The 7 Most Popular Types of Weddings to Know

Before getting into the nitty-gritty details of planning a wedding, one of the first decisions a couple will make is selecting a concept that suits their day-of vision. Since not every couple identifies with the typical prototype, however, more and more modern pairs are opting for alternative formats that reflect their personality, lifestyle, and relationship. This, in turn, has created several types of weddings for soon-to-be-weds to choose from for their big day.

For instance, if you and your partner are more introverted and prefer small gatherings, you might consider throwing a micro wedding in an intimate space. On the other hand, if big, boisterous bashes fuel you, a weekend-long celebration with multiple days of events is probably the better choice. Since your big day is an extension of your love story, selecting a type of bash that feels authentic to you will make the experience more meaningful for everyone in attendance.

So, for those in the initial wedding planning stages, we created a simple guide to highlight the most popular types of weddings to know. But before you delve into these styles, take note that these are only recommendations and should be used as a starting point for what you can conceive on the big day. We encourage you to alter a certain format or mix and match different elements of each until you find a style that resonates with you.

Ready to dive in? Read on for a full breakdown of each type of wedding, plus planning tips from the experts.

Photo by Catherine Guidry

Traditional Weddings

This type of wedding is a single-day celebration that’s steeped in tradition. Although there is usually a slight degree of variation depending on the couple’s religious beliefs and culture, the format tends to be: ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. The duo historically plans a service—often at a church, temple, or mosque—that includes exchanging standard vows in front of about 150 to 200 guests, planner Chanda Daniels explains. After they share their first kiss, the newlyweds normally take photos with their wedding party, while the rest of their guests mix, mingle, and enjoy refreshments at cocktail hour. Then, everyone reconvenes for the reception—typically at a ballroom—that features customary rituals, like the first dance, the parent dances, a sit-down dinner, the cake cutting, and the bouquet toss. For the attire, the dress code is commonly black-tie, where women wear floor-length gowns and men wear tuxedos. The bride also traditionally sports a white dress, while the groom is clad in a tuxedo.

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

If you and your future spouse are traditionalists or you grew up in a traditional family, this type of wedding will probably suit you. “A couple who picks this style is motivated by their religion or cultural beliefs,” Daniels says. Just make sure that your personal ideology aligns with this affair or else your big day might seem performative and inauthentic, the planner notes. “Have a conversation with your partner to see if this type of wedding feels good to you,” Daniels recommends. 

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

Traditional weddings have certain rules regarding the financial responsibility of the celebration. Historically, the bride’s family foots the majority of the bill, while the parents of the groom usually pay for the rehearsal dinner, the officiant’s fee, the marriage license fee, the music, the drinks, and the honeymoon. Daniels suggests having a conversation with both sets of parents to gauge their level of comfort with contributing. You can also chat with your partner about whether you’d like to chip in with the finances, too.

Photo by Leah Marie Photography

Destination Weddings

Contrary to popular belief, destination weddings don’t have to take place in some far-off location. For this type of wedding to take shape, the celebration just needs to occur somewhere other than the couple’s place of residence, whether it’s a beachside resort in Mexico, a historic estate in Italy, or an industrial warehouse in Chicago. 

Other than the locale, these nuptials follow a very similar flow to a standard celebration, according to planner Bianca Hall. However, since many guests travel to the site, most couples throw a weekend filled with festivities, including a rehearsal dinner on the first day, a welcome party on the second day, the ceremony and reception on the third day, and a post-wedding brunch on the fourth day, Hall notes. Additionally, because friends and family will have to pay for travel and accommodations, these events tend to have a smaller headcount than a traditional wedding. “I do think the best part of a destination wedding is that you really can be a little more particular about who you include,” Hall mentions. “It’s OK not to invite all of your parents’ neighbors’ friends if you prefer a smaller, intimate group.” The venue will largely shape the attire, but the dress code tends to be more casual than black-tie, Hall adds.

