The 17 Most Popular Wedding Themes (And How to Choose Yours)

Plus, expert tips on how to make each aesthetic feel unique to your special day.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on features, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Sep 26, 2022

Choosing a wedding theme or style is one of the best ways to personalize your big day. A defined aesthetic will help you make important wedding planning decisions, like what color scheme to follow, how you decorate your ceremony and reception, and what the overall vibe of your day feels like. But, with so many wedding theme ideas, narrowing down your favorite might feel nearly impossible. Whether you've been curating your wedding Pinterest board for years or you're not quite sure where to start, we've got you covered. We tapped industry experts to share everything you need to know about picking a wedding theme or style, along with attainable ways to make it feel unique to you and your S.O.

Here, we define the most popular wedding styles, from rustic to whimsical and everything in between. You'll also find thematic keywords that'll help you communicate your vision with your team of vendors, along with decor tips and wedding venue ideas. Bookmark this page to keep as your all-encompassing guide to the most popular wedding aesthetics of all time. Then, once you've brushed up on wedding style and theme vocab, take The Knot's Style & Vision Quiz to get personalized inspiration and practical ideas that'll help make your dream wedding a reality.

    Do You Need a Wedding Theme?

    It's the golden question: Do you actually need a wedding theme or style? If you're not feeling drawn to a particular wedding aesthetic, you might wonder if you have to categorize your big day with a style or theme name. Ultimately, the choice is up to you—but choosing a theme or style may make your wedding planning process easier. "It is beneficial for couples to choose either a theme or a style, if not both," says wedding planner Ayanna Stephens. "The theme and/or style helps with a few things: It creates the opportunity for a cohesive design for your wedding, it sets the tone for the type of experience your guests will have, and it also helps to inform your budget."

    Adds celebrity wedding planner David Tutera: "If you want a great wedding that engages guests, it's all about telling a story from the moment they receive the invitation to the last thing they see, which could be the favor. Having a style or a theme helps you choose the story you're going to tell."

    Plus, having a clear wedding theme idea or style will guide subsequent planning decisions about colors, decorations, entertainment and food. But beyond that, a wedding aesthetic will dictate what your big day feels like for loved ones. "Selecting the right style can also be related to the type of experience you want for your guests," Stephens explains. "For example, a classic wedding tends to be more formal while a boho wedding is usually less traditional. It's important to narrow down your overall style and the experience you want to create."

    If you're not sure what wedding style is right for you, details like the date or location can serve as a guiding force. "Finding a venue that is realistic to your vision can seem challenging, but it's the most important part of wedding planning," says Alyssa Pettinato, owner of Alinato Events. "Then, every decision that comes after locking in the venue will contribute to the theme or style of your day."

    Following a wedding style or theme takes careful planning and organization, which is why it's necessary to lean on your team of vendors—especially a planner or a coordinator—to keep your style cohesive across all elements. "In order for your wedding to be executed effectively, it's very important for the vendors to work together," explains Stephens. "Your planner or coordinator's role is to partner with you to identify a team of vendors who are capable of executing the vision and working together to ensure success. For my couples, I typically create a mood board with inspiration for all aspects of the wedding, which I share with all the vendors so that they can understand what we're aiming to accomplish."

    Wedding Themes vs. Wedding Styles

    One thing to determine is whether you're following a clear wedding theme or a style. While the words are sometimes used interchangeably, it's important to make the distinction to avoid confusion among your vendors. "The words theme and style represent two distinct aspects of your wedding," Stephens explains. "Style is more related to the overall look and feel of the wedding; it's directly connected to your aesthetic. On the other hand, a theme is related to a specific subject that contributes to the details of the wedding design."

    Consider this: Perhaps you want to host a lavish Great Gatsby-themed wedding. This is a clear aesthetic with strong ties to both a book and a movie, which will include elements of art deco, vintage and glam styles. Because Great Gatsby is the overarching idea guiding your style choices, it's a distinct wedding theme. On the other hand, you could plan a vintage wedding that includes relevant stylistic elements without committing to a theme as obvious as Great Gatsby. Being intentional about whether you're following a theme or a style will aid decision-making and keep your vision and expectations on track.

    It's for this reason that staying organized is key for successfully pulling off your dream wedding. While you can create a Pinterest vision board, even just saving a few photos and screenshots of your wedding ideas will help you stay organized. "It's helpful to plan in slow stages," Tutera explains. "You might pick a theme or style and feel pressured to keep adding to it over your wedding planning process. Then, by the time you get to the day of your wedding, it feels muddy if it's been over-styled. I ask couples to give self-checks to see if they've strayed too far away from the original vision."

