Can let you in on a secret? (Okay, it's not really a secret at all.) There's no right way to get married! To help you carve your own path to "I do" I've rounded up all the tried-and-true wedding traditions you're more than welcome to skip, replace or upgrade to a new, improved and personalized version. Here's a ton of inspiration to help you plan your wedding, your way.
Old-School Rule: Brides Must Wear a Long, White Wedding Dress
Wear whatever you want. Sure, many choose to wear a long white or ivory dress, but for your wedding day attire, anything goes—from a short retro frock to a slinky silver jumpsuit or navy pantsuit. I've seen tons of couples put their own twist on their day-of outfits (custom leather jackets anyone?). Make it colorful, make it casual—as long as you feel amazing in what you're wearing.
Old-School Rule: Brides Have to Wear a Long, White Veil.
You don't have to wear a veil at all. Break away from the standard veil with a chic headband, flower crown, tiara or a few twinkling pins. Or skip a headpiece altogether and show off those luscious locks (you rebel, you!).
Old-School Rule: You Can Only Have Two Wedding Colors
Your palette can have as many (or as few) colors as you want. The trick is to make sure they work together by using multiple neutrals or colors in the same family of shades (think: pink, orange and yellow, or a palette of white, cream and blush). Some of the prettiest palettes are monochromatic, whether it's a cool white, a deep green or a bold purple. But don't shy away from elements other than color, such as punchy patterns, varied textures or even a more overarching wedding theme or vibe.
Old-School Rule: Bridesmaids Are Female and Groomsmen Are Male
Don't confine your list of VIPs to one sex, or even friends who are the same sex as you. If you're a groom who's close to your sister, make her a part of your crew. Coordinate their looks with the rest of the party with accessories.
Old-School Rule: Brides Should Wear "Something Blue" to Ward Off Bad Luck
Maybe you credit luck with meeting your soon-to-be-spouse, or you might be doing everything you can to get it on your side ahead of your nuptuals. Whether you want to prevent a rainy ceremony, a hungover groomsman or legit marriage doom (come on, you know better than that!), the "something blue"
superstition of centuries past has also turned into a way to have a bit more fun. Originally meant to deflect the Evil Eye and represent purity and fidelity, blue-hued tokens are now taking on many forms for modern couples, like a getaway car, painted leather jacket, frosty signature cocktail or even cool, blue hair.
Old-School Rule: You Should Process to Wagner's "Bridal Chorus"
Sure, it's a great standard, but this classical march isn't the only option. Have a bluegrass band play an acoustic banjo version of your favorite pop song. You can also look to your cultural heritage to inspire your music: Caribbean steel drums, Scottish bagpipes or a Mexican mariachi band are all great ideas. They don't have to stick to playing the classics either—anything from The Beatles to Beyoncé will do. (Just make sure to run your music choice by your officiant or venue first—especially if you're saying "I do" in a house of worship.
Old-School Rule: Wedding Accessories Should Be Understated.
Go ahead and make your accessories stand out. Punch up your wedding ensemble with boldly colored shoes, a statement necklace or cute bolero. Worried they'll distract from your gown? Keep your look simple for the ceremony and then add fun details for the reception.
Old-School Rule: The Ceremony Program Should Be Plain and Formal.
Programs should include important info like who's in the bridal party and the meaning behind your cultural traditions, but that doesn't mean you can't have a bit of fun with the design. Turn your programs into a playful Mad Lib, crossword puzzle with clues about your relationship, something as functional as a fan, or even make fortune-tellers with fun facts about your childhood. Guests will love the idea, and they'll appreciate having something to do while they wait for the ceremony to start.
Old-School Rule: You Can't See Each Other Before the Ceremony.
Whether out of superstition or religious reasons, many couples forgo seeing each other before hitting the aisle. And while it's totally a personal choice, it doesn’t mean you can’t score those cute “first look” photos you see all over Insta. If you don’t want to have a face-to-face with your love before the ceremony, why not try a secluded hand-hold-meets-pep-talk where you touch—but not see—your partner? Or, get wow-worthy reactions from your crew by revealing your wedding day look to your parents, friends or siblings.
Old-School Rule: Your Wedding Rings Have to Match
You're both going to be wearing these wedding rings
forever, so you should each choose one you can see yourself loving forever. However different your wedding rings look, a nice way to have them coordinate is to engrave them with your wedding date, initials or even a meaningful phrase or lyric.
Old-School Rule: There's Always a Bride's Side and a Groom's Side at the Ceremony.
It used to be that guests of the bride sat on the left and guests of the groom on the right. Even now, plenty of your guests will go by this guideline. But if your partner’s family is huge and yours is tiny, your ceremony will look a little weird if most people are seated on one side. And at Jewish weddings, the sides are flipped anyway. If you’re having ushers, ask them to direct your VIPs, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the like to prime seats toward the front of either side and instruct your other guests to sit in any open seat. No ushers? No problem. Place a sign in the area and have it read something like, "Choose a seat, not a side—we’re all family once the knot is tied."
Old-School Rule: You Must Walk Down the Aisle.
