Over being told what you can and can't do at your own wedding? So are we! If you're feeling trapped or confused about the expectations of traditional friends and family, we're here to help. We break down 10 wedding "Rules" that we think are perfectly fine to break!
2. Seating Plans
Many married couples will tell you that working out the seating plan for their wedding was the most nail-biting planning task that they faced. There are family members who may not be on good terms, step-parents, biological parents, couples, single people, colleagues or friends who may not know anyone… it’s a veritable minefield of potential faux pas and social encounters of the awkward kind. Well put down your colour-coded spreadsheets and peel those post-it notes off your kitchen table, because wedding receptions don’t have to be the stuffy sit-down affairs they once were! We’ve seen some weddings with just a few long banquet tables (think the Great Hall in Harry Potter), and other weddings with ‘stand-up buffets’, where guests grab a plate, help themselves, and find a spot in a lounge-like reception area (or stand) and eat while they chat. Some couples are letting guests seat themselves, while many are embracing the cocktail reception party and the relaxed atmosphere it brings with it. The cocktail reception is exploding in popularity, and whilst it doesn’t mean a three-course meal, if you select a great venue or caterer, they can provide amazing food and drinks that will not only impress your guests, but fill them up too! The lack of a structured seating plan and tables also frees up much-needed space (so you can invite more people, often at less cost), and gives the atmosphere of a classy yet informal celebration.
3. The 8 Hour Day
Your special day is something you want to remember forever, and it can be pretty exhausting too! Getting ready early, photos, the ceremony, photos, more photos, reception… by the end of the day you may be exhausted, but your guests might be too! Don’t be afraid to stray from the “standard” timeline of events – if you’re not superstitious, why not have your photos done before the ceremony, so there’s no need to do them afterwards? If you don't want to spoil the surprise for the groom, you can even shave time off by having the bridal party and the groomsmen do photos separately before the ceremony, and then take the remaining snaps all together afterwards. For guests, the wait after the ceremony finishes before they can go to the reception can be long and agonizingly boring – sometimes guests can’t travel home and just need to find somewhere to kill time for four hours in their formal clothing, carrying a wedding gift around!
Sometimes your ceremony venue may have very different restrictions to your reception venue, and you may not even have the space to invite all your guests to both. Generally, the polite thing to do is to invite guests to both, or just to the reception – guests may feel left out if they’re invited to your ceremony only, and feel obliged to bring gifts and get caught up in the emotion of your day, only to be going home afterwards while many guests get to go on to party afterwards. It can also be quite clear that it’s cheaper to invite guests to the ceremony only and not to the reception, so it may appear that they are “not worth” the money (which, even if it’s true, is not a nice message to send). Many couples get around this by having an ‘afternoon tea’ style reception immediately after their ceremony, giving all guests the chance to celebrate with the bride and groom, before they slip off for their photos (also giving your reception-going guests something to fill the time between the two receptions). Whatever your strategy, don’t feel obliged to stay within the boundaries of tradition – it may even save you some money to try an afternoon ceremony instead of a morning one, or an earlier reception rather than a later one!
4. The Toss
Not too keen on the idea of throwing your beautiful bouquet into the air towards a mob of hungry-eyed women? Or on the idea of forking out for a second bouquet just to (literally) throw it away? How about the idea of having a male guest hunt around under your dress for an old-fashioned undergarment? If they’re not for you – break the rules and ditch them! Plenty of couples are deciding to do away with any of the traditional bouquet or garter tossing, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s barely raising an eyebrow with more conservative guests. After all the fun and celebration of the wedding reception, it often doesn’t even cross anyone’s mind that one or two traditions were left out.
Let’s face it, cake isn’t for everyone. Are you feeling the pressure to have a towering white frosted monstrosity that doesn’t suit you or your partner’s personality? Why not deviate from the norm and try something different. Recently we’ve been seeing fantastic snaps from weddings featuring cupcakes, doughnuts, cake pops, fairy cakes, miniature cheesecakes (one per guest), even pies, or chocolate fountains! Some couples are opting for milk and cookies, midnight snacks, and even comfort food like fries served late at night when guests have been partying hard. At the end of the day, we believe that your wedding day is all about you and your new spouse, so why not make the cake (or not) a reflection of you too? Check out our #WeddingTalk tips for some cake-free options, and get some inspiration!
