Perfect Wedding Ceremonies for Every Personality and Budget

The first step in the wedding planning process is choosing what type of wedding you want to have, since that determines many of your later decisions. Unless you are committed to a religious ceremony, which typically follows an unwavering path, you have a dozen different options for how and where you will tie the knot.

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Religious Ceremony

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A religious marriage takes place in a house of worship where the bride or groom is a member of the congregation. The reception usually occurs immediately after the exchanging of vows, either in the church's banquet room or at a separate location. Couples must still obtain a civil marriage license from their local courthouse or county clerk’s office for the union to have legal standing.

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Civil Ceremony

A civil ceremony wedding is typically held in a courthouse, city hall or judges' chambers and is officiated by a Justice of the Peace, a judge or a mayor. The secular ceremony is brief, with simple vows and just a handful of guests. A simple or elaborate reception can follow the ceremony.

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Formal Wedding

Holding tightly to age-old traditions, a formal wedding conforms to exacting social expectations, including an elaborately decorated ceremony and reception, numerous attendants and ushers, engraved stationery, an assigned seating chart and dozens of etiquette rules. An expensive event, this type of wedding usually has more than 200 guests in attendance.

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Informal Wedding

Couples who choose to have an informal wedding have the freedom to customize every aspect of their marriage ceremony and wedding reception. They usually hold on to several important traditions, create a mashup of both traditions or come up with something completely new. Although not as elaborate, an informal wedding typically has a more intimate feel.

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Destination Wedding

Usually held in an exotic location, destination weddings have soared in popularity during the past decade. Since a destination event requires travel, the wedding festivities are intimate with typically fewer than 20 people. Couples love the all-inclusive package that enables them to combine the marriage ceremony with the honeymoon.

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Cruise Wedding

A type of destination wedding, cruise marriage ceremonies are officiated by the ship's captain or a clergy member at port. Onboard wedding planners and event coordinators help customize every last detail of the intimate event. Many cruise ships now provide webcams so you can televise the big moment to those at home who could not attend.

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Eloping conjures up vivid Hollywood images of passionate love and wild romantic gestures of running away together to get married. Although most brides fantasize about eloping at least once during the wedding planning process, very few actually choose this easier and cheaper route. In Las Vegas, the top U.S. destination for elopements, couples are married in quick, quirky ceremonies and often celebrate the night out on the town.

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Group Wedding

Also known as a mass marriage ceremony, the group wedding involves numerous couples who legally tie the knot at the same time. Typically hosted by wedding venues and cities, group weddings are an attractive option for couples on a budget who want to celebrate their love in a very public way. The venue also serves as the reception site where newlyweds receive an individual cake and champagne toast.

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Double Wedding

Normally consisting of best friends or siblings, a double wedding includes two couples participating in a single marriage ceremony. Each couple participates in their own set of wedding rites, usually with the eldest bride going first. The other bride and groom generally serve as attendants.

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Military Wedding

Formal and steeped in tradition, a military wedding requires full dress uniform for enlisted personnel. The couple has their choice of marrying in a chapel on base or participating in a civil ceremony. Rituals vary between the U.S. Armed Forces branches but most incorporate the stunning salute of the Saber Arch that the newlyweds pass under.

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Proxy Wedding

Very rare these days, a proxy wedding takes place when the bride or groom cannot actually attend the ceremony, usually due to serving overseas in the military. Only four U.S. states currently allow proxy marriages, including California, Colorado, Texas, and Montana, although the stringent laws vary greatly.

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Same Sex Wedding

Whether you are planning a civil union or commitment ceremony, same sex weddings are usually intimate, personalized gatherings. Where legal, marriage vows can be exchanged in a civil or religious ceremony. If the couple does not belong to a church that has given its blessing to gay and lesbian marriages, an informal ceremony usually takes place in a rented venue or a relative's home.