When it comes to planning your wedding, the first step—before you even start making your guest list or sending out the invitations—is deciding what kind of wedding you’re going to have. And, today, there are options. Instead of playing by the rules and hosting a standard wedding, more and more couples are forgoing tradition and throwing unconventional events that better match their style and preferences.
“We are changing as humans,” says Chanda Daniels of A Monique Affair and Chanda Daniels Planning and Design. “Not everyone is connected to the formal grand wedding. Love is defined differently, and the way we tell our love stories is a reflection of that.”
Not everyone is connected to the formal grand wedding. Love is defined differently, and the way we tell our love stories is a reflection of that.
There are so many different ways to express your unique relationship through the type of wedding you host. Want to run away together? Leaning towards a family affair? Eager to invite everyone you know? The options are endless.
Meet the Expert
Chanda Daniels is the owner of A Monique Affair and the creative director of Chanda Daniels Planning and Design, which are both based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She’s been working in the wedding industry for 22 years and has planned well over 500 events.
Since there are many types of weddings out there, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re in the initial stages of planning. Before you let the stress of planning a wedding get to you, selecting a wedding type will actually make the experience simpler, smoother, and more enjoyable. Taking that first step will help inform every following decision. Figuring out the type of wedding you want will help you settle on the perfect venue site, select the right attire, and figure out how many drinks to order for your cocktail hour. Most importantly, it will help you hire the right team of vendors.
“You want to align yourself with the creatives who have the resources to produce the wedding you want,” Daniels says. “And, the earlier you can define that, the better.”
Whether you want an intimate gathering or a boisterous bash, there’s something out there for everyone. Wondering which type of wedding is right for you? Take this quiz to find out.
If you want to surround yourself with a substantial number of people on your wedding day, a macro wedding will deliver. Macro weddings are traditional weddings with larger guest lists, and they tend to last the entire day or weekend. The events typically consist of getting ready, taking photos, holding the ceremony, chatting over drinks at the cocktail hour, having your first dance, making toasts, eating dinner, cutting the cake, and more dancing.
What We Love About It: Call us biased, but we love everything about the traditional wedding. It has all of the customs and rituals that make getting married such a momentous celebration. From getting ready with your bridesmaids to walking down the aisle with your father or another special figure in your life to cutting the cake with your person, these traditions bond married couples across generations. You also have the leeway to create a day that captures your relationship, personality, culture, or heritage through the decorations and details.
Whose Personality It Complements: Social butterflies who love huge parties and get energized by others’ presence will thrive at macro weddings. For couples who have a lot of close friends and loose acquaintances, you won’t need to scale back your guest list if you host this type of wedding. Traditional duos who shy away from change will also love throwing a classic wedding with all of the rituals that make the event so special.
What Size Event It Would Be: Macro weddings tend to have hefty guest lists. According to the Brides American Wedding Study, the average wedding has 167 guests. But, you can invite as few as 100 guests and as many as 200-plus guests to be considered a macro wedding.
Whose Budget It Fits: The standard wedding may cost about $30,000, so you need a pretty sizable budget to cover the expenses. Your venue site is the most expensive cost associated with weddings, followed by catering costs. You can also expect to pay for a photographer, a planner, wedding attire, hair and makeup, decorations, entertainment, favors, transportation, and more.
During elopements, lovebirds choose to sneak away and get married without letting their friends or family know. Rather than hosting a traditional and formal wedding, couples opt for a smaller, more intimate, and equally meaningful ceremony. Elopements tend to include a private ceremony without a reception or celebration, but nowadays, eloping can consist of planning, guests, and even parties.
What We Love About It: An elopement is one of the most special and personal types of weddings because it’s a day all about you and your partner. Without the pressure of meeting your friends and family’s expectations or the stress of planning an elaborate affair, eloping really allows your love to be the main focus. Couples can get creative with their nuptials by choosing to adopt or forgo as many or as few wedding traditions as they please. Whether it’s along the shore or on top of a mountain, we love how couples can tie the knot at their all-time favorite place, no matter the destination.
Whose Personality It Complements: For more reserved or introverted couples who shy away from being the center of attention, an elopement is right up your alley. Instead of walking down the aisle with all eyes on you or exchanging vows in front of a large crowd, you’ll share your promises in private. Spontaneous couples looking for an adventure or modern couples eager to shake up tradition will also benefit from running away together.
What Size Event It Would Be: Traditionally, elopements are a small wedding with just you and your person. But, you can definitely invite a few family members and friends to witness the event. Try to keep the guest list to a maximum of 12 people.
Whose Budget It Fits: As one of the more affordable options, eloping is perfect for couples who are on a tight budget. Without needing to pay for a venue site, food, drinks, decorations, or favors, you cut costs on all of the frills. Couples may expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on whether you hire vendors. But, even the most expensive elopements are far less costly than the traditional wedding.
This type of wedding really started to gain traction during 2020 when many couples decided to downsize their guest lists rather than postpone or cancel their nuptials. Micro weddings still include all of the traditional elements of a conventional wedding but with a smaller guest list of at most 50 people. They’re somewhat of a cross between an elopement and a classic wedding, combining intimacy with tradition.
