7 Rules You Can Break on Your Wedding Day

A bride wearing a pink dress and walking with her groom in an urban location.

Each year, 2.5 million weddings take place in the United States alone. Many of these ceremonies share certain elements, thanks to wedding “rules” we’ve come to accept over the years. The bride wears a white gown. The couple stands at the altar with a group of their closest friends. Inevitably, the DJ will play Uptown Funk or the Chicken Dance. But here’s the thing: there are no hard and fast rules for putting on a wedding (except for signing the marriage license, of course). If you want to make your wedding a truly unique affair, here are a few traditions you can happily put aside.

1. Wearing White

The white wedding dress was first popularized in 1840 when Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert. The young queen wore white because the color highlighted the lace details on her gown. However, the decision was a peculiar one at the time, as most brides wore brightly colored dresses for their weddings.

After Victoria, white wedding gowns became synonymous with purity—and more importantly, became the standard in bridal fashion. But it’s important to remember why Victoria selected the color: because she liked it! If you’d rather wear a red, blue, or black dress on your wedding day, you absolutely should.

2. Wedding Favors

Bring me 100 people who’ve been to a wedding, and I’ll show you 100 people who don’t care about the favors they received. Wedding favors are often cheap, meaningless gifts that sit in your guests’ purses until they eventually throw them out. Worst of all, buying these little trinkets can be quite expensive! There are plenty of better ways to spend the money in your wedding budget—and better ways to thank your guests for celebrating with you. Trust me, your guests will appreciate better food or more champagne rather than a customized Koozie.

3. Not Seeing Your Spouse Until the Ceremony

The first look of a bride and groom on their wedding day.

On the morning of a wedding, there’s always much to-do over keeping the couple separate. After all, if they see each other before the ceremony starts, theirs will be a doomed marriage…right? Everyone knows how silly this idea is, but it’s a tradition we stick to all the same. While it can be lovely for guests to see that romantic “first look,” there’s nothing wrong with a couple spending every moment of their big day together. If you and your sweetheart want to do a first look photo shoot—or even get ready together in the morning—go for it!

4. Single-Sex Bridal Parties

Getting married is a major milestone in a person’s life, so it’s no wonder that most people want their friends to accompany them on the journey. Bridal parties can be a source of comfort and support, but for too long, they’ve stuck to one rule: brides can only choose women for their bridal party, and grooms can only choose men. Whatever pronouns your best friends may use, they have every right to be part of your bridal party. Don’t be afraid to have male “bridesmaids” or female “groomsmen”! As long as your best friends are at your side when you say, “I do,” tradition can take a hike.

5. The Bride’s and Groom’s “Sides”

A wedding sign that says

When a bride and groom stand at the altar, the bride is always on the groom’s left side. As a result, it’s become custom for the bride’s family to sit on the left side of the venue, while the groom’s family sits on the right. However, once the newlyweds tie the knot, their families become connected by marriage. Everyone at the wedding is one big, happy family, so why not sit like it? Foregoing the traditional family “sides” makes it easier for your guests to mingle with your new in-laws.

6. The Home Goods Registry

For many decades, it was considered a rule to only list home goods on your wedding gift registry, like dinnerware or small appliances. This rule was primarily practical; the newlyweds were often starting adulthood on their wedding day, so they rarely had any household items between them. But these days, couples get married much later in life (and often co-habitate beforehand), so their registry needs have changed. Don’t be afraid to register for the items you and your spouse need. After all, the whole point of a registry is to advise your guests of the gifts that will be most useful!

7. The Cocktail Hour Photo Session

A bride and groom enjoying the cocktail hour at their wedding.

The cocktail hour between the wedding ceremony and reception serves two purposes: it gives the guests a chance to mingle (and get warmed up for the party later), and it gives the bridal party a chance to have their photos taken. But if you ask me, this is another rule that needs to be broken.

Newlyweds used to take their photos after the ceremony to avoid seeing each other before the wedding—another rule we’ve already pooh-poohed. And besides, what couple would want to miss out on cocktails with their nearest and dearest? By moving around the photo schedule, a couple can spend much more time with their guests.

Of course, if you want to stick with these traditional wedding rules, that’s your prerogative. But if these rules don’t sit right with your sensibilities, feel free to push them aside! It’s one way to make your wedding feel a little more like you and your spouse.

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