Jessica & Rick

The funny thing about weddings is there is so much pressure. Pressure from all sides. Pressure to live up to. When you make choices perceived as non-traditional (by which I mean, basically anything) it seems like everyone has something to say about it. Why don’t you just color inside the lines already? But the wedding industry has also invested a lot of money in making you feel like you should personalize everything about your wedding and make it super indie (while, obviously, still also jumping through all the traditional hoops, because clearly you must have it all at once). Which, when you’re making more traditional choices, can make you feel not good enough. I feel super passionately about both of these issues because I lived in a middle ground where half of my choices were super non-traditional, and half of them were super traditional. I thought that was awesome. The world just thought it should criticize me twice (shut up, world!). So I’m thrilled to introduce Jessica, talking ever so smartly about owning tradition.

I would consider myself the traditional bride. I think my husband and I had a traditional wedding. And I feel like society and the wedding industry overall finds traditional—well, trite and boring. This was something I grappled with throughout our entire engagement. Growing up, and even more specifically, after I had started dating my future-husband, I thought a lot about weddings—weddings in general, my wedding in particular, etc. I liked the pretty of it all, but even more so, I liked that weddings meant something. They were making a statement about your love for each other, usually in front of a lot of other people who are important to you. So, I got wrapped up in the traditions of getting married.

I always knew I wanted traditional vows. My husband and I did not write our own, even though we would have had plenty to say, because I liked the notion that we would be saying the same words our parents did, our grandparents did, and that many people after us would also say to commit their lives to each other. I liked the united feeling with other married people, making it work every day, making the choice to love each other, even when it’s tough, in good times and bad, sickness and health, and—well, you know the rest.

But as we got further into planning and I was faced with the tiniest of decisions I never dreamed I’d ever have to make in my life (satin chair covers or cotton? What?), I also found myself struggling against the “traditional” that I thought I always wanted because I felt like our wedding would be less exciting, less meaningful, less unique, and less fun if we followed traditions.

My husband I are weird people. We sometimes talk to each other in random accents just because we feel like it and make funny faces out in public to be odd. We have unique tastes in things like music and hobbies, and I wanted our wedding to reflect that. I didn’t want people to think we were boring folks because we had a boring, traditional wedding.

I was voraciously reading wedding magazines and looking at wedding blogs at other spectacular weddings that had all these untraditional elements. You could really see the personalities of the bride and groom through their untraditional choices. So more and more, I worried that traditional actually did mean boring, and I thought we would somehow be looked down upon if we followed in the footsteps of those who married before us.

But if I could tell my pre-wedding self one thing now that the wedding day has come and gone, it would be to relax and stop worrying about the impression your wedding will make! I spent so much time trying to find unique things for our wedding that I caused myself unnecessary stress. (I can’t tell you how many times I went back and forth on damn escort cards. At first it was ticket stubs because we like going to concerts, then it was postcards because we like traveling, and finally I just decided to buy a kit at a craft store and make simple ones myself. They were still pretty, and they were functional.) I say unnecessary because our wedding was everything I wanted it to be—it was traditional, but we found ways to make those traditional elements still say “us.”

We got married in a Christian Church and had a traditional Christian ceremony. But in between the readings from the Bible (that we hand-picked) and the pastor’s sermon, our best man pretended to lose my ring and completely lightened the mood. It was perfect. The flower girl, who had sprinted down the aisle in lieu of actually sprinkling petals, fell asleep at her mother’s feet (one of the bridesmaids, who happened to be pregnant with her next child!). The picture of her sleeping on the stairs with her thumb in her mouth is one of my favorites from the ceremony.

We chose to have a string quartet and used all traditional wedding music (Canon in D, Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, etc.) instead of current songs we enjoy. I re-thought this many times. But once I heard the strings start playing the opening strands of my song and saw my mom crying on my left (she walked me down the aisle) and saw my soon-to-be-husband’s face at the end of the aisle, I knew it was the right choice.

I had always associated these songs with getting married, and now I was the one getting married. After having heard these songs time and time again, both at other weddings and just in general, they still felt special and unique when they were played at my own wedding. I got goose bumps and teared up as I walked down the aisle, even if it wasn’t a unique song no one had heard before. Perhaps because it wasn’t a song no one had heard before.

Many couples today shun the bouquet toss and garter toss. I questioned my husband on this often—should we do it? Should we forego it? Will anyone participate? Does it seem outdated? We decided to keep it in because I found a great song I wanted to use for my toss (“I Know What Boys Like” by The Waitresses, if you’re wondering) and for the garter retrieval (“Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen because, well, I’m a teacher), and my husband thought his friends would be into it. I am so glad we kept it. One of my bridesmaids broke a dress strap jumping and lunging for the bouquet, and the look on Rick’s best man’s face when he caught the garter was priceless. It was one of the funniest memories I have of our wedding and our friends, and I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.

