Wedding Traditions & Deciding What’s Important

Photography Credit: Chennergy Weddings (full wedding here)

I put a shout out on my Facebook page to ask if any of you we’re struggling with anything wedding planning-wise and if I could help. A couple of you mentioned wedding traditions, namely how to decide which to include and which to scrap altogether. I have a few ideas on the subject…

Remember, it’s your wedding

There is a recurring theme throughout nearly all of the weddings I feature – that the couples wanted to have a wedding that was a true reflection of themselves…their likes and dislikes, their relationship, their personal style, their life influences. I believe that deciding which wedding traditions to include or ignore should also be totally dependent on you and what you value as being important to your wedding day.

Make a list, check it twice…

I’m a huge fan of the list. If ever my mind is going crazy about something I always physically write my thoughts down in a notebook. This really helps me to de-clutter my head and think things through properly without screaming “AHHHH I CAN’T COPE!”

I encourage you to give this a go if you’re struggling to make wedding decisions. Try writing down the traditions you’re struggling with and making a pro/con arguement for each section. Talk about it with your fiance and decide together if you want to have them in your wedding or not and why.

Some topics to get you started…

♥ Church vs civil ceremony – you’ll probably know instinctively which of these you want already but thinking about the reason why might help you get in the right frame of mind to start on the others
♥ Vows – traditional church vows or write your own?
♥ Wedding rings – do you both want to wear one?
♥ Bridesmaids/Groomsmen/Maid of Honour/Best Man – what combination works for you and your set of friends?
♥ Outfits – do you want to wear white and what style of clothing to do prefer in ‘real life’?
♥ Formal family/wedding party portraits – do you want them? (remember, although you might not be too fussed, they are often the most important photos to parents and grandparents!) Which combo of friends and family do you want formal shots of?
♥ The receiving line
♥ Speeches – who’s doing one and when in the day will they fall?
♥ Formal cake cutting
♥ First dance – yes or no? Choreographed or just wing it?
♥ Throwing the bouquet
♥ The garter toss

Photography Credit: Emma Case Photography

Your wedding its not a ‘coolness’ competition

I think for many brides and grooms (especially with the popularity of wedding blogs showing gorgeous weddings daily!) they feel like their wedding is a bit of a competition – a way to show how cool, different or ‘blog-worthy’ they are. Firstly, this is nonsense. Utter crap. Your wedding day does not define your relationship or your marriage…and after all this is what it’s all about right?

If you like a particular wedding tradition and want to incorporate it into your day then do it! Having a receiving line or a formal cake cutting does no make you any less of a Rock n Roll Bride. We actually had both at our wedding (and we got married in a church) and I’m glad we did.

The idea of a receiving line in particular was something I was embarrassed to admit that we’d done afterwards. In actual fact Gareth & I weren’t fussed about doing one or not. However my Mum said that she thought it would be a good idea as it would make sure we said hello to everyone and acknowledged that they had made an effort to come to our wedding. Especially for our older releatives, who let’s be honest we could have easily ignored as while were having all the fun with our friends, the receiving line made sure we thanked them all for their love and support. Yes, it was a little forced and awkward and we don’t have any photographs of it (it was hardly the most important part of our day) but it did mean we spoke to everyone…and I know the Granny’s appreciated it.

Make your own traditions

It’s up to you to make your own rules and traditions. If something is important to you or your family then DO IT… similarly if it’s not then don’t. Now go and enjoy planning your wedding your way!


  1. as a photographer couldn’t agree more with the formal shots thing – the number of pre-wedding meetings i’ve had where the B+G have said ohh we’re not fussed just one or two of us then half way through the day will be trying to squeeze one in with Uncle bob (ooh er) and Nana and Grandad! when the light isn’t ideal or we’ve moved to a different less appropriate venue

    I always say to my clients have a good think about it – if you do want a set of group/formal shots then limit it to around a dozen or so and give a list to me beforehand (really important)…when I point out that if they want 30 or 40 formals then they need to realise it’ll be the two of them in every single one and they will be smiling for an hour! their minds tend to focus!

  2. This is such good advice. It is about doing (or not doing) what is right for you and your partner, you will never please everyone so make the decisions you think are right for you.

  3. I’m not even engaged and worry about these things. For me, there will be no first dance and no throwing of items to guests, it’s a tradition that just doesn’t mean anything in my opinion.

    But this is encouraging advice to embrace an individual approach, thank you.

  4. Amber

    It’s also worth checking what decisions will be made for you – I wrote my entire civil ceremony myself, only to be told two weeks before the ceremony that you actually cannot use ‘for better for worse, to have and hold’ outside of the Church of England. A quick rewrite fixed it (plus added a Star Trek reference which was awesome), but I’m still a bit sad, as it’s the only bit of tradition I wanted.

  5. We got married just last fall and now we’re wedding photographers, and we totally agree. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in details and expectations, but in the end, the marriage is what matters, and the wedding is a celebration of that union.

