One of the first decisions that you will need to make about your wedding is how formal you would like it to be. This one choice will help to determine everything from the venue, to the time of day, to your gown, and even the menu. But if you are like most newly engaged couples, you have never planned a grand event before, and may have no idea how to figure out how formal your wedding should be. Here are some guidelines to the different degrees of formality, as well as what each one will involve.
Many couples like the general idea of a formal wedding, but are not exactly sure what that means specifically. They figure that this one of the most special days of their lives, and therefore a bit of pomp and circumstance is in order. A formal wedding is the one that will adhere the most closely to custom and tradition. You can still be creative, but there are some basic concepts that you will want to stick with to create a beautiful formal wedding.
There are actually degrees of formality. The most formal is a white tie wedding, which is rarely seen. This type of wedding follows very strict rules of etiquette, one of which is that it should only be held in the winter months. White tie weddings are only to take place after 6pm, and the guests are supposed to wear full length gowns, with their most ornate jewelry and long gloves. If you and your families want to have a very grand wedding, white tie is an exquisite option.
Most formal weddings will be black tie. A black tie wedding is also supposed to start at 6pm or later, but most people feel like it is fine for a late afternoon ceremony followed by an evening reception. If you opt for a black tie wedding, the men will wear black tie, obviously. The bride should wear a formal wedding gown with very special custom bridal jewelry. A veil is usually worn, and sometimes gloves, although they are not required as with white tie.
For a formal wedding, you want everything to tie together with the same degree of formality. In other words, a bouquet of roses or lilies would be beautiful, but a bouquet of gerbera daisies would seem too casual. Beautifully custom made crystal or pearl bridal jewelry is perfect for a formal wedding, but a plain silver chain would be not quite enough. You get the idea.
The menu for a formal wedding should feature elegant foods that are graciously presented. If you are having a causal buffet in the church basement after your ceremony, you can get away with using foil dishes at the buffet. For a formal dinner in a hotel ballroom or country club, a detail like that would detract from the effect you are trying to achieve. It is also traditional to have a more subdued invitation for a formal ceremony, such as black engraving on heavy white or ivory paper. These days, though, you can get away with adding an accent like a bow or a touch of color to your invitations while still conveying a formal tone.
Semi-formal weddings are very, very popular with couples these days. They can take place at any time of the day, and in any season. Many semi-formal weddings are held in lovely outdoor venues. This type of wedding will allow you more freedom and creativity in terms of your colors, attire, and décor. Semi-formal weddings will usually feature the bride in a beautiful wedding gown, but it will typically have less embellishment and a shorter train than a more formal wedding. Feel free to experiment with a wider and more eclectic assortment of flowers.
The formality of your wedding will set the tone for the entire affair. You want to choose the one that will feel both most comfortable to you and the most special. Because tradition is such an important part of a wedding, when in doubt, it is always safe to go with the more formal customs.