    Ultimately, the best wedding theme or style inspiration comes from your relationship. "Themes are great because they help to personalize the wedding," says Stephens. Adds Tutera: "A wedding theme is great if it makes sense to the couple's perspective on how they want their wedding to look. So, if you're obsessed with a certain theme and it makes sense to who you are, it's great to have—but it's not a necessity, especially if a general style resonates more with you. It's important to pick what best represents you as a couple."

    Classic Wedding Themes & Styles

    So, which wedding theme or style is right for you? Before you decide, read more about the most popular wedding aesthetics below. These styles and themes are likely the ones you've heard of before (think: boho, glam and classic romance), but they'll never go out of style.

    Boho Wedding Theme

    Bohemian wedding decor is trendy and bold, with an emphasis on achieving an inviting, cool vibe—in other words, don't get caught up in trying too hard. This wedding theme is all about tapping into earthy elements and color schemes, plus statement details, like a dramatic wedding ceremony arch or hanging centerpieces, that your guests will remember. "A boho wedding is casual and comfortable," Tutera explains. "It features unique prints and very specific color schemes—think of sunset colors with sky blue and patterns on patterns. It's laid-back, slightly sophisticated but fun and playful."

    • Boho wedding theme buzzwords: Free-spirited, artsy, laid-back
    • Boho wedding theme decor: Consider mismatched bridesmaid dresses or wedding party attire that shows off everyone's style without looking too put together. For floral arrangements, opt for blooms that are wispy and wild, like pampas grass, dried palm leaves or baby's breath. Your reception should feature a cozy lounge area, complete with mismatched chairs, rugs and poufs. A naked wedding cake covered in fresh blooms will add the perfect finishing touch.
    • Boho wedding theme venues: Botanical garden, desert, lakefront

    Read more: 32 Ethereal Boho Wedding Ideas for Free-Spirited Couples

    Classic Wedding Theme

    A classic wedding is one of the most popular aesthetics, and it's not hard to understand why. "A classic wedding is one that is timeless," Stephens explains. "It's usually defined as a more formal wedding with clean lines, white florals and a traditional overall look and feel." In addition to focusing on the ambiance, it's just as important to think about the emotion you want your classic wedding to evoke. "Classic romance weddings have the ability to create an emotional setting, not just for the couple but also for guests," Tutera explains.

    • Classic wedding theme buzzwords: Traditional, timeless, elegant
    • Classic wedding theme decor: Classic weddings come across as more formal, thanks to their perfectly coordinated color palette, decor and attire. Kick off the wedding reception with a champagne cocktail hour accompanied by a jazz quartet. Outline the reception meal with custom menus at each place setting, then finish the tablescapes with chic decor like crisp white table linens, taper candles and low wedding centerpieces.
    • Classic wedding theme venues: Mansion, vineyard, ballroom

    Read more: 25 Classic Wedding Ideas That Will Always Be In Style

    Glamorous Wedding Theme

    Couples with an affinity for all things lavish and luxurious might prefer a glam wedding theme or style. "A glam wedding is a shiny wedding," says Tutera. "It can be in any color scheme, with white as a predominant base color. It should be rich with sparkled details, candles and luxurious textures."

    • Glamorous wedding theme buzzwords: Dazzling, memorable, sparkly
    • Glamorous wedding theme decor: Glamorous weddings often have a few jaw-dropping details like a flower wall, tall centerpieces or ultra-personalized elements, like edible drink toppers. The decor can range from a sleek, contemporary vibe to over-the-top and extravagant. One thing is for certain, though: metallic accent colors are a must. Consider also adding unexpected wedding reception entertainment—like a live performance or fireworks show—to wow your crowd.
    • Glamorous wedding theme venues: Ballroom, luxe estate, swanky rooftop

    Read more: 24 Extraordinarily Glamorous Ideas for a Luxury Wedding

    Modern Wedding Theme

    A modern wedding is all about exquisite simplicity. City dwellers, urbanites and design lovers often gravitate toward this wedding style, which embraces a minimalist mindset with a few carefully curated details to make maximum impact. "Lean into interesting surfaces and textures, like marble and rich, matted metallics," Tutera says.

