After a year of canceled plans and uncertainty, we could all use a little optimism in 2021. That's why Pantone is delivering not one but two selections for the Color of the Year with "Illuminating" and "Ultimate Gray."

This is only the second time in over 20 years that the experts at the Pantone Color Institute have selected two hues to represent the upcoming year's spirit as well as anticipated design trends. The first instance was in 2016 when Serenity (a pale blue) and Rose Quartz (a blush) were chosen.

Like any good pairing, the two colors bring their own unique strengths. Illuminating is a bright shade of yellow, full of warmth and positivity, while Ultimate Gray embodies the stability, resilience and dependability of a solid foundation. Together, though, they "create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day."

"The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it's not about one color or one person, it's about more than one. The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a statement.

While these sentiments are certainly applicable to all of us right now, they're especially appropriate for anyone planning to embark on a new marriage in 2021. 

"We have seen the rise in popularity of gray over the years as a neutral color to use in wedding design and love it especially as a substitute for white for a more contemporary look. I am happy to see yellow making an appearance because we all could use some cheer in 2021!" says Valarie Falvey, wedding planner for Kirkbrides Wedding Planning and Design.

Here are a few ideas for incorporating Illuminating and Ultimate Gray – both as a pair and individually – in your big day.

1. Florals

One of the most obvious (and gorgeous!) ways to utilize Pantone's bright and sunny shade of yellow is in your wedding flowers. 

"Illuminating would be an amazing color to use in the floral design. Many beautiful flowers come in this shade, including orchids, sunflowers, dahlias, roses and snapdragons, among many others!" suggests Falvey.

While less common, Ultimate Gray can also be mixed into arrangements using non-floral plants, like "dusty miller, silver brunia and thistle," adds Falvey. 

2. Stationery 

Stationery, too, is a natural place to feature both Illuminating and Ultimate Gray. The two hues work for just about any invite or save-the-date style, from bold and graphic to vintage floral patterns. Plus, since it's the first thing your guests see from your wedding, it's the perfect way to introduce your trendy color palette.  


3. Tablescapes

Since Pantone's steely shade of gray is so versatile, it lends itself well to a variety of uses in your reception tablescapes. For instance, you could drape the tables in Ultimate Gray linens to allow the rest of the elements to pop; or you could make it the star of the show by topping off place settings with marble chargers or slate plates. 

4. Attire

While white might be the classic choice for a wedding dress, gray gowns aren't too far away on the color wheel and have been on the rise in recent years among non-traditional brides. The shade is also universally flattering, so it works perfectly for both bridesmaids and groomsmen. 

Shades of yellow like Illuminating, on the other hand, can be tougher to wear from head to toe. However, it's perfect for bright accents, like a pair of bridal shoes, groom's pocket square or ribbon tied around a flower girl's waist. 

5. Menu

The menu might not be the first place you think to utilize your color palette, but it's certainly a fun one! Consider adding a few naturally yellow dishes or drinks, like mini lemon tarts or pineapple punch cocktails, to your menu for a creative and tasty splash of Illuminating on your big day. 

6. Palettes

Wondering which colors play well with Illuminating and Ultimate Gray? Falvey suggests rounding out your color palette for a spring or summer wedding with white or blush.

"For a winter wedding, we would consider burgundy and/or black for a bold and deep look. For a fall wedding, pairing deeper shades of yellow and burnt sienna would be beautiful!" she says.

©CTW Features