    The happiest couples aren’t the ones that spend the most; they’re the ones that care the most about each other and about making the wedding meaningful to their uniqueness.

  6. I’d never thought about the receiving line like that before! I’m not engaged but I’d always though that if I was to get married I’d definately dispense with that tradition .. but you’ve made me rethink … just goes to prove that you should sit down and go through all these traditions properly before dismissing them as not appropraite for your wedding!

  7. Mmm, we had both a receiving line and a friendship circle in our wedding. The friendship circle was incredible. It was not a tradition we’d heard of before, but we went looking for ideas online, and came across that, and it was quite possibly Mike (the groom)’s favorite part of the reception : D

  8. I think it’s odd that traditions seem “un-cool” or outdated now. They’re called traditions for a reason! That being said, I still get find myself saying, “egh do we really need to do this, or that?” because they seem dated. Like the ‘dollar dance’ My mom thinks it’s a good idea that I have one because it will ensure that I make sure I acknowledge all of my family and get to thank them for coming, and as an added bonus will wind up with extra money…but I’m still a little unsure. It just seems so…awkward and strange.

  9. Jen

    brilliant, really helpful! My fiancee and I have discussed some of the things on the list, but not all. It’s a great starting point to lead into other discussions and visions for the day.

  10. Jen

    for us, the cake cutting is a tradition that we don’t care about. Every wedding we’ve been to it’s all a bit forced and posed for the photographs (one photographer we talked with said she doesn’t take many photos of that moment because it’s so posed, but the guests love it so she takes photos of the guests taking pics), and it doesn’t mean anything to us personally. We’ll definitely have delicious desserts after dinner, but no formal cake cutting thing.

  11. Lou Liddy

    I have been to two weddings where at the end (last dance) everyone has got up and danced in a big circle and the Bride and Groom have been in the middle and went round and thanked everyone! I want to do this at our wedding defo – it was lovely! (even though it will make me cry to say goodbye to everyone!!)

  12. Kat Mc

    “Your wedding is not a ‘coolness’ competition”. So undeniably true. I can’t believe how wrapped up couples get on having things at their wedding purely based on the potential reactions of their guests. Our rule: if WE like it, nobody else matters.

  13. Catherine

    “Your wedding is not a ‘coolness’ competition”. So undeniably true. I can’t believe how wrapped up couples get on having things at their wedding purely based on the potential reactions of their guests. Our rule: if WE like it, nobody else matters.”

    love it!!

  14. I actually like receiving lines. Yes it’s a bit forced, but it does give yo a wee moment to hug & kiss everyone you want to hug and kiss and the oldies do love a good hug and/or kiss more often than not. I approve. For sure. And have taken some lovely pics of the hugs/kisses/giggles in my time too. People interacting with one another is what makes a wedding lovely if you ask me.

    Anyways, yay for this wee feature and the various good points made herein. Not least the bit about doing whatever means something to you and your family and to hell with everything (and indeed everyone) else. Enjoy it and have no regrets, I say.

  15. Kat: Lou Liddy described it above! Basically, we chose a song for the very last dance (“Lean on me”), and everyone at the reception formed a great big circle around us, and we started together at one point in the circle and each went in the opposite direction and embraced each person in the circle until we’d gone completely around. It was a wonderful way of thanking each person who’d made it to celebrate what was the official beginning of our lives together.

  16. Alison

    There’s a modern tradition I’d like to stamp out…live tweeting of weddings! My fiancé’s geek friends will all do this for sure & I find it a bit intrusive, even though I know it’s meant well & just a bit of fun. Will I be a bridezilla if I stamp my feet & say STOP! ?

  17. Mela

    On Dress Tradition – So I can’t decide if I should go for a tea length dress, or a traditional A-Line dress…. I’ve found a tea length one which is gorgeous and under $500AU, but the other dresses are in excess of $2000AU (the ones I like anyway).
    The tea length isn’t a wedding dress (per-say) but it is gorgeous and from a well known designer. Anyway – I would be so, so comfortable in it, it’s flattering, shows my tiny waist and my curves, he would LOVE it especially knowing I’m not a big fluffy bride. I don’t want to regret either decision because I simply can’t decide… does that mean I havent really found the right one?
    I really want to spend as little money as I can get away with – and with the tea length dress, I can go and buy a pair of Jimmy Choo’s and still be in front LOL…
    What do we think? Have you regretted your wedding dress choice?

  18. Sandy

    You tend to get big friendship circles at indian weddings (we did at my brother’s). With it being a big fat indian wedding it was a pretty big circle. The bride and groom danced in the middle and after a little while the whole circle was coming in and out (like you do in the hokey cokey!). It was a nice way to get everyone in and involved but at the same time not take the focus off the main people! Watching the wedding video back I have to say that was one of my favourite bits!


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