10 Charming Alternatives To The Same Old Wedding Traditions

Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.

Dear Alimay Events,
I just got engaged and am about to start planning my wedding. It’s not something I’ve given much thought to so I’m afraid of falling back on standard, run-of-the-mill wedding traditions simply because those are the first things that come to mind. What can I do to make my nuptials unique? Cliché Dismay

Dear Cliché Dismay, While weddings are rooted in tradition, they offer so many ways to truly let your personality shine. Whether you shake things up at the ceremony, throw a few wild cards at the reception, or simply tweak details throughout your event, it’s easy to make sure your wedding is the kind of wedding only you would have. While we don’t pass judgment on anyone for the way they envision their big day, we have seen it all, and if you’re looking for something a little different, we can steer you in the right direction — the aisle less taken, if you will.
Here are 10 oft-followed traditions that could use some fresh thinking, along with our suggestions for kicking your originality up a notch.
Rehearsal Dinner
A rehearsal dinner is the best way to welcome guests and get everyone prepped for day-of activities. But, a formal, sit-down affair isn’t the only way to do it. Why not throw a cocktail party instead, and let everyone loosen up a little bit? It doesn’t hurt to get the fun train rolling early and ease folks (yourself included) into the events to come.
Who says flowers are a must? Sure, blooms are beautiful but so are succulents (California chic!) and all kinds of greenery. Banana leaves and palm fronds can make a much more dramatic statement than a handful of roses, no matter how those petals are arranged.
Wedding Dress
Nine out of ten brides opt for a white gown, but when it comes to choosing your “I do” dress, you can go your own way. Try looking outside of bridal collections — Chloé’s S/S 15 RTW has some stunning options, perfect for beachy nuptials — remember, you don’t have to wear a dress at all (this Rachel Comey jumpsuit has bride written all over it). Is your wedding outdoors? Don’t rule out a garden dress from Carolina Herrera or Oscar de la Renta. Whatever style you decide upon, it definitely doesn’t have to be white. Peruse other colors like blush or pale blue, because let’s be real, few of us are wearing white to indicate our virginity.
For many brides, accessorizing with a veil is a given — it’s elegant and feminine, not to mention romantic when it’s lifted by a groom going in for a kiss. But, there are plenty of other accessories to consider. Tap into some flower power with a crown made of blooms, or opt for a vintage headband (we’re talking one with Blair Waldorf flair, not Coachella-style).
We blame Father of the Bride and, of course, this tune’s indisputable beauty, but whatever the reason, Pachelbel’s Canon has been the soundtrack for countless walks down the aisle for as long as we can remember. We won’t deny that it near instantly brings a tear to the eye, but it’s definitely not the only option. Did you meet your beau at a bar? Walk in to one of the songs that was playing on the jukebox that night. Does he have a favorite tune that you despise? Show off your compromising skills by surprising him with it.
Being walked down the aisle by your dad can be an incredibly meaningful experience. So can taking cues from other culture’s traditions — Jewish brides are walked down the aisle by both parents so that no one feels left out. Or, make it a special moment just between you and your partner and stroll to the altar together.
Illustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
There’s a reason Corinthians 13 is probably the most-read ceremony passage of all time. It’s got great stuff about love and patience and honor and pretty much everything a couple making a lifelong commitment wants to hear. But, the same sentiment can be found in a host of other places — try finding a poem from Neruda, revisit the lyrics of one of your favorite songs, or simply write your own vision of what you think love is. Any reading can be meaningful — down to the menu recitation of your favorite resto! — as long as it feels authentic to who you are as a couple.
Just about every wedding reception involves a toast or two and they most often come from the maid of honor and best man (and almost invariably involve an embarrassing story rooted in drunken debauchery). Why not let the usual suspects off the hook and have a sibling speak instead — it’s likely they’ve known you longer than anyone. And, that father-of-the-bride speech that’s probably on the agenda? Get your mom in on the mic action as well.
Table Settings
Linens and floral centerpieces are the go-to elements for reception décor. Why not think outside the tablecloth and set your post-ceremony spread with some ultra-chic placemats? They can make the meal more intimate and casual. Floral arrangements are an easy tabletop fix, but so are decorative objects (commission some geometric sculptures perhaps) or ceramic planters, which will last much longer than a bouquet for the guests who pilfer them when the party’s over.
If cutting the cake at your wedding is something you’ve dreamed about forever, by all means, let them eat cake! But, if your sweet tooth isn’t partial to this tiered confection, you can really get creative. Offer guests a pie bar so they can choose their favorite slice, serve up a tower of macarons for a photo op as beautiful as it is delicious, or break out the ice cream and let everyone go to town on DIY sundaes. It could be the cherry on top of your most original wedding.

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