Summer Wedding Ideas and Tips

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2010

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy": The opening line to George Gershwin's inimitable song is an ode to the season of love, lemonade, and lazing around. And while we can't quibble with its general sentiment, we also can't help but think that it doesn't exactly tell the whole story. What about those of us who want our warm months hot, fun, and carefree, yes, but also glamorous and feminine?

Not to worry. If you fall squarely in this camp, events wizard Matthew Robbins, of New York City-based Matthew Robbins Design, has some great ideas for elevating your summer wedding. "Most couples who choose summer are doing so because they want warm weather and/or an outdoor affair in a very natural setting," says Robbins. "All of these things combined will leave them feeling like they are being forced to work with a more casual aesthetic. But there are many solutions for making it a bit more elegant." On the next pages, he'll tell you how to use two summer classics -- garden roses and wildflowers -- in upgraded and updated ways.

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Roses Revisited
How do you create a romantic but timeless mood using an old-school flower? Summer garden roses -- with their Old World charm, voluptuous shape, and frilly softness -- are as romantic as flowers come. Brides who gravitate toward them tend to want "something classic and lush," says Robbins. "And while romantic brides who go for winter weddings usually seek grandiose statements, the summer bride is looking for refinement and something less stuffy." How to get the feminine and classic look without sacrificing sophistication and chicness? Here, his best tips for a romantic but unfussy event.

1. Keep the colors muted. "I like to work with softer tones when using garden roses, for a more glamorous aesthetic. Focus on soft apricot, peach, blush, cream, and ivory tones. The bright, bold roses tend to conjure up a less dreamy, more casual look and feel." And resist the urge to have centerpieces that are dramatically tall; lower -- or more "human scale," as Robbins describes it -- arrangements can be just as fancy but more functional.

2. Use luxe fabrics. Unfortunately, rich fabrics like velvet and taffeta aren't appropriate for the warmer months. Instead, decorate with sheer fabrics, soft silk, or cotton muslin, all of which are perfect for setting a romantic but refined mood. Choosing a pretty silk runner and fine napkins "in linen rather than the standard cotton rental," says Robbins, will also automatically add a layer of sophistication to your wedding. And don't forget the little details: The handle of your bouquet can be wrapped in a wide satin ribbon, and boutonnieres can be embellished with an unexpected band of striped ribbon at the stems.

3. Don't fan the flames. For pure romance, nothing beats the golden light cast by flickering candles. But remember that candles "can add major heat to the room," so don't go crazy crowding your tables with votives. Not only will your garden roses suffer, but so will your guests. That said, add as many as you want to the outside decor -- line a walkway to the tent, or frame the entrance of the venue, with lanterns. If you're having a tented wedding, use candles in hurricanes or lifted on tall candlesticks to avoid too much heat in your guests' faces.

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Summertime Solutions
How to keep your flowers fresh and full:

Chill them. "Ask your planner to make sure the blooms stay in an air-conditioned spot until the last possible minute," advises Robbins. 

Copy them. For your bouquet, he suggests you have two: one for the ceremony, one for the photos, to guarantee blooms look vibrant and alive in your pictures. 

Plant them. "Decorate with charming potted plants. They can be used as favors, too." 

Fake them. If you want to wear flowers in your hair, "consider donning a faux flower. Cut blooms with no access to water will quickly wilt."

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Wildflower Power
Naturally growing blooms can be shaped into something tamed and tailored. There was once a time when decorating with wildflowers at your wedding meant it would be held at a farm, your reception tables would be covered in gingham, and guests would be taking home Grandma's famous cookies. Which is all wonderful -- if that's your personality. But if your sensibility swings toward the couture end of the style spectrum, is there a way for wildflowers to be more polished? "Absolutely," says Robbins. "If you want to infuse your wedding with luxury, all you have to do is consider the details."

1. Upgrade your vases. Using interesting, surprising containers is an easy way to make wildflowers look posh. "Consider elegant cut glass, footed glass, vintage silver, or beautiful porcelain vessels. All of these things bring elegance to simple flowers," says Robbins. "Avoid Mason jars, rustic wood, or anything terra-cotta!" 

2. Keep flowers organized. "Don't mix your flowers when it comes to the centerpieces. Keep one variety in each vase. If you mix wildflowers, you will automatically create a countryish vibe." Also, consider picking flowers in softer, neutral shades. This will look more subtle. "Another idea is to have a monochromatic palette, as this adds a level of sophistication and will make any flower instantly chic."

3. Minimize the fuss. Everything else on the table should be as simple and clean as possible to offset the natural "wildness" of the flowers. For example, use a modern square fold for the napkins. "I also love to fold the napkin lengthwise and drape it down the front of each place setting, anchoring the napkin under the plate."

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Season's Best
Robbins's favorite hot-weather buds:

Astilbe: "It's abundant in summer gardens, and I love the featherlike texture." 

Cosmos: "Lightweight, like butterflies in the garden." 

Garden roses: "Huge range of colors, from pastel to jewel tones. And they are so fragrant!" 

Hydrangea: "These can provide so much drama and fullness to arrangements." 

Lady's mantle: "I really adore the chartreuse flowers on this plant." 

Mint: "The fragrance is very soothing on a hot afternoon." 

Orchids: "The strongest and most heat-resistant flowers for summer weddings."

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