The Wedding Tradition That I’m Skipping

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.)

  1. I’m way behind, but an interesting read! Photographing weddings I’ve definitely seen a change over the last 5 years or so. I’ve seen maids of honour give speeches, the groom walking with her wife to be down the aisle and some people who just didn’t like the focus of the first dance so got everyone on together. It’s your day, do what you want!

  2. Missy says...

    So I’m getting married in 2 months ? And have decided to forgo many traditions. No bouquet/garter toss, no cake cutting, no official mr and mrs announcement, etc. But we are having first dances and toasts from our families. It really is about making it your own :)

  3. I made brooch bouquets for myself and the brides. I declined tossing the bouvier to the single ladies and instead during speeches awarded the longest married woman with it.

  4. My girls will be shaking tambourines down the aisle and are choosing to wear whatever they want, I’m not picking colors or styles or anything like that. Just so happened we’re getting married in an area of Italy where tambourines are the traditional music anyway!

  5. We kept it really simple and did away with most traditions. No wedding party, no speeches, my dress was the only one I tried, purchased online from a non-bridal designer sale… Instead we saved money on some things and splurged on others, like the food and wine. We got married outdoors in front of some ruins in a garden by a stream. Our reception was in a hired restaurant at one long table, where we had our first dance unannounced to Billie Holliday’s “The Very Thought of You” behind our happy, full guests until they noticed and turned to watch.

  6. Weddings should be memorable. Reading this and now that am planning on one , am trying to get better ideas

  7. When planning my wedding in France last year, my husband and I decided that what mattered most was what we wanted (especially since we paid for it!) so we shirked whatever customs we didn’t want. I was not interested in bridesmaids, so we opted to just have our maid of honor and best man by our sides during the ceremony. It was intimate and perfect for us!

    I also hate the tradition of having the maid pay for her dress, so I paid for the dress my maid of honor wore! Hopefully she’ll wear it again, but if not, at least she didn’t have to spend the money.

    We also ditched the cake – it never tastes good and costs a fortune, and since we got married outside of Paris we opted for the amazing patisseries available in France! It cost a fraction and each dessert was a masterpiece of flavor and design! If you want to see the wedding, he’s a look:

  8. Sarah says...

    Did it: long white dress for me, tux for him; I carried a big bouquet of red roses and white hydrangeas; we had flowers on the tables at the reception, where my dad gave a (thoughtful, sweet, funny but not too long) toast; my godparents said a brief grace before we ate; my dad and I danced, my MIL and husband danced, and my husband and I danced (at the end of our dance we broke into slightly choreographed fast dance and got everyone up dancing with us).
    Skipped it: wedding party (a nephew, my godson, acted as our ring bearer; dear friends and relatives did readings during ceremony)

  9. I ADORE THIS! Yes! Perpetuate tradition only if it has meaning! Here is the list of traditions we stomped all over:
    1) We officiated our own wedding. YOU CAN DO THAT?! Yes. And it was great.
    2) No bridal party. Because I’m so sick of being a bridesmaid that I couldn’t get on board. Also because there were only 34 guests so it would have been awkward.
    3) Wedding in the round: we got married in a gazebo with circular seating and us in the middle.
    4) We did a potluck and ordered our favorite pizza.
    5) Donuts. No Cake.
    6) No speeches, toasts, or the like. At all. And no tossing of anything.
    7) No “colors” or theme. “What was your theme?” “Marriage.”
    8) No dancing. Because intimate weddings make dancing weird. And we didn’t want any one falling in the pool of the backyard in which we partied post-ceremony.
    9) I carried a paper bouquet and we have 4 vases of flowers. That was it for florals.
    10) We didn’t register. It felt weird to ask these people who give so much of themselves to us to give us stuff. So we didn’t.

    WE HAD SUCH A GOOD TIME! And we’re just as married as if we HAD chosen to include the beloved traditions.

    • PS: I also walked myself down the aisle because I am a grown human who can choose whom to give herself to.

    • “What was your theme?” “Marriage.” < This is awesome. ??? Currently planning a wedding and next time someone asks me what my colors / theme are I'm gonna use this!

  10. Kathleen says...

    I love that weddings are so “choose your own adventure!” My brother was my Man of Honor (and he looked adorable holding my bouquet during the ceremony), and I also wore a pink gown… that I rented from Rent the Runway three days before my wedding when I realized that the tailor had made my gown three inches too short.

  11. Alison says...

    This post is so timely as I just got married two weeks ago in Mexico. While I wanted some of the typical wedding traditions, my husband wasn’t into many of them. We debated having a bridal party but in the end he won and I’m glad we had one. I let everyone wear whatever they wanted as long as it was the right color (bridesmaids: blush, sisters: light grey).

    We had my MOH act as our officiant (it was a symbolic ceremony…we got legally married a month earlier at City Hall in San Francisco). The ceremony was short and sweet and perfectly us.

    My dad wasn’t able to make it to Mexico so I had my mom and youngest sister walk me down the aisle (my mom was a single parent most of my life so this was totally fitting). I was having trouble choosing our first dance song (it was down to 2) so I used the “runner-up” in an instrumental version as my walk-down-the-aisle song.

    Instead of regular seating tags, we had maracas that I attached little cards w/ names, table number, and food preference (little stickers in different colors) to. People seemed to love this! I probably spent 8 hours total working on these but I think the finished product was worth it.

    We didn’t do a bouquet or garter toss mainly b/c we ran out of time but also it wasn’t very important to us.

    At the end of the night, all the groomsmen ended up in the resort pool which was exactly how it should have happened :)

    Keeping it real, my husband and I had a huge fight after the wedding was over (months of pent up emotion + alcohol + miscommunication about wedding-after party plans) but made up the next day. I wonder if this happens to other couples??? The stress of planning a wedding (destination or otherwise) is just INTENSE (see: anxiety) and I’m thoroughly convinced that if you can survive the wedding planning process as a couple, you will make it.

    PS. Love you Joanna! You are the ONLY blog I have been consistently faithful to for YEARS :)

    • Agata says...

      Hey Alison! I’d love to hear more about your wedding – more specifically the fact that you got officially married in city hall then had a symbolic ceremony a month later

      we are doing something similar – getting married with just parents and siblings present in April and having a reception for all family and friends in June.

      we will be getting married in April in a church but we still want to do a symbolic ceremony in June with the wedding dress so the rest of the guests can experience it as well.

      just wanted to hear your thoughts on how you executed the symbolic ceremony

  12. Tanith says...

    I had my maid of honor hold a bouquet and stand next to me, but had my bridesmaids all make their own flower crowns in a crafting session 2 nights before the wedding, and then let them all sit with everyone else during the ceremony :)

  13. Carly says...

    I had pie at my wedding too! I got pies from the farmstand I went to growing up, and we had a big assortment of several kinds. I always had that place’s pies for birthdays and other celebrations growing up (pie is my favorite food), so it felt right to also have it at my wedding. I didn’t get a cake because they’re so pricey!

  14. Jessica Hipp says...

    Our wedding and reception were about a half mile apart in Cambridge, Mass. Parking around Harvard Square is a nightmare, so we needed to get all our guests between locations without anyone getting lost. Our solution – a parade! Our friends got really into it and brought musical instruments, juggling balls, and streamers to pass around. It was a blast!

  15. Elisabeth says...

    My husband and I got married 3 weeks ago in Maine! It’s still doesn’t seem real. We, like you, decided to skip a lot of the normal things. We had a small wedding (35 people), had pie instead of cake, we skipped the bouquet toss and we danced down the aisle after being pronounced for our first dance (and the only dance of the day). The reception was a low key lobster bake! We had a guest book that was jenga blocks and our officiant brought out a beach ball half way through the ceremony . The guests were tasked to keep it in the air and every time it dropped he stopped talking (he used it to illustrate the constant effort marriage takes to keep it thriving). At one point the beach ball hit me in the head, which got everyone laughing. I’ll always remember that moment and I loved how our ceremony was filled with laughter and so us. Some traditions are nice – but never be afraid to throw out any and all that don’t bring you or your partner joy. Congrats!!

  16. Boy I wish I’d read something like this before my wedding in 2005. Even though my husband and I were 28- and 30-years old we caved into all the hype and pressure and I don’t even remember much of that day because a lot of it wasn’t really “me.” Now as I list my never-used wedding china set on Craigslist (my sweet aunts went in on the whole set!) I am grateful for this new perspective so I can support my son and daughter in having whatever kind of wedding they want to have, or not, in many years from now (they are only 7- and 9-years old)!

  17. Shelby Savage Gibson says...

    My husband and I were married in August of last year. We wanted our wedding to feel like everyone coming over to our house for dinner and so many of our decisions were dictated by that vision. We bought flowers from Costco, my dress was from JCrew and we had BBQ and glass bottle cokes for dinner. Our small cake and cupcakes came from Publix (a grocery store in the Southeast). It was very us. Consequently we saved a lot of money making it very low key but it was more about everyone feeling welcome, loved, and comfortable to us so the traditional things we ditched just seemed too fussy or wasteful ultimately.

  18. Annabelle says...

    My partner and I have changed a bunch of traditions (ice cream instead of cake, mixed gender bridal party, the ladies are wearing black menswear-inspired suits just like the men, no bouquets, no parent dance, head table includes a bunch of people not just the bridal party) but the biggest tradition we’re forgoing: no officiant.

    In Colorado we have the unique opportunity to legally marry ourselves! I’ve never seen it before which is making me nervous but it’s intimate and meaningful in exactly the way we love.

  19. Taylor says...

    I let my bridesmaids pick their own dress. I told them short, black, and not “sleezy”; I figured everyone either has or can use a LBD.
    We also skipped wedding cake; I just typically don’t like it- dry, overly sweet icing or fondant – ? and instead opted for strawberry shortcake:)
    We got married in our backyard, and then progressed the party further through the yard to cocktails, followed by dinner and dancing.
    My #1 priority was good food/drinks and my husbands was having a band. So that’s were we spent our money. The beer selection was all from local breweries and they were grilling the steaks during the cocktail hour (mouthwatering!).
    I made our invites and had them printed at staples on proper paper and used a local greenhouse for flowers. I went there a couple weeks in advance and walked around pointing out flowers and colors that I liked. Then the day of our wedding they dropped off a smattering of different sized pots that we put on tables and sound the tent/yard/etc. Very simple, natural, cheap and the flowers were there the rest of the summer.
    The only regret- my MIL really pushed for a brunch the next day. I would have rather slept in; as we’d been up until 2a! The cops ?? showed up at 11:30 due to noise complaint about the band ? So we lit a bonfire, turned on an iPod and kept the party going.

