My four bridesmaids are all to the left of traditional, but their eyes popped when I made a decision about my wedding this summer…

I told them they wouldn’t be carrying bouquets down the aisle.

The news elicited a reaction akin to if I had told them they would be reciting my vows for me. Their biggest question: “What will we do with our hands???”

This made me second-guess myself — could I really nix bridesmaid flowers just to save some cash? And, seriously, what will they do with their hands? — but then I came back down to earth. They can do the same thing the men do with their hands.

In many cultures, weddings have a dizzying amount of customs from the day you get engaged to your honeymoon. The thing about planning a wedding with your partner, though, is that it’s your wedding. You don’t have to do a bridal party, something borrowed or anything blue. As one of my flowerless bridesmaids always says: YOU DO YOU. Couples can choose what they want to embrace and the traditions they you want toss like a wedding bouquet (another ritual I will be respectfully declining).

Having a wedding party is also something my fiancé and I debated. In the end, we decided to have one, but without a maid of honor or best man because we didn’t want to rank one person above the others. Lynsey, a twentysomething in New York City, is skipping bridesmaids altogether. “I want my closest friends to enjoy the day carefree, like the other guests,” she said. “You can still share those intimate experiences without having the official roles.”

When I asked my friend Anca what she’ll be opting out of when she marries her longtime girlfriend, Kayla, in the Hudson Valley this summer, she jokingly responded: “A husband!” She then explained, more seriously: “Being gay forces you into this non-traditional realm automatically, so it gives you a springboard to think about all of the other things you might want or not want.”

Anca doesn’t like being the center of attention and never wanted a wedding, but her wife-to-be has always dreamed of her big day, so they’re making compromises. “We’ve kept only the traditions that actually have meaning to us,” she says. They’re decorating with succulents instead of flowers; and rather than a first dance and father-daughter dance, they’ll be doing a family dance.

At one of the most fun weddings I have ever attended, the couple did their first dance in the middle of a huge circle of at least 300 people. However, there was no sit-down dinner to accompany it. My friends Caty and Stian are extremely social, and they wanted all their friends at their wedding. They couldn’t afford a formal reception for that many people, so they rented out a park in Northern California, where they held a ceremony followed by a BYOB picnic party that felt like a 1960s music festival.

Ali and his husband Jeff exchanged their vows privately before their wedding ceremony in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a few years ago. “I’ve never liked discussing emotions, so I certainly wasn’t going to do so in front of 150 people!” Ali said with a laugh. “Before the wedding, Jeff and I went to beautiful waterfront restaurant called The Red Inn. We got two glasses of Champagne and took turns reciting our vows by ourselves on the dock. I wasn’t nervous about how my vows would come across or if I stumbled; I loved how intimate it was.”

For Julie, who just celebrated her 10-year wedding anniversary, it wasn’t speaking in front of people at her wedding that she wanted to avoid, it was having others do so. “We decided to forgo toasts because we’d been to so many weddings where they were too hard to hear or wine-soaked,” she explains. “My husband stood up after everyone was seated for dinner to say a few words of thanks and read a love letter I’d written him early on in our relationship. It was so sweet.”

Megan and Jeff, who got married last March in Ojai, California, had speeches during dinner, but didn’t have anyone give readings during their ceremony. “We couldn’t find a poem or quote that summed up what getting married meant to us,” Megan told me. “Instead, we kept it short and simple, and the ceremony ended up being my favorite part of the whole wedding.”

This September, I’ll be a bridesmaid in my friend Rachael’s wedding. I’m going to be wearing a white dress, and the bride will be wearing pink. “I always assumed I’d wear white,” Rachael said. “But then I tried on a blush pink dress and I realized it was so much more me.”

While I’m opting out of a maid of honor, bouquet toss and wedding cake (we’re going for pie!), I will be wearing a white dress and doing a first dance — and I’m so excited for the speeches. Isn’t that the beauty of it all? Planning a wedding is about mixing and matching, compromising, and finding the formula that works for you and your spouse — exactly like a marriage.

What wedding traditions would (or did) you skip? What traditions were important to keep?

P.S. A casual New York wedding, and did you have sex on your wedding night?

(Photo from A Practical Wedding.)