20 Traditions to Forget on Your Wedding Day

Wedding etiquette is great, but some classic rules are dated or not worth the money. See which traditions you can totally ignore when planning your big day.

June 28, 2019
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You Can't See Each Other Before the Wedding

One of the biggest things people debate when planning a wedding is whether or not to do a first look. There really is something romantic about not seeing each other before the wedding ceremony, but I have to say that I did a first look and it was my favorite part of the day. What people don’t tell you is that your wedding day goes by in the blink of an eye. You’re rushed around so much, getting ready and making sure you say hello to everyone and posing for this or posing for that and I found the first look to be incredibly special and also absolutely necessary. It was great to have that time before all the guests arrived to just be together and be present. Most of the day went by so quickly that I only remember flashes, but I remember the moments walking up behind my wife, tapping her on the shoulder and her turning around so vividly. I am so glad we carved out that time to make those memories and it shows in our wedding portraits. My favorite shots of the two of us were taken during the first look.

You Have to Wear Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

I really got hung up on this superstition when I was planning my wedding accessories. For various reasons, I didn’t have family heirlooms to wear for my "something old" or "something borrowed" so I turned to vintage shopping. I scored some gorgeous T-straps on Poshmark that worked beautifully with my Art Deco-inspired dress. And I didn’t want to wear something blue so I used a vintage handkerchief with tiny blue flowers during the ceremony for happy tears. I created my own good luck charms in my own way. But remember, it’s just an old English rhyme and you don’t have to follow all of it (or any of it) as a style guide.

You Must be Walked Down the Aisle

It’s your big day and there is no wrong or right way to do a ceremony processional. I walked down the aisle alone because I felt more comfortable that way and, as a modern woman, didn't feel the need for anyone to symbolically give me away. But if you do want someone to walk with you, remember that it doesn’t have to be your father. Traditional Jewish wedding processionals have both the mother and father escort a bride or a groom. I’ve also seen the maid of honor or a best friend walk a bride down the aisle. And, in the last couple of years, I’ve seen couples walk in together or meet each other halfway down the aisle.

You Have to Sit on a Specific Side

I’ve always thought that the idea of deliberately dividing up your wedding guests is a little odd since a wedding is about coming together. These rules about left or right side can be problematic for same-sex couples, couples who share friends or especially couples where one person has a lot more family than the other. These days, couples are shaking up ceremony arrangements. They’re getting married in the round where guests encircle them with love or having guests sit down at the reception tables for the ceremony. If you’re having a more traditional ceremony with chairs on the left and the right, you can have ushers tell guests or display a sign that lets them know to pick a seat, not a side.

You Have to Have a Wedding Party

You don’t have to have a wedding party. But if you do want to honor people with a role in your wedding, remember to make it your own. Bridesmaids don’t have to be women. Groomsmen don’t have to be men. You should choose your wedding party based on friendship and support — not gender stereotypes. And while we’re on the topic of wedding parties, they don’t have to stand up with you during a ceremony. My wife and I had a small wedding and we joked that if we had all the people that we wanted standing up there with us that we wouldn’t actually have anyone in the seats.

You Have to Cut a Cake

There's no rule that says you have to splurge on a three-tier white cake. If cake isn't your dessert of choice, opt for something unique like a cheese tower, macaron tree or a buffet of all your favorite treats.

MORE IDEAS: 58 Simple (and Delicious!) Wedding Cakes and Desserts You Can Make Yourself

You Have to Wear a Veil

When you think of bridal accessories, the first thing that comes to mind is a veil. But do you know where the tradition comes from? Historically, it symbolized obedience and submissiveness and, well, it prevented brides from moving too quickly and thereby being able to runaway. Yikes. It’s not bad if you do wear a veil. (I did because I thought it was like a cool, fancy cape for my head. And I’m obsessed with tulle.) But just remember that you have other options, such as a floral crown, bespoke hair comb or even a dramatic tiara.

CRAFT YOUR STYLE: 12 Easy-Sew Projects and No-Sew Wedding Crafts

You Have to Wear Bridal White

Historically speaking, brides haven’t been wearing white for that long. White fabric used to be too expensive for most people, even the upper class. These days, there are tons of budget options for wedding outfits but you don’t have to wear white. Remember: It’s your day. Rock a black sequin pant suit. Wear a sassy red ball gown. Your wedding outfit — and the color of it — should make you happy and reflect your style.

You Have to Register for Housewares

Who says you have to register for a bunch of kitchen stuff? Don’t feel weird asking for something different. Your guests want to give you a gift that’s memorable — something that you’ll actually use. My wife and I created a honeymoon registry where we requested different experiences during our trip to Maui. Our guests helped us pay for things such as our Jeep rental, room service at our resort and even a credit for drinks by the pool.