One tradition I actually wanted to fight was the clinking of the glasses to make the bride and groom kiss. A weird tradition to try to buck, right? But, I didn’t like the idea of  kissing on command. However, my husband and mother thought it was cute, so we found a way to do it that fit our personality better. If someone wanted us to kiss, they had to stand up and sing us a love song. I was unsure if we’d get any takers and thought I maybe should have just followed tradition on this one. But I am so glad I didn’t.

Not only did my uncle and some of Rick’s cousins oblige us, but it led to our entire wedding party serenading us to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” reading the lyrics off someone’s cell phone. Standing there with my new husband, arm in arm, watching our bridal party members and closest friends sing to us off-key, sometimes struggling with the words, was one of the times at our wedding I felt the most loved.

Looking back on our wedding, it could be described as traditional, but I also think it was us. We carefully chose all the special dance songs for our reception and even planned most of the playlist our DJ played at our reception, since music is important to us. But we also let him play four different Ke$ha songs when tipsy wedding party members requested them. We ate delicious food and cake and danced the night away with wonderful family and friends who came out to support us. We found the right mix of tradition with elements that were special to us. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. And traditional doesn’t have to be boring and void of personality.

I think tradition is what you make of it. No one’s wedding will be exactly like ours, but I cherish the fact that the vows we said and the promises we made are part of a community of people who made those same vows and promises on their wedding day. “Trite” traditions like the bouquet toss can be made fun and unique if it fits your personality and the personality of your guests. Some of my absolute favorite memories from our wedding come from the traditions I so vehemently tried to fight while planning it.

At the end of it all, our wedding day was perfectly us, from the unique elements, like our cake topper that showed a “Still Shopping” sign in place of a bride, taking pictures on a playground to show off our goofy side, and posing with golf clubs because Rick and I have golfed our whole lives, to the traditional cake cutting and father/daughter dance. Don’t worry so much about what other people want or think of your wedding or how traditional or untraditional it is.

I always worried our wedding wouldn’t be cool enough, and I wouldn’t be a super chill, to-hell-with-tradition type of bride. But that’s OK. Tradition doesn’t always have to be bad, or overdone, or trite. You can make traditional your own type of traditional, and it still can be cool and fun and wonderful and all the other adjectives you want to use to describe your wedding day.

Do what feels right for you; don’t worry about what people will think or if it’s been done before. You just might surprise yourself and find that the traditional elements you so passionately fought against end up being what you cherish the most.

The Info—Photography: White Shutter Photography / Venue: Rockford Country Club / Dress: Jasmine Bridal from Sara Grace / Flowers and Decor: Event Floral / Hair & Makeup: Be SPAcific Salon

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  • Bethany

    I don’t really have much to add to this, but I just wanted to say thank you for this! And that I can really relate to what you said about feeling included in past and future tribes of married couples through traditional vows or the Wedding March.

    • Sarah

      Absolutely. There was a moment at our wedding when I looked around and saw all the couples there whose weddings we had been to and remembered those days and that felt really special.

  • Great post.

    Replacing the clinking of glasses with singing of songs is one of the most brilliantly hilarious things I’ve ever heard!

  • To this I say “HELL YEAH!”

    I looked at the traditional aspects of our wedding in the same light that I look at the creation of our baby family…while our baby family is unique to us, it’s grounded in love, honor, trust, and faith. Our wedding was unique to us in that it’s the only wedding we’ve ever been to where we got married – it might have had traditional Jewish wedding “stuff” (which was obviously quite non-traditional for my Catholic family), but it certainly wasn’t boring, overdone, washed up, or non-blog-worthy.

    The purpose of a wedding is to get married. Period. Done.

    The planning, the details, the food choices, the dance music…? That is what makes it your own – whether your choices lean toward traditional or indie or whatever category you want to throw them in. As long as you and your partner are happy with all of it, then awesome. :)

    • Hitting exactly is not enough for this.

      “The purpose of a wedding is to get married. Period. Done”
      “As long as you and your partner are happy with all of it, then awesome.”

      Seeing as how I am still planning, I try to repeat this to myself on a daily basis. It most of the time works.

  • Ashley

    SO what I needed to hear right now! Amen amen amen.

  • Thank you so much for this! I’ve always imagined myself walking down the aisle to Canon in D and now that I’m actually planning my wedding I keep wondering “is that too boring, traditional or cliche?” You’ve definitely solidified it for me. Canon in D it is. Who cares what people think or if my ceremony is “cool.” That’s not what it’s about, and even though we all know that, sometimes we need to be reminded.

