Formal or Informal Wedding?

a bride and groom in bare feet

Choosing the formality of your wedding can be a difficult decision, but it doesn’t have to be. Wedding formality is largely dictated by the size of the wedding and its location, the number of guests invited, and the number of attendants in the bridal party. On the other hand, wedding formality influences the dress code, music, decorations, menu, and beverages served at the wedding. This article will help you determine how formal your wedding should be, but the biggest factor should be how you feel about your wedding.

Formal Ceremony

Very formal weddings are more traditional and more staid than other types of weddings. There are many more rules governing behavior and etiquette with regards to formal weddings than in any other type of ceremony. Formal weddings require professional wedding planning because the number of things to do would far outweigh the time the bride, groom, and other family members are able to devote to the wedding. In general, a formal wedding should have:

200-500 guests

A wedding dress with a long train and a veil that reaches the bride’s fingertips

A white tie dress code for the men

At least four attendants for the bride and an equal number for the groom

Elaborate, engraved wedding invitations on heavy cardstock

Extravagant, traditional flowers

A reception at an exclusive hotel, restaurant, or club

A full orchestra or band

Semiformal Ceremony

A semiformal wedding is easier to put together than a formal wedding, and it also allows for nontraditional elements in both the ceremony and the reception. Most weddings are semiformal, and guests may be more comfortable with this type of event. A semiformal wedding usually has:

  • 100-250 guests
  • A wedding dress without a train and with a veil shorter than the bride’s fingertips
  • Men dressed in black tie, conservative dark suits, or white dinner jackets in the summer
  • Traditionally worded, engraved or printed invitations, maybe on colored paper
  • 3 or fewer attendants for the bride and groom
  • A single musician or DJ

Informal Ceremony

An informal wedding can be more fun than any other type of wedding. Having fewer guests means that most of them will be your close friends and family. Also, since there will be fewer last minute stressors, you can just chill out and enjoy your wedding. I heard about one bride who wore her flip flops with her wedding dress. How much more comfortable can you get? Here are some standard characteristics of an informal wedding:

  • 50-100 guests
  • Long or short wedding dress, short veil, or maybe a hat
  • Maid of honor and at most 1 bridesmaid/ best man and at most 1 groomsman
  • The men wear dark, conservative suits or black tie
  • Invitations may be printed, handwritten or over the phone
  • Light lunch, dinner, tea is served at the reception

Of course, it’s your wedding, so feel free to mix and match. If you want a formal ceremony with 50 guests or an informal wedding with 6 attendants, go ahead. These guidelines are not written in stone, and besides, who cares what anybody else thinks?

It is important to consider the comfort level of your guests when choosing your style of wedding. For example, if your parents don’t wear jeans, a more formal wedding may be the best route. A reception is a party and your guests should feel comfortable enough to socialize, dance, and have a good time. So, if you have some guests who will be very formal, and some who will be informal, try to make your wedding somewhere in the middle so everyone will enjoy your special day. Additionally, the location of the ceremony and reception will create special considerations. Walking through wet grass cannot be done in high heels or long dresses. You’ll want to hang on to your wedding dress, so don’t ruin it the day of your wedding.

Get the word out

Even though the type of invitations you send out will generally give clues as to the formality of your wedding, it’s a good idea to spread the word. No, you don’t have to state the dress code on the invitation, but make sure your family and close friends know what to expect so they can field questions and inform people who may be unsure of what to wear or how to behave. Although you might not care if someone shows up to your formal wedding in golf wear, the underdressed person definitely will.

Now that you know the rules, take a minute to picture your wedding in your head. What do you see? Long dresses, elaborate flower arrangements, and a full orchestra? A garden party with comfortable footwear? Whatever you see, keep that picture in mind through every step of planning your wedding and your wedding will turn out better than you ever could imagine.