5 Traditions to Ignore When Wedding Planning

I always thought my husband and I were relatively traditional. So when we got engaged, we quickly hired a wedding planner, selected a venue, and scheduled appointments with half a dozen vendors. It was as if we were plowing through an undisclosed list of things couples do when they’re wedding planning.

But I quickly realized not all traditions are grand and obvious. One of the first questions I was asked by friends and family was, “Who is your maid of honor?” My initial reaction was to panic as I realized I didn’t want to single out one best friend who was better than the rest. So instead, I involved all of my bridesmaids in different ways to make them feel special and included.

Our planning process continued much like that: a healthy balance between tradition and modernity. I tried to identify where we could add more of our personalities and focus less on tradition.

But when you’re knee-deep in floral centerpieces and sheet music, it can be tough to decide which traditions (if any) are right for you. In an effort to help you look back on your special day fondly and without regret, here are a few traditions you may want to change, tweak, or even skip altogether.

1. The Dress

Source: Intimate Weddings

When you take that first step into a bridal store, the most important thing you can do is keep an open mind. When it comes to color, you may be programmed to think white, but blush, grey, champagne, and even pale blue dresses are all beautiful options. Maybe you always thought you’d wear strapless, but when you try on a long sleeve lace gown, you immediately know it’s the one. Wear what makes you feel most beautiful, not what you think you’re supposed to choose.

2. Wedding Cake

Source: Budget Savvy Bride

Not a huge fan of cake? Feeling inspired to branch out for your final course? When it comes to dessert, anything goes—and guests will always appreciate a bit of creativity. Couples are serving anything from pies to ice cream cake, and some even splurge for dessert food trucks or lavish sweet tables filled with their favorite confections. And if your wedding location is one known for certain desserts, serving something local is a great way to show your hometown pride.

3. Wedding Favors

Source: Something Turquoise

When you’re a guest at a wedding, which do you generally remember: A tchotchke giveaway that you inevitably threw away, or an incredible band that keeps you on the dance floor all night? Whether they’re not in your budget or just not your taste, remember that your guests don’t expect a gift from your wedding. They want to celebrate you and have a fun experience, so prioritize things that are lasting and memorable.

4. Plated Dinner

Source: The Everygirl

Most couples prioritize what their guests will remember: food and music. But just because you want to serve an epic meal doesn’t mean it has to be formal. Instead of a plated three-course dinner, consider other food options. Choosing a buffet no longer has to mean mediocre meat and cold casserole. You can get a bit playful with themed stations, or give guests even more options with various small plates or family-style dinners.

5. Wedding Party​

Source: Plum Pretty Sugar

If your best friend is a man, does that mean he shouldn’t be standing by your side at your wedding? Does the number of bridesmaids really need to match the number of groomsmen for a uniformed look? The answer to both, simply, is no. If you want to have grooms-maids instead of bridesmaids, an uneven bridal party, or no bridal party at all, that decision is up to you and your fiancé. The last thing you want is to regret who you involve in your big day, so choose the best representation of your relationships and life together.

Have you planned a wedding? What traditions were important to you? Which ones did you ignore?

  • I would love to hear from people who chose to have no bridal party at all. I am not engaged, but would consider this option down the road possibly!

    • MeaganDut

      A friend of mine didn’t really have anyone for her wedding – it was a small wedding in a very intimate venue.

      That said, because you need someone to be the witness on your marriage certificate, they had the bride’s sister and her husband do that. They chose what they wanted to wear, but stood by them during the ceremony!

    • JMCend

      I did KIDS ONLY in my bridal party. LOVE IT! It was perfect!

    • S

      I am getting married in October and am having no bridal party but still a good size wedding. It took a few things off my list that I had to worry about and I didn’t have to feel made making people spend money or feel obligated to anything. This way everyone can just enjoy the day! I will say, it has caused ruffles with some people, mostly family because that isn’t tradition, but honestly, whatever. Lol!

    • Carly

      I didn’t have a bridal party and don’t regret it at all. I had been in a lot of weddings and have a rather large group of close friends. I didn’t really want to have 14 bridesmaids so I chose to have none. I also had a fairly short engagement so it made it easier for planning/stress. My sister and my husband’s dad stood up for us, and all of my friends enjoyed the party in whatever dress they chose to wear! I did still have my friends at my bridal brunch, and they joined me during the day to get ready, which I loved!

    • Jessica

      I am getting married on June 9, 2017 and I chose right away to not have a bridal party. My fiancé agreed that eliminating a bridal party and groomsmen would be a huge stress-reliever. I chose to not have a bridal party for a few reasons:

      A.) My fiancé and I just relocated from San Diego, CA back to my hometown and I’m not close enough with anyone here to ask them to be a bridesmaid.
      B.) Having a bridal party (and groomsmen) is a huge additional cost that can add up quickly. I’ve known for a very long time specifically where I want to invest (venue, photography, DJ), and where I’m willing to cut costs. Having a bridal party was a cost I was definitely willing to cut.
      C.) I want our wedding day to be about us and not pleasing the people around us. I realize how harsh that may sound, but when you and your SO personally invest thousands, you should be able to shamelessly make that decision. No matter what anyone says, you will try to please others on your big day if you have two big parties to tend to.