  20. Sarah Jane says...

    I’m getting married next Sunday and just about bursting with excitement this week. I’d echo the person who said that many of the decisions that they’d made seem so natural that it’s hard to remember which are sticking with and which are bucking tradition.
    Traditional things we’re including are:
    -ceremony/ cocktail hour/ dinner/ dancing/ bonfire progression
    -formal family photos
    -bouquets, bouttenieres etc.
    -matching bow ties for the dads and brother
    Non-traditional pieces include:
    -my future wife and I walking in and out of the ceremony together
    -having a Quaker-inspired unprogrammed ceremony in which guests get to offer messages and we get to marry each other (no officient needed)
    -everyone signing the marriage certificate as witnesses (a traditional Quaker practice, but not a mainstream tradition)
    -having one side of the program be a letter to guests from us
    -no first dance or father/ daughter dance
    -cobbler instead of cake
    -having a cousin set off fireworks from a local stand after the dancing
    -inviting everyone for a whole weekend of sailing, crabbing, hiking, kayaking, lawn-gaming, cooking, setting-up, and generally enjoying quality time together
    Oh man, I just can’t wait!!!

  21. Tess says...

    I’m getting married in a small, intimate ceremony with just our immediate families present next month (no wedding party and no one walking me down the aisle). I love the idea of having a small dinner reception where we just enjoy our families. Although some of our family and friends were disappointed at first, everyone is happy for us that we’re getting married and “keeping things simple”.

    It’s your wedding, you should do whatever makes you happy!

  22. Claire Sexton says...

    We didn’t have attendants, we just had dedicated friends who took care of some things.
    No ring bearer or flower girls.
    I wasn’t that into having my dad walk me down the aisle, I asked my mom to join because they were together and different but equally huge parts of my life. But she requested that she be able to watch my dad walk me, so I went with it.
    Very short ceremony, our vows were a series of questions & yes/no answers adapted from a handfasting ritual so we didn’t have to worry about what to say or not say.
    Flowers were picked out at a wholesale place and my friend arranged them the day before, very few.
    No bouquet toss or garter toss.
    We were moving out of state very shortly after the wedding, so thought of it as our going away party. But still went pretty traditional with a lot of elements and in retrospect would have gone more casual and more actually like a going away party.
    I wanted to dance, but picked our own playlist music and got a friend to manage the controls. It might have been good to get a DJ but we were moving to NY so we cheaped out. We have eclectic taste in music, but didn’t really have anything for the older generations to dance to. Also, we hadn’t planned on doing a first dance, but nobody was on the dance floor so we rushed and put on “Let’s get it on” and recruited people to get on the dance floor with us after a few bars so it wasn’t all eyes on our terrible dancing.
    The ceremony was in the middle of the afternoon so that we didn’t “have to” serve a full meal, trying to save money. In retrospect I should have just gone with potluck, invited everydamnbody and had it later so we could really party & dance.
    Shoulda done a cooler dessert, our cake was tasty but not that cute and kind of a pain.
    Rehearsal dinner was just a BBQ at my parents’ house with all the family & close friends invited.

  23. writergal says...

    We didn’t have bridesmaids, groomsmen, a best man, or a maid of honor. We didn’t do the bouquet toss or garter removal either. I wanted our friends and family to enjoy the wedding and not the hassle of being on display or fiddling with our wedding for our sake, and we wanted the day to be about our love, at least at the ceremony. Looking back, it would have been neat to at least have a best man and maid of honor, but I would have still left off the bridesmaids and groomsmen. We only had 100 guests, had a beachfront wedding at a yacht club on a cool summer day, it was a fun day with lots of memories!

  24. The wedding!!

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 16 years now. We like our life just as it is, and we don’t need the extra stress of trying to figure out how to pay for a wedding.

  25. Sara says...

    I wore a light grey dress, skipped the wedding party (my mom was my maid of honor and my husband’s best friend was his best man, and that was it!), we skipped the cake (and therefore the cake cutting and face smashing) and had an awesome dessert buffet instead. I had a crafternoon instead of a bridal shower so all my favorite ladies helped make our wedding centerpieces, which were terrariums instead of flowers :)

    I wanted to skip the introduction as Mr. & Mrs. when we walked into our reception (can’t we just walk in with everyone else without any fuss??) but the hubs wasn’t having it… He had a blast picking out music for every step of the day and was so excited to pick what song we would walk in to! I hate being the center of attention and this felt like the most awkward and unnecessary center of attention moment of the day but it was over quickly and my husband is beaming in the photos of that moment (I am smiling but definitely look awkward haha).

    I feel a bit sad for the couple that chose to skip speeches at their wedding – the speeches at our wedding were one of the best parts of the night. They were actually so good that it is one of the things that other people remember about our wedding too! I know this can vary greatly and unfortunately I think the biggest issue with speeches is often the acoustics/sound set-up of the venue (just experienced this last weekend). I totally agree that everyone has to do what works for them, but this is one thing I’m really glad we didn’t skip! My mom and her partner are getting married next summer and I’m already thinking about my speech for their wedding!

    • Sara says...

      Also, no bouquet/garter toss (which I see lots of people skipping these days), and our officiant (a friend of my husband’s) was not technically ordained so we got legally married at City Hall a week or two before the wedding. We wrote the ceremony with our officiant and wrote our vows ourselves so the whole ceremony was fairly nontraditional and unique.

  26. Ellen says...

    My all time favorite untraditional wedding was a friend’s mom’s. She, her now husband, and some close friends and family members showed up at the Art Institute of Chicago right as it opened on a quiet morning. They entered as normal guests, wandered up to their favorite painting (A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat), and quietly exchanged vows in a corner of the gallery with a friend officiating. Low key, meaningful, special, and wonderfully Chicago!

  27. My attendant (my sister) and I didn’t carry bouquets either. Even though I love flowers, I didn’t really fancy the idea of being a human vase for my whole wedding day. ☺ Instead, I gifted my sister and myself with little clutches: Intensely practical and solved the problem of what to do with our hands. ☺

  28. amyks says...

    My husband and I got married almost nineteen years ago. We had my dad and his dad marry us. No readings, just heartfelt words from both of them. My Mom walked me down the aisle and we didn’t do any toasts or special dances. My sister was my only bridesmaid and we both carried flowers simply because I LOVE Flowers and could not imagine my wedding without them. If I was too do it all over again, I’d do it the same way.

  29. Danielle says...

    My person and I just got married last Friday and it was honestly the best day of our lives! We didn’t do the bouquet toss or garter toss because we felt like it makes most people uncomfortable, especially us!

  30. I’m planning my wedding for September and have spent the whole process saying: “What fits us?” I highly recommend reading One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead. She explains why we have many of the traditions we do (like a registry). I found reading the why behind many of these helped me decide if they were right for our wedding. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley is also great (and it’s a graphic novel!).
    Traditions we are sticking with:
    A white dress (this one:
    exchanging vows
    Ceremony/cocktail hour/dinner/dancing formula
    Traditions/things we are not doing:
    Engagement ring
    Wedding party
    usual catering (putting together cheese plates, ordering a few trays of BBQ, friends and fam making the sides and desserts)
    Bride/groom not seeing other before the ceremony (we will be busy setting up!)
    spending the morning doing hair and makeup (kill me now)
    father/daughter & mother/son dances
    Still debating…but probably not doing a first dance
    DJ (we made playlists to use)

    We’re also inviting all the parents to do speeches and having two friends co-officiate!

    • I love all your ideas! Especially the DJ one (we can choose our music better than anyone else can, right?!) and the lack of a wedding party. I have never wanted a wedding party for my ceremony and find it pointless. Your dress is stunning as well. Congrats on your upcoming nuptials!

  31. Gillian says...

    I love this post. I think the most important thing about your wedding, is that you do exactly what you want to do (something that I had to re-iterate over and over to my mother and my sister).

    We had a outdoor wedding on a Sunday afternoon, champagne was served to guests as they arrived, and they stood for the short and sweet 6 minute ceremony. I didn’t have bridesmaids, he didn’t have groomsmen (only a gaggle of flower girls and my nephew chasing them down the aisle ringing a bell). No first dance, no bouquet or garter toss, and I also refused to take more than 20 minutes of formal photos.

    Do whatever makes you the happiest!

    • This all sounds lovely!

  32. Allison says...

    We hired someone on TaskRabbit to bring 220 cupcakes for our guests instead of a cake! (We just placed a bulk order from a favorite bakery, easy.) Deliciousness guaranteed, for a much saner price than a fancy wedding cake and way less pomp and circumstance.

    Our ceremony also had a lot of little “skipped traditions”—siblings and parents walked and stood with us but there was no formal wedding party, and none of the women had flowers except me. Also, everyone walking down the aisle entered to the same song—which seemed intuitive to me, but a lot of people were surprised that the music didn’t change when I (the bride) entered.

    I wore pink, one sister wore a white dress, the other wore a patterned one, and we all looked great! My uncle got an Internet ordination to officiate—no clergy needed, although it was very much a Jewish ceremony—and we skipped outside readings in favor of simply finding a nice, modern interpretation of the Shevah Brachot that our siblings and parents took turns reading in English.

    Honestly, we didn’t bust out of the mold THAT hard, but I found that doing enough little things off the beaten path makes the whole thing feel that much more personal and quirky. Wouldn’t change a thing!

  33. Kathryn Lester-Bacon says...

    We nixed a few simple things like flower toss, garter, wedding cake for dessert table, etc….but the thing we changed that I loved the most was my husband and I both walked up the aisle, between our two parents (both sets are still married to each other), during the first hymn. This was such a no brainer for us–that both of us would walk up with both our parents–that I forget how untraditional it was! After all, we both were getting married and wanted to process up among the beloved people who had been invited. I did not want to be the center of attention for a whole Here Comes the Bride solo. No problem with those who do want the traditional professional experience, but I highly encourage other people to consider it! It made us feel like we were on equal footing, starting this journey together, from our very first steps into the ceremony.

  34. Beth says...

    I kept the toasts, a sit-down meal, cake cutting (with cake-in-the-face) and a wedding party, but “customized” these areas:

    -No maid/matron of honor or best man since we love all of our friends equally (plus, I have been involved in other weddings where there was so much drama around the MOH)

    -Bridesmaids picked their own hairstyles, navy blue dresses, and nude heels since they had very different styles and budgets…they all dress way better than I do, so I wasn’t worried about what they would pick!

