Traditional wedding: bride and groom dancing at their reception

There are so many beautiful things to enjoy about modern life, but sometimes tradition is exactly what you want. For many couples, a traditional wedding day is a perfect way to honor the past and embrace the beauty of tried-and-true elements for such a momentous occasion.

Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of traditional weddings and how you can create the experience of your dreams, from the venue and reception to decor and invitations. 

Key Elements for Planning a Traditional Wedding

Whether you’re planning your own wedding or working with a wedding planner, you’ll need to work through the basic elements of your nuptials. Here’s what to think about when creating your event planning checklist for the big day. 

Wedding Budget

Traditional American weddings are typically more expensive than contemporary or quirky weddings. That’s because traditional ceremonies and receptions often feature lavish details, pricey attire, and a large guest list of family members and friends. If you’re hosting a destination wedding, expect costs to be even higher. 

That said, you don’t have to give up on your dream of a traditional wedding simply because you have a smaller wedding budget. Look for ways you can save with DIY decorations, favors from friends, and buying some second-hand items. (This can also add a sense of nostalgia and stay within the theme of tradition.)

You could even consider wearing a vintage wedding dress from one of your beloved family members — it doesn’t get more traditional than that. Be sure to create a wedding budget breakdown to ensure you stay on track throughout the process. Also, take a look at our stress-free guide to create a wedding guest list that works for you.

Traditional Wedding Colors

Traditional wedding: Classic Laurel Wreath Invitation

Design: Jen Montgomery

Invitation inspiration: Classic Laurel Wreath Invitation

One of the most exciting parts of wedding planning is choosing a wedding color palette. There are no standard color options for a traditional wedding, but you can look back on the past for inspiration and consider color schemes that fit the classic style you’re going for. 

Popular color combinations for traditional weddings include red and gold, white and navy, white and soft pink, and burgundy and purple. You could also opt for black and white — this works especially well if you want to host a sophisticated evening wedding. 

Wedding and Reception Venue

Traditional weddings often occur in a grand setting — like a church or luxury hotel. If you’re hosting a religious wedding ceremony, such as a Jewish wedding, Christian wedding, or Hindu wedding, it’s likely to happen at a place of worship. Traditionally, after you’ve said your vows at your wedding venue, everyone heads to a separate reception location. 

There are plenty of reception venues for classic-themed weddings. Hotel grounds and ballrooms make the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of dining and dancing, or you could host the party at a family member’s home if there’s enough space for everyone. Again, a traditional wedding doesn’t have to be ultra-expensive — it’s more about the atmosphere and style. 

Traditional Wedding Catering

You and your partner are the stars of the show on your big day, but one element that’ll attract some attention is your wedding cake. Cutting the cake and sharing it with your loved ones is a big tradition so it’s something worth investing in. 

A traditional wedding cake is usually an iced cake with multiple tiers that get smaller as you approach the top. White is the go-to icing color for a traditional cake and many couples like to keep the decoration simple with gentle floral or beading-inspired details.

Flowers and Decor

Most classic wedding bouquets feature soft, delicate florals in a few shades. Whites or soft neutrals like pink, peach, or lilac are often a base color with hues from the rest of the wedding color palette mixed in. 

Continue the theme of your wedding bouquet across your maid of honor and bridesmaid flowers, groomsmen boutonnieres, and floral arrangements. This is a beautiful way to make a big impact with your flowers and tie the whole look together. 

Wedding Party Attire

One of the details that stands out the most when we think of a traditional wedding is what the bride(s) and groom(s) wear. An ivory or white dress is the go-to for a traditional white wedding, and a traditional wedding dress is often beautifully designed with lots of intricate details. A smart, tailored suit is perfect for the groom(s). 

Create a cohesive look across your wedding party by asking your bridal party to wear the same color or design, and dress the best man and groomsmen in suits that complement your overall wedding style. Choose different outfits for your flower girl and ring bearer, but look for a design and style that fits nicely with the adults’ attire. 

Another aspect to consider is your wedding dress code. Traditional weddings tend to be formal — you can step it up with black tie formality or keep it a little more casual with a semi-formal or cocktail dress code.

Traditional Wedding Ceremony Order

One of the big draws of a traditional wedding is how the wedding ceremony runs. It’s a classic gathering of people to witness the vow exchange with space for readings, blessings, wedding poems, unity candle lighting, and your all-important vow and wedding ring exchange.