    • Modern wedding theme buzzwords: Clean, vogue, streamlined
    • Modern wedding theme decor: Prioritize sophisticated yet trendy ideas for your decor and fashion, anchored by a meticulous color palette. The theme should be consistent in every detail, from thoughtfully chosen table linens to the specialty cocktail. A modern monogram or logo may be used to personalize the menus and the dance floor, while the simple wedding cake rounds out an inventive, foodie-inspired menu.
    • Modern wedding theme venues: Loft, wine bar, industrial warehouse

    Romantic Wedding Theme

    Romantic weddings are all about creating a dreamlike setting with soft lighting, delicate floral arrangements and ethereal details. Opt for wedding colors in shades of blush, ivory and pastel purple, and decorate with lots of candles to set the mood. Romantic weddings put the emphasis on feeling cozy and optimistic—your big day should emulate the fuzzy feeling of love and butterflies you have for your S.O.

    • Romantic wedding theme buzzwords: Intimate, pretty, classic
    • Romantic wedding theme decor: Your wedding flowers are an especially major component of this theme. Decorate your space with flourishing, fragrant blooms, from petals lining the ceremony aisle to lush, rose-filled centerpieces that transform your table decor. Serve classic refreshments like sparkling rosé or champagne (perfect for all those just married glass clinks) and cut into a flower-covered wedding cake. You can create an intimate atmosphere by adding candles, hiring a band for live music and placing guests in family-style seating arrangements to encourage conversation.
    • Romantic wedding theme venues: Estate garden, castle, vineyard

    Rustic Wedding Theme

    The rustic wedding theme can take on many forms, but the overall aesthetic should be inspired by a farm-to-table experience. Natural elements like wood, rope and greenery centerpieces will help you achieve a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Comfort foods and beverages like lemonade or sweet tea add to the down-home vibe. "When I think rustic, I see a color palette of neutral and soft tones with natural elements like organic fabrics, wooden elements, lace, foliage and burlap," says Stephens. And although rustic weddings are closely associated with barns and farms, it's not the only place you can host your nuptials. "The juxtaposition of being in a modern space with a rustic environment inside is a cool way to plan the theme as well," Tutera suggests.

    • Rustic wedding theme buzzwords: Farmhouse, mismatched, bucolic
    • Rustic wedding theme decor: Decorate with wildflower centerpieces that look freshly picked from a field to dress up bare wood tables. Mixed glassware and plates will add a hint of quirkiness to your wedding table settings (and prevent the decor from coming across as too stuffy), while faux bois patterns and rugged materials will play up the outdoorsy theme. Last but not least, mason jars are one of the most recognizable rustic wedding details—you can use them to serve drinks, display votive candles or send them home as wedding favors.
    • Rustic wedding theme venues: Renovated barn, ranch, farm

    Read more: 44 Of-the-Moment Rustic Wedding Ideas You'll Love

    Vintage Wedding Theme

    If you love spending hours meandering through antique markets, you have a whole collection of trinkets from eras past or you constantly turn to previous decades for style inspo, a vintage-themed wedding might be for you. This popular wedding theme is sometimes thought of as being interchangeable with romantic and retro wedding themes, but there are a few key differences. For a vintage wedding, you'll want to focus heavily on the Gilded Age and Victorian design—for starters, think candelabras, cloche jars, filigree photo frames and upholstered velvet furniture.

    • Vintage wedding theme buzzwords: Eclectic, storybook, ornate
    • Vintage wedding theme decor: Instead of plain tablecloths or runners, tablescapes might be draped with delicate layers of lace. Repurposed antique furniture is always a conversation piece, so consider designing a lounge area with old armchairs or love seats for your cocktail hour. Serve dinner by candlelight and make your grand exit in a vintage car to cap off the night (just like your favorite classic movie).
    • Vintage wedding theme venues: Historic courthouse, garden, chapel

    Read more: 27 Vintage Ideas to Take Your Wedding Day Back in Time

    Alternative Wedding Themes

    If you're looking for an unexpected wedding theme idea, your search ends here. Below, you'll find our favorite unique wedding styles and themes, like Art Deco, retro and whimsical. If any of these wedding styles are up your alley, screenshot your faves to share with your wedding planner and team of pros.

    Creative Wedding Theme

    Sometimes, your style is totally unique and can't be boxed in with other categories. A lot of creative wedding themes are inspired by subcultures such as Burning Man, a Halloween-themed wedding, Renaissance festivals or Marvel comics. Since wedding aesthetics are all about interpretation, inventing your own theme or style will allow you to craft your big day around your personality however you want.

