DIY Bride

Rethinking Wedding Traditions

Bucking tradition when it comes to your wedding can quickly become a very contentious issue. Whether your mom always dreamed of you in a flowing white gown or your future mother-in-law is appalled by the idea that you intend to keep your maiden name, you are almost inevitably going to be faced with some push back if you choose to shirk the expected.

I love my little grandma more than words can express, but the amount of times I had to repeat, “Nana, you continue to operate under the assumption that I give a shit,” was more than I care to admit. Fortunately, she knows and acknowledges that I am strong-willed and cannot be motivated by emotional blackmail; unfortunately, it doesn’t stop her from trying to guilt me into doing things every chance she gets. I can’t blame her, really, because it works on every single other member of the family. I’m the only one resistant to it; some would say it’s because I’m an asshole, but I like to think it is because I am confident in my ideas and unwilling to compromise them. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

Master of Manipulation. She’s lucky she’s adorable.

A common argument you may hear is that people “expect” certain things at a wedding, whether it be the “for better or for worse” wedding vows, the perfectly matching bridal party, the outrageously expensive wedding cake or not providing people with booze before the ceremony (ridiculous, I say!). Your wedding day is a celebration of you and your partner, not a celebration of other people’s expectations. Everyone is going to have different deal breakers, but what follows are some of the items people tried to insist we did that we did not.

Wedding Vows

As I mentioned in an earlier part of the series, religious differences abound between my husband’s father (who was performing the ceremony) and us. To avoid bible readings and me promising to obey Jon, we wrote our own ceremony – though we did allow space for non-religious ad libbing from Jon’s dad – and focused our vows on promising to make each other laugh and always continue to grow together. I think some people use the standard ceremony readings because it can be overwhelming to come up with something different, but the internet is your friend here. Google “non-traditional wedding vows” and go crazy. As long as you don’t intend to sell copies of your wedding video, I don’t think you have to worry about people coming at you for plagiarizing. Also, the easy format led to this occurring:

which I know I’ve shared before, but it is just my favorite, and who doesn’t love being spontaneously semi-flipped off by their husband-to-be halfway through the ceremony?

Bridal Party

Flower girls and ring bearers are often the most adorable part of a wedding. My nieces and nephew are epically freaking cute, so their inclusion was necessary. However, as anyone who has spent any time with a 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old can tell you, they can be incredibly excited to participate one minute and then refuse to partake the next. How many times have you seen a terrified kid inch up the wedding aisle with a look of horror on their face at being stared at by a mass of adults cooing over them? We batted around various ideas should one or all of them get cold feet at the last minute, but decided the best way to get them up without incident was to have them escorted by their parents.

It worked like a charm. There is no way Patrick would have made it up the aisle on his own, if we were to judge solely on the abject terror on his face in all the photos, and the girls’ confidence soared knowing their mom and dad were with them. Plus, it is a great way to include more family members in the actual wedding, if that’s your thing.

One thing Nana tried to force was the matching bridesmaids. She could not get behind me having the ladies choose their own dresses from wherever they wanted as long as they were in the right color family. However, I had four bridesmaids with incredibly different styles, bodies and financial situations. I couldn’t ask my best friend, who had been unemployed for months, to fork out $250 for a dress, plus alterations and shoes. I couldn’t ask my little sister, who is full-figured, to wear the same dress that my girlfriend who weighs 90 pounds fully clothed and soaking wet, would wear. The solution? Free rein. One sister got hers at Torrid, one at Express, my maid of honor got hers at the Saks outlet, and Cati had hers custom made in Thailand, where she spent the month before the wedding. They all wore whatever shoes they wanted, the only requirement being that they were not white. I have a thing with white shoes.

I think the end result was awesome. Everyone had a dress they liked and felt comfortable in that fit what they were able to do cost-wise. It was pure coincidence how closely the colors went together since they all got them completely independently of one another. I love the visual interest the different styles and tones added to the pictures.