    -My husband and I hung out all day, up until he had to go get ready. He brought lunch for the bridal party.

    -My first choice was to walk down the aisle with my husband since the decision to get married was one that we were both making equally, but my mom flipped. My dad isn’t in the picture so she wanted either my brother or grandpa to walk me down the aisle, to which I flipped. We agreed on the value and symbolism of having someone who raised you to send you off into the next stage of your life, so we decided that she would walk me down the aisle instead (great decision)! My husband walked his parents in behind the bridesmaids and groomsmen and right before I came in with my mom.

    -No father-daughter dance (see above) so we combined the mother-son dance with a mother-daughter dance and did it at the same time. My father-in-law was happy not to have the spotlight on him, and it is one of my favorite memories from the day.

    -We had a 20-minute ceremony, followed by a two-hour break where our guests could tour the Queen Mary (where we got married) and hang out on the ship before our cocktail hour and reception. Our moms both hosted pre-parties in their suites at the hotel and my cousins walked through the exhibits and took pictures on the boat. I took pictures with my husband but also had some alone time to see the reception area before it was filled with our friends and family, which I loved. We don’t get to see our families very often so everyone appreciated the extra time to reunite.

    -We had succulent terrariums on each table but decorated the rest of the venue with old photos of our family and friends who were in attendance. With the exception of our coworkers, everyone was featured in at least one picture. Our cake area was surrounded by photos of our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents cutting their wedding cakes.

    At the end of the day, I wanted the importance of family and togetherness to shine through and felt confident that it was accomplished. Now, only if I hadn’t spent so much money on the whole day! :)

    • Beth says...

      Oh, and no bouquet/garter toss. No question about that.

  35. Christina Copp says...

    I opted out of a few. My husband and I eloped in London, then one year to the day later we had a family wedding in Australia. My family flew to Oz for it. Since we were already married, and I was 34 at that point, I had no one walk me down the aisle, because no one was ‘giving me away’ my husband and I walked together. We also didn’t have cake because Italian sweets were way better, and a testament to his mother’s heritage. We wrote our own vows on a car hood right before the ceremony!

  36. My sister opted out of bouqets as well. I was her only bridesmaid and carried a handmade clutch that she ordered me from Etsy as a gift. Arranging my hands was not as awkward as I’d feared.

  37. Jen says...

    I am not married yet and almost 40 – thinking I would like a ‘surprise wedding’ if I did get married one day. Takes the pressure off and makes it less formal (for me at least) – I can’t see myself having the wedding I thought I would have when I was younger. Curious if anyone has done this?

    • Sarah Jane says...

      My parents did this in 1983! They had a “housewarming” party with maybe 50 friends and a justice of the peace who managed to mingle without anyone realizing his role until the ceremony. The last song on their mix tape was the wedding march, which was the justice of the peace’s cue to scoot to the spot in front of the fireplace. My dad and mom (who was wearing a white dress with a cute pink belt) soon joined him and they exchanged vows. So sweet and lovely.

    • I love this! And the story in the other comment!

    • I was 40 when I got married. We happened to have a trip planned (with my sister and her husband) to Maui a few months after we got engaged. We then planned the wedding for Maui… A small beach, just the 4 of us + preacher + photographer. I don’t have one picture of me in shoes. We celebrated with dinner at a fine restaurant where strangers at nearby tables clinked their glasses for us to kiss. It was perfect. A few months later we were in my hometown. We had a picnic at a local park to celebrate with friends and family.

  38. Anna says...

    I am planning my wedding next Spring and love hearing everyone’s ideas and stories. My current thoughts are to skip:
    – the cake (we’re doing donuts, much tastier)
    – garter toss, bouquet toss
    – DJ (spotify playlist instead)
    -f ancy flowers (TJs or Costco flowers will be fine)
    – sit down dinner (pizza and salad buffet)
    – long ceremony (aiming for 15 minutes tops)
    It is at a restaurant/bar/space that is fairly casual. My current concern is about chairs, of all things. We are planning to have around 85 guests, which the venue can accommodate, but there are only 50 chairs available for guests. There are several large couches/benches as well but I am worried that people will be annoyed if they do not have a designated space for their behinds. Any suggestions or input would be much appreciated!

    • Shannon says...

      Don’t skip the DJ! I work in the industry and it’s what I tell all my clients and friends. It’s make the biggest difference between a fun wedding and a blah one.

      DJs can keep the energy of the room up, they can make announcements, and they act as time-keepers. (I had one bride forget to cut her cake because there was no one there to announce it.)

      Also, you may forget how long some songs can be. No one wants to dance to all 5 minutes of a track. They want to hear the best verse, the hook, the chorus and move on! This is especially true for “first dances”. Having people watch you dance for more than 1 minute can be very awkward.

      DJs aren’t all cheesy. You can find one who will play only the songs you like. You can even make them promise not to play “Don’t Stop Believin'”.

    • Kate says...

      I bet the lack of chairs won’t be a problem, especially if the ceremony isn’t very long. A couple of bistro tables encourage mingling and are great if guests want to put their drinks down.

    • Joycelyn says...

      It’s not a matter of people being annoyed there’s not enough chairs to sit in, it’s a matters of what state of health some of those people might be in. It would be wiser to not invite the amount of people you’re planning on inviting or rent the amount of extra chairs you need from a wedding supply venue. It’s not that expensive.

    • maggie says...

      I got married earlier this month and had a cocktail style/tapas reception in a similar space. About 110 people total and seating [at a table or bar stool] for about 75 or 80. I found that a lot of our younger friends were respectful or just naturally grouped around the high top tables and everyone who needed a seat [my aunt with bad knees, my sister in law with two young kids, etc.] had one. We also asked the restaurant owner to set out extra chairs along the room’s perimeter, but he was able to add two extra tables instead.
      Also, we didn’t have a DJ and I don’t regret it. We had a friend casually MC, put together a time table ourselves that everyone involved had access to, and put together a few Spotify playlists for mingling and dancing. It was exactly what we wanted and fit the space/our style much better.

  39. Linda says...

    I was never a fan of the garter or bouquet toss. something about the whole ordeal of the groom pulling the garter off the bride with his teeth under her dress seemed really icky to me.
    also, I’ve been to one too many longgggggg wedding ceremony that dragged a bit too long. ours was officiated by my sister. it was under 10 mins. short and sweet. I had 4 BMs while my husband had 3 ( no maid of honor or best man-it seemed odd and cruel to designate a “favorite” amongst close friends). they choose their own dress. I also didn’t have a bridal shower. it felt unnecessary and awkward.

  40. Alissa says...

    As always, thank you so much for including gay and lesbian perspectives in posts like this! I can relate to Anca- marrying my girlfriend would already put me in this non-traditional realm. The beauty of a post about bucking wedding traditions that don’t fit you as a couple is that it acknowledges you can’t please everyone, but it’s okay for weddings to evolve over time and for the day to be about the couple themselves. That mentality is biggest thing I would need to keep in mind when I get married eventually, for small things like no first dance (I would HATE everyone watching that part) and big things like marrying a woman even if it makes some attendees secretly uncomfortable.

  41. katy says...

    I’m getting married this August, and reading posts like this remind me that my Mormon wedding will be different from most weddings! Mormon weddings are SO NICE because the ceremony happens in a Mormon temple, with about 50 guests maximum. The ceremony itself is very short, only about 20 minutes long. The bride and groom walk into the small room, hand in hand, are married across an altar, and then stand at the door, hugging all the guests as they leave. Most Mormons then have a reception that same evening in which everyone is invited! We are expecting about 350 to attend our party which will include tacos and cookies, but no cake or first dances. Just a chill hangout in a big white barn!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds beautiful, katy!

  42. Melanie says...

    Love hearing all the different ways to celebrate! So interesting.
    I have a slightly different take though (may not be popular), There’s a lot of emphasis on the notion that marriage is between 2 people, so only their concerns matter. Yes, but a wedding is slightly different. It is a great opportunity to honor your family/parents, to celebrate traditions (if those are important to you…or even if they’re only important to your parents), and to bear witness in front of your community.

    Of course, everyone’s situation is different and if you have difficult family relationships, etc, it is not so simple. For me, I am blessed not only to have supportive parents and in-laws, but both sides were pretty easy going and did not place unreasonable demands on the event. I myself am not that religious or traditional, but I knew the importance and meaning of our wedding to others, especially parents/family. I remember dismissing certain rituals (like doing mehndi/henna – I’m Indian btw) but later realizing that it wasn’t that big a deal. Some rituals/traditions are fun and meaningful to others, and thus become meaningful for you.
    Though I have only been raised in the West, and certainly embrace individualism, I do feel that a “village” of my community/family raised me, and I felt that our wedding was the ideal time to honor them.

    As far as rituals, I mainly wanted to make sure that we at least understood what we were doing/saying, that it emphasized the equal standing of husband and wife (I didn’t change my name either), and reflected our values as much as possible. Details like flowers, cake, dances – those should reflect your personal style. Who cares if you do things a little differently. That’s what makes your day unique.

    Having said that, I see far to many weddings (both Indian and non-Indian) that go way overboard. And while it’s obviously a personal choice, it feels sad to see the competitive and excessive celebrations. It’s not always easy to balance the intimacy of the moment with the desire to throw a good party.
    To each his/her own I guess.

    • Linda says...

      YES! everything you said here!
      it’s funny because everyone always say- who cares what your mom, dad, etc want- it’s your wedding! you do whatever YOU want.
      I mean, yes it’s my wedding but I love and want to honor what’s important to them because a wedding/marriage is more than just 2 people- it’s the combining of two families! also, I feel like it’s also the accumulation of all of the support and love our families and friends have helped and given to us that has allowed us to be the people we are today.
      Maybe it is an Asian cultural element to this thinking?

    • Mary says...

      I love what you both said, and completely agree. For my upcoming wedding, I don’t feel at all annoyed or bothered, the way some other brides/grooms might be, that a large proportion of guests will be our family and parents’ friends — rather, I love that they will partake in our celebration with their dear ones as well.

      I also agree it might have something to do with culture.

  43. Ellen W. says...

    I was raised in a Catholic family but as an adult I’ve chosen to not be part of the church. But I still had this longing for some of the Catholic traditions that I grew up with and strongly associate with the celebration of marriage. The Pope may not approve- or maybe this one would!- but we decided to adapt a lot of the elements from a traditional Mass in a way that felt authentic and meaningful for us. This meant reading poems instead of Bible passages, asking our parents to lead everyone in prayers of gratitude instead of prayers of the faithful, and plenty of singing- including a group rendition of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys as we walked out. The best part is when our friend who married us asked everyone to share a sign of peace with each other and it went on for 10 full minutes. People were hugging and laughing and walking across the room to greet each other. Our wedding party even did a big group hug up front. It was so joyful and true to us, and I felt like my grandmother would have been proud!

