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Home : Western Wedding Ideas and Decorating Tips

Western Wedding Ideas and Decorating Tips

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Jump to a Topic:
More Than Just a Theme Use Western Lighting
Before You Begin Design Western Centerpieces
Select Western Colors Find Western Wedding Favors
Location Affects Color Choice Make It a Picnic Reception
Use an Array of Western Flowers Decorative Attire
Create a Western Mood Remember to Have Fun

Whether you're taking your wedding out to the country or bringing a bit of the country to your wedding, chances are if you're reading this then you're looking for some western wedding ideas to do something a little different for your big day. Country and western wedding themes stand alone as a special kind of experience -- with the right decorative touch you can key your wedding into all the romance, tradition, and adventure country and western weddings have to offer while keeping your special day elegant, personal, and memorable!

More Than Just a Theme

The first thing to keep in mind is that country and western weddings are more than just themes; they are part of a vast range of lifestyles, philosophies, and decorative
Western Wedding Planning
aesthetics that have different meanings for everyone. To some, a western wedding means full cowboy regalia and decor that evokes images of cattle trails and cacti, distant mesas and long sunsets. To others, western weddings are down-to-earth affairs with a nod to the traditions of Native American culture. And to still others with a more country-oriented slant, a western-style wedding might be more about rural life and traditional values.

But while differences abound, country and western weddings remain uniquely American affairs with plenty in common. We've compiled a thorough list of western wedding ideas and tips for decorating so no matter where you fall on the western spectrum, there's bound to be something here that works for you.

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Before You Begin
The second big thing to remember is that western wedding themes can involve as much or as little decorating as you want. Western weddings often require an extra bit of craftiness and time because of their tendency to fall outside standard wedding tradition, but fortunately it's possible to effectively convey the theme using only a few key decorative elements. The sheer depth and breadth of western culture and myth makes it easy to get locked into a decorating frenzy that will quickly have you feeling overwhelmed, so be aware of what your limitations are. Creating a replica of an old-fashioned saloon for your reception bar may seem like a great idea on paper, but could very well require more work than you bargained for. It's good to know that a little can go a long way.
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Select Western Colors

Setting our sights a little lower than a full-scale recreation of the Wild West; we'll start simple. As with any other wedding theme, selecting your colors is one of your most important decisions. Fortunately, the west is a colorful place and there is a huge range of appropriate colors to choose from -- it's not just about white and ivory anymore. We recommend starting with a broad palette of earth tones like orange, brown, tan, yellow, and even green.

Using earthy colors as your base, you can then select from an assortment of bright complementary colors that will really stand out. Shades of blue, for example, complement both brown and orange tones while simultaneously evoking the western sky. Purple is a perfect complement for yellow and might make a great color choice for your bridesmaids' dresses. And while you don't want to make it feel like Christmas, red is always a nice complement to green; you can even soften things a bit with shades of pink.
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Location Affects Color Choice

Your color choices will influence virtually every other decision you make about your wedding, but the location you choose will impact your color choice. Remember that special locations are often a major component of a western wedding theme; they tend to be held outdoors, in barns, lodges, and other rustic areas. So be sure to have an idea of where your wedding's going to be held before you pick your colors. An all-out barn wedding could come with a lot of reds or browns in the background, while an outdoor wedding should meld with the colors of the surrounding landscape. Also remember that many public and rental locations like churches, parks, and reception halls are enforcing increasingly strict rules on decorating. You'll also need to know if your location will be able to accommodate your ideas. Questions like the number and placement of electrical outlets or whether or not the ceiling is accessible for overhead decorations like streamers will become very important later on.

Also, if you happen to know someone with a handy barn or a nice big yard with a view, consider approaching them about using their property as a location for your wedding. You'll save big on rental fees and likely have much more leeway with your decorating. Either way, knowing exactly what is and isn't permissible at your location along with having an overall picture firmly in mind can prevent many decorating disasters further down the road.

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Use an Array of Western Flowers

Serving as much more than mere accents, flowers are the most authentic, unique, and attractive components of western weddings. The American landscape, from the farms of the South and the Great Plains to the vistas of the frontier, is defined by a sense of rugged beauty that is most perfectly captured by the plants and flowers of the region.