The boys all wore white button-up shirts and khakis, which we figured was something all of them had in their closets. We wanted our closest friends and family to stand with us on our wedding day, but we didn’t want them to go into debt to do so. We bought the ties for their groomsmen gifts, which were custom made and reasonably priced from an AMAZING store on etsy: They have tons of designs and colors to choose from and the owner of the shop is incredibly awesome. While I always laugh at the whole “you can totally wear this again!” urging of brides to their bridesmaids (tell that to the thousands of dollars worth of silk shantung collecting dust in the back of my closet), the ties we got were classic. Dark teal with a really cool antique skull silkscreen on it? I may be kidding myself, but I would totally wear it again if I were a boy.

The Cake

I cannot wrap my head around the cost of wedding cakes, nay, I won’t wrap my head around it. $1000 for a CAKE?!?!? That’s the lower end?!?!? They realize it’s sugar and eggs and flour, right? The same stuff you can buy in a box at the grocery store for $1.99? Look, I get that there is an art to baking. I tried to make decorated sugar cookies with my Star Wars cookie cutters and they looked like a toddler decorated them (luckily, I took them to a Super Bowl party with my nieces so I just pretended that toddlers actually did decorate them). I understand that there is a large amount of skill and craftsmanship that goes into making what truly are beautiful cakes. That being said, come on. I have had friends pay upwards of $1200 for a cake that they are lucky to get a piece of in the craziness of the day. Instead of having a big fancy cake, we decided to do a dessert table. My Nana made a small cake for us to cut – which we actually ended up doing the next day in the middle of clean-up because we forgot to do it at the actual reception – as well as some other delicious goodies. A few other awesome friends and family members also made cookies, brownies and candies. People had a huge variety to choose from and they loved it. I wish I could provide more details, but I never actually saw the dessert table, or got any dessert for that matter, due to the overwhelming and exhilarating chaos of the day.

I’d like to focus on the previous sentence for a moment: you will miss things on your wedding day. Not only does everyone want to talk to, hug, and congratulate you, but you want to be out among all the amazing people you have chosen to spend this day with. If you get too wrapped up in the details, put too much stock in every single aspect that could possibly be planned, you will miss out on the chance to enjoy the things that no amount of planning or money can buy, like when my baby brother spontaneously started teaching everyone a choreographed routine to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, or when my completely inebriated groom started shaking his booty like a fool with his 83 year-old French grandma, or when my dad got drunk enough to look like this:

Don’t get your expectations for the day up so high that nothing will ever be able to live up to them. Nothing is ever perfect, no matter how carefully you plan, but if you can find perfection in the madness, the drunkeness, the joy of the day and the love of those around you, I promise you won’t remember if the tablecloths coordinated with the bar napkins. You will look back at pictures like these and know your day was exactly the way it was supposed to be.

And yes, we did provide booze before the ceremony. We set up the keg at the start of the aisle so people could grab a beer on the way in. It was hot! What were we supposed to do, keep them hydrated with water? Bah, I say, a resounding, echoing BAH.

This isn’t to say we didn’t do anything traditional. I had something old, new, borrowed, and blue, I carried a bouquet (but didn’t toss it because that has been a humiliating experience for me at multiple weddings where it was me and two 16 year-old cousins as the only single women to catch it), and I wore a white dress. I had both my parents walk me down the aisle, and I walked to the Buffy and Angel love theme from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as opposed to a more classical song. I didn’t take Jon’s last name, but that had as much to with the fact that my own last name is awesome as it does with any feminist stance. Thankfully, that hasn’t been an issue with anyone but Nana, who won’t write my last name on anything so I can “fill it out the way I want to.” Seriously, she is really, really lucky she’s so cute.

So, for the marrieds out there: did you forgo any traditions at your wedding? For those out there who may be planning or who just like to think of ways to thumb their noses at the rules, which ones, if any, do you plan on leaving by the wayside?

38 replies on “Rethinking Wedding Traditions”

On the bouquet thing, I don’t know how common this is, but our family traditionally does an anniversary dance instead. The DJ (or whoever, if there’s no DJ) calls out all the couples onto the dance floor and then makes people leave if they’ve been married/partnered less than X amount of time, going up in increments until it’s just the one longest married couple on the floor – usually someone’s grandparents. And then the old lady gets the bouquet and is happy and adorable, and none of the singles are forced to be on display shoving each other out of the way and acting all ridiculous.

