What is a wedding style?

Wedding style, simply put, is what you and your partner want your wedding to look like. Whether viewed as one overarching theme or a series of smaller aesthetic choices, your wedding style covers a lot of visual ground: from your choice of venue to the table linens, florals, wedding attire, and invitations, the list runs right through the entire event.

Why does wedding style matter?

You can think of wedding style as the lens through which you’re going to examine the masses of wedding inspiration available to you, both on Zola and in the wide world. Once you have some language to describe why you like something, it’s going to be easier to start saying yes and no to the many choices put in front of you during the planning process.

Nailing down a wedding style early will make the early days of your planning that much more efficient: you won’t waste hours looking through rustic details if you know you want a more classic affair, and it will help you find a venue and vendors that are well-suited to bring your style to life.

Additionally, having the right words to explain what you like (and what you don’t) will be infinitely important to your team of wedding vendors. These people only have a short window of time to get to know you, yet they’re responsible for helping you plan the biggest celebration of your life. By articulating your wedding style—or at least being able to show a curated selection of photos that demonstrates the look you’re going for—you’ll be able to connect and communicate with your vendors from the get-go.

But what’s my wedding style?

It can be tough to define your wedding style if you’re just not sure what you want or like—or if you like everything. Being able to zone in on a wedding vision might also be really unnatural for people who are not generally interested in design, decor, fashion, or flowers. Yet weddings feel even more authentic and meaningful when they reflect who you are. To help get you started, follow these steps towards discovering your wedding style.

1. Look at your stuff.

With your partner, survey your living spaces and wardrobe. Taking a look at your collective “stuff” might help you recognize subconscious style preferences you might already have. As a couple, ask yourselves: what are you naturally attracted to? What do you already fill your home(s) with? What does your dream dinner party look and feel like? The answers to these questions just might help you find the words, textures, and images to best describe your personal aesthetic.

2. Start browsing real weddings.

Head over to Zola Inspiration to see firsthand what other couples have done. Looking at other weddings is the best way to spark (or, let’s be honest, outright steal) ideas. Since you can refine your search by wedding location, venue type, season, and color palette, you can narrow in on those weddings with similar circumstances to yours for the most relevant inspiration.

3. Save what you like.

Browse through real weddings first with an open mind, saving any and everything that catches your eye to your Zola account by clicking on the heart icon on each wedding or individual photo. Try not to edit or limit yourself in this early period of inspiration-gathering.

4. Inventory your choices.

Once you’ve spent some time really looking and favoriting wedding details, take a look back at the things you’ve saved. Notice trends: do you gravitate towards soft colors and romantic details, or do you like bold hues and modern graphics? Look for patterns in the style tags of the real weddings you’ve loved. Which wedding style did you favorite the most? While you might have a lot of different styles represented, hopefully one or two will rise to the top as your clear winner.

5. Search real weddings by style.

At this point, you can actually filter and view real weddings on Zola by wedding style to both confirm this is the look you’re really digging for your own vows, and to get serious about finding inspiration for your wedding day attire, florals, tablescapes, venue, food and drink offerings, and other details like escort cards, signage, rentals, favors… the list goes on. (If you’re lucky enough to know your wedding style from the moment you got engaged, you can skip right to this last step.)

Zola’s Real Wedding Styles

The real weddings on Zola Inspiration are categorized by a defined set of styles and types. Here’s a breakdown of the 13 core wedding styles you’ll find on Zola, including verbal definitions and a comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of potential style elements to help you understand and identify each one’s characteristics.

Classic Wedding Style

A classic wedding draws upon tradition to stand the test of time. This style embodies grace and refinement, and incorporates familiar design elements in high-quality materials. Think elegant, subtle, and sophisticated.

  • Hallmarks of the Style:
    • Soft and/or neutral color palettes (cream, ivory, silver, gold, black, navy)
    • Polished (but not glitzy) metallics
    • Green and white florals
    • Traditional bridal gowns in white/ivory
    • Formal white china
    • Large bridal parties in matching attire
    • Diamond solitaires
    • Elegant wedding invitations in black script on white/ivory paper
    • Charivari chairs
    • House-of-worship ceremonies
    • Damask linens
    • Formal interior spaces (drawing rooms, ballrooms, etc.)
    • Black or white tie
    • Traditional updo hairstyles (chignons, French twists)
    • Silverplate
    • Long veils
    • Champagne flutes
    • Tiered white cakes on traditional stands
    • Urns and footed compotes

Rustic Wedding Style

With their design schemes of time-worn materials, found natural objects, and loosely arranged flowers and greenery, rustic weddings provide the perfect stage for folksy style. Unfussy details with an air of reclaimed charm or Old World refinement keep this style looking gracefully undone.