      Those are my reasons, and I have yet to second-guess my decision. I will update this post after our wedding, but I’m 99.99% sure I will still feel the same way. Cheers!

  • JMCend

    This is a great post! I got married last October, and I was completely determined to keep my budget under $15K and somehow I managed under $10K. I recognized that I would only wear this dress once, so while I wanted it to be special, I also wanted it to reasonable, and so I found BHLDN and LOVED my dress. Our wedding was about 50 people, so with a rather small wedding it felt silly to have a bridal party that would be 1/5 of the wedding guests. It was hard for us to pick one person without hurting the feelings of others. So we threw tradition out the window, and we had KIDS only in our wedding. My MOH was 13, the best man was 10, and the speeches were AMAZING. Instead of an cake, we went with pie and ice cream. The only place I pinched, where I wish I had spent, was DAY OF COORDINATOR. Someone to take my final to do list, and take care of it for me! Yes, there was a lot of DIY, but that’s who we are anyway!

  • JMCend

    Also, for all you newly engaged, there’s a great funny, and very real podcast – Engaged the Podcast! http://engagedthepodcast.com

  • Karen Crawford

    We chose to have a very small guest list, immediate family & closest friends only. Total guest list including us was only 40 people! Was the best decision we ever made. We were able to have a great quality meal, open bar & really enjoy ourselves rather that being super stressed.

  • Amy

    I love reading about how women wedding plan. We got married last June and it was a small wedding-no bridesmaids or groomsmen. It was still a stressful time, but I appreciated help from my mom, one sis-in-law and I think we did a good job. It really came down to having a plan, asking for help—my brother married us, one sis-in-law sang for us, another brother is a photographer. Our family+friends enjoyed the ceremony, the dinner after along with drinks. The bonus, we did this for very little money……..it was a great day:)

  • Krystal-GUINE

    Love this, i’m really struggling with the ‘should do’s’ for me and my partners wedding. He say’s it our wedding and we should do what makes us happy but i’m struggling to break from tradition!

  • Hey Lauren! This is a cute post, thanks for sharing. I got married in July last year – nearly one year ago, wow the time flies! I thought I was quite traditional, and for the most part our decisions reflected this… however I agree, everything doesn’t have to be traditional for the sake of being traditional. It’s about celebrating love, and having the most wonderful time surrounded by your dearest friends and family. We shouldn’t place all the pressure on about having to have the ‘perfect traditional wedding’. The couple should choose what makes them happy! X

  • Amie Melnychuk

    We did no favours for our wedding, and instead sent a donation to our local humane society in honour of the pets that we have and had in our lives.

  • I totally agree with all of these! The thing about planning a wedding is that t should represent you two as a couple – whatever that means. You really have to consider your values and then plan the wedding based around those. It’s not always easy, but you’ll have such an authentic experience and your guests + family will totally get on board because they love and support you guys!

    My fiancé and I have a whole podcast dedicated the subject of REAL couples planning their weddings – what they chose to leave out, add in, challenges, best moments, etc. It’s helped me learn all of the above! 🙂

    In case fellow brides want to listen in: http://engagedthepodcast.com/

  • Lindsay

    Oh boy, my husband and I got married in October and did many “non-traditional” things. There was a very minor amount of things that we were given grief about but compromised as we felt was appropriate as our parents helped pay for the wedding. Our bridal party had no defined maid of honor or groomsmen. My women almost double the men, we gave them a color palate of colors to wear and it turned out fabulously! They walked down the aisle but instead of standing they sat in the front row, we acknowledged them again but having a “rock ceremony” for them and our family.

    Our food was from our favorite taco place in Minneapolis that we were fortunate to get as one of their first wedding so the food was pretty cheap. People LOVED it. We still had plates at the table, they just brought them up to the buffet. We also had pies for dessert. That being said we were in a venue where we could bring in all our own food, which was amazing but does require more work.

    We skipped the cake cutting, the bouquet toss because we were having too much fun dancing with family and friends.

    Wedding favors…also didn’t do those. we couldn’t come up with something meaningful so therefore we didn’t do it.

    We had beer growlers in buckets as our centerpieces which people also loved and had a flower grandma as we decided no kids at the wedding.

    I love the idea of thinking outside the traditional wedding because that’s when it makes it unique to the two of you. We had so many compliments on our wedding And we feel like it is because it truley represented us. It gets hard when you are being pulled certain directions by family but sometimes (if you can) just taking the time to explain what certain things mean to you can go a long way. Be weird!

  • Lolo

    Since I had a small wedding of 50 guests, I nixed the wedding party – best decision ever! And had a cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres and open bar instead of tradtional sit down and I still get compliments.