  44. Katie says...

    We did a handful of unusual things and skipped some of the traditions.

    One of the most meaningful to me was that no one “gave” me away. I walked in alone, then my husband came and met me halfway down the aisle and we walked hand in hand up to the altar – since this was our journey together. (We did have a brief moment in the ceremony where we hugged our parents/thanked them for their support and influence on our lives.)

    The most fun was that we had a homemade dessert bar instead of cake and the star of the show was mini dirt puddings for everyone. One of the funniest pictures we have from the night is of my husband feeding me a gummy worm.

    • Ana says...

      I love this! The “giving away the bride” thing feels extremely outdated to me and I love the idea of you two walking hand in hand!

  45. Emma says...

    Love this post! I skipped having bridesmaids at my wedding last year. Seemed silly to me- they didnt need to stand up there in matching dresses to support me. Plus, I felt that during the ceremony the attention should be on my husband and I, and no one else. I don’t regret it for a minute!

  46. We skipped announcing the bridal party (after the ceremony, they were essentially free to do what they wanted at the reception and only my husband and I were announced), having a cake cutting (we didn’t even have a cake – just cupcakes!), and tossing the bouquet (something that when I was single often made me feel awkward or shamed). Oh and I also let my bridesmaids choose their dresses too :)

  47. I was very close to skipping on flowers! My mom was not a fan of it so she paid for our flowers. (And I landed an incredible florist!) We actually skipped out on a bar at our wedding. We had a champagne toast but felt that getting married at 11am does NOT warrant a cocktail hour.

  48. Kelli says...

    Actually, a sit-down dinner is a Northern thing here in the US. As a Louisianan and lifelong Southerner, I am yet to attend a wedding with a sit-down dinner. Buffets are the winner!

  49. Scarlett says...

    My fiance and I are getting married this Sunday! I’m so unbelievably excited to marry my best friend, I can’t stand it.

    We are having a small wedding (we invited 36, expecting around 50!) in the backyard of our new home! We invited our closest friends and family. Since we just bought this house we couldn’t afford to throw a big shindig, nor did we really want one as we are both practical people who don’t really love being “on” and being the center of attention.

    We don’t have a wedding party, and my fiance’s father is officiating, which I think is so sweet. We aren’t having any dances and we don’t have a DJ; I made a playlist on Spotify. For food, we got some BBQ from a local place and had everyone bring side dishes for a potluck! It’s a little offbeat, but completely us. We’ve had some people express judgement, which was hard to hear (mostly older family members, our friends were extremely encouraging!). But we try to just brush it off, because truly the day is about us and our love for each other, not them. :)

    • Scarlett says...

      Oh and for flowers I’m just cutting some wildflowers and greenery from our yard and the nearby fields for my bouquet and table centerpieces! Couldn’t justify paying for flowers when we have so much surrounding us.

    • Lauren says...

      Your wedding sounds awesome!! Congrats!

  50. Céline says...

    I married in France with an upside down sense of tradition : this was my second marriage, both my husband and I were 35ish with 2 kids in tow. There was no Cinderella plan nor big traditions to keep up with, come on. So I skipped the bouquet ! I needed both my hands free to keep my kids at hand, as they were quite young at the time (5 and 2) and kinda felt overwhelmed with the crowd/cheers/party altogether, I decided to keep my hands free because they were going to be needed – and hell they were!
    (also, very convenient when you need to grab a glass and cheer with your guests).
    Another tradition we skipped was the pre-planned sitdown lunch, and even dressing the tables ahead of lunch – we had no spare space to do so – we simply asked the guests to set the tables themselves, dress their table with appropriate cloth (ancient embroidered bedsheets) and pick the people they wanted to share lunch with (including a bottle of delicious Bourgogne to enjoy while chilling). Lunch turned out to be more of a cold picnic (we even envisaged a potluck lunch at some point) with a strong focus on wine and real champagne (French spirit, still). Everyone saluted the low-key, laid back atmosphere of the day and the fact that it actually looked more like a family/friends gathering rather than a plain and solid wedding – exactly how I had planned it to be.

  51. Erica says...

    We skipped attendants! That’s right…no bridesmaids or groomsmen. We are from Charlotte, NC and were married deep in the mountains at a llama farm. Everyone was from out of town and it was a haul to get there. The nearest airport was 2.5 hours away. We are talking flights and rental cars for over half the guests. We wanted our closest friends and family and wanted no one to feel excluded. Our friends (even though we were attendants at their weddings) thanked us for not having to incur the additional costs. We saved by not having to buy gifts and flowers while they saved on the hefty cost of standing by us. No one felt left out and we had photos taken with everyone. I wouldn’t change a thing. Several of our friends have since followed in our footsteps.

  52. Kat O says...

    My husband and I were just out of grad school and swimming in student debt (still are, actually), so we didn’t do a wedding really at all – we got married at City Hall on a Wednesday, then threw a party on Saturday. We had an open bar and a food truck turning out pizzas, then converted part of the dining area into a dance floor with an iTunes playlist halfway through the night. My mother insisted on a wedding cake so we did the whole cut the cake thing, and our parents did give super awkward speeches. My only regret is not having a photographer – we tried to convince friends to take pics throughout the night with a “photo scavenger hunt,” but sadly we don’t have any great shots…and I was so proud of our thrifted/homemade decorations, it’s sad I don’t have any good record of that, or any frameable shots of me and my husband. Womp womp.

  53. Ellen says...

    My husband and I had a lot of student loan debt that we wanted to crush and the idea of spending all our squirreled away pennies (and other people’s money) on a wedding gave me vertigo. We opted for an afternoon ceremony and a cocktail party reception. It was winter, so it was still dark enough to feel like a party, even though it was over at 7pm! My husband and I went out to dinner afterward, just the two of us, still in our wedding garb. It was the best.

  54. I did forgo the first dance (sort of). We decided that when the party died out a bit we would ask the DJ to play a particular song and that’s what we did! I also didn’t toss the bouquet. I don’t like pressing my single friends and wouldn’t want all the young children going for the bouquet (as they do in Greece). So I kept it!!

  55. shelley says...

    I skipped the bouquet toss, the whole garter situation, the cake (we had croquembouche and other desserts), flower girl and ring bearer, readings, and if I could go back I’d skip the wedding party and just get ready with my girlfriends and have them enjoy the day stress free! my MOH was amazing and did such a good job with her speech, but it wasn’t worth stressing her out with having to get up and talk in front of everyone!

    I would still most definitely want my father to give his speech it was incredible. I’m so glad someone took a video of it.

    I always thought I was very traditional but I guess I am not at all.

  56. Gina says...

    We had our photos before the ceremony. Our photographer captured us seeing each other for the first time and we had a bottle of bubbles and hung out just the two of us. Then we went with our bridal party for photos. Afterwards the boys went straight to the venue and we followed. It was so lovely and took some of the pressure away, would definitely recommend photos before!

  57. We skipped the cake (neither of us like it and it always seems to get wasted) and the speeches (not wanting to put pressure on anyone) but we did keep the first dance (my favourite bit from any wedding) and the traditional wedding party, although my mum ‘gave me away’ rather than my dad (who was in attendance with my stepmother). We had a great day and I love all weddings, in any form.

  58. Veronika says...

    Gosh, this article arrived at the best time. We are having our wedding with my British husband-to-be (I’m Hungarian) in August. Since it took quite a while to get all the paperwork done we ended up having only 2 months to organise everything. We also have our traditions here but I think in the US it’s a bigger celebration with lots of traditions.
    We are definitely not a traditional couple so we started to shock people 1st with my dress. I initially wanted to a wear a white jumpsuit, which I think could had been so cool and classy – you can imagine the faces when I broke this news to my family and friends. :-) Since I couldn’t find a nice one I will end up wearing a dress, but short! I went to a birdal salon just to please my twin sister and I was reassured again that I don’t want a “bridal” dress. I never wear long dress, or even this much fabric..gosh they were heavy – I felt like wearing an armour.
    We won’t have flowers, juts green leaves – eucalyptus and co. decoration, won’t have a party just a laid back ceremony and a tapas party in a botanical garden until 9:pm.
    No bridemaids, I will walk down the aisle myself and my fiance won’t be wearing a suit. We won’t have matching rings, mine will be a think white gold band with diamonds – his made of titan.
    We didn’t invite everyone as we wanted to limit our guest down to 30, so for instance I didn’t invite cousins or some of my friends who invited me before. Thats also quite tricky: do you have to invite back someone who invited you on his/her wedding before? I think no!
    Our unconventional choices made be feel unsure on several times, started to have 2nd thoughts..but this article gave me back my confidence. A wedding is about the couple and nobody has the right to judge.

  59. Hannah says...

    There’s no wedding on the horizon yet, but I’ve already decided that I won’t have anyone give me away. a) because the relationship with my father is somewhat difficult (my mother and grandfather might have been viable options to walk me down the aisle, although my grandfather can’t walk all that well anymore – and having one of them do it might insult my father and lead to *discussions*) and b) because I’m nobody’s to give away.

  60. keri says...

    Ive always wanted wedding pie!!

  61. Leannie says...

    I think my wedding this September will be pretty traditional compared to many of you awesome-sounding ladies! I am skipping the bridal shower (don’t need any more rubber spatulas, thanks), the veil, the bouquet/garter toss (you’re welcome, voluntarily single friends), and changing my name. We are having siblings only in the bridal party, including my brother as a bridesman and my fiancé’s sister as a groomswoman. Both my parents are accompanying me down the aisle. I love cake, so that stays :)

    I am still debating the father-daughter dance — mostly because it’s hard to find a song that isn’t cheesy or inappropriate! Any suggestions???

    • Bethany says...

      I had always thought we would use either ‘brown eyed girl’ (Van Morrison) or ‘cheek to cheek’ (Louis Armstrong version), but we forgo a lot of American traditions as we got married in Italy.

    • Julie says...

      Just pick a song that means something to you both. Before my wedding, I went nuts racking my brain and doing internet searches trying to find the perfect father-daughter dance song and kept coming up empty handed. Everything I found was either sort of cheesy or had at least one line that just made it a creepy song to dance with your dad to haha. Finally, a couple of days before the wedding, my dad suggested Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by Judy Garland, and we both just burst into tears. (When I was little I was OBSESSED with the Wizard of Oz and it was a major part of my childhood.) I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it! It was the absolute perfect song for US and I will always cherish those few moments I had that day to dance alone with my dad. It may sound silly, but it really was so, so special!