    • I love Canon in D and used it. Why not use music that you love?

      But we also used an acoustic version of Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ for the recessional. (My husband’s favourite Welsh rock group, you see.) And an acoustic Bloc Party song while we signed the paper work. Because we loved all the songs, not in an effort to be cool.

      • Totally.

        I processed to “Erev Shel Shoshanim” played on harp and recessed to Josh Ritter’s “Orbital”. Both were our choices of song, one traditional, one not, but they began and ended the ceremony exactly as it should have happened. I loved it. Perfect bookends for our marriage!

  • Claire

    Good for you for staying true to yourself and making the choices that were right for you. It turned out beautifully! I’m glad you were able to block out the noise that tries to tell us we have to do things a certain way to be good enough.

    It seems like we both followed a similar philosophy (“It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing”) to create weddings that may look very different but maybe were similar in that both were true to the values and personalities of the couple and ended up being exactly what we needed them to be.


  • This. Was perfectly timed, as usual. Exactly what I am struggling with at the moment, and a welcome dose of sanity.

  • Love so much about this post!

    The neat thing about so many wedding grad posts (as well as the APW book, I’m finding out), is that you can take these struggles and journeys and lessons from weddings and apply them ALL OVER your life. For example, this really struck a chord with me:

    “So more and more, I worried that traditional actually did mean boring, and I thought we would somehow be looked down upon if we followed in the footsteps of those who married before us. But if I could tell myself one thing… it would be to relax and stop worrying about the impression your wedding will make! I spent so much time trying to find unique things for our wedding that I caused myself unnecessary stress.”

    I think about this all the time in regards to life choices! Now that we’re married, the big questions of “where/how do we want to live? What do we want to pursue? When do we want to have kids? What do we want out of our careers?” are popping up left and right and seem to carry a new weight. And it’s so important to let go of that impression stuff, the fear of not being completely “unique,” and just go for what makes you happy deep in your gut.

    • katieprue

      “it’s so important to let go of that impression stuff, the fear of not being completely “unique,” and just go for what makes you happy deep in your gut.”

      WORD! Very well stated.

  • MDBethann

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Our wedding is in 4 months and while all the big stuff has been done since the summer, we’re getting into details – hymns, processional music, vows, Bible readings, bouquet toss, etc. I don’t want to do the things “everyone else does” but frankly, when it comes to the ceremony part, I’m very traditional and have always found comfort in the traditions of my faith. That said, I want our reception to be fun for everyone. Since we’re going to have a lot of kids, I’m working in a kids table and some sort of craft or fun thing for them based on Cinco de Mayo. Even though we aren’t Mexican (both families are as German American as you can get), we happened to pick that day for our wedding and thought we’d do something fun with it. Unfortunately, our restaurant nixed the pinata for liability reasons so we’re back to the drawing board.

    • I’m getting married on Cinco de Mayo too! Hi wedding buddy!

      Agreed– I keep feeling like we’re boring and everybody’s going to feel “been there, done that.” But it’s what we want, and it’s important to us, and therefore, it is the Way It Should Be.

    • Two ideas:

      1. you could do a “string pull” pinata. There’s no blindfolded flailing about, but you still get candy. It’s fun :-)

      2. we had several kids at our reception. We had some kids’ games available, and I also printed out lots of blank coloring pages to put in a folder (I did mostly Christmas/holiday pics because we just got married two weeks ago) and got lots of packs of crayons. That also kept kids entertained. Oh, and we got little glow bracelets from Michael’s — they sell a tube of them for $1.

  • francine

    thank you jessica for sharing your thoughts! i’ve been really struggling with the traditional vs unique situation as well. this was exactly what i needed to hear! :) congrats on your wedding and marriage!

  • Sara C.

    “But if I could tell my pre-wedding self one thing now that the wedding day has come and gone, it would be to relax and stop worrying about the impression your wedding will make.”

    Aghh! Thank you! I have been tormenting myself because we are having the ceremony in the same place as the reception (renting out a historic chapel that has a lower level reception hall that is fairly plain). My worry over whether people will think that we are “cheap” because we didn’t splurge on an unnecessary second reception venue has been tormenting me – and your admonition to stop worrying was perfectly timed!


    • Oh, man, I’m jealous that they’re in the same place! We wanted to have our wedding and reception in the same place, but it just didn’t work out. We got married in a chapel at a private school, and their dining hall just wasn’t available. We did find a place a mile away, but it would have been nice to just walk over.

