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Wedding & Event Design Essentials: The Colour Wheel

event design essentials styling weddings guide patterns studio sorores jessie westwood

Welcome to our a short series of guides on the best ways to adapt various looks and trends to create the ultimate design scheme for your wedding or event space.

If you missed them before you can find our first three mini guide links below:

Next up is....


A lot of clients come to us with a very basic idea of their colour preferences or overall aesthetic for their wedding, but lack the confidence or skills to design their wedding or event themselves. One of the biggest mistakes we see is a very limited colour or "theme" being applied liberally across every visual element. We want to educate you on how to avoid that!

Have you ever heard of the "colour wheel"? It was created in the late 17th century by Sir Isaac Newton and is basically a tool taught and used by designers that gives a visual representation of where colours sit on the spectrum, and the relationship between them all. It is made up of twelve colours, half of which are known as warm (so things like red, oranges and yellows) and the other half as cool (purples, blues and greens). They are then categorised and used to help designers find harmonious colour combinations based on the geometric relationships represented on the wheel.

Primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. Colours that you cannot create them from others and that all others are all created from.

Secondary colours are orange, green, and purple. These hues are formed when equal parts of two primary colours are combined.

Tertiary colours are created by mixing a primary colour with a secondary colour next to it on the wheel. With each blending the resulting hues become less vivid. Tertiary colors include things like red-orange or blue-green.

Let's take a look at an example of a colour wheel visually before we move on:

colour wheel event wedding designer uk planner

You can even buy one to have handy at home here.

Once you've read more of the theory below there is a cool online tool you can play with too.

In event design, the colour wheel theory provides a clear and instant visual for exactly which hues contrast and coordinate, to help us to create harmonious, tonal or contrasting styling and decor colour ideas.

There is a lot of theory to learn - before we even move on to colour psychology - for example, a triadic color scheme involves three evenly spaced colours on the wheel (with one dominant and two equally spaced out accents - think of a triangle on the wheel) and that will usually create a bold combination. So a palette like purple, green and orange would work.

Alternatively, a tetradic color scheme involves four colors evenly spaced out, and can work a bit better if you want to use a dominant colour with supporting accent colours. At the other end of the scale we also have achromatic colours which are all shades of black, white and grey - basically "without colour".

To keep things simple for you we have categorised the colours into groups below so you can use them more easily together.


These are colours that sit next to each other in the colour wheel. It's the easiest combination to create a colour scheme that allows you simply to group colours you know complement each other. So let's try to give you an example where you would choose three colours sitting next to each other on the wheel - we would pick one dominant colour (usually a primary or secondary), then a supporting colour (a secondary or tertiary), and a third colour that is either a mix of the first two, or an accent colour that pops a bit more. Think of where this appears in nature too. Let's choose a sunset as inspiration: so you'd have yellow, orange and red (or pink!). Or sunflowers in a field with a blue sky: so you'd have yellow, green and blue.


These are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel and are usually guaranteed to add energy to any event design. These colours work so well together because they balance each other out visually. For example a zesty bright orange would give you warmth and brightness, which we can then balance out with a pastel pale blue. The key is not letting one colour overwhelm or lead the other. For a tablescape you may use more pale blue in your linens, and have orange serve as an accent in florals and tableware. The two colours would also need to appear on other elements used like stationery and napkins, for a cohesive look.


This is where we use different shades of one colour. It is also known as monochromatic and is the simplest "recipe: for colour that most people find easy to do. Not to be confused with black and white monochrome of course! These palettes or colour schemes include only different tones (lighter or darker) of the same colour. We tend to avoid these as it can feel a bit flat, though if you are clever with it then really amazing event designs can be created with a more modern edge this way. We would always make a monochromatic palette work by including a large variety of different shades and textures to make more impact and elevate the design. A wedding colour scheme using only pink for example, would includes various tints that range from pale blush to dusky.


  • The 60-30-10 rule gives you an easy way to choose a colour palette. With this rule, you use a primary colour 60% of the time; a secondary colour 30% of the time; and an accent colour 10% of the time.

  • Forming the outer edges of the colour wheel, the primaries, secondaries and tertiaries, a hue is a colour in its purest form. Hues are pretty bold, which is why most people will lighten or darken them for weddings in particular.

  • A shade is created by adding black to a hue to darken it, making it deeper and more rich in appearance. This can give a more grown up look to otherwise playful or feminine colours.

  • You can make a tint by adding white to a hue - that will make a colour less intense for a softer or more subtle aesthetic.

  • A tone is created by combining a mix of black and white (grey) to a hue. Like tints, this will create a more subtle version of the original colour however you will find they look less pastel, and that can be far more grown up and elevated.

  • While it’s possible to create a wedding or event design colour palette using a combination of many different favourite colours without applying any theory, the likelihood is that the final experience won’t look good visually. Thankfully, colour experts and event designers can help guide you through this!

Next up? We will be guiding you through how to combine the above information with colour psychology (a huge part of our storytelling technique)- giving you more confidence to design your own wedding and event design schemes.

PLUS we have just launched a new virtual design service so do book a consultation if you feel you need more support in bringing your wedding or event vision to life!


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