Cacti, of course, are traditionally the first plants we think of when we imagine western flora, so incorporating cacti into your centerpieces will certainly add a nice western touch to your decorating. A cactus is also evocative of the desert and southwestern landscape; it pairs well in centerpieces with sandy colored or polished stones. Cacti also match textiles like denim and other cloths with Native American or bandanna designs. Since cacti are associated with a simpler, more rugged aesthetic it's especially important to avoid going overboard with your other decorations if cacti are going to be a part of your theme.

Beyond cacti, however, lies a veritable garden of shrubs, herbs, and flowers that can be used to create spectacular decorative pieces. In this respect we love spider lilies, those bright and pointy herbs found in ditches and roadsides all across Mexico and Texas. Spider lilies are very affordable, completely authentic, and can be found or purchased in a huge variety of colors, making it relatively easy to match them to your other decor.

Zinnias, meanwhile, are typically associated with the deep Southwest but are so colorful and vibrant that we're happy to recommend them even for non-western weddings. Zinnias blossom in tight clusters, are available in almost every color imaginable, and can even be found in multi-color starburst patterns. The decorating potential of these classic flowers is literally endless and, as we will see, can be incorporated into much more than just your bouquets and centerpieces.

Autumn sage has been around for a long time and is becoming increasingly prized by western gardeners. This hardy shrub, in a way, is the perfect symbol of the west and is the very definition of rugged beauty. Resistant to cold and drought, this evergreen features tough spindly stems and leather-textured leaves that are crowned through much of the summer and autumn with an array of delicate mint-scented red, pink, or white flowers.

Wildflowers are also perfect for western weddings. They're easy to obtain and can be used in everything from your centerpieces to wall decorations. Of these, the wild rose is the ultimate western wildflower and can be perfectly incorporated into your bouquets.

Although cultivated all over the world, sunflowers are true American natives and always work well for western weddings. They're also very nearly a must-have for any country-style or barn wedding. While best known for their brilliant yellow sunburst blossoms, sunflowers are actually available in a range of colors including red, maroon, orange, and even shades of yellow so pale the flowers appear white or ivory. Sunflowers make perfect additions to centerpiece floral arrangements and are an absolute mainstay of late summer and autumn weddings.

While not actually flowers, tree saplings can make incredible centerpieces. Consider potting a few in galvanized or gingham-patterned buckets for a lovely natural statement. Saplings also pair well with other floral arrangements and can be used in combination with many of the flowers mentioned above. And while we'll be discussing favors later in this article, keep in mind that 3"-4" tall trees can serve as incredibly touching all-natural wedding favors that your guests will love!

As much as we love using real flowers whenever we can, sometimes they just aren't feasible; for those occasions one of our favorite western decorating ideas is to fashion paper flowers. Paper flowers are fully appropriate for western weddings and can be used to create a beautiful effect on your church pews and elsewhere. Even better, you have total control over their color and texture, allowing you to make them as subtle and delicate or as bright and sturdy as you wish; all while perfectly blending them into your main wedding colors. While the mechanics of creating paper blossoms are a little beyond the scope of this article, they are quite simple to make and the internet abounds with a plethora of free how-to videos and instructional guides.

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Create a Western Mood

To begin creating a true western mood, we'll start outside and work our way in. Outdoor elements and entryways are ideal for tulle swag accented by flowers combined with a few artfully stacked bales of hay. You can also frame these areas with traditional crops like wheat or corn and, if you're in a farming mood, add a scarecrow or two -- we think bride and groom scarecrows are exceptionally adorable. To take an emphasis off the farming angle, these are also good locations for horse tack like harnesses, rawhide cinches, branding irons, and saddles. Other barn implements like wagon wheels or old wagons, wheelbarrows, barn siding, and wooden barrels can also be used here. Depending on how elaborate you make your displays, they may become a popular spot for photographs so consider placing one off to the side a safe distance from a high traffic area.
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Western Lighting

Once inside, it's time to really set the mood with your lighting. Many locations have strict rules on this topic, but if you have any leeway consider special lighting like torches, table candles, or candles on tall stands. We strongly recommend discussing these options with your venue before considering them, however. If your location prohibits open flame, consider purchasing or even renting fishbowls and filling them with clear or colored water and floating candles. These are considered "enclosed" flames and are permitted at most venues.