  • First of all , congratulations.
    And yup, traditional does not equal boring and weddings are special because of the people, the moments, the feeling.
    There are always 2 unique persons getting together, so it will always be unique.
    “I liked that weddings meant something. They were making a statement about your love for each other, usually in front of a lot of other people who are important to you.”
    is exactly why getting married was important, why “living together” was just not enough for us, I wanted to scream and let the world know ,that this was a new start….

  • Gillian

    A little shout-out of love for the Canon in D – it was also the song I had always wanted to have played and I loved hearing it on the day of. Screw the haters!

    • Sarah

      And the same for readings. Maybe the reason you’ve heard it at loads of weddings before is because it’s such a perfect reading for a wedding. Why let the fact you’re not the first couple to get married stop you using something if you think it’s perfect?

      I hesitated for a long time over having Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, but I’m so glad I went for it. The moment one of my dearest friends began to read that was when the enormity of the whole day hit me. And maybe that’s partly because it shouted “wedding” to me.

    • We chose a pretty common Khalil Gibran for our wedding because it really resonated with us. Also, it was in my parents’ wedding. Win win :-)

  • Laura

    So lovely. Posts like this (and the last one and the last one and the last one…) are why this website is so important.

  • I’m so glad to see a post about the traditionalist/practical weddings. I think sometimes traditional can get lumped in with the WIC, but some of just just happen to love harp music. To me, the ceremony was the most important part – the vows, that was the birth of our marriage and it had lots of spiritual and emotional significance to me. The party afterwards was fun, but it wasn’t the point of our wedding. I agree with what you said about the sense of belonging repeating the vows of your parents and grandparents and great grandparents. The sense of belonging to something so much bigger than myself was overwhelming on that day.

    • Mattingly

      Exactly, and AMEN. My husband and I are Eastern Orthodox and simply being present in that ancient ceremony was deeply moving and personal to us. (funny note, I look soo serious in all our wedding photos because I was concentrating so hard trying to catch all the amazing words going by!) It would be hard to say a ceremony that’s been performed for so many centuries isn’t ‘traditional,’ and yet it couldn’t be less boring as far as I’m concerned! So yeah, shout out to Traditional = meaningful when fully understood, engaged, participated in, and owned.

  • Man, the thing about all these beautiful weddings in magazines and blogs with all the details “showcasing the couple’s personality”… I want to call bullshit. (Not on Jessica herself, because obviously she realized it was crap, too, but in general, for anyone who might be feeling related pressures.)

    Just because there’s an abundance of interesting or unique details doesn’t mean those details capture ANYthing about the people getting married. It just means there are a lot of details. Assholes can have beautiful weddings seemingly full of personality. Couples who are terrible for each other can have beautiful weddings seemingly full of personality. People with zero personality can have weddings seemingly full of personality!

    Isn’t it a little crazy to think we can look at photos of strangers’ weddings and decide, yes, this seems to reflect who they are as people? I have been to weddings that were lovely and beautiful and moving but that I felt were somehow out of step with who I knew the couple to be, but everyone had a pretty good time anyway, and everyone is still carrying on with their highly complex human lives. Because really, who is possessed of such a simple personality that their whole self could be reflected in the decor and planning of one single party? I think you can maybe get close, but it’s a fool’s errand to try to make the whole day reflect your whole self as you see yourself, let alone all of the selves that your guests know you as. And it’s foolish, too, to look at pretty photos of strangers and feel like, ugh, they got this right, why can’t I?

    Mayyybe this is making too fine of a distinction, but I feel like it’s way more helpful to think of it in terms of “planning a wedding that feels right to you and your partner” rather than “planning a wedding that reflects your personalities,” because oh my gosh, I loved my wedding and I feel like it felt VERY right to me and my husband, but if we had planned any kind of party with the aim of fully and literally reflecting who we are, it would have been an insane mess.

    • Emily

      Absolutely. We got a lot of “your wedding reflects your personalities so much!” comments, but the weird thing is that when we were planning it, there were only a few non-traditional details, and the vast majority of everything was traditional and did NOT reflect our personalities because that’s what we wanted. That just goes to show that a) reading too many wedding blogs, especially ones like Offbeat Bride, give you a different frame of reference than everyone who comes to your wedding, who b) only notice what they are not expecting, and most importantly c) as my husband said, “it’s not like we’re defined by our jobs or interests, weddings aren’t about those.” It seems to me that any reflection you can do of your entire personality through details at a wedding is a somewhat high-school understanding of “personality” as reflected in stuff and taste, rather than relationships and actions that are less visible – not that there is anything wrong with those kinds of details, but they certainly can’t reflect all of who you are!

