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Choose your own (wedding) adventure: the formalities you can do your way

Wedding formalities wedding traditions
Thanks to Hollywood and long-held traditions, it's easy to assume there’s not much wiggle room with your wedding formalities. 
But here’s the thing: a bucketload of the most common formalities - who's in your bridal party, the bride and groom not seeing each other before the ceremony, etc - are rooted in superstitions or old-school customs. So if you’re not the type to look out for cracks on the pavement or avoid black cats, why wouldn’t you do your own thing? Then there's the fact that some formalities might not suit your style as a couple. And when your wedding is all about celebrating who you are as a twosome, it seems only sensible that you shouldn't feel obliged to uphold some elements just for tradition's sake. We love the idea of shaking up your wedding formalities, whether it's putting your own stamp on some or ditching them completely. Here's how you can put your own spin on six popular wedding formalities.

Your bridal party

Traditional way
A bridal party was once much like a high school dance: boys on one side and girls on the other. The members of the bridal party also had to dress exactly like the groom or bride they were standing next to. Why? Something about confusing evil spirits and making it harder for rival love interests to kidnap the bride or groom.

Your way
Patrick Dempsey did it in Made of Honour, and there’s no stopping you from having a bridesman or groomsmaid, either. Because why should your bestie or sibling have to miss out on standing on your side of the altar? A bridesman will usually wear the same suit as the groomsmen, with a tie or pocket square in the same colour as the bridesmaids’ dresses. A groomsmaid could wear a dress that’s the same hue as the groomsmen’s suits too. Have a smaller, furrier member of the fam you don’t want to walk down the aisle without? Bridal coach and director of Sydney’s Inlighten Photography Rachael Bentick says pets are becoming important members of bridal parties too. “Much loved cats and dogs are not only convenient ring bearers, but they also look super cute in a tuxedo,” she says.

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Your first look

Wedding formalities wedding traditions
Traditional way
Ever heard the saying that a groom seeing his bride before the ceremony is bad luck? This was to make sure the couple didn't start married life on the wrong foot. In the case of arranged marriages, preventing the groom from seeing the bride was done so he couldn’t change his mind and re-enact a scene from Runaway Bride

Your way
Enter the first look: a trend that’s taken off in the last couple of years. It's designed to give the soon-to-be-hitched couple a private moment together before the wedding whirlwind begins. It also makes for a downright cute photo opportunity (expect lots of ‘aww’s when everyone sees the snaps). You could even have your bridal portraits and bridal party photos just after the first look; you’ll be freshly made up and can then spend extra time mingling with guests after the ceremony. 

Your vows

Wedding formalities wedding traditions
Traditional way
Way back when, a couple's wedding vows were pretty stock standard. The bride and groom would each repeat a string of phrases and exchange rings. Once the celebrant had said the legal bits, the couple were officially wed. 

Your way
Anna Bryers, a Melbourne-based celebrant, says that couples are focusing on making their ceremonies as personal as possible. “There are so many ways to personalise vows and the ceremony formalities,” Anna explains. “Couples are adding their own touch by saying things like ‘I promise not to hog the remote’, ‘I’ll make you coffee in bed every Sunday morning’ or ‘I promise to tell you you’re beautiful even when you make that scrunchy grumpy face’.” Don’t want the pressure of writing your vows from scratch? Anna recommends including a personal promise onto the end of more traditional vows. 

“I am finding that most of my couples want to acknowledge same-sex marriage too and they ask me to add a disclaimer to the legal wording [about marriage being between a man and a woman]. I tend to say that it’s not the view of the couple,” Anna says. You can also add in different rituals, like a knot-tying or sand-pouring element. There is one thing you can’t change though. “The couple do need to say the legal vows and be heard by their witnesses,” describes Anna. “And I have to introduce myself and include some legal wording as well.” The couples and official witnesses will also need to sign three marriage certificates; the rest of the legal paperwork will be completed before the big day. 

Your first dance

Traditional way
The first dance was a way for the newly married couple to open the dance floor to the guests. It would then be followed by the parents’ dance, then the father/daughter and mother/groom dance. 

Your way
Forget the foxtrot or Viennese waltz. Unless your dancing repertoire includes the classic ballroom steps, you definitely shouldn’t feel pressured to learn an entire routine for your first dance. Plus, if you have guests itching to bust a move, they might not even wait for your first dance to start cutting shapes. You also might be more comfortable doing an old-school shuffle-on-the-spot before hurriedly waving your bridesmaids onto the floor. Or perhaps a flash mob performance is more your thing? 

Your speeches

Traditional way
This one can vary depending on cultural customs and religion, but the traditional running of speeches is: father of the bride, the groom and then the best man. The speeches would generally include a toast – to the bride, bridesmaids, groom – and thank guests for attending. 

Your way
Who speaks, when they speak and how long their speech runs for can be totally rejigged. The speeches could be staggered during the reception or you knock them all out in one go; your mum or maid of honour could speak too. Heck, you might even want a turn at the mic. Kick-starting your reception celebrations with speeches could be a bonus for those speaking, says Rachael. “Having the formalities first means the poor best man and dad can ease their nerves by doing their speeches early.” But who says you have to have speeches? Doing a quick thank-you might be more your thing. Or you might not want to break up your guests’ dance battle with a speech, so you do away with them completely. 

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Your bouquet toss

Wedding formalities wedding traditions
Traditional way
You know how this one goes: all the single ladies form a huddle and the bride throws her bouquet over her shoulder. Superstition says that the woman who catches the bouquet is next in line to get hitched. 

Your way
We’ll be honest: sometimes you just don’t want to give up your bouquet. You (and your florist) probably put a lot of graft into making sure it was perfect, so it makes sense if you’re reluctant for it to go home with somebody else. If you do want to uphold this tradition though, consider having your florist make a second separate posy or asking for your bouquet to have a small bunch of detachable stems that can be removed when you’re ready for the toss. You could even throw one of your bridesmaids’ or flower girls’ bouquets - just give them a heads up before you take their blooms away.

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