Themed Weddings

flower girls with white dresses and cowboy boots at themed wedding


Maureen Woodman talks about Themed Weddings in this podcast.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on and off-site catered events at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about “Themed Weddings.” Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me today.

John Maher: Sure. So Maureen, what is a themed wedding?

Maureen Woodman: I think a themed wedding in today’s world with the bride and groom is a little piece of them. Something that’s important through their relationship, something that marked them. Something that makes them standout from all of the weddings they went to this year. They want people to walk away with some kind of fun that truly represents who they are.

John Maher: Right. So, why would you want to do this themed wedding? You mentioned fun. Are there other reasons to it to have a themed wedding?

Maureen Woodman: I think it’s to really standout in the crowd and tell people what’s important to you and your future husband as you go forward. You want to have fun. Fun seems to be the thing that runs the themed wedding. You want to get a kick out of it.

John Maher: Is that something that – because I think that these days, people go to a lot of weddings — do the bride and groom really want to make their particular wedding memorable to people, so that years later, you can say, “Oh! I remember their wedding. That was that fun, whatever that theme was, wedding”. And it makes it more memorable, something that you really think about later.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I think that’s exactly what it is. I think they don’t want to go and have the same three hors d’oeuvres, the same veggie cheese crudité, the same disc jockey. I think they want to walk away and say something different. I think the person that really does a themed wedding or a themed destination wedding is trying to really stand out in the crowd.

John Maher: So what are some examples of some themed weddings that you’ve seen?

Maureen Woodman: We just went to one that was at a dude ranch. It was super fun, more than I even anticipated. The day started out with horseback riding and shooting for all the guests. There was a campfire going while we were there.

There was an outside barbecue for the rehearsal dinner, very informal, just set under the trees and the lights. When you went in to the venue, there were all kinds of moose heads and reindeer and John Wayne statues. Everybody was dressed also to follow the theme – cowboy boots and cowgirl hats and studs and leather jackets. It’s amazing, amazing.

John Maher: That is fun. What are some other examples?

Maureen Woodman: Another wedding that we’ve done would be with the Mexican theme, where the groom was Mexican and the bride was from the United States. We brought the two families together.

We took all the culture of the religion of the Mexican wedding. It started in the church. A lasso was placed over the two of them, which is a sign of unity. A mariachi band met us outside the door of the church and actually rode on the trolley to the wedding to set the pace. And then, they played at the happy hour.

And then, they had a large — the band was Grupo Fantasia, which was a Latin band, kind of a Ricky Ricardo playing the “Babalú.” The favors were Mariachis on the table, little maracas that came, so everybody got to shake away with the bands that were walking around.

Some of the food, of course, had a Mexican flair that went along with that. Again, you walked away with that, and you either picked up some of the culture of Mexico, or you felt that these two families were coming together. And so, their influence was put there.

Another wedding we went to, of course very popular in the summer, is anything that’s on the water. If I saw one more anchor invitation this year, that had an anchor theme or navy and white stripe.

But this particular one, I found very interesting. The groom was a boat builder, and the bride is a midwife. Their whole theme of their ceremony, their reception, was bringing life into the world through water.

So, he spends his life building boats. A lot of the girls that have babies now, they have what they call “water births” with midwives. Their whole ceremony was about this. All their readings were about taking the water in their life and how important it was.

They had a beautiful, beautiful backdrop. They were right on the coastline. So, they had the water behind them at the whole ceremony as well as the reception. They took a few boats out of the water, all different kind of skull, kind of dory boats. Those were displayed all around the venue.

Again, you walked away, you felt that you were part of the sea somehow or other, they accomplished that. And it was very important to them because both of them have their life around the water.

John Maher: Yes. That sounds interesting because it sounds like he’s a boat builder. So, he creates things in that way. And then, her being a midwife, she helps to create life in a way. And so, in bringing those two creation things together, it’s kind of a neat blend.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I walked away. I guess that’s the other thing too for a guest. If you don’t know the bride and the groom and you go to one of these themed weddings, you walk away really knowing that person you did not know.

I would say that that is something that nobody really anticipates until you go. It’s not the person that you knew going to the wedding. It’s the one you didn’t know that you seem to really wrap yourself around when you leave there.

John Maher: Right. You feel you got to know them a little bit better.

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely.

John Maher: Yes. You mentioned a book themed wedding as well?

Maureen Woodman: Sure. We had another wedding that was really fun. They were great readers. Books were really important to them, their relationship. They both prided themselves in reading. Who read the most books? Who read this book, if they read the same book.

And so, they took it right across. They made a book archway. They had a book library, a holder for their cards. Everybody got a bookmark for their place card at the wedding. All their center pieces were on books that were all in green bookbinders, old books were either cranberry or green.

So, they worked really hard to find that. All their tables had, instead of table numbers they were famous quotes by famous authors that were very popular or very important to them. And so, I guess you came away thinking that these two were very intellectual. You saw what they read. So again, you got to be a little voyeur into who they were.