  • Jessica, I think you’re my wedding twin. My husband and I make noises and faces at each other, and had a fairly traditional wedding. (I loved saying the traditional vows!) Thank you so much for your post. In a world of indie weddings and DIY brides, it makes me feel so wonderful to know that there are couples out there who can embrace the traditions because they mean something to them.

  • jessie

    As usual, this comes at the perfect time: I’ve been beating myself up for the last little while for ‘caving’ and buying a bridal dress, rather than pretty, regular dress, as I’d planned. I was wondering if it would be more ‘ME’ to wearing something colored and simple, rather than formal, fancy, and white-ish. This was a good reminder that I don’t need to make sure every single element of this wedding screams ‘you will only see this here’, and focus on embracing what works for me. This is true especially in light of the traditions I will not be including (because they aren’t reflective of my feelings) but that I will still miss. I’m thinking here of walking down the aisle with my parents, or a first dance with them – while I want to walk down the aisle with my fiance, I’m still a little sad that I won’t be doing that thing that I’ve long associated with weddings. Perhaps I will balance these out with some more traditional elements!

  • Nicole

    Exactly what I needed this afternoon. Thank you.

  • katieprue

    Thank you for sharing this awesome wedding! If anything, you incorporated what *should* be the most important traditions… love and happiness! C’mon, look at these faces! So much joy going all around here. I, too, have battled with myself (family/WIC/indiebrides/whatever) about tradition and such, and wanting to eschew it all in the face of being cool/making a statement. When really, it’s just as simple as, “We like! IN! We hate. OUT!”

  • Kris

    This was really lovely to read. We’re still in the baby planning stages but the more I try and figure out ways to be “unique” the more I realize that these are opportunities to share in parts of a Really Big and Important experience with my parents and family (both old and new). I’ve realized that not only do I want to celebrate Alex and I’s commitment to each other, but also recognize the 30+ years each of our parents have been married, because that’s not something that you can take for granted these days. I’d love to have parts of our wedding remind them of their own (just, um, not their stylin’ early 80s poofy dress and light blue tux)… they each started something wonderful on those days, and we’re going to be starting something wonderful on ours, and oh my goodness, I just want there to be wonderfulness all around.

    Granted, I still don’t want an traditional flower bouquet and I don’t want a big cake and I really, really, really will shoot the DJ if he plays the Cupid Shuffle. And I HATE the clinking glasses thing, so I freakin’ love the kisses-for-song idea and may totally yoink it. :) But I suspect there will be a few elements on our day that are certainly “traditional” and I’m really okay with that.

  • Hurray for traditions.

    We’d talked about writing our own vows a few months ago in the abstract and agreed it would be a good idea. And then Forrest kept making remarks about not knowing how to write vows. I asked him a couple of days ago if he’d like it better if we cobbled together some more traditional “I will” statements to repeat to each other. The look of relief was soooo apparent. “It’ll be traditional,” he said, “But in a good way.” Yup. For sure. :-)

  • North Star

    Yay for traditional weddings! I had a traditional Catholic wedding with classical pieces performed by a harpist and organist & also worried people would find it boring, overly formal, and void of personality. But we got compliments from guests on the quality of the music and the readings were appreciated, even if they were the typical biblical ones. People were just happy to see us happy and getting married. It was also a huge relief just being able to say the normal vows & feel a part of something bigger rather than try to make them original. I never considered submitting my wedding for any blog because I figured there was nothing unique or especially original about the photos and the day, aside fromtheir meaning to us.

  • Newtie

    Thank you for this! This post is so perfectly timed for me — I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself lately, as I’m realizing more and more that my wedding is going to look fairly “traditional,” even though when I started out I feared I was doing too many unconventional things (no shower, no paper invites, no professional music, writing the ceremony). But even with those things, my wedding is still going to look much like most weddings do. Mostly because that’s what’s easiest (for me), and I’m a busy woman with a job in a creative field, so I really don’t need or want to try to plan a wedding that is a complete expression of me, my fiance, and our love for each other. I admire people who want to do that (and who have that kind of energy), but to me it just feels like too much pressure. I just want to get legally married and have a party for our friends and family who helped us become the people we are.

    I’ve also been reading Meg’s book and thinking about the word “tradition.” I think a lot of what I politely refer to as “traditional” is not, in fact, traditional. It’s conventional. Unfortunately, conventional has a negative connotation, but I’ve started using it to describe my own wedding anyway, and it pleases me immensely to be able to do so without any self-judgment. Because my wedding IS going to be fairly conventional — I’m going to be wearing a white dress, there’s going to be a ceremony in which we exchange vows, and then we’re all going to eat dinner together and dance. Fairly conventional. We’re not following EVERY convention, but I don’t think we’re doing anything that’s going to astound our guests with our uniqueness or creativity, either. And every time someone asks me what my wedding is going to be like and I say, “fairly conventional,” I feel like I’m helping other people to be comfortable with the idea that following tradition and/or convention is not a negative. Just like non-traditional or non-conventional.

