What’s the Difference Between a Wedding Arch and an Arbor?

outdoor wedding arch decorated with flowers and greenery

In addition to choosing the date and venue for your upcoming wedding, the guest list and menu, deciding between a flower-laden arbor, a willowy arch or a grand altar might feel like an overwhelming decision. This important structure is likely the centerpiece of your ceremony, a frame for your picture perfect moment and the place you’ll be tying the knot with the one you love. Keep reading to learn about the key features and differences between arbors, arches and altars, so you can decide how best to use them on your special day.

What’s a Wedding Arch vs an Arbor?

A wedding arch is typically a semi-circular curved or arched framework adorned with flowers and fabrics, and provides an enchanting backdrop for couples during their vow exchange. Arches resemble a doorway, symbolizing the couple stepping into a new phase of life that they’ll share with each other. They can also be made in alternative shapes, like triangles or hexagons for a more geometric, modern look. These ornamental structures are usually made from wood or metal and are often decorated with pretty things like flowers, curtains, or twinkling lights.

Unlike the distinctive curved shape of an arch, a wedding arbor is a larger rectangular structure often draped in plants and vines, and offers a covered canopy where couples can exchange vows. While they come in a variety of shapes, they generally resemble a roof, symbolizing the safety and shelter that the new couple’s love and commitment to each other will bring. Arbors are endlessly adaptable and well-suited to a range of decorations, including fabric curtains, flowers, foliage, ribbons and more. Typically crafted from materials like iron, metal, or wood, arbors can be designed rustic and simple or ornate and decorative. 

In essence, wedding arches are generally smaller, more compact structures, a place to encapsulate the vows, while wedding arbors are larger, and create a scenic area where special commitments and memories are made. Both options add an enchanting touch to your wedding decor, transforming an ordinary space into a romantic haven and are the perfect backdrop for a photoshoot. When it comes to choosing one over the other, you’ll need to keep in mind the venue and select the one that best fits your vision for the special day.

What’s a Wedding Altar?

Wedding altars add a different kind of ceremonial element than arches and arbors and are often used in addition to an overarching structure. Rather than framing a couple from above, altars are designed at the center of the couple, often placing them a step above their ceremony guests. Altars can be an extravagant center of a wedding ceremony or a subtle addition to the decor, depending on their structure and decoration. Large, multi-tiered altars, combined with arches or other free-standing decorations are perfect for making a grand statement in the ceremony.

A simple wooden deck is perfect for a more rustic, country-style wedding and can be completed with a simple arbor or arch and decorative finishes. A simple, understated altar is also a great place to set the wedding signing table, as it tastefully includes the witness formality into the ceremony. This type of altar can also be used as a table for gifts, offerings and other symbolic items rather than as a platform for the couple. These types of altars can include things like candles, sand, stones, seeds, crystals, and special icons or photos of relatives or places that are meaningful to the couple.

However you choose to decorate on your special day, it’s important to consider the venue where your ceremony will take place. Large structures used in smaller locations are likely to crowd the room or space, in which case a more subtle option like a small arch may be better. On the other hand, understated wedding features might be overshadowed by eye-catching backgrounds, especially in an outdoor setting and may not draw attention or center the couple as effectively as something bigger and more dominant. If you’re planning a destination wedding, make sure you know which kinds of structures can be built and placed there. 

Historic Acres of Hershey is a beautiful property for a wedding with multiple indoor spaces to choose from and vast open outdoor spaces. Our rustic property is lovely all year round. Give us a call at 717-298-6340 to learn more or contact us