Sticking to tradition can often be one of the most stressful and expensive things about planning your wedding. The only thing you have to do on your wedding day is get married, how you do everything else is completely up to you. Here are some popular wedding traditions in the UK and Ireland, and some ways you can avoid them completely.
A bride wears a long white dress and veil.
More and more brides are ditching long white wedding dresses in favour of different colours and lengths. Wear a dress that you feel comfortable in and you will look fabulous. Check out the wonderful BHLDN store for some modern inspiration.
We’ve lost count of the number of brides who say they can’t wait to get rid of their veils. A long veil is gorgeous but will catch on things (and people), gather up puddle water and become a glorified fly trap. A floral crown or headpiece is a beautiful and practical alternative to consider.
A groom wears a suit or tails.
By all means wear a suit or tails if that’s what you feel comfortable in, but don’t feel pressurised to conform. Thanks to peaky blinders, tweed has made a comeback and looks fantastic combined with some smart chinos. Swap a tie for a bowtie or ditch it altogether if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to experiment with different colours and cuts. Finally, if you're the kind of guy that always has a stubble or beard, don't feel you have to be clean shaven just for your wedding (no matter what your mum says).
Matching Bridesmaid dresses.
Traditionally, all bridesmaids would wear the same dress. Why not let them mix and match complimentary styles and colours?
Gendered bridesmaids and groomsmen.
The traditional thing is that a groom has nothing but groomsmen and a bride has nothing but bridesmaids. This is perfectly fine, but if either of you have close friends that are excluded because of this tradition, just ignore it. It’s increasingly common to see bridesmen and groomswomen at weddings.
Best-man and maid of honour.
The bare minimum bridal party you need is two people, right? No! You don’t need a best-man nor a maid of honour. All you need are two witnesses, and these can be anyone. We’ve seen parents, siblings and friends fulfil this role… we’ve even done it ourselves during elopements!
You don’t see each other until the ceremony.
It can help with nerves to have a first look. This involves you seeing each other away from prying eyes, before the ceremony. It’s also an opportunity to get a lot of your couple shots out of the way so you can spend more time with guests later on.
Get ready separately.
As we said previously, many of you probably already live together. There’s nothing to stop you getting ready together in the same house on the morning of the wedding.
Get ready in the house you grew up in.
It’s a lovely thing to get ready in the bedroom you had as child but make sure it’s practical in terms of your ceremony and reception locations. If your parent’s house is 2 hours away from your reception venue, you might be better checking into a lovely hotel and treating yourself. Or if you have your own house already, why not use that? It's nice to create new memories in your own home.
Have a Church Ceremony
Church ceremonies are lovely, but not for everyone. Some couples have weddings in Churches in order to please family members. It’s important that you have a ceremony that reflects you, be it a religious, humanist or civil ceremony. The truth is, your parents won’t mind as much as you think they will and they’ll have a great day regardless.
It’s tradition in many western countries that the bride’s guests sit on the left while the groom’s sit on the right. Having open seating where people sit wherever they like is much less formal and encourages your guests to mingle. It also means your ushers get to do even less work than they already do…
The Bride walks down the aisle.
She can. Or you can choose to walk down the aisle together as a couple. Some brides will love the experience, but for others the fear of tripping and falling while a hundred people are filming you on their phones is the stuff of nightmares. Another option is walking in with both parents - we’re pretty sure Mum played a teeny bit of a part in your upbringing, after all.
Changing your Surname.
If you love your name, just keep it. There’s no legal requirement to change your name when you get married. It’ll save you the hassle and cost of changing your passport, driver’s license, email, and everything else with your name on it.
Exchanging Wedding Rings.
There is no question that some couples love their wedding rings. But there is no legal requirement to exchange wedding rings during your wedding ceremony or wear one if married. So if you don’t wear jewellery or do not want to have rings, you can leave them out. We have seen some couples ‘borrow’ rings from their grandparents for the ceremony only, which is a nice touch.
Your honeymoon follows the wedding.
Planning a wedding alongside planning a holiday can be a bit of a head melt. Why not defer your honeymoon until later on in the year. Or if you’re having a lovely destination wedding, have a week before and after the ceremony to enjoy the sun.
Wedding gift lists.
Many couples these days have set up home long before getting married so gifts of homewares might just result in you having a very cluttered house full of unnecessary toasters and kettles. Don’t be afraid to ask for cash, if that’s what you really need.
Here’s a speech from a man, followed by another man, and another man, and another… It’s the twenty-first century. Pass the mic over to the ladies, or at least give them the choice. Some of the most wonderful wedding speeches we’ve heard have been delivered by eloquent and fantastically funny women.
Traditionally speeches are done from the top table before or after the meal. But at more and more weddings we’re seeing them take on a more informal setting. If it’s a good day, why not hold them outdoors? You’ll find that you’re more relaxed delivering your speech in a more relaxed setting.
We’ve seen couples spend time hand-crafting lovely mementos for their guests only for them to be discarded at the end of the night when the tables are cleared. There are loads of cost-effective and fun ways of doing favours. In our experience, edible favours are rarely left behind.
We love cake, but some people don’t. Or at best are ambivalent towards it. That’s perfectly ok. Do not feel that you have to have a multi-layered wedding cake and a ceremonial cake cutting. You could substitute cake for donuts or cupcakes. Many couples prefer to have a cheeseboard. You could just forego the whole thing completely, it’s entirely up to you.
Another area where you can think outside the box. If you have a favourite restaurant, ask them about possibility of hosting your wedding dinner. Don’t be afraid to have options that might challenge your guests - hunger is a great motivator when trying new things. Some venues now offer buffet and bbq services which are a little less formal but equally delicious.
You can cut down on your carbon footprint by doing everything online. Specialist companies can help you do this as easily as possible, allowing you to manage invites, RSVPs and information without using a single sheet of paper.
This one is easy. If the thought of having a first dance stresses you out, don’t do one. Alternatively, you can choose a really cheesy song and just drag everyone out onto the dance-floor with you.
Cheesy wedding bands and DJs are gradually becoming extinct. And with good reason. If you wouldn’t want to hear ‘the birdy song’ or ‘Macarena’ played when you’re on a night out, you definitely don’t want to hear it on your wedding night. If there’s a band or DJ that you’ve seen in a bar or club, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask if they do weddings.
The whole running order
We said it at the start, and we’ll say it again: The only thing you have to do on your wedding day is get married. Everything else can be changed to suit you. How much you conform to tradition should be down to you as a couple to decide. Personalise it as much as possible and we guarantee you’ll have a great time.