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

Those with serious wanderlust will mostly gravitate toward this type of event. Destination weddings are also perfect for any couple who’s been dying to explore a new place or who wants to share a significant locale, like their engagement spot or the annual couples’ trip they take, with their guests. Laid-back duos who aren’t concerned about working with their vendors in person will also fare well with this style of affair.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

Although you’ll be planning most of your big day from afar, Hall encourages everyone to schedule at least one in-person site visit ahead of the wedding. “Many times, more visits are required, but couples absolutely need to go to the space during the planning process in order to visualize everything and feel confident in the plans,” she explains. Of course, you’ll also want to tour the venue before you book it. On that same note, since you’ll most likely be working with your vendors remotely, Hall advises enlisting a team of professionals whom you trust.

Photo by Lisa Poggi

Wedding Weekends

While destination weddings are often wedding weekends, not all wedding weekends are destination weddings; you can throw a three-day celebration at a local venue or a far-flung one, from family homes and country clubs to boutique hotels and mountainside cabins. Simply put, this type of wedding is defined by its duration and scope: Wedding weekends always feature a welcome dinner and/or rehearsal dinner, a ceremony and reception, and a post-wedding brunch. “You can also include other activities depending on how long guests will be in town,” Daniels says. Since there are several days of festivities, the guest lists are usually smaller than traditional weddings, but there aren’t any size restrictions. Likewise, the attire tends to err on the side of casual, but the venue and aesthetic will determine the level of formality, and each event will have a different dress code. 

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

If you love to entertain and you’re a social butterfly, hosting a wedding with several events—where you’ll be spending a lot of time with people—will be a fulfilling experience for you. Daniels mentions that this type of wedding is also ideal for the couple who wants to throw an unforgettable celebration that will strike a chord with their guests. Since this function involves planning, designing, and decorating an array of parties, those with bigger budgets will be able to enjoy this kind of gathering more.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

As we mentioned above, wedding weekends are an investment. To make sure you aren’t going over budget and to alleviate stress, create a spreadsheet and track all of the payments that you make during the planning process. There are also many ways to cut costs, whether it’s buying a second-hand wedding dress or repurposing your ceremony decorations, so be sure to read up on cost-effective tricks.

Photo by Heather Jowett

Small Weddings

Small weddings are defined by their size: These types of affairs typically have between 30 and 60 guests. One particular subset of small weddings is micro weddings, which are composed of fewer than 30 people. In general, though, since there’s a smaller group in attendance, partners usually invite only their nearest and dearest. As for planning specifics, these celebrations are usually single-day affairs—that can take place on a weekday or weekend—and are typically shorter than the traditional ceremony and reception format, according to Hall. Oftentimes, the couple will trade vows during a ceremony, followed by a nice dinner and sometimes dancing, the planner notes. Because you won’t have to worry about exceeding venue capacity, Hall says you have more flexibility regarding your venue choice—as long as your budget allows for it, of course. 

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

Introverts and couples who hate being the center of attention will love getting married in front of a smaller crowd. With this event, you’ll only spend time with those closest to you, allowing you to feel more comfortable and at ease. Hall also mentions that pairs who want an ultra-luxe experience for their guests might benefit from throwing this type of wedding. For instance, since you’ll only be mailing a handful of invitations, you can go all out with the design. “We think micro weddings really allow every single important detail to get noticed that might otherwise get lost in a traditional-sized wedding,” Hall shares.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

Since small weddings have fewer attendees, you’ll need to think strategically about your guest list. “If you invite one aunt and exclude another, the long-term repercussions that might arise from that choice are truly worth considering,” Hall notes. “With a little extra thought, hurt feelings can be avoided, and you can begin your marriage drama-free.”

You also might be tempted to take the reins on orchestrating your big day since you’ll have fewer people to plan for. However, no matter the size of your affair, a wedding planner is an essential member of your vendor team. This professional will help you manage the process and oversee the day, according to Hall, so it’s a worthwhile addition.

Photo by Clary Pfeiffer Photography


Elopements are technically a small wedding, but on the smallest possible scale, so we think they’re deserving of their own category. This type of romantic event is an intimate celebration that just includes the couple and their officiant. Sometimes, the duo getting married will invite a witness or two, according to Daniels. “They’re characterized by their simplicity and focus on the union of the couple,” the planner adds. The timeline of the day is straightforward, too: It usually begins with a ceremony, followed by lunch or dinner. Partners often hold their elopement in a meaningful or scenic location, like the peak of a mountain, or a city hall. The pair can wear anything they want, but the standard attire is often casual, such as a simple dress or suit.

