A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Popular Wedding Themes & Styles

Plus, expert tips on how to make each aesthetic feel uniquely yours.
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 in fashion, 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 Jun 17, 2021

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.

In this article:

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, what wedding theme or style is right for you? Fear not: Below, we break down the most popular wedding aesthetics. These styles and themes are likely ones you've heard before (think: boho, glam, and classic romance), but they'll never go out of style.

Bohemian

Boho weddings have a way of looking incredibly chic with minimal effort. (It's the "I woke up like this" of wedding aesthetics.) Bohemian wedding decor is humble but eye-catching and the color scheme is usually a palette that can be found living harmoniously in a garden. "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."

Buzzwords: Free-spirited, tribal, nomadic, laid-back

What it looks like: 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, pressed palms or baby's breath. Your reception should feature a cozy lounge area, complete with mismatched tepees and poufs. A naked cake covered in fresh blooms will add the perfect finishing touch.

Venue ideas: Botanical garden, greenhouse, sandy desert

Classic

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.

Buzzwords: Traditional, timeless, elegant, romantic

What it looks like: Classic weddings are usually more on the formal side. Consider planning a champagne cocktail hour with jazz music in the background for guests to enjoy in between the wedding ceremony and reception. Arrange chargers set at each place setting with understated decor like tealight candles or floral arrangements made up of a single variety.

Venue ideas: Ballroom, courtyard, vineyard, mansion

Glamorous

Want to have the best wedding ever? 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."

Buzzwords: Dazzling, chic, captivating, sparkly

What it looks like: Glamorous weddings often have a few jaw-dropping details that end up all over Instagram, like a flower wall, elegantly draped fabric linens or exquisitely prepared food. The decor can range from neutral minimalist to over-the-top and extravagant. One thing is for certain, though: metallics are a must. Consider also having unexpected entertainment—like a live performance or fireworks show—to wow your crowd.

Venue ideas: Ballroom, luxe estate, sleek rooftop

Modern/Industrial

A modern wedding is all about exquisite simplicity. City dwellers, urbanites and design lovers gravitate toward this wedding style, which skews formal but has enough playful touches to keep it from feeling stuffy. "Lean into interesting surfaces and textures, like marble and rich, matted metallics," Tutera says. "This style also allows you to save on florals and instead use terrariums, succulents or stones. An industrial-modern wedding with interesting lighting in the ceiling could be a clean slate for when someone doesn't want to visually overdo their wedding."

Buzzwords: Contemporary, vogue, sleek, urban

What it looks like: Expect a mix-and-match of patterns in a playful, but incredibly sophisticated, fashion, anchored by a streamlined color scheme. The theme should be reflected 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 cake will be simple but extra delicious (think: foodie ingredients and inventive flavors).

Venue ideas: Loft, rooftop, industrial warehouse

Romantic

Romantic weddings are all about celebrating love with barely-there hues, soft lighting and ethereal details like flowing dresses with airy fabrics. Opt for wedding colors in shades of blush, ivory and pastels, and decorate with lots of fresh florals and candles. Romantic weddings put the emphasis on feeling cozy and warm—your big day should emulate the fuzzy feeling of love you have for your S.O.

Buzzwords: Delicate, ethereal, classic

What it looks like: Fresh flowers are a key element of a romantic wedding. Decorate your space with flourishing blooms, and serve guests delicious appetizers and lots of champagne and rosé. Even if you have a large guest list, create an intimate atmosphere with mood lowlighting, unique seating arrangements and live band music.

Venue ideas: Estate ballroom, historic home, castle, vineyard

Rustic

The rustic wedding theme can take on many forms, but the overall aesthetic should be inspired by a farm-to-table experience. Natural textures like wood and stone, organic paper products and fresh food are the staples of this wedding style. "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. While 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.

Buzzwords: Quaint, minimal, raw, bucolic

What it looks like: Decorate with low, sprawling floral centerpieces that look freshly picked from a field to dress up bare wood tables. Mixed glassware styles will add a hint of glamour, while birch wood prints and natural textures like burlap or twine will create a natural, shabby-chic vibe.

Venue ideas: Renovated barn, ranch, farm

Vintage

The "of-another-time" vintage wedding theme can sometimes be confused with retro. Here's how to differentiate a vintage wedding from a retro wedding: Retro is more about a specific period in time while vintage alludes more to antiques and Victorian details.

Buzzwords: Antique, Victorian, eclectic

What it looks like: Instead of tablecloths or runners, tablescapes might be draped with delicate layers of lace. Old furniture makes the best statement, so consider a lounge area with old armchairs or love seats to create the perfect ambiance. Consider arriving (and leaving) in a vintage car to make guests feel like they've traveled back in time.

Venue ideas: Historic courthouse, estate, mansion

Creative Wedding Themes & Styles

Classic wedding styles aren't for every couple. If you're looking for different wedding theme ideas, your search ends here. Below, you'll find 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.

Alternative

Having an alternative wedding theme means your style is unique and can't be boxed in with other categories. These themes are often representative of subcultures such as Burning Man, Steampunk, Renaissance or Marvel comics. Since wedding aesthetics are all about interpretation, following an alternative theme or style will allow you to craft your big day around your personality.

Buzzwords: Quirky, creative, unique

What it looks like: Couples may opt for a traditional wedding dress or suit, but an alternative theme opens up the realm of possibilities when it comes to fashion. Experiment with lengths, colors and textures to create a look that's uniquely your own. Work with your caterer to have personalized cake or food details inspired by your interests (like Star Wars, Harry Potter or sports).