MORE IDEAS: Alternative Wedding Registry Options for the Modern Couple

You Have to Hand-Address Invitations

I have the utmost respect for professional calligraphers, but I did not have the wedding budget to hire one for my wedding invitations. This is a controversial topic in the wedding world, but I believe that despite what the wedding magazines say, you don’t have to hand-letter your wedding invitation envelopes. My wife and I actually printed our outer envelopes, and we chose a beautiful Victorian-inspired script font that appeared handwritten. If this is a deal breaker for you and you want that hand-lettered look without the price tag, check out this awesome DIY calligraphy hack.

GET THE HOW-TO: Write Like a Lettering Pro With This Faux Calligraphy Hack

You Have to Hand-Cancel Invitations

Wedding magazines love to tell you invitations must be hand-canceled. This means that a postmaster literally stamps the envelope instead of processing the mail through a machine. It’s all about presentation and if mail is hand-canceled then it won’t have the little barcodes running across the envelope. That’s all well and good, but if you live in a larger town or city, most postmasters will tell you they can’t do that anymore or won’t without a fee. This was a big etiquette rule when machines weren’t as sophisticated and could crumple envelopes, but these days it is absolutely fine. If you are worried about the appearance, you can minimize handling by dropping off your wedding invitations at the post office instead of dropping them in the mailbox.

You Have to Have a Flower Girl

It may be tradition, but when I planned my wedding I was adamant that I didn’t want a flower girl. (We actually had a kid-free wedding and it was amazing.) Remember: kids are unpredictable. They may just dump the whole basket of flower petals in one place. Or scream and cry the whole time. And who says it has to be a kid at all? Maybe let two grandmas share the task for an adorable photo op. Or you could even incorporate your dog into the wedding!

SEE MORE: Say Yes to the Pet: 11 Ways to Include Your Dog in Your Wedding

You Have to Have a Ring Bearer

Just like a flower girl, you don’t need a ring bearer. Your best man or woman can hold the rings. Or let the officiant manage the rings. My wife and I had a little table at the end of the aisle with our rings in a dish so that no one would have to worry about them!

Wedding Party Outfits Have to Match

Uniform bridesmaid dresses are out and the intentional mismatched look is in. Choose a neutral color, like soft blush or taupe, and let your wedding party pick out their own silhouette. That doesn’t mean it’s a total free-for-all. You can set parameters such as length to ensure everyone looks coordinated. Check out more of our favorite bridesmaid trends below.

MORE IDEAS: 21 Oh-So-Pretty Bridesmaid Trends

You Have to Get Married at the Ceremony

You don’t have to sign your wedding license in front of everyone at the ceremony. It’s okay to do this at the courthouse and make everything official before your wedding. And, I actually recommend doing so. Why? Because the big day is stressful and packed with a lot of logistics already. And one dress rehearsal won’t nail down everything. It’s a lot to remember, from music cues to readings to vows to exchanging rings. I know several couples who actually forgot to sign their wedding documents during the ceremony or worse, lost it between saying I do and cutting the cake!

Cocktail Hour Comes After the Ceremony

The most common wedding day schedule features three events: ceremony, dinner and the cocktail hour in between. But that doesn’t mean you have to copy the same itinerary. Or the order. Why not greet guests with a glass of champagne? Or have a mimosa bar for a morning brunch wedding. My best friend’s beach wedding incorporated tiny limoncello shots into the ceremony. It was casual, unique and personal to them.

The Reception is Immediately After the Ceremony

More and more couples are choosing to have very small, intimate wedding ceremonies with close family and friends and then host a larger blowout reception party at a later date. Sometimes even weeks or months after the honeymoon. This is a growing trend especially with destination weddings where most guests are unable to attend.

You Have to Toss the Bouquet

I had a strict rule for my wedding reception: I’m not tossing anything. I just didn’t want cheesy reception games. You know what you should do with the bouquet? Display it at your sweetheart table for dinner and then give away single stems from the bunch to family members and your wedding party during the night as a thank you. Or press it after the wedding for a unique keepsake.

LEARN HOW: How to Press and Display Your Wedding Bouquet

You Can Only Have Two Wedding Colors

Choosing two wedding colors — one dominant and one accent — is super old school. These days, it’s all about the palette. Choose four or five colors that work well together. If you love pink, create a palette with mauve, merlot, cream and icy peach. If you love bold, bright colors, create a palette inspired by a field of wildflowers with blue, purple, green and red. Or take inspiration from a favorite photo. Apps such as Coolors can scan images and extract a color palette for you.

GET INSPIRED: 8 Eye-Catching Wedding Color Palettes

You Have to Have Personalized Napkins

It’s not the 1950s and people don’t save wedding napkins in scrapbooks anymore. Honestly, people don’t even save wedding invitations. I give you full permission to save yourself the cash and skip printed napkins. Now, if this is still a big tradition in your family and you really want a custom wedding napkin, you could hand-embroider a couple of handkerchiefs for close family members. It’s a great way to have that classic memento without ordering 200+ napkins.

GET THE HOW-TO: DIY Wedding: 1 Napkin, 3 Ways

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