Your Own Way, Together
By Ashley Hahn
hitched to the idea that weddings are actually for the couple
is your day, fiancés. And it is up to no one but you to make
of it what you will. There are no rules, save the end result:
your new union.
Some families bristle at the idea of a couple not standing
up in church surrounded by a meticulously chosen color scheme,
in froofy dresses and tuxes, reciting age-old vows that include
the word “obey.” This time-honored picture is for some of
us, but not for me. I’m not halfway down the proverbial aisle,
but when my time comes, the freedom to choose what I want
out of my wedding will be tremendously important. It’s not
that I’m interested in spitting in the face of tradition,
but that the tradition just isn’t such a good fit for me,
and I’m far from alone here.
My aunt secretly eloped well before her conservative Jewish
wedding—which was complete with a 15-woman wedding party clad
in pink satin—and I suspect it was because she couldn’t strike
a balance between familial obligation and nuptial liberation.
Some people do, however, succeed in reconciling those desires
into one ceremony.
Even if you and your spouse-to-be don’t come from very traditional
families, there is an obvious pressure to make your wedding
an event that everyone will, at the very least, enjoy. The
last thing you want, however, is to regret the choices you
make for a day everyone will remember. Clearly, a wedding
should be one of—if not the most—important ceremonies in a
person’s life, so that’s all the more reason to make it entirely
your own. The planning should be an opportunity to organize
something that’s tailored to you as a couple, which will make
it all the more special.
Nontraditional weddings are tremendously popular in this country,
even though the glossy bridal mags seem more inclined to think
nontraditional means barefoot on the beach with the bride
in a white princessy gown, not a wetsuit. Part of this trend
is that interfaith, not to mention no-faith, marriages are
so common; hereditary Jews marry Catholics, atheists marry
pagans marry Unitarian Universalists. With ceremonies moving
out of places of worship into alternative spaces, a whole
host of new options open up for the couple, including self-penned
vows and unusual wedding rites. People designing same-sex
marriage/commitment ceremonies have explored these possibilities
for years, and many in the straight community have begun to
learn from their experiences.
Custom weddings do not mean simply choosing purple as your
color or doing it outside. Think broader than that. This isn’t
about being unusual for the sake of it, but it is about your
individual tastes. I’ve recently known a bride who wore black,
seen a groom in flip-flops, and been to a reception involving
bonfires. Throwing convention to the wind lets the couple
prioritize certain traditions and ditch others, while paying
less money at the same time. If you want to have a potluck
at the VFW instead of swanky caterer at a hotel, or dance
to a jug band instead of chamber group, that’s your prerogative.
Alternative approaches help combat what Lori Leibovich, Salon.com
writer and creator of indiebride.com, calls the “wedding industrial
complex”—the $70 billion-a-year wedding industry. Just because
you’re getting married doesn’t make you a total sucker, and
it sure doesn’t mean you have to shell out the big bucks to
be happy with your big day.
My friend Anna made her invitations, requested guests to come
in “dressy attire with swimsuits” (the wedding was on a dock),
and encouraged camping out. In an excellent compromise, my
friends Bob and Amy had a small church ceremony and formal
luncheon, then threw a rock show as the party for all of their
friends that night. Whatever you fancy, it’s about making
it meaningful for you as a couple.
With the truly personalized wedding on the rise, so too are
the enterprising businesses geared at helping couples realize
their idiosyncratic nuptial vision. They specialize in everything
from the ceremony, to the food, the invites, the party, or
your very attire. Your invites can be printed on totally recycled
paper with soy-based ink and you can have an organic dress
and cake, if that’s your bag.
If a different ceremony is what you’re after, you can drink
a toast from linked arms—each drinking from your own glass
but in real and present danger of a mess if you don’t stay
aware of the other—to signify self-
sufficient togetherness. You can have friends deliver readings
(picked by you or by them); or each light your own candles
and then use those to light a single ‘relationship’ candle
to signify unity, while the individual lights burn on. The
options are countless.
There are also a bevy of alternative registry services that
let you sign up either for a gift registry with chain stores
that will donate a certain percent of the money they take
in to a charity of your choice, or a donation registry where
your gifts will be charitable donations outright.
Just remember: Your wedding preparations and ceremony don’t
have to be a burdensome drag; after all, the prospect of the
Helpful resources for the less-than-traditional bride-to-be:
Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box, by Carolyn Gerin
and Stephanie Rosenbaum
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