  • I had friends that did a similar twist on the clinking glasses/newlyweds kiss thing. When people would click glasses, long-term couples would be chosen at random to demonstrate a kiss and then the newlyweds would have to replicate it.

    But partner and I decided to do a spin, dip, kiss. It was really funny to watch my friends try to do it just like us.

  • Maybe the most important pre-wedding lesson in here is that you have no idea how the day is going to go. Schedules are good, yes, but the emotions – which will be your favorite moment? Funniest? Most frustrating? Most poignant? I, too, found that particular moments felt less significant than I expected them too, while others permanently touched my heart even though I didn’t want them in the first place.

  • Bethany

    Philosophically, I wonder if bride/grooms who have seen marriages succeed in the their families are more likely to go traditional.

    I completely respect people’s decisions to have traditional weddings, but when Jessica said “…I liked the notion that we would be saying the same words our parents did, our grandparents did…” I had a much different reaction. I hope we don’t follow in the footsteps of my (or my husband’s) parents/grandparents. Hardly any of them had a healthy marriage and the majority ended in divorce(s).

    I’m happy that tradition is a positive for Jessica though. :)

  • Excellent post! I keep saying to whomever will listen, “make the wedding your own” and whether that’s traditional or not, it doesn’t matter If It Is YOU!

  • I needed this. Thanks. I was so sure that I wanted a quirky unique wedding to reflect our quirky unique selves, and then the ceremony space that felt right was a Catholic Cathedral, and the reception space that made me feel comfortable and happy was a fairly traditional banquet hall. I freaked a bit, and then realized (after a pretty rocking party with lots of friends) that the quirky unique-ness comes from all my friends and family who bring the awesome with them wherever they go.
    Also, I’m a super DIY bride who likes to focus on details (I design decorations and details for a living, it would feel wrong for someone else to do them on my wedding day), my details have nothing to do with “perfectly capturing who we are as a couple” and everything to do with “things that I think are pretty and would be fun to make.”
    Oh and thank you for releasing me from my fear of paper goods. If I don’t have a great unique idea for escort cards and invitation, that doesn’t mean I need to think of one. It is totally okay to let those just be what they are and focus on the pretty things that are fun to make.

    • My escort cards were really simple. I bought textured cardstock and designed the cards myself in publisher (I created gridlines to make 8 cards to a sheet). Each card had the name, food choice, and a picture that matched the food choice. I printed the cards, cut them up, and stuck them in our card holders (little wood rounds with a slot in them). No need to go all crazy. They worked fine and looked plenty pretty.

  • We did a full hour-long service as part of our wedding. I did worry a little bit about being too traditional, but we did it because it was so important to us. We had communion (with a custom made set a friend made), several hymns, liturgy, readings, and a sermon. Thankfully, I got lots of people commenting that the service wasn’t too long — probably because we did lots of participatory things, like hymns instead of special music.

    We chose to go less traditional with our reception. It was a sit down dinner, which was important. But we skipped the dance in favor of board games. We wanted folks to be able to talk and not feel pressured to dance. It worked out really well for us. Like you said, the important thing is to do what feels right and not worry about whether it is traditional or not. We didn’t do a bouquet or garter toss (or toasts, or plenty of other things) because that felt weird for us. But our cake cutting was front and center in a spot where everyone in the room could watch. Once I let go of the worries, I found our ceremony was super meaningful, and our reception was fun.

  • Jessica

    I have loved reading through all these comments on my post! Thank you for all of them. I’m glad some of you could relate, and even for those of you where “traditional” doesn’t necessarily bring about good or positive memories, I guess my overall message is to make your wedding about you and your partner and what YOU want, without pressure from any blog, magazine, person, etc. I focused on the traditional because I feel we did, overall, have a traditional wedding, and in what I Had seen, “traditional” so often was something brides and grooms were “supposed” to buck. When that shouldn’t be the case at all. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for your decisions.

  • Carrie

    For my own wedding? While it didn’t follow a particular established religious form, I don’t think there was a durn thing involved that no one had seen or heard before at a wedding.

    We did the traditions that made us happy and said what we wanted to say (e.g. “for better or for worse” vows, exchanging rings, first dance, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss) but didn’t feel bound to do any that didn’t make us happy (e.g. glass clinking, having a tiered intricately decorated wedding cake, having only Bible readings, Canon in D or the Wedding March).

