Planning a wedding has always been a deeply personal experience for every couple. A wedding should speak of a relationship’s uniqueness and each betrothed’s personality.

Many couples feel they have to follow tradition, simply because that is how it has always been done, even though they are likely unaware of the origins of most wedding traditions. Traditions have simply endured.

However, the celebration of joining two lives in the 21st century bears little resemblance to a wedding at the start of the 20th century. Some couples opt to stay true to the traditional church ceremony and formal reception. Other couples may decide on a destination wedding where Mickey Mouse will serve as the best man or Elvis performs the nuptials.

Whether you choose traditional, contemporary or somewhere in between, always remember it is your wedding.

What Should You Wear?

Centuries ago, brides wore gowns of various colors to represent luck or symbolize royalty. Dating back to Revolutionary War times, brides dressed in bright colors.

White wedding gowns became popular in the 1840s when Queen Victoria donned one when she married Prince Albert. A large majority of brides today still opt for white or ivory wedding gowns. However, if you prefer a bit of color, it is becoming increasing common for a bride to drape herself in whatever color she chooses.

Brides may also wish to pay respect to their ancestry by choosing a traditional dress from their country of origin, which typically were brighter colors. A good compromise is to merely add a splash of color to a traditional white dress with a brightly colored sash.

Bridesmaids used to resemble cookie cutter replicas of each other, four or five of the bride’s closest friends with the same hairstyle, make up, and layers upon layers of poufy chiffon. Many brides these days are simply giving their bridesmaids a color scheme and sending them on their way to select a dress that meets with everyone’s approval.

One of the most fun traditions a large number of brides continue to adhere to is the old adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”. This tradition began in Victorian times in Britain and has remained popular throughout the years, even though few people are aware of its origin. This is also one of the rare traditions that has endured almost completely intact throughout the years.

Where Should You Have Your Wedding?

In the fun and excitement of planning a reception, sometimes the ceremony can seem like a formality to be suffered in order to make it to the party. Traditionally, wedding ceremonies involved a long formal mass in the bride’s church. These types of ceremonies are still very common. However, church weddings are falling more and more by the wayside in favor of unique and personal ceremony locations. Sometimes, it seems the more outrageous the location, the greater its appeal.

Outdoor weddings are becoming increasingly popular, so consider the beach or even the zoo. You don’t need land under your feet to get hitched these days. Perhaps a cruise ship or hot air balloon is more your style. Most importantly, a couple should consider their personalities and common interests before selecting the ceremony locale.

In this day and age, couples may not be able to afford the typical country club wedding dinner, with elaborate food and drink, especially if they are footing the bill for their own nuptials. A backyard barbeque or a luncheon are increasing in popularity.

Once you find the perfect location, bear in mind the only thing absolutely required at a wedding ceremony is a marriage license and the exchange of vows. Everything else is up to you.

What Should You Do At Your Wedding?

In the past, a bride’s father gave her away to her eagerly awaiting husband-to-be. Given family dynamics in this era, a bride today may be escorted down the aisle by her mother, both of her parents, or even her children. Again, it is a case of personal preference.

Traditional ceremonial music appears to have fallen by the wayside as well. It’s much more commonplace for the bride to sashay up the aisle to Chopin or Beethoven rather than the immediately recognizable Wedding March by Mendelssohn’s.

Perhaps the most common example of couples deviating from tradition can be found in their marriage vows. More brides and grooms are choosing to write their own heartfelt vows and traditional “I do’s” are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Following the ceremony, tradition mandated guests throw rice at the newly married couple upon leaving the church as a symbol of fertility. Many churches placed a ban on rice throwing due to the choking danger rice grains posed to small animals. As such, brides were forced to get creative. So in the last quarter century, this tradition has morphed into blowing bubbles or throwing confetti. A couple may choose to release doves following their ceremony as a symbol of love and peace. All these options are merely a different twist on an old custom.

What About Your Reception?

Once the vows are uttered and rings exchanged, the wedding reception is the first party a couple throws together as man and wife. As such, you want it to be remembered.

For decades, wedding receptions followed a specific schedule: introductions, speeches, dinner, dances, cake, flower and garter toss. A multitude of newly married couples are doing away with the more archaic wedding rituals. Guests should no longer expect to see a bouquet and garter toss at every reception. Plenty of couples still chose to include these activities, but if you’re scoffing at the idea, discard it. Traditions change with the times. Weddings are no exception.

In other countries, wedding celebrations are rooted in traditions to which a couple must strictly adhere. In the US, there is more of an “anything goes” attitude regarding a wedding reception.

A couple may wish to incorporate a particular ethnic tradition. For example, white floral bouquets traditionally symbolizing purity are still used in many Hispanic weddings. Perhaps the bride and groom wish to be carried around the reception on chairs by their guests, as is tradition in Jewish weddings, or exchange claddagh rings, as the Irish do.

If you choose to pay homage to your ethnic background, there are many fun and charming traditions associated with almost every ethnicity.

Do It Your Way

While the popularity of specific wedding traditions ebbs and flows, the trend seems to be leaning towards picking and choosing which ideas to incorporate and which to ignore. Couples today want to create a wedding that tells a story about their lives, whether a formal sit down dinner or a Star Wars themed celebration.

When all is said and done, it is your special day. Pick and choose the ideas that appeal to you. Be unique, be creative, be remembered. Never be afraid to build your own tradition. Remember, someone had to start every tradition!