Although a buccaneer groomsman handing the ring to a Jack Sparrow groom or a Catwoman maid-of-honor holding flowers for a Wonderwoman bride might be examples of the extreme images conjured up by the phrase "theme wedding," such scenarios are not exactly far-fetched in an age when Googling "Star Trek wedding" yields upwards of 3,600,000 hits.
It has been a long time since cookie-cutter, white-and-pink weddings were the only acceptable way to tie the knot. With rising trends such as wedding dresses with an accent color or coordinating instead of identical bridesmaids' dresses (not to mention Captain Picard officiates' costumes), it is no surprise that more couples are choosing to look for non-traditional ways to add a twist to their wedding.
Often, however, couples do not have to go far outside the box to put a personal touch on their wedding. Lynn Wheatley, owner of Tulsa-event designing company Lasting Impressions, said, "We theme all of our weddings."
Whether the commonality is a pair of colors or retro accessories, Wheatley builds each wedding around a theme. "There's a difference," she said, however, between a subtle color theme and a more fully-fledged 1940s theme.
"When we talk about themes," she said, "we are talking about a commonality running through the whole wedding. It could just be the colors, it could be a leaf you find on everything, it could be lace.
"There are event planning companies that specialize in themed weddings," she added, which normally implies an overt, unusual theme, but those are generally more common on the coasts.
Sharon Holm has owned Mary Claire Holloway Bridal Consultants since 2005. She takes the approach, when a couple requests a theme wedding, of "figuring out what the theme means to them." Does it have to do with how they got engaged? With where they met? Is it something that they both love, or do they just want to do something a little bit unusual for their wedding? Holm said it is about "figuring out what they want for their theme, how much they're willing to invest, and how they want the theme to stand out."
One Tulsa company specializing in themed events and weddings is Divine Occasions. When starting to plan a theme wedding, owner Angela Lett said she tries to find out things about the couple like, "What are they into? What are their hobbies?"
There are certain challenges associated with planning a wedding with a more specific theme. "You have to find vendors that actually will accommodate you," Lett said. "If you're looking for frogs for a Prince Charming theme, you know, that's not normal. You have to look outside the box."
Sometimes that involves searching for accessories through vendors whose normal markets are not weddings. Lett pointed out that a generic search on the Internet for wedding supplies will likely come up with pink and purple colors and similarly traditional wedding elements. "That's great," Lett said, "but it's not what everybody is looking for."
Another key ingredient complicated by adding a specific theme is venue. For a "basic wedding," Lett said, "you can schedule (a venue) fairly easily." For a theme wedding, however, finding the right venue is more of a challenge. Since only one or two places might work with a theme, booking the venue at a time when it is available and that works with everyone involved can become difficult.
One Tulsa-area venue that offers a great spot for a theme wedding is the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. Holm said that one of her most successful theme weddings was aquarium-themed, and the Oklahoma Aquarium was the obvious choice for a venue. "We played up the aquarium to the extreme," she said.
The tables in the reception area were decorated with sand and glass bottles, and the wedding cake was topped with a bride and groom dressed in scuba-diving gear.
"It was definitely a fun wedding," Holm said, recalling that the environment was very kid-friendly and featured a clown, a popcorn machine and open perusal of the aquarium's exhibits. The idea, Holm said, was to create "a day of fun associated with a day at the beach."
Teri Bowers is the C.O.O. and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Aquarium. She said that the aquarium has proved a popular wedding venue, with usually at least one weekend per month seeing the place devoted to a wedding or a reception.
The aquarium provides catering services for events and has "a lot of contacts for flowers or linens or the DJ," said Bowers, who reported that most couples who choose the aquarium as a wedding or reception venue are planning their wedding without the help of a professional. "If we're not able to handle it ourselves, we are a stand-in wedding planner at times," she said.
For some weddings, the backdrop of the aquarium provides a ready-made theme. "We have had couples take their vows with the shark tank behind them," Bowers said. She added that some couples will choose decor that coordinates with the aquarium, from details in the centerpieces, to handing out goodie bags filled with all blue-colored candy. "You'll see a lot of linens will be in aquatic tones," she said.
