As the world changes, so do customs, and wedding traditions are no exception. Your wedding is an incredibly personal event, but the ceremony and reception are full of traditions people have come to expect. The white gown. Being “given away.” The bouquet and garter tosses. The list of things goes on and on, and it’s easy to feel obligated to include them.
However, it’s becoming more common to customize your celebration to suit who you are. Don’t feel like you need to include certain wedding traditions just to please someone else! This is your day, so make it your own.
Here are our top tips on wedding traditions that are OK to break on the big day.
Don’t Worry about What Other People Think
Many couples don’t want to stray from tradition because they worry what their guests will think. It’s easy to feel like every departure from tradition makes a statement. However, wedding traditions have changed and emerged over the years. This is all because people dared to break the status quo and create new trends! Did you know that men’s wedding rings were uncommon until World War II? Some wedding traditions are not as old as you think. This is even more reason to go with the flow of history and focus on what makes sense for you and your partner. Here are some examples of breaking tradition that may seem controversial, but don’t let that stop you!
- Wearing a white dress. While white gowns scream bridal, we’re already seeing more brides to opt for other colors. Some choose ivory, cream, or pastel pink, while others make bolder choices like bright colors or even black. The tradition of wearing white dresses comes from Queen Victoria. She popularized the white gown in 1840. At the time, most brides wore bright colors on their wedding day and saved the gowns to wear again. Victoria’s gown was white to show off the lace and signify wealth. Even she wore colored flowers on her gown, though, along with an 18-foot train! Don’t be afraid to wear whatever color you want. Anyone who has a problem with it obviously doesn’t realize that white was once a trend, too!
- Girls as bridesmaids, guys as groomsmen. The new trend of having mixed-gender wedding parties is revolutionizing the wedding world. The idea that brides and grooms can’t have close friends of the opposite sex is antiquated. Our wedding traditions don’t need to reinforce this! In some cases, wanting to have someone of the opposite sex on your bridal party is less “revolutionary,” yet still important to you. Siblings are a common example of this. Maybe the groom is really close with his sister. Why shouldn’t she stand next to him as his best-woman on the big day? While traditionally she would have to stand on the bride’s side, she’ll likely be most comfortable standing on the side of the person she feels closest to. If you’re worried about how this will look in photos, don’t! Here are plenty of great examples of mixed-gender wedding party pictures. These photos show different ways to mix-and-match color schemes. Mixed-gender wedding parties can still achieve a cohesive look among the bridal party as a whole.
- Taking formal portraits. Maybe you don’t care for a formal style of wedding photography. The idea of working through a long and tedious shot list bores you. Couple with parents. Couple with grandparents. Couple with bride’s immediate family. Couple with all family. And on and on. If you don’t care about having formal portraits of all these traditional shots, then skip them! Many couples are choosing to have a more photojournalistic style of wedding photography. This way, the photographer captures candid moments throughout the big day. The flow is never interrupted for a formal portrait session, but you still end up with countless candid memories. These memories can be all the sweeter because they weren’t posed.
- Having a receiving line. While having a receiving line after the ceremony is not tradition everywhere in the US, many people have come to expect it. This is their chance to say congratulations, shake your hand, give unsolicited advice, etc. Yet many couples don’t want to follow up a magical ceremony by greeting each of their guests all in a row. This is especially true for large weddings. Not only will it take ages to greet each person, it also means guests who sat in the back have to wait forever and a day to exit the ceremony venue. It’s okay to skip the receiving line and opt to greet your guests throughout the reception. Just don’t tell super-traditional Grandma Susan beforehand!
If It Feels Like a Hassle, Skip It
Plenty of wedding traditions are more trouble than they’re worth. If you and your partner don’t care about following a certain custom, skip it! This applies to several wedding traditions:
- Matching bridesmaid dresses. Trying to find a style and color to suit everyone can be difficult and expensive. More and more people are opting to mix and match within certain guidelines. The same style isn’t flattering on every body type. If bridesmaids chose their own dress, they’ll feel more comfortable throughout the ceremony and reception. Plus, it saves the bride the hassle and pressure of choosing a style. Just specify long or short and your preferred color palette, and let the maids take it from there.
- Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Just saying it is a mouthful. While this can be a nice way to incorporate family heirlooms into a ceremony, don’t feel the need to check each of these things off your list. Planning a wedding is enough work as it is, so if this feels like just one more thing for you to do, let it go.
- Big champagne toasts. If your ideal wedding reception doesn’t include a long segment of gushy well-wishes from family and friends, don’t have one. If you do choose to have one, know it’s mostly for you and your partner. Your wedding guests probably won’t miss it or even notice you didn’t have toasts till the night is over. If anything, they’ll be grateful they had extra time to party!