    • Ellen says...

      My dad had a handful of songs he used to sing to us at night (mostly Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, and Janis Joplin) so I poured through Spotify looking for a version of one of their songs to dance to at our wedding. I eventually found a demo version of Slip Sliding Away by Paul Simon that was perfect. All my sibs freaked out when they heard it!

    • Bethany says...

      Leannie, we skipped the father/daughter and mother/son dances, but before we told my parents, my dad announced that he had chosen a song: Father and Daughter by Paul Simon. Not exactly a slow song, but perfect if you wanted something a little more upbeat and less inappropriately romantic. I still feel guilty when I remember that we didn’t end up doing it, ugh!

      My mom and brother danced to Loves me Like a Rock at his wedding, also Paul Simon!

    • Emily says...

      hi leannie! my wedding was super traditional, too (although, ditto on the bouquet and garter toss). i don’t think your father/daughter (or any of the dances) needs to have any sort of commentary on the relationship – just pick a song you love to dance to!

      my dad loves the beat of mustang sally (and my mom isn’t much of a dancer), so at every family wedding or party we always met on the dance floor when that song came on. so, even though it’s a totally bizarre choice, i couldn’t have imagined dancing with my dad with anything else. (and yes, we look RIDICULOUS in the video)

    • maggie says...

      I had my dad choose a song but asked that we do an instrumental version as our reception music was just a Spotify playlist of jazz or instrumental covers. He picked “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and we found an upbeat jazz instrumental. You don’t have to worry about weird connotations with lyrics and I find it easier/quicker to dance to something upbeat than slow.

  62. Lisa says...

    I wanted to get married at City Hall with a party after – my husband (and his family) were having none of it. We skipped several traditions to have things more in keeping with our style.

    No church.
    No wedding party; my sister and my best friend did readings.
    No bouquet toss.
    No favors.

    We chose to focus on a meaningful ceremony, lots of good food and drink, and a great band. Happily married nine years and two kids later!

  63. Melinda says...

    This thread is making me feel GREAT about the things my fiancé and I won’t be doing in our wedding in March – a bridal party, speeches and a first dance. I feel really happy about our decisions, but when I mention them to others I feel a little questioned and start second-guessing myself.

    For the most part I am enjoying planning our wedding and the freedom to do away with traditions that are meaningless to us helps a lot.

    *Skips away singing ‘Myyyyyy Waaaaaay’*

  64. mia says...

    We were married in a small garden with just our parents, siblings and their partners.
    Both of our little brothers were our (very nervous and excited) witnesses. My husband surprised me on the day with a bouquet he made himself – it included flannel flowers, paper daisies, gumnuts and local lavender, tied with a blue striped ribbon. The ‘reception’ afterwards was a leisurely dinner at a fancy waterside restaurant. We had a decadent cheese platter instead of cake because we don’t have a sweet tooth between us. Low key was the best key for us because neither of us likes being the centre of attention. Oh and I wore an embroidered/crocheted 60s-style mini dress that looked like a doily (because Winona).

    • A says...

      Sounds ideal! Honestly, being the centre of attention with 100+ guests just sounds horrific to both of us, so we’re having a very simple thing with just our closest family. Our friends seem to think it’s pretty weird, but I don’t think either of us would enjoy it if we went down the more traditional route.

    • Sarah says...

      Haha! Love the Reality Bites reference…

    • I would love to see pictures of your wedding. It sounds like perfection. I like to say that I want to do just that, have just our immediate families at the wedding, but my friends have COWS when I talk about it. :) Good thing I don’t even have a boyfriend yet, I suppose. Haha

  65. Wishing you a wonderful wedding day! I ditched the bouquet and garter toss (I really hated the whole “fighting to catch the bouquet” thing when I was single, and the garter toss…it just wasn’t for me), but you know what REALLY threw people for a loop? There wasn’t a traditional topper on the wedding cake. I really had no idea anyone would even notice, but more than one person sought me out before the ceremony to let me know it was missing. Clearly, we should have made an announcement. ;) It was funny to me then, and it still makes me laugh a little now.

  66. Tara says...

    My husband and I eloped earlier this year :) Neither of us ever had any desire to have a traditional wedding and always knew this would be the right path for us. We gave our immediate family members and a few close friends a heads up that we planned to get married this way, but we didn’t tell them when or where.

    Because we kept it all a secret, we didn’t have any of the traditional trappings of an engagement — no ring, no announcement, no photos, no bachelorette or bachelor parties, no invitations, no registry. And best of all: no planning, no stress, and no expectations! Our wedding day was low key and completely perfect. We wrote vows for each other, bought a new suit and a white dress, hired an officiant and a photographer, and had an intimate outdoor ceremony in our DC neighborhood on a random weekday afternoon. Then, we hopped on a plane to New Orleans for a long weekend away to celebrate. It was a total surprise to everyone — we had so much fun announcing it! And because our closest family and friends were prepared for the fact that we were going this route, there were no wounded feelings.

    Since then, we’ve been celebrating with the people in our lives as we see them, and we’ve had a few smaller parties here and there, but all the official “Wedding Day” pressure is off. It’s been lovely!

  67. Amy says...

    We skipped the cake, and had a dessert table that disappeared too quickly! Also, we nixed the long head table and just sat in a round table with our family. Our bridal party got to sit with their families and significant others. Thinking back at that night and looking at the pictures I think we made the right choice!

  68. Instead of a guest book we put an anniversary card on each table for those table guests to sign. My mom has the stack of the cards and mails us one each anniversary. It is so fun to get them, now 6 years strong!, and we have fun being reminded who sat together!

    • I love this idea! Must be so fun to read them!

  69. becky says...

    We skipped so much tradition and no regrets! our wedding was just last month!
    We skipped the bouquet toss and garter belt and the mother/son father/daughter dance (my parents were not in attendance), my best friend/moh walked, no make that danced down the aisle with me. We used motown songs for the entrances.
    We had a pizza truck with a wood burning stove for dinner with a beer truck.
    I made the bouquets and table arrangements because I could not stand the idea of wasting money on flowers. They are nice but I did not want a chunk of our budget going to them.
    My husband and I were exhausted on the day of our wedding but we received the most genuine comments about how much fun people had :)

  70. Jocelyn says...

    I just watched the movie, About Time, and noticed that Rachel McAdams’ character wears a RED dress for her wedding! Got me thinking about alternatives and how I feel about them, and now this post…!

    • SFord says...

      (20 years ago) I wore a claret coloured dress for my registry office wedding and a oyster coloured silk for a blessing six months later. Both ceremonies were small and understated but allowed all our friends (in both ends of the country) to be involved in one or the other without having to spend lots of money on travelling and accommodation. We also get anniversary cards on both dates, depending on which ceremony they went to!

    • Ellen says...

      DO IT!!! I wanted to wear a dark dress with a large floral print at my wedding but I was so scared. I went to David’s Bridal and tried on some traditional white gowns to appease everyone, but I KNEW it was so not me. I bought the floral dress and never felt more beautiful in my life. NO REGRETS!!

    • Abby says...

      I wore a green dress to my very small and non-traditional wedding five years ago and I didn’t regret it at all. We had 20 of our closest friends and family join us at a park in LA for our mini “ceremony ” and then we all went out for dinner afterward (we rented a private dining room at our favorite restaurant). No wedding party, no dancing, no speeches and no regrets. We all just hung out and spent time together. I did have a bouquet that my mom picked up at a grocery store that morning and we had a photographer. I would do it the same way if I were to do it all over again and all the guests said they loved it and had a great time.

    • Annie says...

      I love that movie and that wedding scene. :)

  71. Natanya says...

    I’m getting married in August and also made the decision not to have a bouquet for myself or my bridesmaids. Love this article. Fun to see the various preferences and feel the love and inspiration <3

  72. Molly says...

    One of my best friends got married this past December- it was on a Monday afternoon, in a really gorgeous venue that housed the ceremony downstairs, cocktail hour during photos upstairs, and then dinner downstairs. I think there were only about 70 of us, because they wanted to keep the ceremony personal and intimate. BUT the thing I loved the most, was that they too nixed flowers, and both carried books! The couple met in grad school, where they were both earning doctorates in English. They each only have one sister, who stood up as “Best Sister” for each of them, and both sets of parents walked them down the aisle. They also had whimsical piles of books at every table, which we found out during dinner was our gift to take home, along with a totebag! No dancing, just wonderful conversation and spending time together. They brought out coffee and tea later, along with mini cupcakes. It was magical.

  73. maggie says...

    I got married three weeks ago [!!!!!] and there were quite a few things we skipped because they just seemed superfluous to us. We didn’t do a bridal shower [I’ve lived on my own for 5 years now and combining two households is a lot more effort than combining two lives] but instead had family and friends over for tacos and s’mores. I had an unofficial wedding party of my sister and best friend and told them to wear what they felt beautiful in. We had small cakes in 8 different flavors instead of a tiered one and had people vote on the best flavor to share on our 1 year anniversary [I kind of just want to re-buy all 8!]. I bought grocery store flowers and my best friend and niece helped make paper flowers to spice up the bouquets, which was such a sweet day. We had a tapas style reception instead of a sit down dinner because we love a whole slew of foods and wanted variety. Instead of a guest book we had people write their advice in haiku, draw a postcard from the best vacation spot, etc. These were SO fun to go through and I hope they were fun to fill out. And no bouquet toss, because wtf.
    One of the few traditional things I’m glad we conceded on was dances. My father is a great dancer and I knew my husband’s mom would treasure a moment with him that day. And I kind of wanted to show off our kick ass taste in music with our first dance song…
    The business of throwing a wedding seemed more and more ridiculous to me as we planned, but we kept to what we wanted and focused on just throwing what we thought would be a great party for our people.

  74. kb says...

    So many people get caught up in wedding traditions just because someone else did it that way, or a website or magazine says you must…at the end of the day it’s a ceremony and celebration of your marriage and you can do whatever you want! A lot of our wedding was traditional (ceremony in a church), but a lot was not. One thing that allowed more flexibility was having the reception under a big tent in my parent’s yard. We did not have a wedding party, just my sister as my maid of honor and my husband’s brother as best man. We served family-style appetizers at the table. Everyone got a bit of our two favorite things for dinner…chilean sea bass, and lamb. No cake, but platters for each table our favorite ice cream sandwiches and cookies. Lots of our favorite kinds of wine. A great motown band from Detroit. Many friends still tell us ours was one of the most fun weddings they’ve attended.