    • Creative wedding theme buzzwords: Quirky, niche, special interest
    • Creative wedding theme decor: You can always opt for a traditional wedding dress or suit, but depending on your theme, you could have a ton of possibilities when it comes to the fashion, so take it as an opportunity to think outside the box. For a Star Wars-themed wedding, accessorized with character socks or pose with lightsabers as props in your wedding portraits. If you're a couple of self-proclaimed Potterheads, incorporate your House Colors into your attire or apply temporary Dark Mark tattoos for a Harry Potter-themed wedding.
    • Creative wedding theme venues: Renovated warehouse, art gallery, state park

    Art Deco Wedding Theme

    Reminiscent of the Roaring '20s, this wedding theme is all about glitz, glamour and partying. Energetic jazz music should be a main focus, so we highly recommend finding a live band to get your guests on their feet (bonus points if anyone can dance the Fox Trot or the Charleston). Geometric details are another major component of Art Deco wedding style, mimicking the architectural designs of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings constructed in the late 1920s. If this avant-garde aesthetic speaks to you, you might consider hosting a Great Gatsby-themed wedding or getting married on New Year's Eve.

    • Art Deco wedding theme buzzwords: Flashy, metallic, opulent
    • Art Deco wedding theme decor: An Art Deco wedding calls for dramatically tall centerpieces, sequined tablecloths and an impeccably styled wedding party. Consider using a color scheme that primarily features black, white and silver or gold accents to double-down on the luxe vibe. But, arguably the most important detail of an Art Deco theme is a jaw-dropping wedding champagne tower that would make even Jay Gatsby jealous.
    • Art Deco wedding theme venues: Mansion, hotel ballroom, rooftop

    Country Wedding Theme

    A mix of rustic, vintage and Southern styles, country weddings are full charm and overflowing with thoughtful, personal details. The main goal of this wedding theme is to design an event that's chic but not stuffy—imagine your guests are coming over for a summer backyard party (albeit one that takes a little more planning in this instance). Elements like wooden cross-back chairs, wildflower-style arrangements, gingham prints and homemade pies are the vibe to emulate.

    • Country wedding theme buzzwords: Down-to-earth, pastoral, quaint
    • Country wedding theme decor: Cowboy boots might make an appearance, but don't feel too confined to the kitschy elements of traditional rustic style (like burlap or tree stump accents). Instead, you can achieve a country wedding aesthetic by looking for details that are inviting and welcoming, without being overtly rustic. If you're feeling stuck, consider an Americana-themed wedding or draw inspiration from the cottagecore wedding trend, which is reminiscent of English country style.
    • Country wedding theme venues: Backyard, ranch, countryside meadow

    Read more: 50 Country Wedding Ideas for Bucolic Celebrations That Wow

    DIY Wedding Theme

    A lot of time and effort goes into DIY weddings, which put the focus on personalization in every detail. Whether it's a hand-sewn pennant flag banner, a dessert bar carefully curated by many bakery visits or handwritten escort cards, your style can really shine through at a DIY wedding.

    • DIY wedding theme buzzwords: Handmade, crafty, personalized
    • DIY wedding theme decor: Hand-building a wedding arbor, hand-embroidering handkerchiefs for weepy wedding guests or writing individual notes for each place setting are just a few examples of how you can tap into your crafting skills for a DIY wedding. You can also apply the do-it-yourself mindset for guests at the wedding reception—surprise them with an interactive experience, like a made-to-order crêpe station, s'mores bar or sliders station where they can add their own toppings.
    • DIY wedding theme venues: Backyard, local park, banquet hall

    Read more: 31 DIY Wedding Decorations for Any Skill Level

    Nature Wedding Theme

    This wedding theme is focused on—you guessed it—nature-inspired elements like fresh flowers, animals, trees and other botanical components. The color palette is also inspired by nature, with a base of white or ivory contrasting with deep green, brown or blue tones. We like to compare the concept of this theme to the forests of the Pacific Northwest: equal parts moody and magical.

    • Nature wedding theme buzzwords: Ethereal, organic, woodland
    • Nature wedding theme decor: Long, wooden family-style tables cultivate conversation and leave plenty of room for details like moss-filled centerpieces, gauzy table runners, greenery garlands or leafy ferns in terracotta pots. The nature theme easily ties into sustainable and eco-friendly wedding ideas, or you can take a more fantasy-inspired approach with a woodland fairy aesthetic.
    • Nature wedding theme venues: Forest, botanical garden, treehouse cabin

    Nautical Wedding Theme

    A celebration by the sea (or a destination wedding on the coast of New England) calls for some serious Cape Cod and Nantucket inspiration.