Bowers said that the aquarium is a good wedding venue because, "It's beautiful, it's all indoors and when you're tired of talking to crazy Uncle Bart, you can walk down and see the exhibits."
Another handy Tulsa venue that can provide a simple theme is the zoo. Jesalyn Pettigrew, Group Sales Manager at the Tulsa Zoo, said that the most frequent type of theme wedding events the zoo hosts are tropical-themed receptions for couples who are back from or planning to leave for destination weddings.
With indoor spaces whose walls are brightly colored and painted with tropical motifs, receptions at the zoo, as with the aquarium, "don't need a lot of decorating."
Pettigrew said that the zoo has seen a spike recently in the number of weddings it hosts. This year she expects 20-30 weddings or receptions to occur at the zoo. Even with the economy as it is, she said, "Weddings are the one thing that aren't ever going to slow down."
Like the aquarium, the zoo offers several wedding planning services. "We try to handle everything in order to be a one-stop shop," Pettigrew said. And, like the aquarium in Jenks, "Our venues don't look like any other place in Tulsa."
One theme that has been gaining popularity in recent years' weddings is vintage. Even in the Tulsa area, where themed wedding are uncommon, Lett, Wheatley and Holm all mentioned having noticed them popping up.
The Washington Post cited vintage wedding gowns as a big trend in 2010, and with other trends including short dresses and birdcage veils gaining popularity, it is no surprise that more weddings are getting that vintage touch. Wheatly credits the comeback of vintage weddings to the rise in popularity of TV shows like Mad Men, which is set in the 1960s.
With the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. being more than $20,000, brides might wonder whether centering their wedding around a more specific theme will incur even more of a cost. Not so, according to Lett. She observes the cost of a theme wedding as being "usually about the same if not a little bit less expensive" than a traditional wedding.
Stillwater resident Amanda Stanton was married in Eurkea Springs, and by creating a small, theme wedding, managed to spend only a few thousand dollars for the entire event. Hers was a Victorian-themed wedding, and by renting costumes for the period, she was able to dress all seven people in the wedding for around $700.
"We got married in a little Victorain style house that had been made into a bed and breakfast," Stanton said. She said that the Victorian theme was one that she stumbled upon almost accidentally.
"I was on the Internet with my mom one day," she said. "I knew I wanted to get married in Eureka Springs." Then they found the Victorian-themed bed and breakfast, and "it looked like it'd be fun."
"We really got into it," she said. "Even my hair was done in a Victorian style bun." The colors she chose, burgundy and white, were "appropriate because burgundy was a popular color for Victorian dresses."
"My sister (and maid-of-honor) was absolutely excited; she was totally into it," Stanton said. "She couldn't wait to get inside the shop and try on all the dresses. It was like being a little kid and playing dress-up. Probably the best thing was the fun of getting ready for it."
That is often the main appeal of themed weddings. As a planner, Lett said that sometimes "it's a little bit funner to add a twist."
Some planners in Tulsa, however, do not view a theme wedding as something that is always a great idea. Holm said that she once turned down a request to plan a Halloween-themed wedding, in which the bride would have been dressed as the bride of Frankenstein. She said that it would have been "so far fetched from what I do. I'm not bringing the bride down the aisle with blood down her face."
"The thing that's not so good in my mind," Wheatley said, "is 10 years from now the bride and groom may go, 'What were we thinking?'"
She points out that the theme might "not be quite so amusing" when the couple shows the Gothic-themed wedding photos to their kids, who may wonder why mom and dad are all in all black.
"On the other hand," she said, "the wedding is an individual expression, and if they express themselves (a certain) way, far be it from me to stop them."
Lett agreed. She said, "a lot of brides have their own flair and they're afraid to show that flair because it's just not common." She advises couples who want to try a theme wedding to "put (their idea) on the table and see if it'll work."
Lett, as one of the only wedding planners in the Tulsa area who specializes in theme weddings, believes that the theme wedding market is "something that really hasn't been tapped into."
She sees brides "thinking they have to have a traditional ceremony," but that more unusually themed weddings are "slowly but surely" catching on.
She believes that theme weddings are a wonderful way of having fun with a wedding and making it memorable. "You want people to remember you wedding," she said. "It's your wedding. You do this once, this is forever, make it yours."
Share this article: