Not all weddings are created equal. Some are more casual and relaxed; others are more traditional and formal. No matter the tone you want for your wedding that tone should be reflected in the wedding invitations that you choose.
There are four levels of wedding formality. In this article, we’ll look at the three most formal, how you can tell how formal your wedding is going to be, and how that level should be captured in your wedding invitations.
At the low end of the formality scale, are the semi-formal weddings. These weddings are, for starters, usually smaller: the guest list should consist of between 75 to 200 people. Appropriate ceremony locations vary, but churches, private homes, or rented hotel halls would be fine.
Because these weddings are smaller, fewer attendants are needed. Usually only one to two bridesmaids should be included. They would wear shorter dresses, perhaps a cocktail dress if the wedding was held in the evening. The groom and his attendants could wear a suit and tie if the wedding was scheduled for the daytime or a tuxedo for an evening wedding. The bride is given more options: she can choose either white, ivory, or even soft pastel colors and her dress can be any length or style that makes her comfortable.
Semi-formal weddings are followed by more casual receptions. Cocktails are served, but the food is usually provided with a buffet. A small serving staff is needed to fill drinks and to monitor the buffet.
With a semi-formal wedding, you would usually hire a professional printer to complete the invitations. You could also adjust one or two of the elements to reflect your own personality. For example, you could choose a pastel pink paper for your invitations as long as all the other elements – font, components, ink, style – remained formal.
The next highest level of wedding formality is also the most common. These weddings usually include around 200 guests. They can be held in churches or rented halls, possibly a private home if it’s very nice and can adequately hold such a large number of well-wishers.
Brides are expected to have more attendants. Two to six bridesmaids are recommended, plus you can include other attendants, such as flower girls or ring bearers. The bridesmaids can wear either long or short dresses depending on the bride’s preference, although if the wedding is held at night long dresses are preferable. At evening weddings, the groom and his attendants should dress as if they were attending a black tie event. At a daytime wedding, their attire can be a little less formal. No matter when the wedding takes place, the bride wears a white dress with a train.
During the reception, guests should be served at their tables. A larger number of servers will be needed and guests will have to choose a meal option on their response cards. Most couples offer at least two choices, plus a vegetarian option.
Invitations for formal weddings are very traditional. They should be printed in black ink with a fancy script on white or ivory paper. A ribbon or other decorative element is usually included, along with a piece of tissue paper and double envelopes. Even the wording is very traditional and should reflect whoever is hosting the affair.
At the high end of wedding formality are the very formal ceremonies. These ceremonies may include 300+ guests and are usually held only in churches or very high-end rented ballrooms or halls.
Very formal weddings include a large number of attendants. Bride’s choose between 4 to 12 bridesmaids who all wear formal gowns whose hems reach the floor. Also, flower girls, ring bearers, junior bridesmaids, and other attendants should be included and should be dressed in formal attire similar to what the rest of the wedding party is wearing. The groom and his attendants should wear full-dress tuxedos, including a tie and tails, if the wedding takes place in the evening. During a daytime wedding, he can leave off the tails. The bride will be dressed in a very traditional white dress with a long train.
During the reception, the guests are usually served a multi-course seated meal. The meal choices should reflect the formality of the event. A full serving staff is needed to meet the needs of the guests. Also, alcohol is usually paid for by the hosts of the reception.
As you might imagine, the invitations for this type of ceremony should be extremely traditional. Most couples would also pay for those invitations to be engraved so they would have an even more elegant look.