Do What Feels Comfortable
This is perhaps the most important consideration for those deciding which wedding traditions to ditch. If you’re not comfortable with a wedding custom, don’t do it. Whether it clashes with your personal philosophies or it just feels awkward to you, don’t force it. You should enjoy every part of your wedding day.
- Not seeing each other before the ceremony. This wedding tradition comes from the custom of arranged marriages. Grooms often saw their brides for the first time ever at the ceremony. This was so it would be too late to back out of the arrangement if they didn’t like the bride’s appearance! Yikes. Weird origin story aside, some couples still want to see each other for the first time with the sweeping proceedings of the ceremony. However, more and more couples are opting to have a first look photo session before the ceremony. (Pro-tip—most photographers agree you get better pictures this way!) Not only does this help you calm your pre-wedding jitters, but it also allows you to share an intimate moment without the pressure of all your guests staring at you!
- Garter and bouquet tosses. Maybe you hated being singled out as, well, single at your friends’ weddings in the past. You don’t have to put your guests through the same thing. Or, maybe as a shyer bride you don’t like the idea of your groom diving under your dress in front of all your distant relatives. That’s totally fine! The garter toss comes from a weird tradition of guests ripping off a piece of the bride’s dress as a souvenir of the wedding, so this is not a particularly meaningful custom to keep, anyway.
- Dollar dance. In some parts of the US, it’s common to have a dollar dance at the reception. Guests pay a buck for the chance to dance with the bride or groom, and then the couple gets to use the cash on their honeymoon. Some couples also find the idea of asking their guests for cash uncomfortable. Others just don’t like the idea of dancing with whatever acquaintance or relative comes up to you at the reception. Both of these are fine excuses to skip the dollar dance.
- Shoving wedding cake into each other’s faces. Don’t want frosting all over your face? Skip the cake-smashing custom. You are not required to feed each other for the sake of cute or corny pictures. You’re not even required to have cake at all, so go for pie or pastries if you prefer.
- Bride’s side, groom’s side. We’ve all been to weddings where one side of the ceremony was a little, well, empty. Maybe the groom’s side were all traveling from out of state, or maybe the bride just has a significantly larger family. Either way, it can feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable to look out at an imbalanced group of onlookers. That’s why many couples are choosing to ditch the division. It’s common to see signs letting you know you can “choose a seat, not a side.” This also makes it easier for guests who are good friends with both the bride and groom. They’ll be more comfortable knowing they don’t have to “choose” and can sit wherever, and with whomever, they like.
Exclusionary Wedding Traditions
Some wedding traditions just don’t work the same for “non-traditional” couples. Same sex couples, couples in their second marriage, older pairs, and other couples who in some way don’t fit the “typical” wedding mold may feel particularly uncomfortable with or excluded by some wedding traditions. Often there are ways to modify these traditions to be more inclusive, or they can even be ditched altogether. These are some wedding traditions you may want to reconsider even if you are a “traditional” couple.
- The bride walking down the aisle. What if you have two brides? Or none? This is a wedding tradition that same-sex couples often modify to work for their relationship. You can opt for a traditional processional, having one of you walk down the aisle to meet the other. However, there are several alternative ways to walk down the aisle. You can choose to walk down one at a time, to proceed together, or even to meet in the middle entering from two sides of the venue. Take some time to consider different options and choose one that feels right for you.
- Being “given away.” A bride may not like the idea of being “given away” by one or both of her parents if she’s getting married for the second time. Or, perhaps she feels uncomfortable with the old-fashioned gender roles reinforced by this wedding tradition. Either way, there are other ways to honor your parents during the ceremony that don’t involve being “given” to your partner. let your parents come onstage to sign the wedding certificate or have them light the candles you’ll use to light the unity candle.
- Wedding registries. Traditionally, a wedding registry is full of housewares the newlyweds can use to fill their new home. However, plenty of couples live together before they get married. Others simply get married when they’re well-established adults who have already furnished their own places. A middle-aged couple likely already have all the housewares they could possibly need. For any number of reasons, couples are opting for more creative wedding registries. It’s not uncommon to ask your friends and family to give to a honeymoon fund, to donate to your favorite charity, or to simply give money.
Weddings are a celebration of your love for each other—you should never feel uncomfortable just to please others. In fact, as soon as you start trying to please everyone, you’ll quickly realize this is impossible! Everyone has an opinion, but that shouldn’t matter to you. You’ve invited these people to celebrate with you. If they love and respect you as they should, they will step back and let you enjoy your day. Focus on doing the best you can to make your day special for the people who matter most—you and your partner!
Are you planning to skirt any wedding traditions? Any you’d like to modify? Leave us a comment!