  75. Lucy says...

    I think I am with you on skipping the bridesmaid bouquets, I am not even sure I want to carry one! I’ve got some time to think though, our first wedding is in July 2018 in Sweden, followed by our second wedding in New Zealand in October. Yup! two weddings. My partner is Swedish and I am a kiwi. We were going to do a big wedding in New Zealand and get everyone from Sweden/overseas to come out here but then we realised it was just getting too big. Plus for so many it would be their first time in New Zealand and we would barely have a chance to spend quality time with them all beyond the wedding as we’d have to go back to work! So now we are having two celebrations, under 50 people at each and I am SO excited. I guess I could chop and choose which traditions to have at each, and I am also interested to find out if there are any Swedish traditions I don’t know about.

    • Deanna says...

      I’m American, and my fiance is a Kiwi, and while we’re currently in Auckland, we’re moving to England in a few weeks, so we’ve decided to get married in Europe. I’m just hoping the paperwork won’t be a nightmare! I’ve told him we should secretly get married before leaving New Zealand, but he thinks I’m joking.

  76. Katie says...

    Instead of tossing the bouquet, we gave it to the couple that had been married the longest (we knew it would be my husband’s grandparents who have been married almost 60 years!). His grandmother was touched and it was a sweet way to honor them.

    In the south it is a tradition to have a separate groom’s cake, which my husband did not want. My very traditional mother kept pushing for one, and finally cracked and exclaimed “he’s going to think we don’t love him!! almost in tears”. haha, we still ditched the cake and he felt very loved ;)

  77. Rita says...

    I had four calla lilies as a bouquet and instead of throwing it, I gave one each to my grandmothers, my mother and my mother in law.

    • Megan Cahn says...

      I love this (and now kinda wish I was doing this), such beautiful flowers and sentiment.

    • Rita says...

      Thanks, Megan! They loved it too!

    • Amy says...

      This is such a beautiful idea.

  78. Jessie says...

    We skipped the traditional wedding entirely and instead eloped to a secluded beach in Hawaii last month. I still had a white dress, bouquet, and cake, but every other tradition went out the window. It was the best day ever.

  79. Angela says...

    Potentially more eyebrow raising than being bouquet-less, we planned our wedding for a time of day that would slow us to skip providing a meal. We were on a big time budget and were of the same opinion that we would do what was comfortable for us. We did do cake and drinks and stuff, but passed on a full meal. We only ever heard skepticism from my husbands aunt and uncle who actually considered skipping our wedding because we were not feeding them. And well- if you feel that strongly about a meal, perhaps you aren’t quite in the celebratory mood we were hoping for…

  80. Ana says...

    I’m engaged too and am basically skipping everything! We are having a “tiny wedding”/elopement with 6 guests, only immediate family. The list of things we are skipping (invitations, flower, a DJ, like the entire reception) is so long that it’s easier to just list the things we’re doing! We are having a simple ceremony in a park with a beautiful mountain backdrop – zero setup and not even any chairs, we’ll just gather around. Followed by dinner at a great restaurant. I’m psyched that the day will be simple and stress-free (and cheap!)

  81. Liz says...

    Marriage is about a commitment between two people and what a better way to start that commitment than by agreement to put you and your spouse’s actual preferences and desires first on your wedding day – as opposed to the preferences of your family, religion, or community.

  82. brianna says...

    I have no plans to get married, but I love everyone’s fun twists on their weddings – ringbearer grandpas and lion/ringmaster ringbearers.

    I was a bridesmaid in my now ex-best friend’s wedding. One of the groomsmen had to bow out at the last second and I ended walking down the aisle alone. It was a very uncomfortable situation for me and I vowed then and there to not do that to one of my friends.

  83. Sarah Amoth says...

    Just got married in may… we did most things untraditional as my southern family would think. Kept it “small” at 40 people. Keep It Simple Stupid was my motto. We invited folks who have encouraged and supported us, and who know is intimately and actively involved in our lives. We cut out great aunts and uncles and long lost cousins (which led to several arguments with my mother but I stood my ground). We paid for 95% of the wedding out of our own pockets without parent help, which helped us to keep the power in planning.

    One super sweet thing we did was pass around a box made by my husband with our rings inside. It went to each of our guests during the vows and homily, and they had the opportunity to privately hold it and say a wish or a blessing or something over the rings. It was very sweet knowing each person there had a hand in thoughtfully blessing our marriage.

    We did a first dance, but we didn’t want to. We danced with our father/mother at the same time, so there wasn’t two awkward parent dances. We had cheesecakes instead of a big wedding cake. No bouquet toss, no garter.. we were in bed by around 1030!

    Here’s a link to some wedding photos, if anyone would like to see. It was seriously the best wedding ever :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sarah, these photos are SO BEAUTIFUL (as are you!)!!!

  84. Kayla says...

    My bridesmaids said the same thing when I told them no bouquets! “What will we do with our hands!” Thanks for writing this. I loved every second of my “non-traditional” wedding – without public vows, bouquets, planned dances, etc- but we had to fight for EVERY SINGLE THING with our families. It was so hard arguing for what we wanted even though it was our day. I wish I’d had this article to show them a year ago!! :)

  85. Laura says...

    I got married in October at a beautiful restaurant on the Hudson River. Instead of fresh flowers, our bouquets and centerpieces were made of dried flowers. They were WAY less expensive, and the rich colors were stunning with the Autumn setting. Bonus: I still have my bridal bouquet and all my family members have centerpieces in their homes. It’s a fun little reminder of my wedding day wherever I go.
    Other than that, we stayed pretty traditional. Family is really important to my husband and me. We wanted to carry on the traditions that have been repeated time and time again throughout the years. Despite having a secular ceremony, we used the traditional Catholic vows because that’s what our parents and grandparents said on their wedding days. It felt true to us as a couple while still honoring the past.

  86. Samantha Furry says...

    Mostly made it more of a party! we had a kind of a frida-kahlo-meets-texas-hill-country affair (lots of texture, donkeys toting around topo chico, a fantastic mariachi band, and beautiful handmade paper decor including 8-ft high angel wings made from paper plates). we had a great dj that played nothing but motown, and a pinata for the kids. for our favors, we had lovely flower crowns and maracas at all the tables.

    i don’t like sitting through things, so the ceremony was about 15 minutes, and we did a combined dance, fitting in the mother/son, father/daughter, couples first dance into one song. no garter thing, no bouquet toss, no fanfare around cake cutting.

    it was the best time we’ve ever had, and i’d do it all over again!

  87. Sloan Chouest says...

    We had a two part wedding in Austin, Texas on New Year’s Eve. The major events were a morning ceremony followed by brunch (heck yes, mimosa bar!) and a full out dance party reception in the evening. What we loved about this layout was that it gave us the opportunity to enjoy and celebrate with our guests twice in one day. We were always really hesitant to do everything in one shot and considered having a private, smaller ceremony the night before NYE and then just the party the night of NYE. We are so happy we didn’t do that. What we chose felt much more inclusive and less demanding of our guests.

    This layout also allowed us time to ourselves as a married couple in the middle of the day. We got to talk about our experiences pre-ceremony (we didn’t do a first look which made walking down the aisle even more special), share in our joy that we were actually married (!!!), thank our parents and spend time with our parents in between each event, and as silly as this may sound, it gave us time to come up with a strategy for the evening. We asked ourselves questions such as, “Who didn’t we talk to enough in the morning that we should spend more time with in the evening,” and “Who do we need to get photos with,” and “Which of our friends/family members love to dance? We should definitely dance with them.”

    Like many others have expressed, we didn’t do a wedding party either. Instead, my brother was responsible for our rings – he passed them out prior to the ceremony so our guests could put their well wishes and their love into our rings before the ring exchange portion of the ceremony. My husband’s two sisters each gave a reading that they had full choice over. My god-father was our officiant and lead us through a light version of a hand-tying ceremony in which we did not tie our hands, but held hands instead. He also lead our guests through “community vows” in which they promised to support and guide us through our lives together. Prior to cutting our cake in the morning, my father-in-law gave a toast and then we as a couple thanked everyone for coming. My father started off the reception with a small thank you to everyone as well with a much more “let’s get down and party” vibe.

    All in all, we loved having the break in the day for ourselves and for our guests to create memories in a city that many of them had to travel to from other states. We never felt rushed or blindsided that it was over plus, we got to dance our faces off and ring in a new year with the people we love.

  88. I wore blush, we both greeted everyone when they arrived (actually we had to run ahead of guests, then turn around because we were running late!), a bruce springsteen song as a reading by mum, no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no photographer (but friends took amazing pics – and we had a videographer) and a parade to the reception! Best day of our lives. Low-key and us. (Dont be bullied, its your day, but try and be gracious)

  89. Emily Weber says...

    I just got married this month! We skipped bouqets for bridesmaids and all the men. I just gave flowers to the grandmothers (my two and my husbands grandma) who I knew would really be touched by it. I also had a man of honor. We wanted a very low key and unstructured reception. We sent the photographer home when I started. My husband and I have a toast together and we did a first dance but skipped all other formal dances entirely. Then we did dinner and music but there was no DJ or a dance floor. People who wanted to dance naturally did and those who didn’t sat outside in the garden and could Carry on a conversation. We also skipped a wedding cake and did ice cream– passed out by the groom and groomsmen! The whole thing was a blast. Though along the way my “unconventional” plans were often met with laughs or questions everyone thought it was a great time and very us!

  90. We had a fairly traditional wedding except for a few things. We each only had one person stand up with us — my sister & my husband’s best friend. While I tossed a bouquet (it was totally fun since the reception was at my parents’ house & I did it off the balcony), we passed on the garter toss — too embarrassing for both me & my husband. We also didn’t plan on mother/son, father/daughter dances, but my dad *did* surprise me by requesting a dance with me & it was more emotional & special than if we had planned it that way from the beginning.

  91. Melissa says...

    Gah! We wanted to elope, so when that didn’t work out (hot tip – keep it a secret!), we basically did whatever we wanted. Instead of row seating, everyone stood in a circle around us (we had seats for our pregnant pals and older guests). We had no attendants and no one walked me down the aisle (we met halfway), but during the ceremony we had our parents present us with the rings we were giving each other as a gesture of welcome. We had a cake made of wheels of cheese from our favourite dairy. Our first dance song was a surprise to us (we asked our friend to pick it b/c we couldn’t agree on one). There was no sit-down dinner, but there was an open bar and small plates and apps all night. But my absolute favourite part was because we took our formal portraits and family photos in the afternoon and the ceremony (held in the same venue as the reception) didn’t start until 7, my now-husband and I had time to watch the sunset together and then eat dinner at our favourite pizza joint.