We were planning to do this for our wedding, but my grandparents (who’ve been married 60 years this summer) were ready to leave before we had a chance to do it, so I just gave my grandma the flowers and was done with it. She was tickled, no one was embarrassed, and the world did not end because we lacked a bouquet toss.

I’m getting married in September and I think we’ll be reasonably ‘traditional’ in terms of the service itself, but just getting married in a barn OUTSIDE of London is a big enough deal in our community that we’re already getting away with murder.

– We are not having a wedding party at all, just my sister by my side and my boyfriend’s BFF as his best man. My sis will give a speech too, because I hate when only the best man speaks (also my sis is hilarious).
– Keeping my own name. I have to at work, as I’ve published academically under my maiden name, and also I just want to. No room for argument there.
– I will only have a bouquet toss on ONE condition: that it be a lineout (a rugby throw-in: There will also be small rugby ball rosettes and I think table numbers will be written on tiny little rugby balls. If my friends are willing to orchestrate this, then and only then will I throw a bouquet.

Then again I still haven’t started looking for a wedding dress, so I suspect I am not the most involved bride who ever lived (I’m trying really hard to care, but I’m also trying to finish my PhD, plus there are all these important things happening in the world, like the Heineken Cup quarters in a couple weeks).

Oh my goodness, I LOVE your idea for a bouquet toss. Absolutely fantastic. I am also in love with your avatar. Puppy tutu’s FTW! If you check out any of my other articles, you will find pics of my little pup in her wedding tutu. Amazing.

Aw thanks! I am a hardcore rugby fanatic, and we’re going to the Rugby World Cup for our honeymoon, so we feel we need to incorporate that theme somehow! It actually wasn’t my idea – some of my friends suggested it – but once the notion got into my head I became totally determined to see it through. I should really start practicing my throw.

I am so all about doggies in clothes. Especially disgruntled dogs in clothes. The more they glare balefully at you, the funnier it is! :) Your little girl is so cute!!

I just got married this week, and it was ultra-simple…just in the Canadian’s family’s yard with his parents, siblings, and dogs (they’re all in the tape) and officiated by his neighbor, who did a totally non-religious ceremony that’s just one of the ones she does. Canadians, eh?

My now in-laws insisted on throwing us a party, but did it all without much input. Everything was run by us, but we didn’t have to do anything, and that was fantastic because neither of us were up to it. It ended up being a fabulous party at a little bed & breakfast.

We’re going to attempt to throw another party for my own family, but we’ll have to both plan and pay for this one which means it’s going to be tiny and I’m already dreading the prospect of even thinking about the shit I’m going to have to put up with trying to celebrate a “wedding” that to us really WASN’T a wedding and wasn’t meant to be one. I don’t want to celebrate the part where we signed a piece of paper. I want to celebrate new families. We got to do that here; I’m not sure yet if it’s going to go as well back home.

But whatever, we’re moving across the border in six weeks and nobody can track us down if they’re mean to us beforehand. Muahahaha.

Congratulations! I’m glad you got to do it the way you wanted for at least one part. I love the idea of celebrating new families. All too often you hear of people wanting to be a “bride” but not thinking about being “married” which is really what it’s all about. I think people get so caught up in the wedding they forget that. So good on you, stay strong in what you want or just hide out from the haters =)

I love you for this. A couple weeks ago I went to my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding. Boy was a groomsmen, and I knew NO ONE at the wedding, except for his family, and they were nowhere near where I was assigned, which was with a group of sorority girls who ignored me the entire time. The only interaction I had with them was when they began pounding on the table as some sort of sorority thing and then expressed their disappointment that no one else was joining them in their pounding. I told them, “No one knows why you are beating the table like a bunch of drunk chimpanzees.” Basically, it was awful. If I had not taken my panic attack pills, it would have been a mess.

