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Subtle, cohesive touches can impart a themed feel to a wedding without being over-the-top.

Themed Weddings: Campy or Creative?

Fairy tale wedding or modern twist? Many brides- and grooms-to-be have been thinking about their ideal wedding for years. Some may have strong ideas about wedding ideas, complete with scrapbooks featuring color schemes and wardrobe choices.

Themed weddings have grown in popularity -- as couples want to do what they can to set their event apart from the scores of other weddings guests have attended. The key to themed weddings is to create a balance between tradition and elements that tie into the theme. This way the wedding is classy instead of over-the-top ... unless, however, over-the-top is what's desired.

Decide on your theme: Develop a clear idea of what you'd like the theme to be. Themes can range from tie-ins to seasons to specific interests, such as sports or hobbies, to a particular color scheme. Once you have a firm concept of your theme, you can plan and shop around it. For the purpose of illustration, let's use a winter theme as an example.

Introduce your theme with stationery: Your save-the-date cards or wedding invitations will present the theme to your guests, and could be the building block for the entire wedding. A winter-themed wedding may feature a whimsical font of swirly patterned type evoking the feel of winter wind. Delicate polka-dots could hint at falling snow. Avoid snowmen and ski boots.

Keep it simple: A winter theme may be achieved simply with color. Draperies, flowers, seat covers, table linens, etc. in a frosty blue, silver or white will touch upon the feel of winter. There's no need to clutter up the space with nicknacks that make the theme overwhelming. Remember, you want the event to still be traditional, with touches of the theme throughout.

Choose an accent: There may be one concept of your theme that you'd like to build upon, such as snowflakes. However, instead of paper snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, which would be more reminiscent of a classroom instead of a reception room, think about other subtle ways to incorporate the accent. Delicate doilies under the china could hint at snowflakes. Italian pizzelle cookies dusted with powdered sugar look like snowflakes and are very tasty. Instead of Jordan almonds in favors, use large nonpareils. Ask the venue to create a signature cocktail that's white and frosty.

Rely on flowers and lighting: Flowers, foliage and other natural accents can add a special touch to your wedding. Nature provides so many different hued and shaped flowers that can work effortlessly into your theme. Hydrangea or snowball plants (also called Guelder rose) form large puffs of flowers that resemble snowballs and are aptly named. Delicate alyssum and even the common baby's breath can be tucked into floral arrangements to add a snowflake appeal.

Lighting is something couples often overlook. Famed party planner David Tutera often uses lighting to set the mood at the events he plans. Changing the color or the scope of the lighting for different parts of your reception can create different moods.

Choose festive foods: Foods don't necessarily need to look like themed elements (mashed potato ski slopes). However, you can touch on the theme by using seasonal foods such as winter squashes, hearty foods or seasonal fruits.

Creating a theme doesn't have to be ostentatious or evoke feelings of a kids' birthday party. Subtle touches that are cohesive will provide the desired mood.