Expect your traditional wedding ceremony to take around an hour or so — depending on how many readings you wish to have and whether there are any religious traditions you’d like to observe. This might include exchanging tokens of good luck or a spiritual reading.

The traditional marriage ceremony starts with the processional, followed by readings from the officiant and loved ones, then the vows and the ring exchange. Next comes your first kiss as a married couple, followed by the recessional as you leave the room. 

Traditional Wedding Vows

At a traditional wedding ceremony, the vows are often the highlight of the moment. It’s where you exchange your “I do’s” and enter into the marriage contract. 

Each religion and community has its own take on what traditional vows should be. Stick with the go-to words for your chosen ceremony or take notes from vows you admire and write your own vows based on those. You can also use these wedding ceremony script ideas to inspire your words.

Wedding Reception Activities

Your wedding doesn’t end with the ceremony, so you’ll need to plan what your reception will look and feel like. Reflect on classic weddings that you’ve attended before or seek inspiration from real weddings to give you some ideas on activities, entertainment, and schedules.

Consider any wedding traditions from your family or religion that you want to honor or whether you want to create your own. Most traditional-style weddings include a sit-down meal, speeches and toasts, your first dance as a married couple, and plenty of time to greet guests and dance with loved ones on the dance floor. 

Traditional Wedding Favors

At the end of your special day, it’s customary to send your guests home with a thank-you gift. Wedding favors have long been a sweet way to express love and gratitude towards guests and thank them for sharing such a special occasion with you.

While contemporary weddings often opt for quirky or fun favors for wedding guests, traditional celebrations keep things simple. A classic wedding favor is a pouch filled with five almonds, representing wishes and hopes for the newlyweds.

Traditional Wedding Invitation Inspiration

A traditional wedding often fuses the culture, history, and traditions that are part of the couple’s lives. This sense of history and tradition can also carry into your invitations, including how you honor traditional wedding invitation etiquette.

Take a look at the options below, then explore Greenvlope’s full selection of traditional wedding invitations. You can personalize any invitation with your wedding day details — and you can customize the colors on most designs too. Our classic wedding invitations are a lovely way to get that bespoke feel without spending too much on stationery. 

Monogram Ornament Wedding Invitation

Traditional wedding: Monogram Ornament Invitation

Design: Becky Nimoy Stationery

This stunning Monogram Ornament wedding invitation features all the charm and sophistication you’d expect to see on an invite for a traditional celebration. The delicate calligraphy, architectural motif, and stunning jewel-tone color options are ideal for a classically themed wedding.

Gilded Arch Wedding Invitation

Gilded Arch Invitation

Design: Signature Greenvelope

There’s so much to love about this beautiful Gilded Arch wedding invitation. The details mirror those in traditional Indian wedding dresses, making this ideal for an ornate, classic wedding. 

Floral Crest Wedding Invitation

Floral Crest Invitation

Design: Signature Greenvelope

Invite your loved ones to your traditional wedding in style with this Floral Crest wedding invitation. Choose from a selection of muted soft tones to create your backdrop for an elegant, formal wedding invitation. Plus, you can create your personalized crest for the invitation.

Classic Foil Frame Wedding Invitation

Classic Foil Frame Invitation

Design: Stacey Meacham Design, LLC

Celebrate your love for each other and showcase one of your favorite photos as a couple with this Classic Foil Frame wedding invitation. The fonts and styling evoke a timeless feel while the large photo space adds a contemporary sensibility. 

Vintage Rose Garden Wedding Invitation

Vintage Rose Garden Invitation

Design: Signature Greenvelope

Ask your loved ones to join you as you say “I do” with this stunning Vintage Rose Garden wedding Invitation. This design is romantic, whimsical, and classically beautiful, with delicate illustrations and a charming script font. The three color options give you variety, making it perfect for a traditional wedding in any season.

Plan the Ultimate Traditional Wedding

With these tips and ideas, you’ll be well on your way to creating the traditional wedding of your dreams. Remember that your wedding is as unique as you are, so don’t worry about what you “should” or shouldn’t do. Instead, focus on what you want your special day to look and feel like to match your love story and traditions. 

Naturally, planning this once-in-a-lifetime celebration includes finding the perfect wedding invites. With Greenvelope, you can access a full suite of wedding stationery, from stunning save the date cards to gorgeous online wedding invitations that you can customize. You can also use our wedding invitation wording tool to ensure you find the perfect words when sharing the news with loved ones.