If I get married, there will be no wedding party table. It’s nonnegotiable. Oh, and I’m only having one attendant, who is my best friend. My Boyfriend (the one I am planning on marrying) wants to have like six groomsmen. He also wants a huge party, whereas I want something low-key. How does everyone work out compromises? I want him to be happy, but I have social phobia and don’t want a bunch of people there, not to mention I don’t have a mother who will plan the entire affair for me, like his sister did, and I don’t have the time to pull off what he wants. Sigh.

And no, we’re not officially engaged, so I don’t know why I am spending so much time worrying about this.

Having your attendant escorted by six groomsman could be a lot of fun, actually. I’m thinking Madonna in the Material Girl Video, or having them flank her like Secret Service. I kind of have a warped sense of humor, though.

I had an attendants table at my wedding, but nobody sat at it once the toasts were over, and we did the toasts first so we could get on with the fun stuff. My whole wedding went completely off book from the get-go, and it was still a kick-ass day. I think as long as you’re both going into it looking to have as much fun as you can within your budget, there’s nothing that can mess it up. My motto through the whole process was “roll with it” and it didn’t fail me once.

We had dates sit at the head table as well. Nothing is more awkward than not knowing anyone, especially at an assigned seating, sit-down dinner. My mom is a bit introverted and hates being stuck at tables where she doesn’t know anyone, so she requested that we didn’t do seating arrangements so people could sit wherever they wanted, and it worked out just dandy.

Every single introverted person loves the bride who lets people sit where they want. I don’t understand assigned tables, like, at all. It’s painful. Unless it’s a small wedding and everyone knows everyone. And even then, what if someone got into a little bit of a disagreement with someone else a week before the wedding and you assigned those people to the same table. Ugh! Plus, the less planning I have to do, the better.

Ha! That would be awesome! I think I would just have the groomsmen stand at the altar with the groom, and my bff can walk down by herself or with the flower girl (her daughter) in case we have a case of “holy crap, all these people are staring at me and I refuse to move now” from the little one. Like I said, WAY too much agony over something that isn’t even happening yet.

Aaaaaaand sorry I’m just now replying. I didn’t realize someone had responded to my dumb rant.

Seriously, your grandma is too cute — and my guess is secretly she loves you for making her life hell.

We skipped the receiving line & just visited during dinner.

One great thing about being in the Midwest is that I don’t think I could find a $1000 wedding cake if I tried (at least not in 2001). My town has a few “Cake Ladies” who all work out of their homes. They all charged between $1-$2 per slice….so for 120 people, it was pretty reasonable.

My cousin’s wedding was gorgeous, but one of my favourite things was their cake: it was made of cardboard! It was a really fancy fake cake that looked real! They set it out for people to look at, then served this massive sheet cake from a local bakery. I didn’t know it was fake until my aunt told me. They saved a bundle!

We went pretty non traditional with the vows. There was a Shakespeare sonnet (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments…”), something from the Tao of Pooh, I think and it ended with a piece from “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” I walked down the aisle to an acoustic guitar version of “Here Comes the Sun.” We skipped the reception line, too. After the regular reception at the venue (a historic B&B), we actually had an after-party at the clubhouse at our apartment complex. Some people came straight there, some changed and came back and we made sandwiches with the leftovers from the reception. It was pretty awesome.

One wedding I went to recently had various dinner stations in lieu of a traditional buffet. There was a carving station and soup/salad station, yes, but also a fajita bar, mashed potato bar (with regular and sweet and all accompaniments) and ice cream sundae bar.

We had an ice cream sundae bar, and it was the best ever. The Mister was in charge of it, and he way over-ordered. We ended up giving my mom’s class an impromptu ice cream sundae party the next week, and we had so much ice cream left over that we each had a sundae (he sometimes had two) every single day for two and a half weeks after the wedding. BUT, there were no brawls over who got what kind of ice cream because we ran out of stuff the day of, so that’s good.


On behalf of bridesmaids everywhere, I say thank you. My best bridesmaid experience was when the bride told us all to wear green. What shade? Just… green. We were a veritable rainbow of green, and frankly, it looked beautiful. And I was able to get my dress for $40 at Target, and yes, I’ve worn it many times since.

