Formal, Semi-Formal, and Informal Weddings

When you start the wedding planning process, one of the things to do early in the game is determine the feeling you want your wedding to have. To do this, you need to make a decision about the level of formality which appeals to you. This is an overview of the differences between formal, informal, and semi-formal weddings.

Formal weddings are the most traditional. The men will either dress in black tie for the evening or morning suits for a daytime ceremony. The bride should plan to wear a full length dress with a train. Formal bridal gowns are the the most elaborate, featuring crystal beading, ornate embroidery, or fine lace embellishments. Classic pearl bridal jewelry and a full veil is always appropriate for a traditional wedding, and long gloves would not be out of place.

The decorations at a formal wedding reception feature traditionally elegant flowers such as roses or orchids. Grand centerpieces in tall silver vases or lush displays of roses are perfect table displays. Set the table with fine china, sparkling crystal stemware, and gleaming silver on damask tablecloths. Depending on the size of the guest list, a band or even a small orchestra would make beautiful music for the wedding reception. Finish the evening with a tall white wedding cake with multiple tiers.

Semi-formal weddings are a step down in opulence from formal weddings. The men in a semi-formal wedding should wear suits, whether the ceremony is during daytime or evening hours. As for the bride, she could wear an A-line, trumpet, or sheath wedding dress rather than a very full formal ballgown. A medium level of embellishment on the gown would be appropriate, along with a chapel length or sweep train, a veil, and simple pearl bridal jewelry. Full length or tea length bridesmaid dresses would be acceptable for a semi-formal wedding.

The decor at a semi-formal wedding will be every bit as beautiful as that at a formal wedding, it just won’t be quite so ornate. China with a silver rim, streamlined crystal, and classic table linens are the order of the day. The same flowers which work for a formal wedding would be pretty for a semi-formal reception, but they will tend to be more simply arranged. Less fancy flowers like hydrangeas or ranunculus can also be introduced to the centerpieces. Dinner stations or family style service would be very nice for a the reception.

There is a fairly wide range of what constitutes an informal wedding. In general, the men will wear jackets and trousers rather than a full suit or tuxedo, or maybe even just a button down shirt and trousers without the jacket. The bride’s gown at an informal wedding can be almost anything she desires. It could be a very simple ivory organza strapless gown with a sweep train or a tea length 1950’s inspired design. For the least formal ceremonies, the bride might even stray from anything resembling a bridal gown, and simply wear her favorite pretty dress in any color. Every bride should carry at least a small bouquet, however, no matter how casual her attire may be,

The decorations for informal weddings can be very bright and festive. Gerbera daisies in vivid shades of pink and orange are favorites for casual weddings. Centerpieces with wildflowers placed in clear glass Mason jars could be ideal for the backyard reception. A buffet service is appropriate for an informal dinner. The music can be whatever the bride and groom like best, from a d.j. to a bluegrass band to their own iPod loaded with great tunes.

The key to wedding planning is to design an event which really feels like you. So if you love the idea of feeling like a princess for a day, opt for a formal wedding. If you like things which are classic but not ornate, a semi-formal wedding will suit your taste. And for those couples who want their wedding day to be relaxed and easy-going, an informal wedding will be perfect.