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

Like small weddings, elopements are best suited for reserved or introverted couples who shy away from the spotlight. Nonetheless, what sets these types of weddings apart is the spontaneity factor: Small weddings are usually planned, but elopements sometimes happen in the spur of the moment. So, if you’ve decided to get hitched at the last minute, you’re an adventure-seeker, or you’re a modern couple who wants to eschew tradition, running away together will likely be up your alley.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

Even though elopements seem like effortless events, you’ll still need to do a bit of planning. If you’re jetting off to a unique destination, book your travel far in advance and hire a destination elopement planner to help you navigate unfamiliar territory. You’ll also want to think about the elements of your ceremony, from the bouquet to the vows. Then, after you’ve become newlyweds, decide whether you’ll want to host a bigger celebration with your friends and family.

Photo by Stephanie Lynn Photography

Courthouse Weddings

Sometimes, elopements can take place at a courthouse, but not every courthouse wedding is an elopement. With this type of wedding, couples legally marry one another during a nonreligious ceremony at city hall. A qualified person, such as a judge, justice of peace, or notary, conducts the ceremony, but no one else usually attends. After saying “I do,” the newlyweds often snap photos and sometimes throw a reception, where immediate family and close friends celebrate over a meal, according to Hall. The options are endless for courthouse venues, but some of our favorites are San Francisco City Hall, New York City Hall, Philadelphia City Hall, and Chicago City Hall. Since tying the knot downtown often takes place in a city, you can sport chic and unconventional wedding garments, like a pantsuit or blazer dress. 

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

There isn’t too much planning involved with courthouse nuptials, so for the couple who gets overwhelmed easily, this type of wedding will be right up your alley. Also, tying the knot downtown is quick and efficient, so if you have a jam-packed schedule but you can’t wait to get married, consider a city-hall celebration. Like the previous two functions, you can recite personal vows in private at the courthouse, so shy couples will love this kind of ceremony style.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

Although courthouse weddings don’t have as many moving parts as traditional weddings, there are still details you’ll need to plan. According to Hall, an important component that you won’t want to overlook is hiring a photographer. By having a professional document the day, you’ll always have tangible memories to look back on. “It will be a worthwhile investment,” she says.

Photo by Jasmine Lee Photography

Themed Weddings

Although any of the above celebrations can include a theme, whether it’s a romantic soirée or a modern bash, themed weddings are especially popular for those looking to give their guests a unique experience. These types of celebrations focus on a specific aesthetic, which informs every planning decision, from the bride’s makeup to the couple’s music selection. There are so many creative themes to choose from, such as masquerade balls, Bridgerton-inspired nuptials, Regency era soirées, celestialcore fêtes, carnival affairs, and many more.

Most of these affairs will follow the same timeline as a standard wedding, but the location, attire, and activities will vary depending on your chosen theme. For instance, a cottagecore celebration that channels the look and feel of quaint cottages in the countryside will most likely take place in a spacious meadow, a picturesque garden, or a rustic farm, allowing your vision to fully take shape. At this type of wedding, you’ll probably wear a peasant-style dress, like an ensemble with an empire waist and puff sleeves, and your guests will gather around for a family-style meal among wildflowers and antique decorations.

The Best Candidate for This Type of Wedding

If you and your partner are looking for a fun and unique way to set your celebration apart and impress your guests, a themed wedding will accomplish just that. Those with playful personalities and big visions will benefit from throwing a soirée with a theme. What’s more, since this type of wedding has many details that need to be attended to, anyone who enjoys the thrill of tackling a hefty project will find this experience rewarding. Pairs who love hosting parties and who consistently go above and beyond to make sure every single detail is curated and cohesive will thrive when planning a thematic event.

Must-Know Planning Tips for This Type of Wedding

When choosing your theme, make sure to select one that authentically captures your style and personality instead of picking one simply because it’s trendy. When executing your vision, you’ll want to make sure that every element works into the main aesthetic, so hire a planner to hash out all of the details and lean on them for support and guidance.

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