    There were a lot of wedding traditions that said/did exactly what we wanted to say/do — it would have been silly for us to avoid those those just for the sake of being quirky or unique. But there were also some traditions that really didn’t work for us, and it would have been equally silly for us to do those things just to fit a list of established wedding traditions.

    It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, in other words. Your wedding choices can overlap with traditional/conventional wedding choices as much or as little as works for you. Anyone who tries to tell you different is probably selling something!

  • Girl, get outta my head. I loved this post and it brought a tear to my eye. I struggled with tradition as well…and I am with you that some of my favorite memories from the wedding were the traditions. I went back and forth for months about doing a Dollar Dance and after seeing it at a friend’s wedding a few months earlier, we decided the tradition of the Dollar Dance was more important to us than what some people who didn’t know me thought. It was worth it to get to dance with so many people who watched me grow up or grew up with me.

  • For starters, your photos are AMAZING.

    This is probably my favourite ever APW post. You hit the nail on the head sooo many times!

  • Michelle

    I love love love love love this post. Thank you so much for hitting the nail exactly on the head! I just got married and our wedding was also very traditional, and as I was reading this I felt like you had gotten into my head and said exactly what I was thinking about my own wedding. Yay!

  • Ruth

    “Some of my absolute favorite memories from our wedding come from the traditions I so vehemently tried to fight while planning it.”

    This was so true for me, I just had to repeat it!

  • Kelly

    Thank you! I literally have nothing new to add to this conversation, but like so many others have said, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. Perfect. And your pictures are beautiful :)

  • Elissa

    You’re right, every decision feels like it’s too heavy. I debated endlessly over the same stuff and knew it was ridiculous but couldn’t stop. But you know what? Your wedding WAS yours, I felt that it belonged to you and Rick the whole day. And I felt that our wedding was ours. That’s the ultimate thing to remember, make it yours as much as you can without making yourself crazy.

  • Noemi

    I just have to comment about the clinking glasses- I have been to many weddings in my life, but our wedding was Kevin’s second he had ever attended. So when everyone started to clink their glasses during the dinner, I had to tell Kevin what they were doing and why. I guess I took it for granted that everyone knew that, but looking back, it was definitely funny. Luckily, our guests didn’t take advantage of us and the clinking only happened once. A “traditional” aspect that we did end up skipping? The Dollar Dance (aka. the Bridal Dance). I don’t really remember this at other weddings, but apparently it’s a thing (an Eastern European thing? A Western Pennsylvania thing? I don’t know). I was so embarrassed at the prospect of having to dance with so many men that were not my husband, but different family members (my sister and in-laws, namely) really wanted me to do it. I think my father-in-law even said something about how he had never been to a wedding that didn’t do it, that we just HAD to have a dollar dance. However, the actual night of the dinner/dancing, the DJ asked me once or twice about the dollar dance song (apparently there’s a designated Dollar Dance song, too, some polka I think) and I just told him that I had changed my mind and didn’t want to do it. So we didn’t. And you know what? I didn’t regret it. And I’m pretty sure nobody else cared either.

    Another reason that maybe I didn’t want to do it… The song was a polka, which is Polish, while my entire family is Hungarian and does not polka. We csardas. So I did have our DJ play a couple traditional Hungarian csardas songs, and my sister and I took charge in teaching everyone willing how to csardas. I love the pictures of me doing the csardas with Kevin’s friends! Definitely a better memory than being forced to dance for dollars.

    • We skipped the dollar dance too! It just seems tacky to expect people to pay money to dance with the bride or groom, when they’ve already probably bought a gift and possibly travelled to be there.

  • PA

    I am actually in the situation of not wanting to do either garter or bouquet toss, and so this post was very heartening – if you wanted to, and ALSO felt social pressure in the other direction, then clearly the social pressure game cannot be won and we should all go have a cup of tea and do what we want.

    I enjoyed this post, and the pictures – people are so gloriously happy in them, and it is clear that the wedding celebrated the two of you! Consciously-made choices (for instance, to say the same wedding vows your community had said) are not trite, and this post really demonstrated that!

  • 1) I love your dress. I almost bought one exactly like your dress but I already had one. You look SO pretty.
    2) We also had a fairly traditional wedding, in a lot of ways. I wore the big poofy dress and had the bridesmaids and we did the bouquet toss and said traditional vows. But I feel like making those choices because you *want them* rather than you making those choices because they are your only options is what makes your wedding unique to you. Meg said something about using traditional vows because it connected them to all those people who got married before them, and I feel the same way. Ultimately, marriage is traditional. We choose to enter into these partnerships because people have done that for thousands of years.
    3) I’ve been to a lot of traditional weddings and they still feel like the couple. There are tiny decisions you have to make – from the flowers to the color of the invitations to the food selection – that will all end up reflecting you. Ultimately, a wedding forms a background but the people that are there are what really makes it feel like the couple, because your people are a reflection of you and sharing this day with them is what really matters.

