How will you embrace your wedding theme? Adding a few icing details on your wedding cake is one thing, but if you want to create a fully immersive atmosphere, custom-painted signs are the way to go.

Designing Your Signs

Use a mix of large and small signs to give your guests a true sense of atmosphere. Large-scale signs will be visible across the venue, such as wooden carvings directing guests to the parking or seating area. Small signs are perfect for details like labeling items on the dessert table.

Signs can be functional (listing the signature cocktails at the reception bar), or they can be purely decorative (caricatures of the bride and groom flying Quidditch brooms for a Harry Potter themed wedding). To really create a mood, use a good mix of both. Don't forget to hang signs with your favorite quotes from archways or tree branches.

What’s your wedding theme? For a luau, signs might be shaped like palm trees, hula dancers, or orchid leis, directing guests to the "Coat-Check Bungalow" or the "Cocomo Candy Bar." An Alice in Wonderland wedding might direct its guests "This Way," "That Way," and "The Other Way" with signs shaped like mushrooms, flamingos, and a Cheshire Cat smile. Holding a hobbit celebration? Don't forget a sign that proclaims, "Happy Birthday Bilbo Baggins!" Brainstorm possible signs with your artist, as well as with any friends who share your passion for your chosen theme.

Choosing Your Artist

There are a lot of different types of artists out there. How do you narrow it down? Before you even pick up the phone, take look at a few artists' portfolios. Note what specific aspects you like about each artist's work. Is it the use of color? Is it the clean lettering? Does the art make you feel happy when you look at it? When you speak to the artist, try to bring up as many specific examples as possible so he or she will know what areas to focus on for your particular project.

While it's helpful for an artist to have a portfolio that's already bursting with wedding-related examples, it's not strictly necessary. What's more important is that you feel comfortable with the artist's style. If you have a choice between an artist who can show you several "so-so" signs he painted for a wedding, and an artist who can show you some stunning landscapes (but no wedding signage), you're probably better off choosing the latter artist. After all, a skilled artist can usually excel in a variety of styles.

That being said, however, don't sign any contract before you have a good idea of what quality work the artist can produce for your specific needs. Just because someone is skilled at landscapes does not guarantee that he or she is skilled at lettering, too. If you don't see any portfolio samples that look like the type of work you're commissioning, ask the artist to give you a small, custom-painted sample in your desired style. While some artists may be willing to provide this for free, you should come prepared to pay a small fee (after all, you are commissioning art work). If you like the sample, you can book the artist for your wedding with much more confidence.

Artists at the beginnings of their careers will charge a much lower fee than artists who have years of experience. Depending on your budget and the complexity of your event's needs, you can decide what type of artist to hire. If you live near an art school, you may consider hiring a talented student who will work at a discount in order to pad their professional portfolio. Be aware when hiring amateurs, however, as they may not be as prompt when it comes to deadlines and remaining in contact.

Interview and book artists with plenty of advance notice so you can book your wedding date before their schedules get full. If you only have a small project and your artist works quickly, you may only need a week or two; however, for most projects it's best to leave several months before your wedding. After all, unlike a wedding cake, your art won't spoil if it gets finished early!

Do you admire the work of an artist in another city? You don't have to limit yourself to local talent. If you're having trouble finding a custom painter in your area, businesses like Murals Without Borders will paint and ship signs to you no matter where you live. If you commission signs on lightweight materials like foam board, rolls of canvas or any fabric, they can be shipped to you for a minimal cost.

Embracing Your Theme

Commissioning custom-painted signs gives you the ultimate flexibility in designing your theme. Ask for ideas from as many people as you can–you never know where inspiration will strike. Make signs for everything from your photo booth to the nearest bathrooms, and make them look great. After the wedding is over, you may even find room for a few in your own home!

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