Customizing Your Wedding Jewelry

Last year I had the pleasure of designing a custom wedding necklace for Helen Ward, who was set to marry Wally Obermeyer, the son of skiing legend Klaus Obermeyer. The wedding was taking place in Aspen, which is not normally a formal place, it's more super style edgy, but if there was any example of "Aspen Chic," this wedding was it. Helen had been an Aspen local for years and was set to marry Wally in an intimate ceremony in front of a roaring fire followed by a bash with over 400 guests. It was the Aspen wedding of the year!

Helen had received one of my leather pearl choker necklaces as a present, and she knew she wanted to wear something on her wedding day that was really sexy and edgy, not traditional. This was not her first wedding, so she was willing to be a little more playful with her attire. Together, Helen and I designed a 100-inch-long strand of pearls. Since her dress was grey, we did grey pearls to match. In the front the necklace looked like a choker, but when she turned around, there were pearls cascading down her back, which acted as a visual veil since she did not want to wear a traditional one. After the wedding, Helen had me take the necklace apart and use the pieces to make individual necklaces for all of her girlfriends who had helped to put on the wedding. It was a way for her to say thank you in a unique way, which I thought was such a cool idea.

What should you think about when designing a custom piece? Here's my best advice:

Style. Are you wearing something old that you want to match it to or is this an entirely new piece? Are you just thinking about designing a necklace or are you going to want to do a whole set (necklace, earrings, bracelet, etc.)? Start collecting pictures of styles and designs similar to what you are thinking of or feel free to draw a sketch. It's okay if you aren't an artist. The more designing you do before meeting with the craftsman, the easier the process will be and the more likely the end result will be what you wanted.

Think about the future. Twenty years from now, will you still wear it? You want to design a piece that you will want to wear again and again, so you want it to look good forever. Stick to a classic design, but don't throw out all your personality.

Look at the whole picture. What colors will go best with your dress, skin tone, hairstyle, etc.? You might like a gold pearl, but you may look better in silver. If your dress is simple, then you have some freedom to go big with the jewelry, but you don't want to overkill. Also, don't forget that you will want to feel comfortable all night. So as great as a choker may look with your dress, if you know you'll fidget with it, go for something a little longer.

Take a step back. As women, we tend to stare at jewelry really up close, but then we can't see the big-picture stuff. Instead, look at your jewelry from far away. Take it all in and make sure it completes the picture instead of distorting it.

Don't get overwhelmed with all the choices. Pick one thing that you love (flowers that you will be holding, a bracelet, theme colors, your shoes, etc.) and design everything around this. If you love red roses, maybe you want everything else you are wearing including your jewelry to be very white. Maybe you want to wear ruby earrings to tie everything together in a very subtle way.

There are no rules ... it's your wedding. Let your personality show and stay true to what is really you.

Remember, everyone loves you at this party!

Photos by Nora Feller and Barbara Vaughn Photography

Pam Sweeney