5 American wedding traditions that are okay to break

While planning your wedding, you may find yourself asking etiquette questions regarding traditions. Which wedding customs are acceptable to break, modify or replace? While you may get pushback from friends and family, you don’t have to explicitly follow standard wedding traditions – it’s acceptable in today’s culture to sway from the path and find alternative ways to make those traditions more personal. It’s ultimately your day; so you get the final say in how the event goes.

Here are some traditions that are okay to break.

1. Not seeing each other before the ceremony.

Couples see each other before the ceremony for a several reasons. It allows extra time beforehand to take photos. It gets nerves out before the ceremony. And sometimes it makes for good photos and videos by capturing that first look and your first expressions. The day goes by super fast; guests can get fatigued or leave early. Accordingly, some couples choose to utilize more of their day before the actual ceremony. From the logistical / planning side, it makes sense to spend time taking pictures and video prior to the ceremony.

Typically, a cocktail hour is held so guests can unwind from the ceremony, which allows the venue, bands or vendors to transition for the next phase of events. During the cocktail hour, the couple traditionally takes photos. In more recent times, modern weddings opt to mingle with guests during the cocktail hour. Seeing each other before the ceremony usually means more face time with guests, and can eliminate some of the table-to-table talk during dinner.

If a couple decides to see each other before the ceremony they can do a First Look. The photographer and couple will pick a spot, prior to the day of, which will usually be the first look location. The groom, most likely, will get to the location first. The groom has his back to the bride as she approached him. The bride can either tap him on his shoulder or he will be given direction by the photographer to turn around on queue. This moment is usually semi-private and between the bride and groom; the bridal party will most often be off to the side or will meet the bride and groom afterwards.

Another more casual and fun option is getting ready together. Couples who may not have anyone standing up in their wedding or prefer a more intimate and laid back feel to their day may decide to get dressed and ready together the day of. While this may take away some excitement and anticipation, you can always save your first kiss of the day for the ceremony. Optionally, spend some moments apart before walking down the aisle.

2. Floral Bridal Bouquet

Flowers are beautiful, but may not be everyone’s highest priority. If you prefer to have an alternative bouquet, there are several options available. You can find everything from felt flower bouquets; to paper bouquets; to bouquets made out of buttons and brooches. If you are really feeling creative, opt to create your own. Etsy and Pinterest have some great ideas to help inspire your alternative bridal bouquet or any tinkering you may want to do.

3. Non-traditional Wedding Venue and Non-traditional Vows

Many couples are embracing a unique ceremony site and non-traditional vows. Vows are at the heart of all weddings, offering perhaps the single best way to customize and make a wedding ceremony memorable. So, it’s no surprise couple’s want to write their own vow and make it wholly unique. If you’d prefer to not get married in a place or worship, or a courthouse, there are many modern, chic, unique or casual options to choose from. Choose a venue that is important to you and your spouse, just make sure there is enough room for your guests. Feel free to craft your own vows with a more personal meaning, and to move beyond the church. If your family members are religious or insist on a religious wedding, most places of worship can accommodate off-site officiating services. Be sure to ask, there are select churches or pastors, rabbis and imams that only perform within their walls.

4. Bouquet and garter toss

DJs are seeing an increase in couples opting out of the bouquet and / or garter toss. Some weddings only do one or the other, so this wedding tradition is open for modification. Their decision could be based on a number of reasons. Couples will either ask the DJ to continue playing music without interruption or request an alternative option that would replace the bouquet and garter toss. If you decide to use a florist, many florists offer a toss bouquet, so might as well put it to good use! Otherwise, jokingly give the free bouquet to a friend as a very direct hint.

There are tons of alternatives to the bouquet and garter toss. A popular option in 2016 is to replace the garter toss with a garter wrapped around a football. But you can opt to not do either tosses, or replace them with something more creative. An anniversary dance or trivia game are also popular; the “Guessing Game” or other activities that you can play with guests are common and can be more entertaining than a traditional garter and bouquet toss. We’ve seen hundreds of weddings and there’s no right or wrong way to do things; it truly is up to you to pick and choose which weddings traditions to drop, carry on or modify.

In case you didn’t know: An anniversary dance is a dance where all couples are asked to join the dance floor, the DJ will announce a number and that number will represent how many years you have been together. As the song plays couples will slowly leave the dance floor as their number is called. There will be one couple left who has been together for the longest. Who ever is out on the dance for the longest or who wins the trivia game will get the ‘toss’ bouquet as a prize.

5. Freezing the top layer of your wedding cake

While this tradition offers a great nostalgic experience, and the opportunity to rekindle a bit during a date night one-year later, it is often a hassle for couples to deal with at the end of the wedding night. Couples often stay in a hotel room and they may not have access to a refrigerator. Although it shouldn’t be much trouble to ask your parents or friend outside of the bridal party to hold the cake overnight – the coordination and stress of getting the cake back home can be avoided by deciding to cut and serve the top layer of the cake.

Some bakery’s have caught onto this and now offer an anniversary cake. If this option is available, the couple can come back to the bakery on their first anniversary and get a free cake. When you discuss cake or cupcake options with your bakery, be sure to see if this is something they provide. A bit of nostalgia is always good for a big event like your wedding!

Remember; if you find yourself questioning etiquette or wedding traditions, always go with your gut instinct. The amazing thing about modern weddings is the unique craftsmanship and customization towards each individual couple. Every couple can more easily than ever take their own approach, with each new wedding being a little different. Never feel like you have to follow some sort of guideline, have fun with it – it is your day.