We are planning to have a Halloween Wedding. We are going to have a traditional ceremony and reception but would like to have some sort of fun with the day. Can you offer any suggestions on how we can incorporate a Halloween theme without making it a major focus of the day?

Here are a few suggestions for celebrating the holiday without going all-out like my friend Shane’s brother did. Said brother and his now-wife threw a surprise wedding for themselves under the guise of putting on a regular Halloween party. Shane, who was dressed like a monk complete with glow-in-the-dark crucifix, performed the ceremony before stunned family members, one of whom was heard to remark, “Are they taking the marriage seriously? Because they’re certainly not taking the wedding seriously!” I guess this sort of crack is inevitable if your best man is wearing vampire teeth.
◾Have the wedding and/or reception in an historic mansion. At night, they can feel “spooky” while still being formal and elegant.
◾Use dark colors rather than pastels in all the bouquets: blood-red roses, for example. If you prefer white flowers, calla lilies, although they will not be readily available in autumn, are traditionally associated with funerals, as are chrysanthemums.
◾Have the bridesmaids wear black gowns in luxe materials such as velvet, crepe, or chiffon. Although maids wearing black isn’t “proper”, it’s done so commonly now that most people don’t think it looks wrong or odd. If your etiquette conscience won’t allow you to dress your bridesmaids in black, they could wear sienna with black velvet cameo chokers, or black lace shawls, or some other spooky accessory — nothing too terribly far-out, of course, like plastic spider rings on every finger.
◾Put the groomsmen and ushers in tails. Undertakers traditionally wore swallowtail coats.
◾Why not make your own dress, and your groom’s get-up, a little more unusual, a little more like costumes? Be a Renaissance lord and lady, or Cinderella and Price Charming. (Of course, you probably have less of a problem getting yourself into a ballgown than you do talking him into a velvet waistcoat.)
◾Rent wrought-iron candelabra (or buy them, if you think you’d like a Morticia atmosphere in your everyday home decor.) Use them as centerpieces, place them on the cake table, and use freestanding ones at the altar and at the corners of the reception hall. Remember to lay down dark paper or, better yet, swags of cheap, dispensible cloth around the bases to take care of the unavoidable drips, since the amount of movement in the room will stir the air and cause the candles to burn unevenly. (Some friends of mine threw a Halloween party in a drafty room with dancing. By the end of the evening, that was not a no-wax floor in their apartment, if you get my drift.)
◾If you have maple or sweet gum trees in your neighborhood, you can gather up sheaves of leaves and make wreaths (ooh, poetic). The maples in my town turn deep shades of scarlet, vermillion, and umber. They retain these colors even when dried. Make sure to keep all those dried leaves far, far from the candles, though.
◾Have candy dishes filled with roasted pumpkin seeds placed on all the tables for guests to snack on while waiting for dinner. If your reception weren’t so formal, I might suggest candy corn.
◾This might be a bit too far-out, but throw some dry ice in the punch bowl. It creates a bubbling, roiling fog that spills out over the table — nicely chilling any nearby hors d’oeuvres, by the way.
◾Decorate the buffet and gift tables with small, decorative gourds. If you don’t think it would border on the cartoonish, you can even hollow them out and place votive candles inside.
◾Have a “masked ball” at your reception. When I was maid of honor for my best friend and she was kicking around the idea of a Halloween wedding, we visited our local emporium of cool party stuff and saw that they were selling half-masks (the type that cover only the eyes) decorated with beads and feathers for only $2 apiece. We thought they’d make memorable wedding favors; our plan was to set them out with the placecards and encourage people to wear them while dancing.
◾If you’re playing popular music, include a few eclectic Halloween-themed pieces. Anything having anything to do with Danny Elfman (the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo) is de rigueur. Or the “Monster Mash,” for your parents’ generation, perhaps?

These suggestions seem as if they’d be fun and festive without interfering overmuch with your ideal, or your parents’ and grandparents’ ideal, formal affair. For further inspiration, if you’re feeling silly, a hard-core, go-for-broke Halloween wedding that featured a Jell-o brain mold. Don’t forget to order your tombstone-shaped placecards!