    • Nautical wedding theme buzzwords: Beachy, coastal grandmother, naval
    • Nautical wedding theme decor: Anchors and sailboats aren't the only seafaring details for this wedding theme. Breezy linen fabrics, lighthouse motifs, Breton stripes, oyster shell escort cards and blue watercolor stationery help to form this coastal, relaxed style. Treat guests to a seafood bar featuring local catches, like lobster rolls or fresh shrimp cocktails, to give them a true nautical experience. While you don't need to plan a beach wedding to utilize this style, a waterfront view will really bring together this maritime-inspired theme.
    • Nautical wedding theme venues: Waterfront yacht club, beach resort, maritime museum

    Preppy Wedding Theme

    Vibrant colors, chinoiserie vases and tidy flower arrangements are just some of the things that define a preppy wedding. For added energy and spunk, the style often includes an eye-catching motif or pattern to set off the bright colors, such as a jacquard or ikat print.

    • Preppy wedding theme buzzwords: Sophisticated, bright, playful
    • Preppy wedding theme decor: You simply can't have a preppy wedding without peonies and hydrangeas. These ruffled blooms are the perfect stems to create statement centerpieces or wedding bouquets. Calligraphy, boxwood arrangements and needlepoint accents are other preppy-chic options to incorporate into your decor. For wedding attire, turn to details like bows, pearl embellishments and seersucker fabrics.
    • Preppy wedding theme venues: Country club, marina, historic inn

    Retro Wedding Theme

    Mad Men meets Grease in this drive-in, sock hop, American Bandstand–era celebration. Even if your guests can't jive like the Bandstand dancers could back in the day, that's what the vibe should feel like at a retro wedding.

    • Retro wedding theme buzzwords: Nostalgic, campy, moxie
    • Retro wedding theme decor: Pull inspiration from the '50s and '60s, a time when bold colors like teal, cherry red, neon pink and canary yellow brought new energy to home decor and fashion. A few throwback details, like Coke served in its signature glass bottles, are just right to round out the experience—just be sure to use any themed details in moderation to avoid becoming too garish.
    • Retro wedding theme venues: Art gallery, vintage theater, restored historic building

    Southern Wedding Theme

    This elegant wedding style is the epitome of Southern charm. Soft pastel colors, sweet refreshments and comfort food bites (like mac and cheese, hush puppies or honey biscuits) are the big players in this wedding theme.

    • Southern wedding theme buzzwords: Charming, traditional, homey
    • Southern wedding theme decor: Aside from the Southern wedding traditions, this theme calls for pulling out all the stops: bow ties, gloves, stunning floral arrangements, calligraphed stationery and, of course, delicious Southern food. Traditional touches like chandeliers or a checkerboard dance floor should be mixed with personalized details, like monograms, pineapple motifs and wedding signs with clever phrasing. If you're hosting an outdoor reception, consider having a few lawn games like corn hole or croquet to make your big day feel like an easy afternoon down south. And finally, don't forget about the Southern-style cocktails, like Derby-inspired mint juleps or sweet tea and bourbon.
    • Southern wedding theme venues: Formal garden, country club, classic ballroom

    Whimsical Wedding Theme

    bride holding wedding bouquet of pastel colored paper butterflies and bunny tail grass
    Nirav Patel Photography

    Tap into your youthful side with a whimsical wedding day. Perfect for hopeless romantics and kids at heart, this wedding aesthetic is all about having fun and creating an uplifting atmosphere. "A whimsical wedding is playful and colorful," Tutera explains. "Think of it as though you're elevating a child's Alice in Wonderland-themed party and translating it into an adult wedding."

    • Whimsical wedding theme buzzwords: Enchanting, quirky, fantasy
    • Whimsical wedding theme decor: Think of the whimsical theme as a garden wedding mixed with your favorite fairytale. Your wedding invitations are the best place to introduce any wedding theme, but especially a whimsical one—a quirky motif or wordplay can allude to the fun without giving the whole idea away. Day-of details like mismatched bridal party dresses, thrifted china, creative wedding table numbers and interactive entertainment (like a photo booth or live painter) will make everything feel unique.
    • Whimsical wedding theme venues: Greenhouse, backyard, mansion
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