All In The Approach

By Sharon Naylor

July 1, 2015 5 min read

As you plan your wedding decor, don't forget about the paths leading to your ceremony and reception. You may have chosen your wedding location simply for the beauty of the venue itself, but you can create a fabulous scene for your arriving guests by decorating the trees along the driveway or footpath. Their anticipation builds as they see your decor and lighting effects along the way, giving them an even more magical first impression of your wedding day. And if your venue is one that your guests have been to for other weddings, decorating the approach to the site makes for a new, unique experience.

Here are some ways to make your wedding paths stand out:

*Hanging Florals

Adorn the path's tree line with flowers and garlands that hint at your wedding's floral motif. Joyce Maffeo, florist at BloomNation, says, "You can either display flowers on their own, such as by stringing florals on ribbon or fishing wire, or display flowers inside antique bottles or other glass vessels." The advantage of the in-vessel flower display is that flowers stay hydrated with a bit of water in the bottle, allowing them to hold up well in late-summer/early-fall sunshine.

Some open-air flowers that Maffeo recommends for their staying power include orchids, eucalyptuses and strung daisies.

"For in-vessel flowers, consider protea, orchids, hypericum and ornamental kale for a pop of purple color," says Maffeo. "Wreaths hanging from trees also add to the beautiful approach." One flower to be wary of, since it easily wilts in the sun, is hydrangea. Maffeo suggests instead using bunches of carnations, which hold up better in the sun.

This knowledge of flowers' strength in sunshine -- important since your floral team will likely set up your approach decor several hours before your wedding -- is one example of why you should have professionals create your floral pieces.

*String Lights and Hanging Lanterns

For a sunset or evening wedding, string lights arranged in the trees add breathtaking effect, whether you use just a few string lights per tree or many. In addition to string lights, lanterns hung from S-hooks on the trees create that trendy look of rustic elegance. And you can take those lanterns home after the wedding to use them in your own backyard.

*Non-hanging Lanterns

Tall lanterns clustered along a path or set on stairs leading to the wedding sites are a new top trend for weddings this year and next. Lanterns may be metallic, such as copper or bronze, or rustic-themed in white or black. Upscale home decor stores sell lanterns as part of the outdoor entertaining trend. These larger lanterns can be used at home after your big day.


Position a large number of traditional or LED candles in glass vessels at the entrance to your ceremony or reception spot. This is a stunning look for exterior doors, and if you have a portico that guests will pass through to get to an inner ceremony or celebration space, arrange a large amount of vessel-nested candles on either side of a clear walking pathway.

*Tiki Torches

"The use of Tiki torches creates not only a path to the reception but also softens the lighting for a romantic mood," says Allison Sells, catering manager for Caneel Bay Resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since Tiki torches create one single light source per torch, pair them with overhead string lights or ground-set lanterns to multiply your lighting effect.


Setting lights at the base of trees and directing the light upward gives those trees a magical and impressive glow. Sells says that uplighting palm trees creates a "wow" factor especially complementing a tropical wedding location.


Chalkboard signs with personalized messages can be used multiple times along the path, with friendly welcome messages, invitations to "Get the party started!" and directions to wedding sites. In the evening, try lit marquee signs illuminating the path with words like "Love," "XOXO" or your monogram. These too can be take-home decor to forever remind you of your big day.


Piped-in music along your path adds a welcoming soundtrack to the approach.

If your venue has an interesting history, beautiful scenery or perhaps a stunning sunset that will light up the sky with colors during your wedding's arrival time, you might not need any additional decor or lighting at all. Mother Nature has taken take of that, as her wedding gift to you.

Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.

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