Not every bride dreams of walking down the aisle of a church on her father's arm in a white gown. More frequently, couples are choosing to elope, make their entrance together, or wear nontraditional colors — or, perhaps, all three. Weddings are a reflection of the two people getting married, so naturally there's not one type of celebration that fits all. But opting for an alternative ceremony might not always sit well with your friends and family — especially your parents.
When putting your stamp on the celebration means bucking tradition, your first step is to sit down with your fiancé and discuss details that cannot be spared to make this the wedding of your dreams. "Once you've decided where you have flexibility, be proactive in inviting key family and friends to weigh in," says New York City-based life coach Sam Zuniss.
Remember to begin these conversations early to minimize surprises. Plus, it will show that they are invaluable members of your big day. But realize that your plan for a non-religious ceremony or your decision to forgo bridesmaids and groomsmen might bother a few people. "Don't criticize anyone for having a different opinion," says Sharokina Pazand, owner and senior event coordinator of Citygirl Weddings & Events in Chicago. "Respect where they are coming from."
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Earning their respect for your alternative plans may not be so easy, so it's vital to present a united front with your groom when confronted with naysayers. "The two of you are going to become your own family, so you need to go into this as a team," Pazand says. "People will — without even realizing it — try to tear apart your way of thinking. Stand your ground on things that are important to your vision, and surround yourself with positive people who believe in the spirit of the day."
That's easier said than done when family members with differing opinions are paying. Money might be used as a bargaining tool, which brings even more tension to the planning process. Zuniss suggests conveying your desires for the day as early as possible to clearly outline everyone's expectations.
"If, say, you are madly in love with the boho chic dress, be clear on that from the start," she says. "If your mother is insistent that her financial contribution means you'll be wearing a princess gown, let her know that while you greatly appreciate her gift, but you cannot imagine your own wedding experience without this dress. And be willing and able to pay for that dress if it becomes a battle."
Above all, don't dwell on the drama — wedding planning is stressful no matter what your tastes. "I've seen too many harried brides and grooms, worn down from family battles, question whether they still want to have a wedding," Zuniss says. "Family conflicts over wedding details are rarely about the details themselves. The more aware you are of how intense a time it is for everyone and can keep yourself from getting pulled into the emotions that run way deeper than whether to go with a band or a DJ, the saner and happier you will be."