How to Break with Wedding Traditions: Tips & Encouragement for Non-traditional Brides

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As a non-traditional bridal shop, I LOVE to go beyond the gown and learn about the unique elements our brides are planning for their special days!

Working with so many non-traditional brides, I am fortunate to learn about so many creative ideas during the journey of designing custom wedding gowns. And as a non-traditional bride myself, I remember how difficult it can be to stick to what you want, make your wedding stand out from all the others and truly represent you, and shake off the traditions and expectations imposed by friends and family during the wedding planning process.

After my own non-traditional wedding planning journey and serving as a “cheerleader” to countless brides who have needed ideas and encouragement to pursue their unique ideas, I wanted to create this resource for anyone looking for inspiration, tips, and encouragement while planning a non-traditional wedding.

To start off, I have a few pieces of advice for non-traditional brides.

Advice & Encouragement for Non-traditional Brides

  • Start with the traditions, then decide what stays and goes.
    Whenever I have brides coming in and mentioning that they’re having trouble thinking of unique aspects to include in their wedding day, I always recommend that they look at all the different traditions and trends first. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, this is a great way to put a lot of options on the table without feeling overwhelmed by them or feeling obligated to say yes to them. I tell my brides to take these trends and traditions and create a “buffet” of options from which you can choose what stays, what goes, and what you want to modify to fit your style and vision. This way, you’re not exhausting your brain trying to come up with brand-new ideas, so you can save your energy and creativity on planning the other aspects of your wedding day.
  • Set a vision before others start helping you plan.
    After getting engaged, I encourage brides to pause and revel in the excitement of being newly engaged before they jump into planning. But when you are ready, spend some time - by yourself - thinking about what is important for your wedding and what your vision of the perfect day looks like. Establish the must-have elements and the non-negotiable things that you absolutely don’t want, and document these.

    It’s important to do this first before including family and friends in your planning, because trust me - everyone has an opinion. Involving other people too soon can cause your vision to get trampled by everyone else’s ideas and wishes, and this can be where things go off the rails quickly if you’re not careful. I’m always a huge advocate for letting others help you plan your big day so that you’re not nearly as stressed (plus they might have some great ideas to throw into the ring as well)! However, make sure you have a set vision in mind before letting them help so you still keep the most important parts of your wedding your own. It’s okay to say “no” if their idea isn’t in your best interest!
  • Stay true to your vision and communicate it clearly.
    This ties back to my earlier piece of advice. When you’re bringing others into your vision, things could be misunderstood or you might have a friend or family member jumping ahead with the best of intentions but it doesn’t align with you and your plan for the day. Make sure you have a set idea in mind (and preferably on paper/Pinterest) in order to help guide your team!
  • Surround yourself with supportive vendors and people in your planning circle.
    Not everyone will support you and your vision. Make sure the people in your corner are there to support you, your vision, your happiness, and your marriage. If not everyone supports your vision, you’ll find yourself stressed out more than if you were planning everything yourself.

7 Ways to Personalize Your Wedding

When it comes to personalizing your wedding, there are so many different aspects that will allow you to make it perfect. Here are some of my favorite areas of the wedding day that you can personalize!

Write your own vows.
This is an easy way to add that personal spin to your ceremony, even if it takes place in a more traditional setting! Showcase your romantic side. Share memories or inside jokes you have with your partner. Write them down for an easy-to-recite speech that you and your sweetheart can hold onto forever!

Get married in a non-traditional venue.
The opportunities with this one are endless! Choosing a non-traditional venue can not only make it feel more personalized, it can also be a great money-saving option depending on the location you choose. Consider options like a park, a beach, the woods, a museum, a concert venue, or a restaurant that has played a part in your love story. Explore the idea of choosing a venue based on whether the location has a special significance for you and your partner.

Have fun with shoes and accessories.
I’ve had a number of brides bounce their accessory ideas off me while we work on their dresses because they want their personality to shine through their whole look, in addition to their custom gown! You could show off a cute pair of colorful heels or flats, especially if you have a shorter tea-length or cocktail-length gown, a slit, or even a fun high-low skirt as part of your design.

