10 wedding traditions to ditch on your big day (and some to keep, too)
I may not be your traditional wedding expert (I’m not even sure what that title really entails), however, considering My Best Friend’s Wedding is my all-time favorite movie and that I attend many weddings like it’s my job, I do have more knowledge than most when it comes to seeing and experiencing a variety of wedding day celebrations.
With all this work in weddings, there are some wedding traditions I absolutely love… but some that I would be more than happy to see disappear to wherever our socks are going when they vanish from the dryer. The traditions you can leave behind are often done to please the parents or grandparents, or are things you do ‘because it’s what you do at a wedding.’ Allow me to be the first to give you permission to ditch the following traditions on your wedding day.
HOLD UP. Before we go any further, I just want to say your wedding is your day! Do what you want, do what will make you happy, celebrate the way you’ve always dreamed. If any of my ‘ditch list’ traditions are ones you love, then go for it! This list is what I’ve seen from my experience that weddings can live without while still embracing and focusing on the whole reason everyone is gathered together in the first place: for love, sweet, love.
1 / Throwing the bouquet
Do you really need to spend the money on an additional bouquet to toss over your head to a group of girls (or anyone vying to be proposed to) who feel obligated to get up and awkwardly proclaim to everyone in attendance ‘yes, my date tonight is my friend/cousin/brother/sister/coworker and I am, in fact, single.’ I am fully aware that I’m a big ol’ flaming gay, so I can never fully profess to understand truly what women want. However, one thing I’m sure of is this: the only folks who want to catch the bouquet are the ones who are hoping they get a ring next and partners, you shouldn’t need this moment to let you know that’s on their mind.
2 / Garter toss
When is it appropriate to toss your babe’s underwear across the room to a group of single folks? Never. End of story. In fact, historically one of the reasons the garter toss came into being was so that a family member could keep PROOF of the marriage consummation. I don’t know about you, but that’s a boundary I’d like to keep nice and firm with my family members. Nowadays it’s typically tossed by the groom into a group of single men, and it’s said that he who catches it will be the next to get married. Again, guys, if you need to wait to catch a married person’s unmentionables to know it’s time to get married, you may have missed your window.
3 / Reading speeches from your phone
I get it, you are saying a speech and a phone is the most convenient way to make sure you don’t lose it. I’ve seen so many people use their phone for their speech, just to lose their place because the screen was too small, hold the phone up close to their face, and basically just end up winging it because their phone is a distraction. Pay the 10 cents to get a copy printed and bring it on paper. It’s classy. It’s also a lot cuter in photos to be reading from notes instead of having ones face lit up blue with a phone screen.
4 / Taking every combination possible for family formals
There’s no reason to take 50+ family formals. One group shot of each grouping is more than fine nowadays because even those photos most just sit on hard drives and never make it to print. Ask yourself as you’re making your family formals list, “what family photos do I want to actually put on my wall?” Typically, only 1-2 group family wedding shots actually make it to a place (either physically or MAYBE on some sort of electronic space like your desktop or Facebook) where you’ll see them on a regular basis. So instead of taking 50+ combinations of family photos, let’s just take 4-5 and save all that time.
5 / Attendants wearing boutonnières
The marrier(s) is/are the only one who needs one, if at all. Attendants (groomsmen, especially) are never ready on time and usually always end up stalling photo time because we have to go find the boutonnieres and put them on the attendants last minute, anyway! And finally, on warm days they usually are destroyed before the ceremony even starts because the attendants will take their jackets on and off multiple times.
6 / Lifting the veil
It’s STORY TIME with your pal, Kevin! Traditionally, when arranged marriages were common, a veil was worn over a brides face so that the groom wouldn’t see his soon-to-be wife’s face until the very last second. Wanna know why? SO HE COULDN’T SEE HER FACE THEN CHANGE HIS MIND! History, folks. That tradition just got REAL in the worst way! Instead of a veil, many brides nowadays are opting to adorn headpieces, flower crowns, pins, or other unique options.
7 / Long, Long Receptions
OKAY SO BEFORE YOU SIDE EYE ME, let me finish. I have photographed more than 100 weddings, and I would bet that less than 10 of those weddings actually needed as long a reception as was scheduled. Often when booking a venue, a couple will see that they are allowed to be in the venue until 10 or 11 p.m. This does not mean you should schedule your reception to last that long, especially when it’s starting at 5:30 or 6 p.m.
