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How Formal Should Your Wedding Be? (Pro’s & Con’s)

  • Bridal Basics • Last updated April 24, 2018
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When you’re getting married, there are a lot of different things that you have to figure out for your big day. However, while things like the venue and the caterer are crucial to the event, one element that you have to think about is this:

How formal should my wedding be?

If you haven’t thought about it too much, then you might have assumed that your ceremony and/or reception would be a formal affair. However, is that what you really want? It’s your wedding after all, shouldn’t you be the one who decides the level of formality involved in the occasion?

Today we’re going to discuss this issue in-depth so that you can get a better idea of how it will affect everything from where you buy (or rent) your clothes to the kinds of pictures you’ll have at the end.

Why is the Level of Formality Important?

First and foremost, we have to ask ourselves why this is an issue to be addressed in the first place. For the most part, it all comes down to two things: tradition and cost. Traditionally, getting gussied up for a wedding is a normal thing to do, but does that mean that you have to follow in everyone else’s footsteps? Also, if you want all of the pomp and circumstance, that also means that you have to pay for the privilege.

Overall, the level of formality is going to outline everything about your special day. For example, if you want a more laid-back wedding, then you don’t have to go all out on the floral arrangements or the decor. Since people will be chilling in jeans and t-shirts, the rest of the venue should reflect that kind of laissez-faire attitude.

So, with this in mind, it’s critical that you decide how formal your wedding should be before you start worrying about everything else. This will ensure that you don’t wind up paying for things that are ultimately unnecessary.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Because it’s your day, the decision should be your own. However, you also have to consider how many other people are going to be involved in your wedding to make it special and memorable. Although they are all there to support you, it’s still important to think about how your decisions will affect them. Also, if other people are helping pay for the wedding, then it’s also essential to keep them in mind.

Here are a few questions that can help you determine the level of formality that will work best for the occasion.

What kind of memories do I want to create?

Are you more concerned with having a great time, or having everything (and everyone) look really good? When you think back to your wedding, are you going to remember how everyone was dressed?

What kind of venue am I using?

For this question, keep in mind if you are planning on using different venues for the ceremony and the reception. If you’re getting married in an ornately decorated church, for example, then it might be better to have the service be more formal than the party afterward.

What’s my budget?

While formal decorations are a big part of your wedding budget, you should also think about the clothes you are going to wear. Tuxedo rentals can be expensive, and if you’re planning on buying a dress, that can be another significant expense.

What are my guests most likely to wear?

Even if you tell everyone to dress formally, that can mean different things to people. Are your guests the formal type, or will they want to dress casual?

An Outline of Formality

To help you get a better sense of how this is all going to come together, we want to provide you with an outline of different levels of formality. Hopefully, this will paint a clearer picture so that you can make an informed decision.

Casual Wedding

A laid-back vibe in a modest or informal setting. The ceremony will likely be small, and the reception will be all about having fun, not looking good. You may decide to wear less restrictive clothing or change after the ceremony to cut loose. Although there may be some formal people in the crowd, the majority of your guests will wear whatever is most comfortable for them.

● More affordable
● Easier to manage
● Less stress

● Can look tacky
● Doesn’t have the same weight to it – your wedding may feel like any other party or get-together

Semi-Formal Wedding

If you want to encourage people to dress up beyond what they would wear to the movies, then you can have a semi-formal dress code. In this case, people can still be comfortable without looking like they just came from home. Button-down shirts, slacks, and breezy dresses will be the norm, with the outliers wearing t-shirts and jeans.

● Still affordable
● Looks better in photos
● Gives guests an option
● More inclusive

● Less cohesive appearance
● Still may not have the same weight as a formal wedding

Formal Wedding

A shorthand for this kind of affair is “black-tie.” Fine apparel is a must, including ties and jackets for the men and corsages for the women. The occasion will have all of the pomp and circumstance of a royal ceremony.

● Looks incredible
● Gives your wedding a feeling of importance

● Less affordable
● Clothing can be restrictive and uncomfortable

Bottom Line

In the end, you want to decide what elements you want to be formal and which ones should be casual. For example, you may keep your ceremony small and require attendees to dress up while your reception is more laid-back and relaxed. Your decor may be formal while guests are encouraged to dress comfortably.

Overall, remember that there are no right answers here. Whatever feels best for you is the right decision.