Venue idea: Renovated movie theater, museum, art gallery, garden

Art Deco

Evoking the American 1920s, especially art deco architecture (such as the Chrysler or Empire State buildings), this wedding theme is all about spunky glitz and glam—after all, they were the roaring twenties. Energetic jazz music was the life of every party, so we highly recommend some live music to get your guests on their feet. If this avant-garde aesthetic speaks to you, you might consider hosting a Great Gatsby- or New Year's Eve-themed wedding.

Buzzwords: Flashy, metallic, opulent

What it looks like: An art deco wedding calls for pluming white ostrich feathers spilling from centerpieces, sequined tablecloths and geometric designs. Consider using a color scheme that primarily features black, gold and metallic accents. But, arguably the most important detail of an art deco wedding is a jaw-dropping champagne tower that would make Jay Gatsby jealous.

Venue ideas: Historic home, museum, rooftop

Country

Personifying the American West, country weddings are full of flavor and overflowing with charm. This style is all about celebrating your hometown and may even have some Americana flair thrown in for good measure.

Buzzwords: Western, agrarian, rural, bucolic

What it looks like: Cowboy boots might make an appearance, but don't feel too confined to the kitschy elements of country style. Instead, focus on incorporating local flair into every element possible. Some traditional items might be swapped for things with a stronger hometown spin (like pies from your local bakery instead of a tiered wedding cake) and a strong send-off is a must—we love a good vintage car getaway, and an old Ford pickup would be perfect for the job.

Venue ideas: Ranch, barn, farm

DIY

A lot of time and effort goes into DIY weddings, with a 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, the couple's style really shines through at a DIY wedding.

Buzzwords: Handmade, charming, personalized

What looks like: Details like a customized stamp that prints the couple's monogram on each invitation, a handcrafted paper flower bouquet and favors packaged by the couple with personalized notes of thanks make up a DIY wedding. A make-your-own food station (whether it's in place of or supplementing a sit-down meal) is a must for the wedding reception. Op for food bars like sliders with a variety of toppings and sauces, a crepe station or S'mores fixings for dessert.

Venue idea: Backyard

Natural

This wedding theme is focused on—you guessed it—natural elements like florals and farm-to-table food. The color palette follows suit with a subtle combo of white or ivory that's contrasted with deep green garland and greenery. With less of a focus on farm elements like you'd see at a country or rustic wedding, the natural theme should feel like an organic version of a classic or romantic wedding.

Buzzwords: Ethereal, organic, elegant

What it looks like: Wood family-style tables make their own statement, and tablecloths should be swapped for runners so the raw texture can be exposed. There might be a sustainable or eco-friendly theme flowing through the decor, like escort cards and menus printed on recycled paper or packets of seeds as favors.

Venue ideas: Open-air courtyard, backyard

Nautical

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

Buzzwords: Preppy, naval, beachy

What it looks like: Anchors and sailboats aren't the only seafaring details here. Breezy linen fabrics, lighthouse decor, seashell escort cards or table numbers, fishing line lighting installations and blue watercolor palettes create a sailor-worthy atmosphere. Treat guests to a seafood bar featuring local catches, like an oyster shucking station or fresh shrimp cocktails during cocktail hour, to give them a true nautical experience. If you're having an outdoor wedding, a waterfront view will bring together this maritime-inspired theme.

Venue ideas: Waterfront yacht club, country club, beach resort

Preppy

Vibrant colors, hydrangeas and versatile fabrics define a preppy wedding. While you don't need to plan a beach wedding to utilize this style, sandy shores would make for a great backdrop. Preppy weddings often include a modern motif or pattern to set off the bright colors. The combination of a bold palette and graphic details will elevate the ambiance.

Buzzwords: Sophisticated, bright, playful

What it looks like: You simply can't have a preppy wedding without peonies and hydrangeas. These ruffled blooms are the perfect stems to create statement centerpieces and accents. The wedding dress would have a playful accent, like bows or pearl embellishments. As for suiting, navy colors are a must. Since preppy weddings are more on the formal side, add a few fancy touches like calligraphy or chandeliers alongside minimalist Kate Spade–like decor.

Venue ideas: Country club, beach resort

Retro

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.

Buzzwords: Nostalgic, old-fashioned, moxie

What it looks like: The retro era was a time to be bold and express your style, so a bright color scheme of teal and cherry red or neon pink and yellow would be perfect to set the stage. A few throwback details like Coke served in its signature glass bottles are just right to round out the experience.

Venue ideas: Art gallery, restored historic building

Southern

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

Buzzwords: Charming, traditional, enchanting

What it looks like: A formal Southern affair calls for pulling out all the stops: bow ties, gloves, craft cocktails, traditional place cards and settings and, of course, delicious Southern food. Old-fashioned touches like vintage decor or all-white wedding flowers should be mixed with sweet personalized details, like customized monograms or personalized cocktails inspired by the Kentucky Derby. (Mint juleps, anyone?) If your wedding reception will be outdoors, consider having a few lawn games like cornhole or croquet to make your big day feel like an easy afternoon down south.

Venue ideas: Estate, historical home or museum, ranch

Whimsical

Tap into your youthful side with a whimsical wedding day. Perfect for romance lovers, this wedding aesthetic can be interpreted as a style or a theme. "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."

Buzzwords: Fanciful, enchanting, quirky, fairytale

What it looks like: A whimsical wedding is like a garden party 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 enchanting lush greenery, mismatched bridal party dresses, thrifted china and interactive entertainment (like a photo booth or live painter) will make everything feel unique.

Venue ideas: Botanical garden, greenhouse, backyard, forest

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