What We Love About It: We absolutely love how micro weddings make such a special day feel even more homey and cozy. Having only your closest friends and family celebrate you is invaluable. You’ll still get to experience a beautiful ceremony and a fun after-party, but with a stronger emphasis on conversations and memories. Likewise, the smaller size opens up opportunities for venues—whether it's the backyard of your childhood home or the lobby of an art museum, you can host your wedding anywhere.
Whose Personality It Complements: If you’re a couple who wants to play around with expectations on a smaller scale, you might want to consider a micro wedding. For those who feel drained socializing in large groups and would rather be in the presence of loved ones, this style will definitely suit you.
What Size Event It Would Be: Micro weddings typically have no more than 50 guests in attendance, and the guest list usually consists of immediate family and super-close friends. Couples who want to spend more time connecting with their nearest and dearest, and less energy on quick conversations with tons of people will enjoy this type of wedding.
Whose Budget It Fits: Inviting fewer guests means you have a larger budget to work with. Of course, you’re still paying for a venue, photographer, makeup artist, and the likes. But, you’re saving about $4,618 on food and $2,365 on bar services, according to The Wedding Report. Use the extra cash to splurge on strong décor moments, or throw a minimalist gathering and save the rest for later.
If the idea of exchanging vows on the white sandy beaches of a tropical island or within the vineyards of an Italian villa entices you, a destination wedding might be your best bet. A destination wedding is one that’s held at a location outside of the couple’s hometown, and it requires a majority of your guests to travel to the locale. The event tends to last a weekend or more, and it requires more planning than the typical wedding.
What We Love About It: Getting married abroad is an exciting venture. Destination weddings are the perfect opportunity to explore a new place or return to a beloved spot that has symbolic meaning to you as a couple. By tying the knot in a dream destination, you’ll make your own traditions instead of possibly following in your parents’ footsteps. Plus, hosting your nuptials in an exotic location is basically like scoring two honeymoons!
Whose Personality It Complements: Go-getters, big dreamers, and couples with serious wanderlust will fall in love with this type of wedding. Getting married afar will also speak to laid-back couples who don’t care about seeing their venue before the wedding or meeting their vendors in person.
What Size Event It Would Be: Since your friends and family will have to travel to the location, it makes sense to host a smaller wedding of no more than 60 guests, especially if guests have to pay for their own travel expenses. If you invite a certain number of people, don’t expect everyone to attend!
Whose Budget It Fits: Destination weddings are ideal for lovebirds with money to spend. The average cost of a destination wedding might be around $35,000, which is more than the traditional wedding. However, the cost of your wedding will depend on factors like location, amount of days away, time of year, number of guests, and more.
Sure, extravagant weddings are fun and beautiful, but tying the knot downtown is a straightforward and simple way to make your marriage official. A city-hall wedding is a nonreligious ceremony that allows you to legally marry your partner. A qualified individual, such as a judge, justice of peace, or notary, conducts the ceremony, and there’s often no reception afterwards.
What We Love About It: City-hall weddings offer a low-key, laid-back ceremony, so virtually any duo can become newlyweds. With a civil ceremony, there’s very little to prepare in advance, so you avoid most of the stress of wedding planning. You can also add your own personal touches, such as carrying a bouquet, rocking a killer outfit, booking a luxe hotel, or throwing a fun after-party.
Whose Personality It Complements: For the pair who gets stressed easily, a courthouse wedding will save you from incessantly worrying, planning, and perfecting a large-scale event. Those who hate wasting time will likewise love this option because you’ll be in and out of the city hall pronto. If you prefer not to have all eyes on you, the ability to recite vows in private will put you at ease.
What Size Event It Would Be: Just you and your partner (plus the official) are usually the only attendees present. However, some city halls allow you to invite a few guests. Just remember to check the rules and regulations ahead of time.
Whose Budget It Fits: Going downtown is the most affordable type of wedding out there. If you stick to the ceremony only, you just need to pay for a government official to perform the ceremony and the marriage certificate. The cost varies by location, but in New York City, for example, you may pay a total of $60. Of course, you’ll spend more money if you decide to hire a photographer or throw a celebration afterwards.
Your family members are some of the most important people who unconditionally love and support you. So, what better way to celebrate your wedding than with the people who know and love you best? At a family-only wedding, you choose to invite just your family members rather than friends and acquaintances.
What We Love About It: At a family-focused affair, one of the biggest benefits is the guest list. Deciding who to invite won’t be such a hassle, and you won’t have to worry about excluding anyone. A family wedding is also small and simple, so you’ll be able to connect with all of your loved ones and feel more present on your wedding day. With this type of wedding, you’ll find it easier to pick a wedding date and venue because there are less people to account for.
Whose Personality It Complements: For the duo who adores their family and doesn’t need a lot of people to have a good time, you may want to consider a family-only event. Easygoing couples who prefer relaxed events will also love this style.
What Size Event It Would Be: It all depends on the size of your family. First, decide whether you’re going to invite just your siblings and parents or if you’ll extend the invite to cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, as well. Since you won’t be inviting friends, remember to tell them your wedding is family-only to make sure no one is offended.
Whose Budget It Fits: With such a small guest list, you won’t need to spend a lot of money on your wedding because you’ll have less mouths to feed. Since the size of a family-only wedding is in between an elopement and micro wedding, the overall cost will fall somewhere in the middle.
The Wedding Report. "2019 Average Cost of Wedding in the U.S. Flat at $24,675."