Ahhh, I was going to write a blog post about this very same thing! You had so many fun details in your wedding, and I LOVED your bridesmaids’ dresses.

My wedding was originally such a big point of contention between my mother and I. She wanted me to go the traditional route, while I wanted to do things a little more…creatively. Luckily, we managed to compromise, and the day turned out amazingly.

She insisted that we get married by a preacher, so I agreed to that, as long as we didn’t have to get married in a church. We ended up getting hitched underneath a 400-year-old oak tree in my parents’ front yard, with my parents’ single, female pastor as our officiant. She was very flexible and let us change up the format of the ceremony, so we took out any references about a marriage being between “one man and one woman,” and we had her say “You may now kiss each other” instead of “…the bride.”

I had both of my parents walk me down the aisle (to an acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”, instead of just my dad. I didn’t like the idea of him “giving” me away; plus, as an only child, I’m extremely close to both of them.

My husband and I saw each other (and a lot of our guests) before the wedding, which really took the pressure off.

Those are just a few of the details that made our wedding more “us,” and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I love reading your wedding articles. They selfishly make me think how much I enjoyed mine.

There seemed to be many parallels.

Me keeping last name was a small issue and/or surprise to in-laws.

Guilt about the size of our wedding from MIL (24 guests, yeah!).

Non-religious ceremony (we signed the paper work on an old whiskey barrel, for goodness sake!).

Awesome, yet frugally-priced cake (I’m going to try the image upload option!).

Being stubborn about what you want your wedding to be (Mr.Pear and I were on the same page across the board, thankfully).

Walking down the aisle to highly-personal music (in my case, a violin version of “Just Like Heaven”).


It was excellent. It was butter pecan … yum!

You know, the topper was made completely separately by a local chocolatier. I gave her the sketch from the cake lady, and told her to do her thing. She didn’t believe me that I wasn’t worried or stressed about what she would make. But look at it! Why would I have needed to be worried.

My friend’s wedding was one of the best I’ve been to and most of it was DIY. It was outside and they walked in together which I loved (also when they walked out it was to Rob Base It Takes Two). My friend is Irish and included the tradition wedding bell which they rang. They also gave everyone little bells to ring when they heard something they liked during the ceremony. I liked the idea that during the marriage you ring the bell during arguments as a reminder of your vows (or as the groom said its the dinner time bell). For their guest book, they found a bunch of vintage postcards and had people sign those

Their wedding took place in a camp ground (El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara…its GORGEOUS) so cocktail hour was outside with a bunch of fires and her brother provided beer through his micro brew company. The reception was inside a giant tent and the food was BBQ (thats the only reason my bf agreed to go :]) soooo good. They also had pies and cupcakes and a small two layer cake for their “wedding cake”. Their cake topper was two little skunks.

Seriously, one of the best weddings. I love non-traditional ones they are so much fun

If I ever get married, I think I’ll have the opposite problem as far as traditions go. My parents have married each other twice–once at a Las Vegas wedding chapel and once at a courthouse.

When my sister got married in a very traditional wedding, our mom was the one going, “Why do you need a dress? Why do you need a cake? Why do you need…”

For the Danger wedding, we did only a few “nontraditional” things, most of which were because I wanted them.

– Outdoor wedding with no singing or Bible readings. Not having our wedding in a church was a huge departure, as literally everyone in my entire family and Mr.’s gets married in church, with prayers and hymns and the whole shebang (we’re both from very religious families)

– No receiving line. Here (in OK), it’s the norm to have the whole wedding party stand there as people file out of the church. We instead walked around to the tables as people were sitting and eating and visited with everyone a little.

– No bouquet toss or garter toss.

– No rice, no triumphal exit (we were staying at the B&B where we had our wedding)

– Took out “obey” in the vows, added a community vow for the audience

Also (sorry) we picked a fabric for the bridesmaid dresses and let them pick the dress, shoes, jewelry, hair, etc. So they were all in similar shades of brown silky fabric, but all different dresses. I was a lot like you, my MOH was 6’1″ and broad, with everyone else ranging widely in size and one pregnant girl. So.

