Monday, January 7, 2013

Decorating A Winter Williamsburg Inspired Wedding

The weekend after Christmas, I helped a very lovely couple decorate the reception hall for their wedding.  It was my first wedding design....and I learned a lot. A LOT! 

When we first met, the bride said that ideally her reception would be really rustic and be in a barn, but as it turned out the reception would be in this hall....
Not totally awful, but definitely not a barn. And not the least bit rustic either. And althought the wedding was just after Christmas and the colors of the hall were red and green, the bride was adamantly opposed to playing up the Christmas theme. So we started brainstorming. She had a whole binder full of ideas already, and we narrowed the feel down to Williamsburg during the winter--perfect!  The wedding was in Virginia, but Williamsburg also has special significance for them since it was the place where they were engaged. And the groom went to William & Mary. 

Plus it was a great way to marry the traditional details of the reception hall with the rustic vibe she wanted since Williamsburg decorations, even the elaborate ones, are always made of natural materials. And we could make good use of the feeling of the Christmas season without having it feel overtly Christmasy. 

The challenge was doing it on a modest budget. If you've been to Williamsburg or searched around for Williamsburg decorations, you know"inexpensive" is not one of the words you'll find among the descriptions. So we focused more on getting the feel down than actually imitating anything specifically Williamsburg. This meant all natural materials with a little bit of a refined edge.

After that weekend, I think it's safe to say that boxwood is my new favorite green! It came to the rescue many times, and was a great link between the rustic/colonial hybrid feeling we were after, the existing traditional decoration of the hall, and the budget. We ordered the beautiful wreaths from a local nursery, and raided the grooms' parents bushes for everything else.



We made the centerpieces by slicing birch branches (the bride found a fallen birch tree on craigslist, and she and the groom brought tons of logs over to my house to use my favorite tool (chop saw! Thanks team Fleurir!) to cut the logs into disks. Then I layered the disks with twine wrapped mason jars holding tea lights, placed sprigs of cut boxwood around the disks and in a large jar in the center. And then to add a little sparkle, we sprinkled around gold-dusted pine cones and a few gold branches. We used mini chalkboards to mark the tables:

Like any project, there were some unexpected getting a band last minute and needing to use the stage...which meant needing to decorate the stage...very last minute. It turned out to be one of my favorite parts. We draped white Christmas lights over some room dividers, covered it with burlap, then placed boxwood wreaths on top, which mimicked the arrangements on the windows. Then we placed lit trees to frame the sides of the stage.



The bride made the cake. It was a Williamsburg orange cake, and probably on the best looking and best tasting wedding cakes ever made. The "cake stand" was another last minute, unanticipated project.... the original one never materialized, so this was done up just before the cake was sent out to be displayed....dI wish I could go into more detail, but suffice it say that I consider this gold burlap and boxwood wrapped piece of styrofoam to be a minor miracle. What I love about using natural materials and natural themes, is that imperfection is a given, and so it's hard for anything to look out of place.

The reception started just as sunset was beginning and the lighting was so beautiful!

it made my gold branches look particularly pretty against the burlap...

And then once it was dark, the centerpieces looked even more lovely....

but, obviously, the best part about it, was seeing the bride look so happy!


  1. WOW I am totally impressed! Our place is also a our daughter had it at a local outdoor patio rest. and it rained 2 times..since we were in a drought everyone was praising the couple for bringing rain :-). Wonderfully elegant photos

  2. Amazing work, Leah! Hard to believe it's the same ballroom...

  3. Hi, Leah - Happy New Year! A beautiful wedding! Congratulations on this project. Tom's niece is getting married in a barn next July. The wedding will be in Maine, so plenty of birch trees and pine cones there. I love the birch pieces with the pine cones. Will share this post with Tom's niece.
    Cheers to a fabulous 2013 ~ Loi

  4. O my gosh! I have enjoyed your blog for a while, but this is crazy! That was my friend's wedding and I am in one of your pictures! Crazy! O, and the reception was beautiful!!

  5. Really creative and beautiful ! You did an amazing job and pulled it all together nicely.
    I know they are glad you were full of ideas to make their day special.


  6. The jars with lighted candles inside added a little bit of sweetness in the place. If I were to arrange my wedding, I will also add lighted candles to make it more romantic and make my wedding a memorable one!

  7. That was a total make over! The caterers did a very good job on your wedding reception venue!

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