  92. Susan says...

    We were unconventional too and are happily married 7 years later.
    Background: My husband’s parents split after 37 years, the week we got engaged! It was a little tense to say the least. Additionally, our families had never met and neither family drinks. My husband and I were looking forward to dancing and celebrating with our closest friends with out any family stress. But of course, getting married in front of our family was equally important. Solution: we had only our immediate family for a ceremony and wedding brunch. We got to spend time with my family, that traveled from out of town, before the wedding. It was really special and a lot easier than trying to mix our friends and family on a day that is supposed to be low stress. A month later we flew to Mexico and hosted our closest friends for a wedding weekend. It was everything we hoped it would be and the best of both worlds for us. Since we were all onsite, everyone got to spend quality time together and people still talk about how much fun they had at our wedding. As a bonus, we didn’t need to worry about the legality of marrying outside the country and focused on more personal vows. It was also about the same amount of money as hosting a small wedding and reception in Chicago, our hometown. Now we celebrate both anniversaries and we joke that at least one of them always turns out as planned. :) Moral of the story, do what makes you happy.

  93. Beth says...

    I’m estranged from my parents, and this was my second marriage, but my husband’s first. My husband and I decided to escort each other down the aisle! And at the reception, we didn’t have music. Instead, since we married on Ohio State vs Michigan game day, opted to show the game during our dinner! When the game was over (Buckeyes won!) reception was over! We headed out, started our honeymoon and ten years later, are living or version of “Happily ever after…”

    • shannon says...

      Bless you for showing the game during the reception. I was about to gasp in horror if you made all your guests miss it! I have been to a wedding during a football saturday, and we were all sneaking out during the reception to catch snatches of the game! Go Bucks!

    • Aimee says...

      HA! My husband’s brother and and his wife skipped out on us in the midst of our Sunday morning post-wedding brunch, to “head back to the airport.” And they did go to the airport… but it wasn’t rushing to catch a plane, it was to sit in an airport bar to watch the Giants on a big screen. I was so irritated! Ha!

  94. Deb D. says...

    it was the 2nd marriage for both of us and we didn’t want to do anything fancy so we had our wedding at a public park. I wore pastel painter’s pants and he wore shorts and a t-shirt; we had a cake that my husband had “Hip Hip Hooray” written on and then we had a softball game. There were 100 people so there was no place in the outfield to hit the ball where someone didn’t catch it! best day ever :)

    • Rachel says...

      This is seriously THE sweetest thing, I love it so much :)

  95. Natalie says...

    I can totally see why bouquets might be nixed (they are pricey) but I like the idea someone mentioned above about carrying lavender or something casual (baby’s breath is so pretty, and super cheap). Just because I can’t really can’t imagine what I would do with my hands in that situation! Holding the bouquet during the ceremony makes things a lot less awkward, and keeps people from moving their arms around while the photographer is doing their thing.

    But beyond that, I love the idea of forgoing “tradition” to do what actually makes you happy/makes sense. I did the matching-dress thing for my bridesmaids (which worked because they were all my husband’s sisters who looked/were shaped alike), except for my cousin who ended up being like 9 months pregnant on the day – her dress was a different color/style but it all worked out. We didn’t have a best man/maid of honor because it didn’t seem necessary. My husband and I didn’t do the mother/father dances (my dad had a stroke when I was young, so dancing would be tricky) and honestly no one missed them. Also, we had a candy bar, because NECESSARY.

    The one thing I do wish we had done is a photo booth. They are kind of expensive but I love all the photos I have from other people’s weddings, and looking back I wish I had spent the money on it.

    My final advice would be to tell people “no” when you need to. My mom got this idea to walk me down the aisle with my dad (they are divorced. I’m half her child, etc.) and the thought of being literally pulled on each side by both of them was not pleasant. So I shut that one down real fast, ha.

  96. Meaghan says...

    We skipped the garter toss. Neither one of us liked the tradition. I did wear a garter as my something blue and it’s actually become a tradition amongst my girlfriends to wear the same one. No one has ever tossed it but I love how it has played a part in the wedding of so many wonderful women. We also had a traditional Catholic ceremony at 2pm and the cocktail hour started at 4pm. I honestly hate a giant gap between ceremony and reception. And finally, I didn’t fully take his last name. I hyphenated which he doesn’t like but I made it clear when we were dating that I loved my entire name, thanks mom and dad!

    • Meaghan says...

      Oh, and everyone rode around in small school buses to and from the reception. We had our own fleet for the day !

  97. My husband and I married later in life (45 and 48), so I don’t know if that made a difference. We didn’t feel any need for many of the traditional trappings, and nor did my folks. My parents did help pay (they wanted to as it meant something to them), but we wanted affordable and casual. As long as as many of our fiends and family could be there and participate… That was the central theme to the day for us.
    I made my “dress” (separates of top and skirt), but it wasn’t all white… white background with pink and lavender flower brocade with pink and lavender skirts. And I was barefoot… because I hate shoes. No bouquet. But I wore my mom’s cap with ribbons down the back rather than a veil. And her pearls.
    Both my parents walked me up the aisle, arm in arm.
    There was no bridal party. A good friend was state approved to do the ceremony (which took 15 minutes ad was sweet and funny). Music during the service was provided by a good friend of my husband who plays guitar professionally, and his brother and niece played a clarinet duo. My nephews and niece rang the bells (it was in an old School house) to start and end.
    We entered the reception under a bridge of canoe paddles, croquet mallets, and golf (Frisbee) discs held high by good friends.
    We had a barbeque lunch catered under a tent on a beautiful sunny day (roast pork provided by another good friend who raised hogs). Carrot cake for dessert (but in sheets, not multi layered with little figures on top). The reception tables had beautiful wildflower bouquets set in our collectible pottery for vases (done by a good friend who was a florist assistant).
    All this morphed into a dinner time and evening pool party at our home; kids and families and pizza early… adults and partying later. And as the last stragglers left after midnight (we were already in bed) we received a shivaree (banging trash can lids, hooping and hollering) outside the windows. From our good friends.
    The only regrets? We didn’t arrange for post ceremony music. So we didn’t have any dancing… and I love to dance. We accidentally set up a stilted reception line… we hadn’t thought about it, but because people expect it to happen it happened anyway… awkwardly. We didn’t have any professional photos taken. The video my brother took has bad audio, and the disposable cameras we set out on tables are full of shots of cute puppies and kids, and not enough of our friends and us. I know posed photos slows everything down, but I wish we’d had someone taking GOOD photos through the day.
    I think it was an amazing day, but I know I’m biased. More to the point our friends, and even my parent’s friends, still talk about “the best wedding they’ve ever been too!”… and it’s over a decade now.

  98. Deb says...

    Ooh! I’m skipping a lot… including the bouquet. I’m swapping it out for a glass of champagne :-D (the groom will have one too!)

  99. Rachel says...

    YES! Thank you for this post! Just got married in December and my husband and I got so much crap from family, friends, and planners for throwing many, many traditions out the window. Don’t let anybody make you second guess your wishes! YOU DO YOU!

  100. Sinds says...

    Just got married – I also skipped the bouquet toss (we tossed nerf footballs – one each – and gave a giftcard to the person who caught it!) and bouquets (sooo expensive – they carried copper Moroccan lanterns decorated with ribbon instead). We had an Indian/western “fusion” wedding so we definitely did a lot of picking and choosing of what we wanted to keep, and it was pretty much perfect! For instance, I wore a traditional Indian lehenga, but it was white (instead of the usual red/gold). It was really fun to keep only the parts from both cultures that we liked and actually had meaning to us!

    • Laura says...

      the nerf ball thing just made me laugh out loud. So fun and creative! and way less creepy than the traditional bouquet/garter thing.

  101. Samantha says...

    We got married in February and skipped the bridesmaids + groomsmen (though we still had our closest friends with us while we got ready, we just didn’t want to make them spend extra money to be in the wedding by buying suits, dresses, etc. AND we saved on flowers). We also skipped father-daughter, mother-son, and the first dance as a couple. I find them totally embarrassing to watch as a guest and was so happy to not do this part. We also skipped speeches and did an “open mic” at the rehearsal dinner instead. Last, we did a first look instead of the traditional seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony. It was special AND we got all our photos out of the way before the wedding so we could head straight into cocktail hour after the ceremony and not have to miss any of our party!

  102. Kirstin says...

    I love weddings, and I have been a bridesmaid 4 times…. so when I married I had some ideas but what wasn’t going to work. I did not have a photographer, or bridesmaids (I am a grown woman what do I need handmaidens for?), no sit down – we danced all night, drank french champagne and ate french canapés and enough cakes to make us all feel like we were dinging with Marie Antoinette. I had always wanted my dad to walk me in, but he refused. He said that he loves my now husband so much and he knew we were always there for one another, and as such we should walk in together, like the strong partnership we already were. But my dad picked me up from the hotel (where I had spent the day watching movies, I did my own makeup in ten minutes… what to do? But I did get fancy hair) and he handed me over to my husband, who was as nervous as ever. The thing about weddings (for me) is that it is all about the vow – the connection, but it is also about sharing your love with everyone in the room, and they as witnesses, they thereby promise to help you hold those vows through hard times. I never understand brides who think it is “their day”, and the more people think like that I cannot help but think they don’t leave any room for the person they are marrying, or for those who love them to be part of it. So what if your nanna gives you a bracelet you don’t love, you love her right? wear it! Bolster yourself with the love of generations, because life is tough and this person by your side is who matters most. not a dress, not a menu.

  103. Chelsea says...

    Oh gosh, we skipped SO MANY traditions in our wedding last year, much to my mom’s chagrin. We walked down the aisle together (I’m surprised more people don’t do this now?), we didn’t have wedding parties (our maid of honor and best man officiated together), we didn’t have anyone do readings, we definitely hung out with everyone at the venue before the ceremony, because if I’m paying that much for a few hours of time I want to see everyone as much as possible, my dress was polka-dotted (my mother-in-law made it!), we had a breakfast burrito bar for dinner and a potluck dessert table, we didn’t do any of the first dance traditions, and there was certainly no tossing of any bouquets or garters. We didn’t even really have flowers; I wore a sash made of greenery (like a racehorse kinda??) and my maid of honor had a greenery crown. It was all perfect. :)

  104. cooper says...