  • Hallmarks of the Style:
    • Farm tables (i.e., wood dinner tables without linens)
    • Lanterns
    • Galvanized metal
    • Mason jars
    • Barns
    • Loosely composed florals (as opposed to tight, formal arrangements)
    • Burlap
    • Hay bales
    • Mismatched chairs
    • Wild or garden flowers
    • Sundresses or other casual/short dresses for women
    • Vests, suspenders, bow ties, and/or plaid shirts for men
    • Farm equipment and vintage trucks
    • Glass bottles
    • Tented and/or outdoor receptions
    • Boots
    • Upcycled props (window panes, buffets, suitcases, door frames, and ladders)
    • Chalkboard
    • Wooden signs
    • Lawn games like cornhole

Romantic Wedding Style

Lush, petal-rich florals, a palette of dreamy hues (or deep and sensuous shades), sweeping natural scenery, and a feminine, ethereal vibe are the noteworthy details of romantic weddings.

  • Hallmarks of the Style:
    • Rich, abundant florals
    • Silk ribbon
    • White dinner jackets
    • Greenery garlands
    • Light-filled and ethereal scenery
    • Antique/fine china and glassware
    • Garden roses, peonies, and ranunculus
    • Gauzy, voluminous fabrics such as chiffon, tulle, and silk
    • Large bridal parties
    • Formal menswear or tuxedos
    • Pastel colors
    • Ornate, layered place settings
    • Pink cocktails or sparkling wine
    • Feminine details
    • Hand-inked calligraphy
    • Pink, blush, red, and burgundy
    • Rose petals
    • Gold, silver or rose gold touches

Natural Wedding Style

Drawing from nature’s intrinsic beauty, naturally inspired weddings make use of the organic beauty of raw materials, interesting textures, and peaceful colors. Simplicity is the name of the game for natural weddings.

  • Hallmarks of the Style:
    • Flax linen
    • Green foliage
    • Colors found in nature
    • Ferns, moss, and rocks
    • Simple or unadorned attire
    • No-makeup makeup
    • Wildflowers
    • Creams and ivories
    • Textural florals
    • Wood slices
    • Naked cakes
    • Secluded, natural landscapes
    • Delicate jewelry
    • Fruit, vegetable, and herbal decor

Glamorous Wedding Style

Your wedding day is your time to shine, so why not dress to the nines, have a fabulous party, and throw some glitz around? When it comes to glamorous weddings, there’s no such thing as heels too high or too much sparkle.

  • Hallmarks of the Style:
    • Full-skirted “princess” gowns or sexy sheath gowns
    • Lots of metallics
    • Crystals, pearls, and rhinestones
    • Black tie attire
    • Ballrooms, mirrors, and chandeliers
    • Sky-high and/or sparkly heels
    • Tall floral centerpieces
    • Colored uplighting
    • Long dresses in luxurious materials (satin, velvet, lace, etc.)
    • Dramatic makeup
    • Formal hotels or country clubs
    • Jeweled hair pieces or tiaras
    • Large wedding parties in matching formal wear
    • Fur capes
    • Sequin tablecloths or shiny, textured table linens
    • Vintage limos
    • Suspended decor (hanging floral canopies, fabric swags, etc.)
    • Large bundles of flowers (particularly roses) in one hue
    • Gilded, highly decorated cakes
    • Greenery that’s been painted gold
    • Heavily beaded/sequined dresses