Depending on how rustic you want your celebration to be, camping lanterns may also be appropriate. White or single-color strands of Christmas lights, meanwhile, can be used to light part of your ceremony or to add a fun-yet-intimate element to your reception. There are even western themed strand lights available that include everything from cow skulls and cowboy boots to cacti and horses. These lights tend to fall on the more relaxed side of the spectrum, but are perfect for maintaining a comfortable atmosphere at your reception. Strands of lights can be particularly beautiful for evening and sunset receptions, especially if yours is being held outdoors.

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Find Western Decorations and Centerpieces

Once you've got the lighting taken care of, say good-bye to streamers and say hello to rope! Rough, natural-fiber rope makes a simple-yet-elegant statement, especially when you tie zinnias or wildflower blossoms along its length for splashes of all-natural color. We recommend considering multiple ropes of varying thickness to add some layered textures. Rope is also ideal for sectioning off portions of the church, reception area, or even the parking lot if necessary.

Hay bale twine and binder twine is ideal for stringing up decorative accents like charms or flowers to your reception tables and elsewhere. Raffia ribbon, furthermore, is versatile, sturdy, has a perfect texture, and is available in just about every color you could possibly want. Intertwining flowers or charms into raffia streamers is a breeze, and you can use raffia on everything from decorating your pews to tying off your favor boxes and bags. Liberal use of raffia or other rope makes it easy to create a continuing visual western wedding theme that extends through each part of your wedding day.

After rope comes horseshoes, which are so popular that many couples have tied their wedding rings to a horseshoe as a classic ring pillow alternative. A few couples have even devoted their entire wedding theme to them! While we won't go quite that far, adding a couple horseshoes to your wall decorations, if possible, is always a nice touch to your western wedding ideas. Horseshoes can be easily painted to match your wedding colors, and we particularly like the idea of incorporating a horseshoe or two into your main centerpiece. Also, a wide variety of wedding-specific accessories are available that have horseshoes in their designs, including candles, cake tops, garters, decorative frames, and more.

Cowboy hats and boots, meanwhile, go hand-in-hand. They can, of course, be part of your wedding attire, but can also be used for decorating. If you're not quite willing to raid your local western clothing store for all their boots and hats (an expensive undertaking), there are alternatives. Costume clothing and jewelry can work perfectly well as decorations and even favors for couples on a budget. You can also find fully painted ceramic and resin boot vases to use in your centerpieces -- they hold water and flowers a lot better than regular boots anyway.

Centerpiece ideas are, in the end, limited only to your imagination. In addition to resin cowboy boots you can use buckets, pails, metal tubs, Mason jars, or even watering cans as vases. Mason jars are also ideal for holding snacks, hors d'oeuvres, and silverware. You can also create Thanksgiving-style arrangements of classic crops like wheat, grains, and corn; or get really creative and make edible arrangements out of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. Gourds and pumpkins, meanwhile, can be affordably used to make vibrant arrangements and also go perfectly with a late summer or autumn wedding.

In lieu of (or in addition to) centerpieces you can also use decorated or unadorned metal tubs filled with ice and stocked full of fun western favorites like bottles of root beer, ginger beer, or sarsaparilla. And, if you're planning on having a bar, you can create some "self-service" stations by keeping several tubs stocked with your favorite brands of beer!

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Western Wedding Favors

Moving on to favors, we love the idea of using chipwood picnic baskets filled with candies or mints -- especially if you're having a picnic-style reception, which we'll get to in a moment. Favor bags made from coarse-grained unbleached paper also make great decorative pieces that can be accented with horseshoe charms, cowboy hat charms, or sheriff badges. Many styles of prefabricated western favors like small western gift boxes or bubble bottles shaped like cowboy boots are also available.