    I had my little nephew ring bearers dress up as a lion and ringmaster to walk down the aisle! My husband jokingly suggested we should have a lion in our wedding, and I found a way, haha.

    • brianna says...

      This is the best!

  105. Annie says...

    Some of my favourite memories of my wedding last summer were untraditional. On the day of the wedding, we woke up together and went for a giddy little breakfast in the small ocean town we were in. We got ready with our friends separately on the property we rented, then we walked down the aisle together. We’re a tag team, it felt like the only option. Our close friends and family were all gathered on rocks by the ocean when we walked out of the house….everyone was a few Pimm’s deep by then and I’ll never forget the hoots and hollers! Best day ever.

  106. aga says...

    All of these comments (as always) are so interesting! Cup of Jo — you should curate a book of Cup of Jo Comments!

  107. Meg says...

    My sister didn’t do bouquets either, but we each carried a bunch of lavender down the aisle. It was super pretty, super cheap, and smelled lovely. I still have mine dried in my house

    • Ellen says...


  108. aga says...

    Love this! It’s so liberating to hear all these non-traditional plans. Although you lost me at the cake! If we have a wedding, it’s gonna be cakes galore!!!

  109. Amy says...

    We had a destination wedding in Puerto Rico and most of our family/friends stayed with us for several days prior and post-wedding, so that already took a lot of the stress off. Our wedding was on the beach, but it looked like rain all day and so our whole team of family and friends gathered around and made a group decision about whether to move things inside. We decided on outside and the clouds parted and the sun came out just in the nick of time. The reception was on the rooftop, where there is normally a night club, so we just went with the nightclub theme and ditched the flowers (the nightclub had candles!), used the in-house DJ, ditched all the speeches, daddy/daughter dances (we did keep the Horah), cake, flowers, garter (so gross!). It was much more of a big party and everyone was so relaxed and had a great time (including me and my husband!).

  110. AliG says...

    I skipped – bouquet toss (in your late 30’s it’s just wrong to make the singles girls do that), long/religous ceremony (literally it was 10 min long and we wrote our own vows that mentioned football and booze), cake (I hate cake – we had lots of tiny desserts).
    I kept – speeches (for those who wanted to give them) and first dance (can’t say no to dad!).

  111. Kim says...

    I love this! I skipped the veil and had my wedding party dance down the aisle. And loved it!


  112. Fern says...

    We did so many things that my WASP mother needed a moment to grasp, bless her. Thankfully there was no foot-stomping or pearl-clutching. (At least not about ceremony stuff. The guest list was…complicated.) Anyway:
    -We had two aisles, dividing the audience seating into 3 sections, with no designated his/her sides. We walked down them at the same time and met in the middle. It better represented our mutual choice, as no one was symbolically “given” to anyone.
    -In that same vein, I walked down the aisle by myself. My parents went down it together in front of me, and they got to watch me come down it towards them. Anything signifying that I was being given permission made me really uncomfortable. If I’d had a better relationship with my dad, it may have been different. My sister let him walk her down the aisle at her wedding, but he was less of an ass to her for her whole life. I didn’t want to embarrass him, or make any big hostile statements, which is why I carved out a really inclusive, nice place for my parents in the ceremony.
    -We were married by a divorce lawyer we met at the dog park. (He’s actually a lawyer who works in conflict resolution, but that does include a lot of divorces, so.) He’s just a wise, silly older dude we like a lot, and it was important that the person performing the ceremony didn’t come from either side.
    -My dad doesn’t dance, so he played his guitar and we performed a Tom Petty song together as our “first dance.” It was really sweet.
    -I did a bouquet toss, but I invited everyone out on the floor regardless of gender or relationship status, and told them it was for luck with a big endeavor. It never even occurred to me to do a garter toss, because gross.
    -We both changed our last names to something new we picked together. We revealed the new name at the ceremony.
    -We had three cakes: one regular cake, one vegan, and one gluten free. My bridesmaids and I made them together.
    -The morning of our wedding, we hosted a Faraway Friends Brunch, with no family or local friends allowed, because there was a group of people who had traveled from all over, at great personal expense (such as it is in your mid-twenties), and we wanted to carve out time to actually have conversations with them. It wasn’t anything fancy; just at our house with bagel sandwiches catered. It was one of the best parts of our wedding.
    -I also made my dress, and because I have terrible time management skills, I was still working on it at FF Brunch. ( I would not recommend this.) But! A silver lining of that was I had booked my photographer all day, so now I have photos of me sewing my dress. They are some of my favorite photos from the whole shebang. So my advice is that if you do something special in the process, like make decorations or address your own envelopes, have someone photograph that part too. (But, you know, not the day of.)

    • Betsy says...

      I love the idea of a Far Away Friends Brunch!

  113. Maria says...

    We had a small ceremony and a big party. I even anticipated some drama but honestly it did happen: people who were invited only to the party were happy they got away with having to attend the ceremony and happy they were invited to the party, and people invited to both were incredibly honored to be a part of our ceremony. I skipped the white dress and opted for a gray one from one of my favourite designers instead. It was bought off-the-rack and I never made any adjustments to it (not even on length!! Full disclosure: it was a bit loose on the top at the wedding, but I don’t regret not bothering or spending time getting it fitted). Hubby wore a tuxedo even though it wasn’t a black tie event, and looked h-o-t! We didn’t waltz as it usually is the tradition where I come from, neither did we create an elaborate and unique routine. Instead we slow danced (a.k.a hugged) to “Something”, by the Beatles – I am quite possibly the worst dancer in the world, but the moment was really special. All of these were just matters of preference. The things we forgone that did make a difference budget-wise were any favours whatsoever (I always hate these, even when they are food – I’ve already eaten enough in the wedding itself and don’t need something on hand for the next day, which I invariably eat out of guilt for letting it go to waste, rather than as a cheery reminder of the event itself – but more so when they are personalised stuff – I never ever know what to do with those) and expensive decor items (such as chapel decor – mostly because they didn’t allow it – but also chandeliers, rugs etc). Instead we invested on the party tripod: good food, good drinks and good music (and well, good guests, but we knew ours guests were good:)) Many years (and parties) later, these are still the only things that people actually notice and appreciate, wedding or not. Note that good doesn’t necessarily equal expensive. The other thing that happened and seemed bad at first but turned out to be really good was that another bride had already rented the nice (more expensive) furniture set for the same day, so I had limited options of non-traditional furniture. It pushed me to create something different (and turned out cheaper!!), and I loved it so much that I wouldn’t have it any other way! My bridesmaids were whatever they wanted (and most already owned), same for the groomsmen, we didn’t prepare any speeches (although my father-in-law gave the sweetest, spontaneous one) or songs. We did do something that turned out to be incredibly special though: we put photographs of our parents and grandparents (and even some of our great-grandparents) on their wedding days right by the door, so people could see them in the beginning and end of the party. My grandmothers had a blast choosing the pictures in the months heading to the wedding, and my husband’s granddad actually pulled everyone he knew to show them the picture of himself and his beloved late wife. It was the sweetest way to include everyone we love, and a kind homage to our late relatives.

    • Libbynan says...

      For our daughter’s wedding nearly twenty years ago we also had a family-only tiny wedding and a larger party. It turned out great. If anyone was offended,we never heard about it. The party was terrific…..older guests left after a couple of hours and the younger ones went on til the wee hours. Our friends still talk about it.

  114. Hannah says...

    I love this! I’ve been thinking lately about what parts I want to keep and what I’d nix. For those of y’all that opted to let your bridesmaids choose their own dress/style instead of having one uniform dress – do you still stand by that decision? I’m want everyone to feel comfortable and beautiful, but does it look good having a bunch of different outfits up there?

    • Em says...

      I gave my bridesmaids a color and length and told them to get whatever they wanted. It worked great for me, but it is a little bit of a risk I guess. I was pretty laid back so I truly didn’t care what their dress looked like, so take into consideration how much you really care about it. If you are having them pick their own dress, you really can’t be picky about it!

      And I actually ended up being worried that 2 or 3 of my girls would find the SAME dress, throwing off the whole idea of it being mismatched and leaving one girl looking like she forgot the memo!

    • cooper says...

      A million times yes! I just told my bridesmaids “yellow dress” and I loved the eclectic mix of shades and styles they chose! I provided coral shoes and earrings to have some unifying element (nice but not necessary), and the colorful bouquets helped bring the look together, too. I loved that they all looked like themselves and they were able to buy an affordable dress or use something they already had!

    • Marie says...

      I picked a limited palette of a few different colors, a fabric, and a length, and I asked my bridesmaids to choose a dress that they liked within those limitations. I think it worked out great! The flowers definitely helped unify everything. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I would say to:
      1. Know your friends. As a bridesmaid, finding your own dress can be more stressful than simply wearing the one that the bride chose. Will your friends *really* be excited to search for their own dresses? Will they be good at keeping you in the loop as they shop, if you want them to? Are they prone to procrastination?
      2. Know yourself. How picky are you? Would it bother you if the dresses don’t match perfectly? Would you be comfortable saying no to a dress that your friend loves if it doesn’t meet your parameters?

    • Ellen says...

      OMG yes! If you’re worried about how it might look, know this: four smiling confident bridesmaids in dresses they chose that suit their own bodies and tastes makes for a better photograph. I wore a dark floral dress that I bought on Etsy and since all my bridesmaids lived very far away, I had the dress maker send me some scraps of fabric. I mailed the fabric to each bridesmaid and said, “Go find a dress that matches one of the colors in this dress. I don’t care what it looks like as long as it’s long.” We wound up with the most beautiful color palette and my dress tied us all together!

  115. Elizabeth Broderick says...

    I am so happy that my husband and I chose to turn our wedding into exactly what we wanted instead of following the tradition. My husband and I had my 83 year old grandfatheras our ring bearer (it meant sooo much more having somebody carry our rings that had been a part of the type of marriage that my husband and I wanted), skipped the cake (we cut a homemade maple pie because he is from Vermont, and everyone else enjoyed an ice cream sundae bar), had an odd-numbered wedding party (4 bridesmaids, 3 groomsmen), and held a huge welcome party at a brewery instead of a rehearsal dinner that all of our guests were invited to (only 15 of the 200 guests skipped the welcome party). It was perfect for us and made the weekend so magical.

    • brianna says...

      I love that you had your grandpa as your ring bearer. That’s so sweet!

  116. Joanna Solomon says...

    we had wedding pie too! (pumpkin, because it was late september, and from costco, because it’s delicious) it’s one of my favorite parts of our wedding – it felt true to us and made us happier than cake would have.