Choosing Wedding and Party Colors


Be Careful With That Yellow Cake!

A brown cake with yellow fondant ribbon Choosing a color palette is one of the primary steps of planning an event, and for most people, the color selection happens naturally. A party planner will conceive of an underwater-themed reception, and instantly pastries and cakes made from teal green and ultramarine spring to mind. A wedding will be scheduled outdoors in the Fall, so without even a pause, the bride will choose flowers and desserts in Autumn colors. The groom's family might want the rehearsal dinner to appear opulent, so rich maroon or gold accents will be prominently used.

Colors mean things on three different levels. They affect us physically, for example, orange can stimulate the appetite (so use it on the cake!). They affect us as a culture, for example, white is worn at American weddings as the color of purity and wholeness, while in India it is often the color of mourning and funerals. And they affect us individually, as we carry a lifetime of personal associations and memories related to certain colors. Because of the heavy use of all colors in our daily lives and fashions, and the relatively small number of base colors to draw from, no hard and fast associations can be drawn. Red will not always cause a person stress, yellow will not always cheer them up, and blue will not always fill them with peace. At most, the effect of colors on our health and emotions is a gently tug, like the moon pulling on the tides.

That's not to say that, if you ask for a jet black wedding cake, your mother won't still throw a fit.

Colors, and what they mean in your wedding:

A pure white wedding cakeWhite -

White is traditional, elegant, representative of purity, and to many modern brides, boring. While it aids mental clarity, enables fresh beginnings, and encourages us to clear obstacles from our path, its heavy use in Western weddings for hundreds of years has caused many wedding planners to search out something a little more memorable. White still dominates, and to have anything other than a base-white dress is to invite criticism. But the reception hall, the wedding cake, and the table settings can be anything your heart desires.

White is the color of mourning in parts of India, Africa, and China. It is the traditional color for brides in the West and Japan, possibly because of its biblical associations with divine light. A white flag is a universal symbol of surrender. In the late 19th century, physicians switched to white coats from beige, to reinforce the idea of hope and expectation.

"The first of all single colors is white ... We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness." -- Leonardo Da Vinci

A black and white wedding cakeBlack -

Good for clothes, bad for weddings. Black is authoratative and powerful, myserious, and slimming. In the West, it is the color of mourning and funerals, and so should be avoided at weddings. Tradition dictates that the men in a bridal party wear black, probably to divert attention to the bride, but almost any other color can be substituted without offending anyone. It's a good color for halloween parties.

A black cat crossing one's path is bad luck in most of the world, except for England, where they are considered good luck.

"I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, / Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town, / I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, / But is there because he's a victim of the times." -- Johnny Cash

"Black is not a color." -- Edouard Manet

A bright yellow cakeYellow -

Yellow stimulates the nervous system, activates memory, and encourages communication. It carries the promise of optimism for the future, and is generally a great color to use wisely at weddings. It is spontaneous and fun, and does not suggest stability or security. Care should be taken however, in choosing the shade of yellow. A yellow-green can mean deceit and disorientation, and lower shades can often appear dirty or old. Yellow is most commonly chosen in the West as a least favorite color. It is not to be overused- babies cry more in yellow rooms.

In China yellow, not purple, is the color of royalty and exclusiveness. It stands out boldy, which is why taxicabs and school buses in America are painted yellow.

“As a picture painted in yellow always radiates spiritual warmth, or as one in blue has apparently a cooling effect, so green is only boring.” -- Wassily Kandinsky

“What a horrible thing yellow is.” -- Edgar Degas

A green and white party cakeGreen -

We are soothed, renewed, and relaxed in mind and body by the color green. Green represents life, growth, and emotional safety. As the color occupying the largest portion of the spectrum visible to the human eye, it is also the most restful color, and can restore vision. It was heavily featured in weddings in the 15th century. Be careful to avoid rotten, muddy, or bilious greens, and the light institutional shade should never be used at weddings or parties.

Green symbolizes paradise in Iran, and eternal life in Japan. It is historically a mark of honor in Scotland. As the color most representative of ecological conservation in modern times, green carries with it a message of responsibililty and maturity. Interestingly, NASCAR racers have considered a green car bad luck for almost 100 years.

"Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises." -- Pedro Calderon de la Barca

"I am green, /And it'll do fine, /It's beautiful, /And I think it's what I wanna be..." --Kermit the Frog

A blue cakeBlue -

Everyone's favorite color! Blue always outranks the others when surveying for people's favorite. It calms and sedates, it cools, and it aids intuition. Blue is perceived as a constant in our lives, like the ocean and the sky, making it a great color for use at weddings. It does downplay the joy and vibrancy of the occasion, and it's known to supress the appetite, so use it wisely.

In Mexico, Blue, not Black, is the color of mourning. Several mosques throughout the Middle East and Asia are referred to as "The Blue Mosque." It's the most common color of toothbrushes. Mosquitos are attracted to blue twice as much as to any other color. The blue ribbon means "first place" in America. The Blue Man Group is one of the best shows in Las Vegas.

“If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue.”-- Paul Gauguin

A purple party cakePurple -

Encouraging a sense of creativity, mystery, and spirituality, purple is the color of royalty in the West. Originally difficult to produce, purple is rarely found in nature. Because of its long associations with riches and honor, purple remains a popular wedding, reception, and special event color. Light purple evokes romance and magic, and while dark purple does the same, the lower shades will also promote feelings of gloom and possibly frustration.

The Purple Heart is an award given to members of the U.S. Military who have shown courage and been wounded in action. It was the royal color of the Roman Caesars. It is the color of the highest denomination of poker chip: $5,000. The movie and album Purple Rain, and in fact most of Prince's wardrobe and life, reflected the artist's love of purple.

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." -- Alice Walker

"But, luckily, he kept his wits and his Purple crayon." -- from Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)

A cake garnished with red rosesRed

Red is the strongest color in the spectrum. It increases enthusiasm, raises blood pressure, and exites action. It is the color of love, passion, blood, war, strength, fire, and desire. As far as weddings go, red has so many meanings that a bride can choose what it means to her, and go for it. Red can be a dramatic accent against white, black, and many other colors, and will look great on invitations, chairs, settings, and even the dress. Be very, very careful about using it on the cake, as it's closeness to blood could be off-putting if used incorrectly.

Red represents beauty in Russia. In Japan, it is closely associated with many important deities. In India and China, red can mean good luck. In Singapore, red symbolized joy. In Israel, kosher clothing stores once banned the color red. It is the highest arc of the rainbow. It is overwhelmingly the color of the rabid fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

“Painters use red like spice.” -- Derek Jarman

“Of all the hues, reds have the most potency. If there is one electric blue, a dozen reds are so charged. Use them to punctuate white, burn into bronzes, or dynamite black." -- Jack Lenor Larsen

A bright orange wedding cakeOrange -

Orange very succesfully combines the attributes of red and yellow, stimulating energy, happiness, and even appetite! It is also the most controversial color, provoking strong love/hate relationships. Peach, rust, and terra cotta are some shades of orange that still retain a very broad appeal. No fall-themed event will be complete without the color orange. While often considered to be a hotter color than red because of its closeness to actual flames, it is less attention-getting.

Native Americans associate the color orange with kinship. It has been the national color of the Netherlands for generations. In China and Japan, it symbolizes happiness and love.

"Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow." -- Wassily Kandinsky

"Orange is the happiest color." -- Frank Sinatra


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