You don’t have to walk anywhere. Maybe you’re a fan of flats and your trip down the aisle may turn into a real trip in your wedding heels. Or maybe you’d prefer to skip all the hoopla that’s associated with that long walk. Whatever your rationale, it’s your prerogative. Who says you have to have a processional at all? Yet, for Jewish weddings, it’s strongly suggested that brides (and grooms too) walk down the aisle. That’s because they each make their way to the chuppah with both of their parents.
Old-School Rule: Guests Sit on Chairs or Pews.
Choose ceremony seating that reflects the style of your wedding. Hay bales covered in soft, colorful quilts suit a rustic affair, whereas a few chic couches will fit in perfectly at a an eclectic, formal wedding. If you're getting married in a place of worship and your guests will be sitting in pews, have a few pretty patterned cushions.
Old-School Rule: Your Bridesmaids Should Wear Matching Dresses.
A bit of real talk here: Historically, matching bridesmaid dresses stemmed less from wanting a color-coordinated squad and more from, you know, distracting vengeful attackers looking to kidnap a bride because of her dowery. Thankfully, we live in the 21st century, where you can marry who you want with whomever you want by your side. If you don’t envision your crew rocking the same outfit, encourage them to choose unique looks that put personality front and center. Unifying the vibe through a palette or pattern helps it feel cool but cohesive.
Old-School Rule: You Only Need One Flower Girl and One Ring Bearer.
While you don't actually need either one, you can have as many or as few child attendants as you'd like. You could try switching things up by having flower boys or a female ring bearer. If you have a group of kids to include, start your wedding with a parade of sorts, where all the kids wave ribbon banners.
Old-School Rule: Your Ceremony Must Be Formal and Traditional.
At its core, marriage is two lives becoming one, so it’s no surprise that customs meant to reinforce unity are at the center of many religious and spiritual ceremonies. Veteran acts like lighting a candle or tying your hands together (known as handfasting) are still wildly popular with modern couples, but more duos are choosing to cement their bond with a "unity" moment reflective of their love story. Was your first date at a Mexican taco joint? Down tequlia shots as your first act as a married pair (yes, seriously). Or get your blood pumping by tag-team sawing a log to display in your home. Whatever you come up with, give the act a shout-out in your ceremony program to let guests in on the unique meaning behind it (hey, you could even invite them to take those tequila shots with you).
Old-School Rule: Flower Girls and Ring Bearers Are Always Little Kids.
There's no denying it—kids are cute. And if you have a few little ones you want to involve in your walk down the aisle, we say go for it. But just because you're sans a niece or nephew doesn't mean you have to go without that coveted “aw” moment at the ceremony. Couples are now having anyone and everyone precede them down the aisle, from a beloved dog ring bearer to flower grannies (so sweet!). Think of it as the perfect opportunity to incorporate friends or family that may not otherwise be included in your wedding party.
Old-School Rule: Bridesmaids Should Carry Matching Bouquets.
Your wedding party doesn't have to hold the same kind of flowers to look the part. Have each one carry a bouquet in a signature hue or let your florist create several monobotanic bouquets in the same shade. Or add fancy ribbon wrappings to help everyone stand out.
Old-School Rules: Simple, Understated and Round Bouquets Are the Norm.
Believe it or not, flowers at a wedding have less-than-romantic beginnings. (They were initially incorporated to ward off evil and mask odor. Yep, sorry.) Since then, however, pretty stems have become a main style point for many couples looking to decorate their day. For a fresh twist, take inspiration from Victorian-era couples and ask your florist to use buds with special meanings (like gardenias for joy or hydrangeas for gratitude) or focus on drama with oversize bouquets and hanging installations. Non-floral bouquet alternativesor additions are big now too, so feel free to trade petals for plants, greenery and even tropical leaves painted in pastels.
Old-School Rule: Your Engagement Ring Should Be a Diamond.
Diamond engagement rings aren't going anywhere anytime soon—but if a more classic ring, like a round solitaire or cushion-cut diamond, isn't your style, you're as free as a bird to branch out to other types of stones and settings. Antique jewelry is one way to go, and ask your jeweler about alternative stones, like citrines, sapphires, emeralds, rubies or morganite.
Old-School Rule: You Have to Do a Bouquet and Garter Toss.
Not a fan of reception activities like the garter and bouquet toss, Instead of singling out the singles, try one of these alternatives. Take your bouquet apart and present individual flowers to your friends and loved ones, or have a bouquet and boutonniere station where guests can make their own. Another alternative option is to have a special anniversary dance to celebrate all the married couples at your wedding. Here's how it's done: The band or DJ plays a song and eliminates each couple depending on the amount of time they've been married. The last couple remaining is presented with the bouquet as a gift.
Old-School Rule: You Must Cut Into a Classic Wedding Cake at the Reception.
Tiered confections may have been a wedding mainstay since, oh, ancient Rome—but that doesn’t mean one has to appear at your bash. If you’re a pair that prefers savory to sweet or Swiss cheese to Swiss buttercream, then you do you. Cut into a stack of cheese wheels or feed each other from a tower of whipped-cream-covered waffles. As long as there are a few sweet moments to end the night (guests love a sugar rush) no one will miss the cake—promise.