  • When we started planning our wedding, I went through and circled ceremony choices out of the “Workbook” our officiant gave us. They were all untraditional, stayed as far as possible from the typical vows and responses, and made very little mention of religion (as my husband and I are currently nonpracticing for different reasons).

    Then (and please don’t laugh, guys!), last April, I got up at 4am to watch the Royal Wedding. And saw William and Kate do things exactly as they’d “been done” for centuries and centuries, and cried my face off. Like that, the lightbulb went off and I GOT the beauty of repeating the words said by so many before us, and the little rituals I was consciously avoiding.

    We ended up with a combination of very traditional vows and ceremony wording, but readings that were extremely personal. We skipped the unity candle in favor of a handfasting, and skipped some of the ceremony “traditions” as well- ditched the dollar dance, and provided little bells for people to ring for kisses, rather than pounding the hell out of their glassware. While it may not have been the most unique wedding our guests ever attended, it was OURS. And sometimes that’s ok. :) Thank you for this lovely post, Jessica!

  • Thank you Jessica and Rick!

    This makes me feel 100% better about our choice to do a Catholic ceremony. Friends have scoffed and complained about length, but our faith is so important to us that it feels wrong to swap it out for something quick in a park.

    This post reminded me that a wedding should be for you two no matter if it’s 2 hours in a church or 5 minutes in a courthouse. THANK YOU!

    • Jessica

      Definitely do the Catholic wedding if that’s what you want. I grew up Catholic, although I currently consider myself more “Christian Non-Denominational.” Had I still been a practicing Catholic, we probably would have had a Catholic Mass. Those who really care about you will sit through a longer ceremony because they love you, even if they get a little antsy :) Ours was not a Mass and ended up being about 40 min–longer than a lot of weddings. Go for it!

  • Maureen

    I’m completely late to the party on this post, but I just HAD to echo everyone’s compliments about this post. When I run into issues with wedding planning, I try to console myself by saying, “This is a wedding undergraduate post waiting to happen!”

    Lately, this is the exact issue I’ve been struggling with. The word I *always* seem to see thrown around as a synonym of “traditional” is “cookie-cutter” (e.g. “We didn’t want anything too cookie-cutter, so the usual banquet halls were out” or “We aren’t the kind of people who like cookie-cutter things, so we decided to write our own vows”). The blogs I gravitate to online are all full of feisty, amazing, DIY, indie, progressive folks–which is GREAT–but which also, then, constantly makes me feel like, “Where ARE these cookie-cutter people? These folks who say, ‘You know what? We don’t give a crap about the meaning of any of this, so just go ahead and give us the Usual.'” I don’t actually believe they exist. I think, in fact, that anytime I look at something and think, “Cookie cutter,” the person getting married looks and sees deep meaning, family history, or, at the very least, the memories of screaming to one’s mother OH MY GOD ANY NAPKIN IS FINE I DON’T CARE ANYMORE MAKEITSTOP! Similarly, any time I look at something and think, “Too quirky,” or “Weird” or “Crazy” those brides or grooms are looking and seeing an expression of their in-most hearts, or an in-joke between the couple, or, at the very least, memories of deciding I TOO CAN MAKE KICKASS PAPER DECORATIONS THAT WILL BE WHIMSICAL AND UNIQUE, STYLE-ME-PRETTY BE DAMNED! I AM CRAFTER, HEAR ME ROAR!

    In general, I’m practicing believing that when other people talk about “cookie cutter” OR “crazy,” they’re not talking about me, or, really, anyone. They’re talking about a fear or anxiety that they have, one which probably comes from a very good, real, legitimate place. Which I can respect. And then ignore. ;)

  • Emily

    You hit the nail on the head with your description of traditional vows! I guess some people think something is automatically less meaningful if it is “traditional” because it’s not personalized, but I felt that it was actually more meaningful to be saying words that millions of other people have said, and to be joining into this institution that has continued and changed in increasingly inclusive and beautiful ways over so many years. (On a religious note, it’s similar to how I feel about the Lord’s Prayer…how amazing to recognize that when you pray it, you are praying with the whole church, in the most broad sense of the word.) There’s something to be said for belonging to something bigger instead of just stressing your own individuality.

  • BEAUTIFUL! I feel like you just shared the non-Jewish version of my wedding, that I shared on APW a few months ago. Amazing. I’m so happy to hear that other people are being themselves at their weddings and not spazzing over it (even though it is so easy to spazz!).

    Mazel tov!