Weddings are full of traditions, from the ones most couples follow (a white dress, the wedding party, and cake come to mind) to the ones that are more personal, like wearing your grandmother's gown or sipping champagne out of heirloom flutes. But part of making your wedding yours is navigating which traditions you love and want to keep, and which you'd rather break and remake into something that really speaks to the two of you.
To break down some of our favorite traditions to do away with, we spoke with Amber Harrison, Wedding Paper Divas' Style and Etiquette Expert and host of Small Talk, Big Day. Here are some of her favorite traditions to break — and ideas to transform them for a wedding that's totally personal.
A White Wedding Dress
Let's start with the big one! "Not sure you want to wear the traditional white dress? A modern-day bride can wear whatever she wants!" says Harrison. It could be as simple as swapping stark white for a blush or lavender hue (or an on-trend floral!), or as dramatic as donning a totally vibrant color or skipping the gown altogether — think Bianca Jagger's skirt suit, hat and veil, and down-to-there neckline.
"We're starting to see brides represent their unique styles and personalities. Brides getting married at City Hall à la Carrie Bradshaw may opt for a simple cocktail dress, while destination weddings on the beach might call for something flowy and boho," Harrison describes. "Or if you're planning a glitzy, glamorous affair, why not wear a gold and glittery gown to match the occasion?"
An Even, Gender-Specific Wedding Party
Harrison's busting two myths at once with this one. "The first myth is that brides can't have their guy friends and grooms can't have their girl friends in the wedding party. Guess what? You can!" Harrison says. "Take a cue from two Olympic figure skating darlings: Tara Lipinski had her BFF Johnny Weir standing by her side on her big day, so you can, too."
The second myth is that the wedding party must be even. "These days, couples are getting creative with their wedding party, from the number of people involved to the dresses and suits worn," says Harrison. If matchy-matchy isn't your style, feel free to have as many (or as few!) bridesmaids or groomsmen as you'd like. And we all know and love the mismatched bridesmaid trend!
"For many couples, the vows are the most important part of the wedding, but personalizing them can be a daunting task," Harrison explains. "If writing your own ceremony or vows is too much, or if you want to exchange those time-honored words, you can still add a personal element by each choosing a fun story about the other to share before your officiant has you exchange traditional vows." It's a great way to give your guests a glimpse into your love story, as well as honor your relationship and how you've gotten to that moment.
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A Straight-Forward Reception
What's keeping you from choosing an entirely different program for your reception? "Mix up the run-of-show by opening the dance floor right away, starting with your entrance and first dance. It really helps to get the energy going for the evening," Harrison describes. "Then, have your band or DJ ask everyone to take their seats. You can go straight into speeches from here, which will encourage your guests to sit down and allow time for meals to be served."
The Typical Timeline
"Couples are focusing more and more on the guest experience," Harrison reveals. "Some are forgoing the traditional one-day timeline in favor of a private ceremony with family and close friends, followed by a big party for everyone the next day." We love how this extends the celebration into an entire weekend! It gives you the opportunity to play with themes and formality. Maybe an indulgent dinner after your ceremony, then a more relaxed cocktail-style party with lots of dancing the next day?
The choices are up to you!