Architect of romantic design

Karla McNeill understands weddings.

She has been planning and designing weddings since 2011, and has always had her hand in decoration as a floral designer. Now she takes her talent for blending colors and textures to her brides. She works with weddings of all sizes, from the simplest to the most elaborate, and offers full-service planning, partial planning, day-of-coordination and design.

Her joy for wedding coordination is seen in the tiniest detail. Whatever a bride wishes, McNeill finds a way to make it happen: a ranch location with an open tent that seats 300 people; a backyard wedding for 200 of her closest family and friends; or an intimate celebration of 50 guests, McNeill knows how to take her brides’ vision and turn it into a reality — sometimes with a tweak here or there.

“Brides are always trying to think outside of the box,” McNeill said. “They want something different than what they’ve seen at all of the weddings they’ve attended. They are always looking to do something different, like bringing in an ice cream truck or fireworks display.”

Hannah Shine Noble was one of those brides whose wedding Karla planned. The wedding was set for late July 2016. Hannah wanted an outdoor wedding, but her husband-to-be, Jordan Noble, and his family, are from Kentucky, and not used to the Texas heat. Hannah took Karla’s advice and booked an indoor venue, sight unseen. But she wanted an outdoor wedding effect.

Hannah took a week off from medical school to come to Texas and meet with Karla at the venue. She explained to Karla what she was looking for and when her big day came on July 24, 2016, she said her vision and Karla’s abilities brought the outdoors inside.

“She brought in artificial and real vines to cover the rafters,” Hannah said, adding that greenery was hanging from everywhere, including chandeliers.

“The florist, and event décor company, helped her set it up but it was all Karla’s idea,” Hannah said. “My early plan was just kind of a garden wedding, and she blew me out of the water with what she came in with. She made that (the outdoors) happen inside.”

To keep the party flowing outdoors as well, Hannah set up games such as washers, cornhole and horseshoes to lure guests outside. An ice cream truck served ice cream cookies and other frozen treats to guests as they enjoyed the games.

Trends in wedding design

McNeill stays on trend when it comes to planning her brides’ special day. For 2017 she said neutral tones dominate the summer wedding palette with slate blue, charcoal, champagne, ivory and antique brushed metallic.

“We’re not seeing a lot of bright colors this summer for bridesmaids or in summertime reception décor,” McNeill said.

Rustic chic is still an option for brides; however, McNeill said Bohemian style with a natural look is a popular trend this year. Linens matching the neutral tones of the bridal party colors continue throughout the reception area.

McNeill said lighting creates drama at receptions and brides should “have large focal pieces in the room.”

“You want to catch your guests’ eyes as soon as they walk into the room. Fill every part of the room with light to create the wow factor,” she said.

Festoon lighting is popular and can be strung horizontally across ceilings, or vertically to give the illusion of rain, she said.

For additional wow factor, think green. McNeill said greenery is everywhere, including garlands hanging from arbors, ceilings and draped across tables.

Planning the event

McNeill offers several bridal packages from day of coordination to full service planning. Whichever service a bride chooses, whatever budget she may have, McNeill said she wants her brides to “have their hands on everything.”

“I want them to look, touch and feel. I want them to look at the textures, the flowers,” she said.

“Even if they do a full-service (wedding) with a budget set in stone and hand the entire wedding over to me, I like my girls to see everything.”

As soon as you find your venue, book your wedding planner, depending on what service you want him or her to perform. McNeill books six months out, but will book on shorter notice for smaller weddings. Twelve months out is required for full-service, extreme-production weddings and all bookings must be within a 12-month period.

McNeill said brides have a vision; they go out and look at a product, then change their minds. “Brides are influenced by what they see on TV, in the mainstream media, but when they see it in real life, it often differs from their vision,” McNeill said.

Pinterest has had a huge influence on brides and can be a help to wedding planners. Brides often bring ideas they’ve seen on the site to McNeill, who now keeps a Pinterest page for each of her brides. “They can show me an example (of what they want) and we can pull it off the Pinterest board. It helps give me an idea of what their vision is or where they want to start.”

And if something they choose is a little too extravagant for their budget, McNeill knows how to “navigate their choices with substitutions.”

“I can make a room look expensive without it being expensive,” she said.

When it comes to who pays for what, times have changed. Couples are getting married later and are paying for most of their own wedding reception. Tradition states that grooms pay for the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. The groom’s family pays for the bridal bouquet. The bride’s family pays for everything else. But wedding customs are not set in stone and expenses can be a blended responsibility.

A calming effect

The closer a bride gets to her wedding day, the more stressed she may become.

“Don’t take too much on yourself,” said Hannah. “In the long run, even if a wedding planner or coordinator, or reputable vendor is a little expensive, they are worth it. You don’t have to worry about the little things getting done, or the quality.”

When the day gets close, Karla said keeping a bride calm comes easy to for her. She gives all of her brides unlimited guidance, and they can call her anytime — that means she’s gotten calls at midnight from frenzied brides — she listens and responds to their concerns immediately.

“If they are worried about something, I can fix anything,” she said. “It’s easy to fix problems. It keeps them calm (talking to them). I’m not hard to reach.”

Catherine Hosman is editor of Tex Appeal Magazine. Contact her at or 254-774-5234.