When it comes to accessories, I encourage you to complement your look with anything that will showcase your aesthetic and personality even more - items like hairpieces, unique veils, jewelry, and other accessories are another opportunity to let your personality shine. Whether it’s something traditional, meaningful, costume jewelry, a vintage-inspired piece, you name it - it will surely stand out more than cookie-cutter accessories.

Use a unique “guestbook”.
Instead of a traditional book that you may never read again, try creating something that you could (and actually will) look back on! Most of the time, those traditional guest books are revisited the first couple of weeks after your wedding for addresses and then shoved into a bookcase or box never to be seen again. Try thinking of options that you could hang in your home or some more fun and interactive options that your guests could really get into! Some of our favorite ideas include a tree where attendees ink their finger to create a leaf and sign their names, a wall-hanging/sign that you plan on hanging in your home, a coffee table or bench, or setting up a Polaroid station where guests can take photos together and sign their names and well-wishes that you can add to your wedding album!

Pictured: My custom guestbook sign from Etsy. Guests signed in permanent marker, and now it hangs in my home!
Photography Credit: Randy Edwards Photos

Offer food options that mean something to you as a couple.
Do you have a favorite restaurant or food as a couple? Have it as an offering at your wedding! Did you lock eyes over a plate of spaghetti? Are you big on Mexican or Thai food? Food is one of the most memorable aspects of a wedding to guests, so venture outside the classic catering options and look for meaningful local options that could cater those more unique food choices. This is even easier today with the rise of food trucks, which are great for appetizers, the main course, or even a late-night snack!

Pictured: My incredible grandma Rosary, who baked over 400 cupcakes for my wedding, plus a 2-tier cutting cake and a German chocolate groom's cake!
Photography Credit: Randy Edwards Photos

Offer unique dessert options.
Cake can get messy, and it can definitely get expensive. Plus, figuring out who has to be the cake-cutter in the back is a detail often overlooked until the last minute. Instead, consider offering more unique dessert options to mix up the monotony. Try having cupcakes for a more grab-and-go-friendly cake alternative (plus you can have a wider assortment of flavors)! One of our brides had a donut tower instead of cake. What about a cookie or sundae bar, or an assortment of mini cheesecakes, handheld pies, or pastries? You could even do a fun take-home dessert bar with kitschy, classic, or meaningful candies.

Get creative with your wedding party (or ditch it all together)!
Traditionally bridesmaids are all womxn while groomsmen are all mxn. I love to challenge brides to have fun and bend the rules of gender norms in their wedding party. Not everyone’s closest friends are the same gender, and the thought of traditional bridal parties can be especially frustrating for many of the LGBTQIA+ brides I work with. So instead, consider having a bridesman, a groomswoman, or ditch the notion of separate sides and just have your support circle standing up there with you on your big day, no labels attached. You don’t have to stick with all womxn or all mxn - wedding parties in this day and age should simply reflect your support circle regardless of their gender identity.

Plus, this can create some amazing flexibility in other ways. For example, when looking at the wedding party’s outfits, don’t be afraid to mix and match colors, styles, or even choosing outfits that aren’t the “standard” bridesmaid dress or tux. Another fun idea for the ceremony? Flower Mxn are all the rage right now! Ask one of your guy friends to waltz down the aisle with his best fanny pack or a cute little basket and toss flowers for you - this definitely will wow your guests and be a fun memory to look back on for years to come!

More Than a Wedding Gown Designer: Your Personal Cheerleader

I am always trying to learn about unique ways to break with tradition, and sharing those ideas with my brides. Besides being your wedding gown designer, my favorite part of the wedding gown design process is being your biggest cheerleader. To me, the more rules you want to break with your wedding, the better fit you are to be an HCC Bride!

If an alternative wedding gown is just the beginning of your non-traditional wedding planning journey, I’d love to be a part of your day and support you throughout the journey.

To learn more about our custom wedding gown design process, contact us today. I can’t wait to be your cheerleader!

Ready to design your custom gown? Contact us today to get started!

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