Vintage Wedding Style

Drawing upon the best of the past, vintage weddings are fashionably ageless. This wedding style might incorporate antiques or objects from past decades, as well as family heirlooms. Although they can include a wide variety of looks, from 1950s retro to 1900s granny-chic, vintage weddings create a nostalgic vibe and celebrate the style of a previous era.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Birdcage veils
    • Vintage cars
    • Patterned china, frequently mismatched
    • Lace
    • Leather suitcases
    • Tea-length dresses
    • Old-fashioned gadgets such as typewriters, rotary telephones, etc.
    • Handkerchiefs
    • Family heirlooms such as wedding gowns, veils, or silver cake servers
    • Floral chintz
    • Cameos
    • Small, delicate bouquets in pastel hues
    • Postcards
    • “Granny” shoes
    • Satin and/or beaded slip dresses
    • Trailing stephanotis
    • Tweed suits and vests
    • Old maps and globes
    • Fanciful glassware such as coupes, hobnail goblets, or pressed glass
    • Pearls and cardigans
    • Teacups
    • Hand-calligraphy and ornate, old-fashioned typeface

Coastal/Nautical Wedding Style

From anchors and boats to seersucker and Sperry's... if it’s related to the sea or boating culture, it’s a coastal/nautical wedding. Rocky cliffs or white sand beaches, these weddings are heavy on the seaside details and beachy color palettes.

Note: While grouped together, there are slight differences between coastal and nautical styles. Strictly coastal style is more relaxed and “beachy,” incorporating natural items found near the ocean: driftwood, sea glass, shells, coral, and flora like sea oats, tropical flowers, or palm fronds. Strictly nautical style is on the preppier side (think the New England coast), and uses sailing or seafaring elements as design motifs such as anchors, knots, and buoys.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Palm trees/fronds
    • Surfboards
    • Orchids
    • Greenery leis
    • Casual attire
    • Sea grasses and sea oats
    • Beach glass
    • Netting
    • Driftwood
    • Seashells and starfish
    • Glass bottles
    • Canoe bars
    • Lanterns
    • Open-toe sandals or flip flops
    • Rattan
    • Waterfront or beachfront ceremonies
    • Lighthouses
    • Buoys
    • Sailing knots
    • Boats/yachts
    • Bow ties
    • Adirondack chairs
    • Navy and white
    • Anchors

Modern Wedding Style

Avant-garde and devoid of sentimentality, modern weddings rely on sleek, simplified details that effortlessly deliver an eye-catching punch of beauty. Imagine a clean, pared-down aesthetic with a focus on design: geometry, graphics, stark color, sculptural shapes, and unusual textures.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Ghost chairs
    • Calla lilies
    • Sleek hairstyles
    • Minimalist dresses
    • Black and white decor
    • Stripes, dots, triangles, or other geometric shapes
    • Pincushion protea
    • Clear acrylic
    • Graphic design elements
    • Metallics
    • Black-centered anenomes
    • White draping
    • Square or modular lounge furniture
    • Sharp or spiky details
    • Art galleries
    • Craspedia
    • Non-serif fonts

Urban/Industrial Wedding Style

Exposed rafters, perfectly imperfect old brick, vibrant street art, and a little rough around the edges: this style is all about the unexpected beauty of rugged materials and urban scenes. These weddings might incorporate gritty or architectural details, city skylines, and any unique trademarks of a distinct metropolitan area.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Bistro string lights
    • Exposed brick walls
    • Graffiti or street art backdrops
    • Sleek, simple sheath gowns
    • Wood beams or rafters
    • Marquee (light-up) or neon signs
    • Food trucks
    • Galvanized or corrugated metal
    • Restaurant, winery, or brewery weddings
    • Cityscapes
    • Architectural salvage
    • Vinyl-spinning DJs
    • Exposed pipes or ductwork
    • Sculpture, modern art, and art galleries
    • Machinery parts (gears, nuts & bolts, etc.)
    • Leather jackets
    • Bright or fluorescent colors
    • Angular/geometric shapes

Boho Wedding Style

Worldly touches, natural settings, and a free-spirited attitude set the stage for these imaginative and eclectic weddings that are truly one of a kind. A boho style is laid-back but not sloppy; it is maximalist, bright, experimental, and layered.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Feathers
    • Succulents and cacti
    • Mismatched textiles
    • Floral crowns
    • Tribal designs
    • Flowy gowns and casual attire
    • Bright colors
    • Kilim or Oriental rugs
    • Protea flowers
    • Booties
    • String lights
    • Moroccan lanterns
    • Loosely arranged flowers (often wildflowers)
    • Central American blankets and textiles
    • Dreamcatchers
    • Lots of candles
    • Repurposed bottles and cans
    • Macrame
    • Lots of layered jewelry
    • Antlers or animal bones

