6 Alternatives to Wedding Traditions

As modern weddings leave behind their cookie-cutter past, today’s couples are pushing the envelope when it comes to personalizing their big day. Values like inclusivity, sustainability, and individuality shine through as soonlyweds plan celebrations that break away from traditions and look remarkably different than past generations.

But removing so-called “traditions” doesn’t mean couples aren’t filling their wedding day with updated alternatives that speak to their preferences. If anything, modern couples are inspiring new traditions to make weddings feel comfortable and accessible for all.

So if some of the age-old traditions don’t appeal to you and your partner, rest assured that there isn’t a strict formula for a successful wedding! Consider replacing them with these alternatives for a fresh take on your big day.

The wedding party

Gone are the days of lined-up bridesmaids in poofy dresses and groomsmen donning matching cummerbunds! Wedding industry experts say it’s time to toss the rules out when it comes to your wedding party, starting with who gets assigned to each side.

“Your wedding party doesn’t need to be decided strictly regarding gender,” assures Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at The Hill. “Co-ed wedding parties are all about celebrating with your nearest and dearest.”

A no-rules approach also extends to day-of attire, as Scott notes. “Give your attendants a little fashion freedom,” she encourages. “Select some complementary colors, give a few style guidelines, and let them choose what makes them look and feel their best. Your formal photos will have more visual interest, and your attendants will surely smile.”

Your wedding party is there to help you have the best day ever. Loosen up the “traditions” and let them enjoy the day comfortably alongside you!

The first look

For decades, couples have had their first glimpse of one another at the aisle. But in recent years, many have opted to have a private first look as a way to forego the pressure of onlookers and experience the raw emotions together.

But for those somewhere in between, Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club and Events offers an alternative. “Some want a compromise,” he explains. “That’s where ‘first touch’ images provide a nice alternative. There’s usually an object, like a door, that separates the couple so they can’t see each other, but they can hold hands. The photos are charming and express the anticipation of the day.”

In this way, you can share a sentimental moment to remember forever while still experiencing the blissful surprise of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony.

6 Alternatives to Wedding Traditions | Brooklyn Bride
Amy Sims Photography

The processional

In the past, brides have customarily been walked down and “given away” to their new husbands by their fathers. However, some couples view this tradition as inherently patriarchal and exclusive of same-sex marriages. It can also create emotional strain for couples without parents in attendance, so many opt to adjust the processional.

“I believe it is important to encourage couples to think about a wedding day in general and how they want support to look for them,” asserts Jennifer Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “I’ve had couples (either both or one at a time) walk the aisle solo without anyone ‘giving them away,’ and I’ve had a person request at least TWO people hold onto her going down an aisle for the extra support and love.”

There is no right or wrong way to proceed down the aisle. All that matters is that you end the ceremony with an “I do” and a kiss to seal the deal!

Mandee Johnson Photography

The first dance

While the first dance is one of the longest-standing wedding traditions, many couples decide that they don’t want to deal with the pressure on their big day! After all, not everyone is born a natural dance — so if you don’t want all eyes on you while dancing, feel free to switch it up for your wedding. 

“Some people are uncomfortable dancing in the spotlight,” says Steven Feinberg of Bunn DJ Company – San Diego. “If that’s you, consider starting the reception with a champagne toast with your guests and then have the DJ invite everyone onto the dance floor for a celebration song before dining.”

Mitsaelides offers another alternative, suggesting, “If those traditional dances aren’t your thing, a great alternative is a ‘love story’ slideshow set to music. Keep it around three minutes. And when the lights come up, raise your glasses and toast your guests for being part of your memorable day.”

Simply put, you don’t need to put your dancing skills (or lack thereof) on display just to make your guests feel like part of the celebration. Of course, it’s all about personal preference — so if you’re ready to break it down with your partner, go for it!

Amy Kolo

The cake cutting

If you’re not enthused by the idea of having cake unceremoniously shoved in your face with your guests (and cameras) looking on…breathe a sigh of relief because you can skip the cake cutting and preserve your makeup artist’s masterpiece while you’re at it. (Don’t worry, you can still eat cake!)

“You don’t need to cut the cake if you don’t want to,” promises Samantha Leenheer of Samantha Joy Events. “Instead, ask your planner to set up a private cutting for you and your partner, or work with your caterer to have them remove it from the room so that it can be ready to eat!”

So feel free to spare your wedding album the messy shot and let them eat cake!

The bouquet toss

Supposedly seeking out the “next in line” to be married, the bouquet toss has been on its way out with couples for several years. But instead of picking one person, Scott suggests a sweet alternative to show appreciation for all of your loved ones. 

“Instead of lining up your single female guests, pluck flowers from your toss bouquet and hand them to close friends and family – regardless of gender,” she recommends. “It’s a tender expression of how grateful you are to have them at your wedding.”

Most wedding traditions are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean you need to include them! The best customs are those that feel like they belong in your wedding, so stick to what feels right and don’t feel like you must adhere to any tradition. After all, it’s your big day!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.