I do occasionally shoot weddings that are just an amazing, rowdy party all the way until the very end. When this occurs, it’s a beautiful thing. However, what happens more often are the weddings where the party fizzles and fades until the couple decides to either have their sparkler/bubble/glow stick/dance party exit early OR they only have 15 people remaining for it. In my experience, it’s epic when a couple leaves on the highest note of their party, when everyone is pumped and excited for them. So, I’m giving all you future couples of mine (and even those of you who don’t book me) permission: go ahead and schedule your exit at 9 p.m. Grandma thanks you for it, and so will your guests.
8 / Taking your partner’s last name
Full disclosure. I took my husband’s last name when I married him. However, we’re entering a brave new, beautiful world where it’s become acceptable to keep your name as you enter marriage. Many couples are getting creative and either hyphenating one or both of their names to join together or even coming up with a new last name totally! Here’s my point: blaze your own trail. If that means taking your partner’s name like I did, do it. However, don’t just change your name because it fits convention.
9 / Wearing a white dress
As a self-proclaimed romantic sap and lover and all things wedding-related, I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a big, beautiful white wedding dress. However, if you’re planning on wearing a dress on your wedding day, you don’t have to limit yourself to white dresses. Is it possible I’m including this tradition in the mix because I’m dying to shoot a beautiful emerald green velvet wedding gown? Possibly. However, more and more people are choosing non-white dresses for their wedding days. Want a way to make sure your wedding is memorable and stands out against the others? Consider “saying yes” to a dress that isn’t white.
10 / Female Bridesmaids and Male Groomsmen
Who is to say that bridesmaids must be female and groomsmen must be men? If you’re choosing to surround yourself with your pod of besties on your wedding day, why exclude anyone based on their gender? Consider instead choosing your bridespeople or your groomspeople to stand next to you and support you on your special day. (And you could just scrap those gendered titles all together and call them wedding attendants and/or your wedding party.)
To compile the keep list, I asked my Facebook community of wedding photographers and non-photographers who just love weddings what their FAVORITE part of weddings are. 95 hilarious, heartfelt and gif-filled comments later, it was obvious which parts of weddings and wedding traditions are important to keep!
1 / Cake cutting
If you don’t cut the cake, how can your guests (read: me, your photographer) grab any? Cutting the cake is a sweet moment that is as adorable as it is delicious and beneficial to all of your wedding guests.
2 / Couples Portraits
Give me half an hour and it’ll be so worth it to carve out the time to get beautiful, emotionally overwhelmed photos of you and your forever human. You will never need that ‘family photo’ with your uncle 4 times removed and his third wife you’ve never met.
3 / The First Look OR Getting Ready Together
First Look: CUE THE TEARS! Seriously, the first look is the most magical moment of the day! This is a newer trend that is quickly becoming a tradition and I love it! Speaking for other photographers, as well as myself, taking time to do ‘the first look’ means we can extend our time together doing photos of you and your beloved. “But I want the first time we see each other during our ceremony to be special!” Let me tell you friend, as someone who has photographed many weddings with and without first looks, the first time your partner sees you as you come down the aisle will be a special, tear-inducing moment regardless.
Getting Ready Together: An even newer trend than the first look is getting ready together. This is pretty commonplace for the LGBTQ+ weddings I shoot, but it’s becoming an option now for all the couples I photograph. I got ready with my husband on the morning of our wedding, and I can’t really explain the quiet sweetness of those moments we shared together alone on that morning. Taking the time together to absorb the depth of the commitment you are making that day and enjoying a lazy breakfast together is a recipe for a clear, calm head for the rest of the day. It’s also romantic to spend that time together just basking in the love you have for each other.
4 / Parent Dances
Facebook has spoken: parent dances for the WIN! The Father-Daughter, Mother-Son or any other combination of Parents and Child dance gives everyone all the feels.
AAAAAand.. Here’s my extra super sneaky list of ways to have the best wedding ever:
DO WHAT YOU WANT!
That’s right. Just one simple point. Do what you and your forever human want. If you want to toss the garter, play 80’s hits all night long, serve burgers and kombucha and take a million family formals, then go for it. Your wedding is meant to be about celebrating the unique love between you and your partner. Consider what you both want and will make your wedding day a memorable start to your forever together and don’t allow people to push their traditions on you if you don’t fully embrace what they stand for or want to take part in them.
What wedding traditions did you say goodbye to for your wedding? Which traditions did you stick with? I want to hear! Comment below and let me know.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on LGBTQ+ wedding photographer Kevin Lowery’s photography blog, kevinlowery.com, and is republished here with permission.
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