Offbeat/Alternative Wedding Style

These nontraditional weddings incorporate personal details and quirky themes to create a celebration that is uniquely authentic to the couple. Expect the playful and the unexpected when it comes to attire, location, or pretty much anything else.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Colorful and/or patterned wedding dresses
    • Non-floral bouquets (paper, feathers, brooches, etc.)
    • Non-matching wedding party attire
    • Colorful and/or embellished heels
    • Non-traditional ceremony rituals
    • Dinosaur or action figurines
    • Colorful hair
    • Sneakers
    • Pop culture references
    • Themed weddings
    • Colorful suits or jackets
    • Creative, non-white cakes or cake alternatives
    • Colorful, often DIY decor (paper streamers, pinwheels, flowers, lanterns)

Preppy Wedding Style

Boldly graphic patterns, monograms galore, and perfectly tailored attire signify preppy weddings, where the allure of bows and bright colors make for clean-cut affairs with country club charm.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Pearls
    • Madras plaid
    • Bright colors
    • Monograms
    • Peonies
    • Designer brand insignias (Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren Polo, Lacoste, etc.)
    • Stripes, chevron, plaid, and polka dots
    • Tennis racquets or balls
    • Bows and/or bow ties
    • Salmon-colored trousers and khaki pants
    • Embroidery
    • Loafers
    • Lawn games, especially croquet
    • Anything equestrian
    • Navy, pink, and kelly green
    • Round bouquets
    • Golfing or golf clubs
    • Seersucker
    • Graphic or floral prints

Art Deco Wedding Style

Characterized by 1920-1940s styling and the carefree glamour of the Jazz Age, this luxurious, artistic wedding style never ceases to impress. Look for Deco ornamental motifs such as lozenges, scallops, or other geometric shapes, drop-waisted beaded gowns, and tuxedos with tails à la Old Hollywood glamour.

  • Hallmarks Of The Style:
    • Long strands of pearls
    • Tailcoats
    • Jeweled headbands or headpieces (worn across the forehead)
    • All-white flowers
    • Geometric, scallop, or other Deco-era graphic designs
    • Fur capelets
    • Roaring ‘20s-era “flapper” styles
    • Old-fashioned typeset fonts
    • Peacock and ostrich feathers
    • T-strap heels
    • Black and white decor
    • White dinner jackets
    • Vintage cars
    • Glitz (sequins, crystals, rhinestones)
    • Champagne in coupe glasses
    • The Great Gatsby references
    • Slim, beaded/embroidered wedding dresses
    • Overly stylized (not loose/natural) floral arrangements
    • Birdcage or Juliet veils
    • Bowler or top hats

Do I have to pick just one wedding style?

No, you definitely aren’t limited to one wedding style. It’s actually unlikely that you’re going to like one style and one style only. As with so many things in life, your aesthetic will most likely fall somewhere outside of textbook definition. You might love everything about one particular style but wish to incorporate a details from a different look, or perhaps you’ll feel like your vision is a mashup of three or four styles. If that’s the case, go for it.

Since your wedding style is composed of words and images that you’ll share with your vendors to give them a sense of your tastes, there’s no right answer, and it’s definitely not necessary for you to come up with a single-word description.

What if my partner and I don’t agree on a wedding style?

Differences of opinion are frequent in all relationships, so it’s no surprise to come across them in your wedding planning. If you have wildly different tastes, try to be open and willing to compromise. It may help to consider other factors, like cost and practicality, when making choices. Example: your partner might be passionate about antique cars, but renting a vintage Rolls for your getaway vehicle might not be within your budget.

Don’t worry too much about having differences of opinion at this stage. Apply the same strategies you use for handling differences in your relationship, and remind yourself that since your wedding should be an authentic representation of you as a couple, combining each of your tastes in a cohesive way is truly your goal.

Do I have to have a wedding style?

Having a wedding style is not critical for planning a gorgeous, personal, fun, and romantic wedding. You can skip the categories and jargon and just lay visual examples at the feet of your planner, florist, hair stylist, etc.—they’re professionally equipped to figure out what to call it. Or you can just leave it up your vendors’ capable hands and trust you’ll love the results on the big day.

Even more simply, if you are having a more simple, DIY wedding without a lot of outside vendors, then defining your wedding style might not be a necessary exercise in the first place. Choosing a wedding style should be a helpful, and hopefully fun, part of your planning—if it’s not either, than move on to your next to-do item.