Western Decorations Hay bales, meanwhile, are an indelible part of any country or western wedding. Although large hay bales are often suggested as seating and make good outdoor decorations, you can also find small and miniature hay bales that do double duty as table decorations and interesting favors. Cowbells can be used in a similar albeit potentially noisier fashion. Votive candles in holders that are accented with rope, gingham, or bandannas can also add an intimate, elegant atmosphere to an indoor reception. Be sure, however, that any votive candles are safely enclosed inside a non-flammable holder and are a safe distance away from any fabric.

For a tasty treat, we love the idea of baking cookies using cookie cutters with a western design. This could include cookies shaped like hearts, boots, spurs, cowboy hats, sheriff badges, horses, cacti, and more. Cookie cutters are also relatively inexpensive; we recommend
purchasing one per guest or couple and giving away the cutters themselves as favors. They're cute, affordable, and your guests could be enjoying them for years to come.

If your western wedding is going for a more outdoorsy or natural appeal, then we strongly recommend packets of flower seeds. You can often find them in special packets that include a romantic tribute to your big day as well as growing instructions, or create little packets of your own. You can even take this concept further: one of our favorite ideas includes potting tiny blossoming flowers or tree saplings and giving them out as favors. This is a great way to gorgeously decorate your tables and give your guests truly lasting reminders of your wedding day.

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Make It a Picnic Wedding Reception

Ultimately the tone of your celebration is up to you, but much of the popular appeal of western wedding themes is they tend to be somewhat more relaxed and casual than traditional weddings. If that describes how you feel, then we suggest kicking back and going for an all-out picnic-style wedding reception!

Think grilling. If you've got great memories of cookouts from years past then treat your wedding reception as your chance to create the ultimate family barbecue. Add a few western decorations, provide some grilled classics like steaks and burgers, and the fun will literally take care of itself.

You can start with checkered, gingham, or bandanna patterned table cloths. If you're handy with a needle or particularly crafty, then fringed and faux leather table covers are also popular. If you're holding an indoor reception and your budget allows for it, denim is ideal for non-traditional elegance. Your centerpieces, meanwhile, can be as spectacular or as subdued as you wish, though in our experience simple and vibrant tends to create a more entertaining atmosphere.
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Food isn't much of a decoration per se, but an elaborate picnic spread can greatly contribute to the overall ambience. And don't forget that your food itself can be decorated. Steak branding irons, in a huge variety of personalized styles, are available for your caterer or cook to add a decorative finishing touch on your meat and burgers. Steak branders can also be conveniently used on wood to further personalize your favors or decorations with a true western flourish.

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Decorative Attire

While we won't delve too deeply into clothing, another great western wedding idea is to add a few decorative flourishes to your attire. Cowboy hats -- white for the bride and bridesmaids and black for the groom and groomsmen -- aren't just elegant; they're such powerful symbols that wearing them will effectively convey your theme even if you do relatively little decorating elsewhere. For a special touch, the bride's hat can be distinguished by sewing, hot gluing, or pinning on a tulle or lace veil.

And for the guys, you definitely want to consider bolo ties. Bolo ties remain a country and western staple and, when used in combination with the right suit, are as dapper as they are dashing. And remember the costume jewelry we mentioned earlier? If you're willing to be a little playful during your ceremony then we recommend pinning star badges to your groomsmen to make your very own posse of "deputy sheriffs" to stand with you. Also consider big metal belt buckles for the men (these can also make great groomsmen gifts) or, if you're feeling really daring, have them use rope in place of belts!

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Remember to Have Fun

From arriving on horseback to wearing authentic western clothing, there's a whole lot more western wedding ideas to consider when planning a western wedding. But from a decorating standpoint, a true western wedding largely involves incorporating things from the world around you and using them in a fun and creative way.

Everyone loves the sense of freedom and adventure associated with the west, but country and western wedding themes are really about going back to our roots. Country images like barns, hay, and scarecrows are different from Old West images like mesas, saloons, and cacti, but what all these images represent is a connection to the past that has shaped who we are. Capturing that sense doesn't have to be difficult, and anything you do can and should match your personality. What matters is not that you drop everything and create the ultimate wedding, but that you create something personal that works within the scope of your own lives and budget. Have fun creating your wedding, and your guests will have fun attending it!

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