When you think of the word “wedding,” it’s inevitable that more than one cliché comes to mind. Maybe you see a flouncy, white princess dress or a sharp tuxedo, surrounded by a line of pastel-garbed bridesmaids and matching groomsmen. You could picture a multi-tiered cream-colored cake with elaborate icing. Not to mention roses, of course—always roses. And while we celebrate all of the above (they’re classics for a reason), sometimes a cookie-cutter wedding doesn’t vibe with the vision you have of yourself. After all, aren’t weddings, at their core, just a celebration of love in its many forms?
Personally, bridal parties have always been a sticking point for me. Without any sisters (and three brothers) plus a host of friends from different stages of life—who are all equally important to me—the idea of ranking loved ones to create the picture-perfect bridal party always fills me with anxiety. And I’m not alone. For many couples, a one-sized wedding tradition doesn’t fit all. Maybe you’re addicted to color and want to explore your fashion options. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of having an intimate wedding with a tight guest list (sorry, distant uncles you see once a year). Or, you’re tempted to forget the whole ceremony bit in favor of a champagne-soaked dance party with all your friends.
Whatever your taste, now more than ever, couples are doing away with convention and listening to their inner voice. Well, after more than a year of delays, changes, and impromptu celebrations, the pressure is off. It’s all about doing you and having no regrets.
That being said, it can take some work to get to know (and embrace) your personal style on the big day. Ahead, we’ve compiled insight from planners, experts, and couples who’ve been through it themselves to help you do your own thing with no regrets—this year and beyond.
Put Things in Perspective
The main thing to keep in mind is that this is your wedding. While societal (and let's be honest, familial) expectations can take over at the moment, it's essential to remind yourself that your feelings are valid at every stage of the process. In fact, the married people I tapped in my circle echoed a similar sentiment. While there will always be variables you can't plan for—one referenced a rogue DJ, another a dress tailoring disaster—what I heard time and time again was a shared regret of letting outside opinions override their own.
In fact, the unpredictability of the past year has sped up the trend of throwing "must-haves" and "popular opinion" out the window. Wedding planning in 2021 isn't all chaos and ceremony pivots (although there is a bit of that)—it's forced many couples to take a long, hard look at their plans, and in some cases, find the core of who they really are and what they really want. Wedding planner Victoria Holland, the owner of Victoria Ann Events, puts it simply: "We have always encouraged our couples to have a wedding that is truly theirs, but this year I have noticed couples are more excited and willing to really do what they want to do!"
Forget the Checklist
As previously mentioned, the hardest, but most essential part, of doing your own thing is ignoring influences that don't feel right. As Roxanne Bellamy, Founder and Lead Planner of Roxanne Bellamy & Co., explains, "I encourage my clients to discard the guardrails and 'popular opinions' that come along with traditions or 'must-dos' for their wedding." Often, the most memorable wedding moments—for guests and couples alike—are ones that break the mold.
"The best advice I can give is to embrace who you are, as a couple, and have a wedding chock-full of nods to your personalities, culture, and hobbies," she adds. No detail is too small! After all, your wedding guests are loved ones, friends, and family, so if a quirky wedding choice feels right to you, they're bound to embrace it (eventually). As Charles Dieujuste, creative director at Scorcesa, notes, "Life is too precious to be caught up with other’s opinions."
Find Your Inspiration
So, you've decided to show off your personality and eschew traditions that don't fit. But how? Leave it to the experts to have a few tips for effective brainstorming and getting the wedding ideas flowing. Bellamy recommends mood boarding to get a sense of your style. And, while creating a Pinterest board is at this point time-honored wedding tradition, it's important to note that inspiration can come from anywhere. You shouldn't limit yourself to venue inspo and going down a wedding TikTok rabbit hole (although they both have their place).
Whether it's a vintage family photo or an architectural detail from your forever vacation spot, identifying images, objects, and elements you love in everyday life often leads to stellar ideas. Plus, putting it all together (seriously, we can't recommend Pinterest enough) might give you some insight into an unexpected color palette or an original guest dress code (florals-only wedding, anyone?) to support your vision.
Get Weird With It
Embrace the unexpected and go full-on with your ideas from the outset. There's no need to hamper your imagination during a brainstorm. The more you hone in on your vision, the more exciting (and true to you) the wedding details will be. You can always drop your more outlandish plans as you budget for the big day. While channeling your intuition, the sky is the limit. But that doesn't mean it has to break your budget either. Unique ideas aren't always pricey—a simple setting at your favorite nature spot, a heartwarming family moment during the ceremony (we love the trend of both parents walking a bride or groom down the aisle), and even a bold style choice like pantsuits for bridesmaids can help make your ceremony your own. And, wedding planners agree.
"Some honor family members while others celebrate the coming together of blended families," says Bellamy, noting that nontraditional ceremonies are often the ultimate tearjerker (in a good way). Intimate settings are also on the rise. A backyard moment is often just as "romantic and dreamy" a setting as an opulent venue, says Stephanie White, creative director for Odylyne the Ceremony.
As for the style realm? "Voluminous gowns are a thing of the past. Brides are stepping away from wearing veils in exchange for statement headpieces," says Dieujuste. And for tablescapes and registries? "There are endless gorgeous options out there, so why stick to the traditional? I suggest registering for distinctive pieces, selecting both versatile ones that are easy to combine in multiple ways and a couple of statement pieces (glassware, dessert plates, vases) that will really make the table stand out from the rest," says Collecto founder Federika Longinotti Buitoni.
If you want to get creative with the experience of your event, putting your own spin on a classic wedding menu is another great option. "Fancy Jamaican Rum? Let's incorporate a tasting flight into your cocktail hour. Spend your weekends trying all the newest eateries in your city? Let's create a tantalizing tasting menu for dinner in lieu of a traditional dinner menu," says Bellamy. Breaks with tradition don't have to be mind-blowing to be exciting, and fun challenges frequently lead to better wedding design.
Trust Your Gut
No one wants to live with wedding regrets. Whether it's a missed photo opp or saying "yes" to a dress that doesn't feel quite right, the best way to make it through and stay true to yourself is by listening to your instincts. While no one wants to be known as a bridezilla, you also don't want to end up with a million things you wish you had done differently. And, when all else fails, elopement is always on the table. As one groom I talked to put it, "I regret booking anything; we should have eloped."