Despite the countless dated and gender normative wedding etiquette do’s and don’ts inundating Pinterest, wedding websites, and reputable blogs, I’m here to tell you that the one and only rule that matters is as follows:
There are no rules—or at least there shouldn’t be.
White dresses, diamond rings, not seeing each other until walking down the aisle, who walks the bride down the aisle, how many are in the bridal party, which family pays for what… While there is nothing wrong with taking a traditional approach, it’s important to step back during the whole process and ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Because I bet if you sit down together with no preconceived ideas of what your wedding “should” look like according to our society, you might come up with a day that looks nothing like 200 people sifting through a buffet line or a schedule down the the literal minute. You might just come up with the most unique, quirky, and absolutely perfect day.
So if you’re newly engaged, first of all, congratulations! 🥂 (second, do you need a photographer? 😉) No, but in all reality, if you are just beginning to stare down the barrel of planning a wedding for hundreds of people over a year out, stop and talk over these questions with your fiancé. Because at the end of the day—and take my word on this one—all that matters is that your wedding day authentically reflects your love for one another.
1. How many people do you really want there?
This is the first place you should start. It will determine your budget, where you can get married, and if it’s more of an elopement or intimate wedding. Before you start adding up all the people you and your parents have ever known, stop and truly think about what type of people you both are. Are you a little more introverted? Do you have two ride-or-die friends or a great, big social circle? A good test I’ve come up with is to think about time timeline of your wedding— you should want to chat with your guests for at least 10 minutes or so each (and some, more time than that). Or are you filled with dread when you think of visiting with each guest and not being on the dance floor? If so, try narrowing down your list.
2. When you picture your dream wedding, where are you?
Take a moment and throw out all the expectations your family and friends have for your wedding. I don’t care if it’s nearby the majority of your family members, makes sense to look in the town you live in, or if someone has a connection at a venue and can score you a sweet discount.
Close your eyes. You’re walking down the aisle, passing your closest loved ones, toward your teary-eyed fiancé waiting for you at the end. You’re both standing there with your officiant, and exchange the sweetest vows in front of your family and friends.
When you pictured this scenario, where were you? Were you in your grandparents backyard with twinkling lights strung on their old oak trees? Or were you standing with 10 of your favorite people on the White Cliffs of Dover in England and headed to a pub after for your “reception?” Or were you at a venue with alllll your people because you want them all there? There truly is no wrong answer as long as it is your DREAM wedding. Because you can do either on a low budget.
3. This is your time to shine—what’s YOUR taste?
Let’s face it, typical wedding attire has been the same for over a century: diamond ring and white dress for the bride and a nice suit for the groom. Now, speaking as a woman who has a diamond wedding ring and wore a white dress, I am NOT hating on this option at all. Just nudging both of you to stop and think before assuming the traditional options are your only ones. It is believed that we exchange and wear wedding rings because they are circles, which represent no beginning or end, or an eternal love. A lovely sentiment, if you ask me. But note that it doesn’t really have anything to do with diamonds.
So would your partner prefer a ruby or sapphire? Maybe ring tattoos instead? Or like the photo in this blog, a rose gold ring with a moon and star. Long story short—it’s a representation of your love and commitment, so can be whatever the hell you want it to be.
Though beautiful, white wedding dresses stem from the dated symbolization of purity, femininity, and virginity. Maybe you envision a gorgeous white dress flowing in the wind while standing on that cliff. Which is great! But maybe you like the idea of a black dress. Or pink, or yellow, or a badass pantsuit. And that is perfectly OK as well.
4. Don’t sweat the details. Truthfully? In the grand scheme of things (AKA getting married) they don’t matter and no one really cares.
I know—this one is not a question and may seem a little harsh. And I’m not here to tell you that gorgeous flowers or decorations don’t matter, because they do. What I mean by this one is more so to follow your gut, pick what matters, and don’t even ask or care what other people think. I once had a bride super stressed over the fact that there were an uneven number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. She worriedly asked me if this would ruin their photos. And I replied with two things that can pretty much be said for ANY worry like this one:
- NEVER compromise what you want for what you think is expected of you.
2. No one is going to notice something so minuscule (hint, your guests are going to be looking at YOU, not the uneven bridal party or if one groomsmen forgot his suspenders). If they are hung up on or judging those teeny tiny details, then they probably shouldn’t be invited.
five years heck, in five months—no one will remember your centerpieces, boutonnieres, playlist, or what you served during cocktail hour. But they will remember you two exchanging nuptials, looking the happiest they’ve ever seen you.
All of this to say, there is no such thing as a right or wrong wedding, whether there are 600 people attending or your officiant is your only witness. This post is certainly not to bash big, traditional weddings, but rather to urge you and your fiancé to stop and really, truly think about what is right for you. You (hopefully) only get to do this once. Make sure when all is said and done, there is not one thing you would change.
I feel pretty passionate about this topic because although my wedding was so lovely, ran perfectly, and I’m beyond thankful for it, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t change anything. My plan started as getting married in a field and dancing barefoot under string lights and ended up being 150 people at a pretty strict venue (gorgeous, but strict nonetheless).
And the only restriction you should experience on your wedding day is not being able to stuff down yet another piece of cake or your feet being too tired to keep on dancing.