Bonbonierre, or wedding favours, are the little gifts or sweets that guests receive to take home from your wedding. There’s a chance some of you didn’t even know they exist, because recently we’ve seen a downward trend in the inclusion of favours at weddings. The standard used to be a little organza bag of sugar-coated almonds, but we’ve seen some fantastic twists on the tradition, including bottle openers, coozis (or stubbie olders), candles, tiny sculptures, keychains, local produce such as honey or jam, flowers or seeds, and more. The possibilities are endless, but at the end of the day, for some brides and grooms favours are just another cost to factor in. If you’re looking at $3 per piece items and have 100 guests, your favours could take a hefty chunk out of your budget! We think that many guests are happy enough to receive your hospitality and won’t miss any little trinkets that will soon get lost or thrown away anyway!
7. Toasts & Speeches
Now we’re not saying you need to give up speeches entirely, they are often the most moving part of a reception, but did you know they come with “rules” too? Traditionally the speeches begin with toasts – first, a toast to the bride and groom made by the host (the person who pays for the wedding – traditionally the bride’s father, but that’s not always the case these days!), then a response by the groom and a toast to the bridal party, then a response on behalf of the bridal party by the best man, then a toast to the bride’s parents by the best man or a friend of the bride’s party, then a response by the bride’s father, then a toast to the groom’s parents by the father of the bride or a friend of the groom’s family, then a response by the groom’s father, and finally a reading of telegrams (emails etc from people who could not attend).
8. Even Bridal Party Sizes
While we’re talking about rules to break, why not tackle what is for many people the big one: having even numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Some couples obsess over this issue and have to come up with inconvenient solutions such as not including a very special person in their bridal party, or including someone who shouldn’t really be there. There’s no need to have even numbers on both sides – in fact there are plenty of awesome pictures of weddings on the web with uneven bridal parties that are inspirational! A good photographer will have strategies in place for photographing uneven numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen, and there’s no reason you can’t have a single bridesmaid (maybe the maid of honour) walk down the aisle on her own, or two bridesmaids together, etc. Why not consider some creative solutions before you force yourself to make a decision you regret simply because of symmetry?
9. Matching Dresses, Matching Genders
While we’re on bridal parties, why not reconsider a few traditions that may not have special meaning to you – why follow traditions just for the sake of it? If you have bridesmaids of different shapes and colouring, there’s a good chance they won’t all suit the same dress. In fact, they may not even like the same dress, or have the cash to spend on it! Mismatched bridesmaid dresses are a big hit these days – many brides give their gals a swatch or colour and tell them to run wild and pick their own! This is a great no-pressure option for some bridesmaids who may not be able to afford an expensive dress for one day but who you still want by your side as you tie the knot. But hang on, what if your bestie isn’t even the same gender as yourself, or perhaps you have a girlfriend who never even wears dresses? If uneven and mismatched bridal parties are fine, then why restrict yourself to girls on one side and guys on the other? “Bridesmen” and “Groomsgirls” are growing in popularity, as couples realise that rather than force their personalities into the wedding mould, they can change and shape their wedding days to suit themselves! Chances are that your friends and family, no matter how conservative, will appreciate your efforts at including those who are special to you, no matter what, and if they do have a problem with it – it’s your wedding!
10. Your wedding day is not about you
This sounds like an odd tradition, but it’s more of a state of mind – traditionally, the wedding day was a celebration for families. The day that two families were joined together (often with social or financial motivations) was celebrated more than the union between two people. These days, we marry for love, and brides and grooms are adults who often have lived together for years before tying the knot. It’s taken a while for our thinking to catch up to this new way of life, and we are left with a bunch of traditions that we don’t necessarily understand or care for. Perhaps the most important way you can break even one traditional rule at your wedding, is to shift your thinking so that you have your wedding your way. If you’ve always dreamed of a matching bridal party and a big white wedding cake, then by all means, go for it! If you feel uneasy about one or two parts of the traditional wedding celebration, then consider whether you’d be better off without – you may be surprised at how people react! If you truly believe in the decisions you’re making, then your close friends and family should embrace them and help to celebrate the love between you and your future spouse.