet, green, and orange. The third set of colors is the tertiary colors. Tertiary colors are created when you combine a primary and secondary color. These colors are red-violet, red-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, yellow-orange, and yellow-green.

Color groupings
Two types of color combinations are used in design—harmonious color combinations and contrasting combinations. Generally speaking, harmonious colors are next to each other on the color wheel and contrasting colors are across. There are several types of harmonious color palettes with which to work. The simplest is the monochromatic palette. This is created with just one color. Using all shades and tones of red —burgundy, claret, candy apple red—is a very dramatic and sexy color palette. Orange, brown, and peach are all members of the orange monochromatic family, which is perfect for fall. When you use a monochromatic color palette, pay special attention to that color’s tint, shade, and tone.

Related analagous colors are located next to each other in the color wheel and will always work together. For example, blue-violet, violet, red-violet, red, and red-orange work very well together. As does yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, and blue-green. When you are in doubt as you design a wedding, choose harmonious colors. They are no–brainers in color design and are incredibly pleasing to the eye.

The second color grouping is contrasting colors, also referred to as complementary colors. These are colors directly across from each other on the color wheel. The most obvious are orange and blue, red and green, and yellow and purple. There are very striking complementary colors used in wedding design today. Turquoise and red-orange is eye-catching. Radiant orchid and seafoam green is very elegant. Use the color wheel to find other fun combinations.

Split complementary uses a color and the two colors on either side of  its complement. For example, the complement of red is green. But the split complementary color palette using red would be red, blue-green, and yellow-green. Another split complement color palette is orange, lavender, and turquoise.

The split complementary tetrad is another complementary palette. These are four colors that form a square on the color wheel and are made up of two sets of complementary colors. For example: red and green and orange and blue. Though visually this palette has a lot going on, it is successful and eye-catching. It is popular with summer and fall weddings. It also can evoke a Bohemian look when done correctly—think violet, deep orange, turquoise, and avocado green.

Adjacent complementary palettes use two colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel and combine them with their complementary colors. A pretty springtime palette using this strategy is apple green, sea foam, pale pink, and lavender.

Another successful color palette is the triad—using any three colors that form a triangle on the color wheel will be a success. Kelly green, deep orange, and magenta are very colorful together. Pink, sky blue, and apple green are very popular combinations as well. The primary, secondary, and tertiary colors are fabulous palettes and work in all situations.

Once you break it down, using color in wedding design is not difficult. There are harmonious and contrasting colors. There are warm and cool colors. There are pastel and dark, saturated colors. Using the color wheel will help you combine them in the most dramatic and successful way for your clients. Remember, clients hire you to be an expert. Make sure you have the tools to back up your position. Buy a color wheel today!

2014 Color Trends—Pantone’s Radiant Orchid, Color of the Year
Venue: Lochwood Estates ( Photographer: Ashley Gerrity ( Creative Director/Florist/Planner: Aribella Events ( Caterer (and Mini Cakes):  Provence Catering (  Lights/AV: Eventions Productions ( Speciality Linen (champagne sequin only): Ultrapom Event Rental ( Linens & Rentals:  Party Rental LTD ( Traditional Wedding Cake: The Master’s Baker ( Stationery:  Natural Impression Designs (

2014 Color Trends—Color Marketing Group’s NEXT Nature Color Palette
Photographer: Maggie Stolzberg ( stylist/Planner: Kiss the Planner (  LIGHTING: Uplyte 
(  Linens & Rentals:  nüage designs (  florists:  Anthology Floristry (

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