John Maher: Right. I went to another wedding where all of the bridesmaids had bouquets that were made out of paper. It was books and sheet music. They had cut them into little flower shapes and made whole bouquets out of them. I thought that was really neat. Have you seen that sort of thing before? What are some other decorative things that you’ve seen people do to incorporate their theme?

Maureen Woodman: We had a fun wedding this year. She was a school teacher. He was a manager at Starbucks. So, we had all little boxes of chalk and little shoes actually, she’s a kindergarten teacher. So, Play-doh for everybody. And then, all over their cake were like little mugs of Starbucks coffee and coffee beans.

So, it’s interesting. I did a wedding in the winter, in the Patriots season. And everybody got fantasy football cards for their place card. And then, they all got a Patriots mug. They all got a Patriots koozy cup. It was all about the Patriots. So, the sports themes can carry out, as well as something else. But I think a lot of the time, maybe you might see just a small hint of a theme where somebody wants to try to bring their hobby in there.

John Maher: Yes. I guess what I was going to say was the theme, if you will, that I am sensing here is just that the bride and groom should come together, put their heads together, and think about, “What are the things that we have in common? What are the things that maybe brought us together?”

Even if it’s separate things, “What are the things that we really like that’s going to show the guests what we’re all about?” Is that the approach that the bride and groom might take as they’re thinking about what they could have as a theme for their wedding?

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I think so. I think they want to come across as, “We’re fun. This is what we do in our spare time. I didn’t know if you knew that about me, but here it is. We want to share it with you today.”

We had a wedding a couple of weeks ago. They brought their bicycles. They both had on their Converse sneakers. They took some incredible photos. And then, they turned around that night and they brought in the karaoke machine. They started singing their own songs. So, they were all about fun and things that they do together. That would be fun.

John Maher: What’s the cost involved in doing a themed wedding? Is it more expensive to do it than a more traditional wedding?

Maureen Woodman: I think so. I think a lot of the girls today are on Pinterest. I think Pinterest may have a lot to do with these themes because Pinterest is done in little categories when you’re actually pinning.

I think that might actually lead the bride to decide to do something like this. I think this is the place where social media has definitely taken over. There’s a few companies out there that you can buy things from that go along with Pinterest too.

So, it’s all like you have to really hunt this down anymore. You can go on Pinterest, find your theme. And then, you go to Etsy and buy what you saw. There’s also a couple of websites now that are selling things for themed weddings that they already used.

So, it’s an eBay for themed weddings where you can buy it used and save yourself some money if you go out there. So, I think when the girls are looking and they’re pinning, the budget can go crazy because you start to want this and you want that.

You want all these things that you normally, if you just again, had your basic wedding, your white linens, some white hydrangeas, three hors d’oeuvres, a sit down dinner, a disc jockey, you’re out the door. But when you start bringing in this feeling, or whether you pick a destination to have your wedding, you definitely are going to incur a cost.

John Maher: Would you recommend showing a little bit of restraint when it comes to a theme? You don’t want to go overboard and make every single aspect of the whole wedding and reception be about that theme, or does it really not matter?

Maureen Woodman: No. I think the secret is to set your budget and stick to it. So, if you can afford it, go for it. If you can’t, don’t wake up the next day and say, “What do we do? Who’s going to pay these bills?” There goes our wedding money. Open up the cards to pay the bill. So, no. I think if you can afford it and it’s really important to you, go for it. Hopefully, it’s the only wedding in your life. It’s right up there in probably the top five days of your life.

John Maher: All right. Is your theme typically just at the reception? You mentioned the Mexican wedding with having some things at the church as well. And I suppose it matters whether or not you’re having an on-site ceremony where the reception is, or having a wedding ceremony at a church. Does the theme typically carry over both from the church to the reception or just one or the other?

Maureen Woodman: I think most of the time that if there’s a church wedding involved, you’re not going to see the theme there as much. And when you get to the venue, it’s more about, “Whoa! Surprise!” It’s a surprise, in fact. People are like, “Wow! This is awesome!”

Where when it’s an on-site ceremony, I would say 90% of the time that the theme is definitely carrying through because the surprise is when you get there. Again, that on-site ceremony, it’s all in one, where the venue and the church or some off-site ceremonies somewhere else, you have two different locations involved.

John Maher: Do you ever see people inviting their guests to come in costume? I think you mentioned the Dude Ranch one. They had people come with their cowboy boots on. Are there other examples of that where people might be invited to come in costume?

Maureen Woodman: Yes. We have done a few Halloween weddings, where people will come. But I think Halloween is always in costume.

John Maher: That’s ripe for that.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. But no. I can’t really say it myself that I’ve been to a lot where the guests go — like in the old day, the most costume on your invitation would be black tie optional, or “Are we wearing long dresses or short?” But now, I think that more and more people are willing to get into it. They want to be involved in this thing, this feeling.

John Maher: Right. All right, great. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Maureen Woodman: Thank you, John.

John Maher: For more information, you can visit The Essex Room website at or call 978-768-7335.

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