Also my dad wore his formal cowboy boots with his tux, because he doesn’t wear anything but boots and sneakers. Ever. At all. And they looked nice anyway.

I’m going to be in my first wedding in June, and my friend is much more traditional than I am but she’s also very laid-back; she wanted our dresses to be from David’s Bridal (since each of us is living in a different part of the country and there are DBs pretty much everywhere) and to be a specific color and cocktail length, but she didn’t care what they actually looked like beyond that – we had tons of options, each of us found something flattering, and they weren’t terribly expensive.

I’ve mentioned on here before that future Mr. and I are in the very early wedding planning stages, and there are a lot of traditions that neither of us want. My best (male) friend will be my man of honor and future Mr. will have a best man, but that will be it – both of us feel awkward being the center of attention and I think we both felt like having lots of attendants would make it seem like a big deal. (Which it is, but I get awkward when I feel like a fuss is being made about me.) I’d like for each of us to be walked down the aisle by both of our parents, and we recently decided that we’re both going to hyphenate our names. I’m going to wear bright purple, which I’m really excited about. And since he is Christian and I’m a nonpracticing Jew, we’re going to write the ceremony and make it feminist and happy.

One tradition that I AM all about is cake – we’ve seen pictures of tiered Scrabble wedding cakes and want to have something like that.

Also, I love when you post pictures from your wedding – it looks so lovely and everybody looks happy and like they’re having the best time. :)

Ugh. For my first wedding, I didn’t really push for anything I wanted, and let everyone overwhelm me, including my ex. The only things I did do were keeping my name and the exact thing you did with your bridesmaid dresses. I was 22 and not at all sure of myself.

Probably the worst thing, and what I now ALWAYS tell my soon to be married friends not to budge on, was my dress. My mother wanted to pay for the dress and refused to pony up anything more than 300 dollars because she thought I was too big to look nice in anything (I was a size 8 at the time – mom had issues). My fiance refused to let us pay for it because my mom “should pay for it” and they both demanded I wear white.

I was remarried at a Courthouse, so it was no big deal, which is similarly disappointing in a way (we had to get married very quickly due to insurance issues) because we didn’t have time to plan anything. I hope someday we can have a ceremony , but I’m not sure how much we will be able to afford it. At least I got the most important thing out of the day – a truly wonderful husband, which is why I want to share it so badly with my loved ones! It’s just not as important to my husband, as well

Can I ask you all a sort of delicate question? I once again have kept my last name, which my husband accepts but would prefer me to change. Would it be shitty of me to say I’d change it if we had a ceremony, or does that seem fair?

I’ve had a few friends use the name issue as a bargaining chip and it seemed to work well for them. One of my friends just got married and decided to change her last name but only if she got to choose the name for the fetus she was pregnant with. That seemed like a fair deal to everyone and she wasn’t particularly attached to her last name, so that’s what they did.
Personally, I couldn’t imagine I’d feel comfortable marrying someone who really wanted me to change my name, but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. That insistence has always confused me.

If you wanted to keep your last name when you got married that was your business. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind about it later.

I think it could come off as too much of an ultimatum if you say that you would change it if you had a ceremony. However, I do think that if you can approach it in a more delicate way it could be something special, where you guys could do a ceremony even if it is quite small and also have it be the time where you would take his last name, and have both things sort of be an expression of your commitment to your loved ones.

I’m a bridesmaid in my friends wedding this May. She has the same ground rules you did for bridesmaids dresses, any style, cut, shoes whatever shade as long as its in the green family (she did veto any for of chartreuse however). At first we tried to scare her by picking the most horrendous dresses possible but she was not fazed at all & was quick to remind us we’d be the idiots actually wearing said dresses. Mine is a Kelly green bubble hem number while another girls is a emerald green skintight 40s style cocktail dress. So far our dresses all go together quite well and compliment our personalities too which I think is really fun.

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