I'm here to tell you a big secret. Your wedding day can (and should) be completely customized to you and your partner. The expectations, the traditions, anything that feels like a burden? Let's leave that behind. You don't need my permission to cut the things that are "supposed" to be a part of your day, but you can have it anyway. My goal is to make sure your celebration is uniquely you.
Dan and I included many wedding traditions in our special day (from old/new/borrowed/blue, to a white dress, to including a ring warming in our ceremony). But there were many things that didn't fit with our vision, and we simply cut them.
Just because everyone says you have to – or just because it's always been done that way – doesn't mean it has to be that way for your wedding. At the end of the day, the only thing you need for your wedding is a willing partner, and some legal paperwork. Isn't that kind of freeing?
Here are some examples of traditions we skipped when planning our wedding:
We Nixed Bridal Parties/Groomsmen
Warmth and gracious hospitality were two of the key themes for our wedding week. We wanted to make sure that all of our guests, who had traveled from far and wide could spend their time exploring Florence, turning a trip for our wedding into a memorable vacation. We also wanted all of our friends to feel like guests, and to skip the obligatory spending on specific attire or pre-wedding events. Plus, each and every friend who came was special to us and it would have been impossible to select a bridesmaids and groomsmen and still have a full audience.
Of course, ditching classic traditions doesn't mean all or nothing.
Dan still got ready with all his friends – though he was the only one who suited up. They had a blast, and aside from a quick, goofy photo shoot, they had the rest of the day to relax and spend time together before donning their suits.
Two friends helped me get ready, which gave us some time I'll always treasure, and came along on the first look, too. We were able to hand select our favorite aspects of these traditions without the challenges that sometimes come along with them.
I Walked Myself Down the Aisle
This was a tough one. It's such an inherent part of American culture, and it's such a milestone. My dad and I are lucky to have a wonderful relationship. But being "given away" didn't sit right with me. Our wedding was a celebration of two families coming together, and I didn't want any symbolism that suggested I'd be less a part of my family by starting a new one with my husband.
Instead, I organized a family processional, which also took the place of bridesmaids and groomsmen walking down the aisle. We reserved the first two rows for the immediate family, and once all guests were seated, our families began the procession. Dan, and our dear friend and celebrant, Kellin, lead the way, followed by parents and siblings, and finally our flower boys and flower girl.
In a nod to tradition, I also made sure that my dad had a seat right on the aisle – so I could pause on the way to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Entering solo felt more authentic for us, and fit better with our ceremony. Plus, it gave me a chance to see my parents' expressions as I walked down the aisle, which was a special moment, too.
We Asked Our Guest to Pick Seats, Not Sides
Many have embraced this idea, where guests can sit on either side of the aisle, instead of just on the side of the person they're there to support. Where two families are coming together, and so many of our friends are already mutual, having a fully blended audience felt right to us.
We also had our family sort of swap sides – though this was less symbolic and more practical. Sitting on the opposite sides gave our parents clear views of their own child's face and expressions throughout the ceremony.
We Got Married on a Wednesday
The wedding boom can make snapping up a Saturday near impossible, let alone a Saturday in June. With our wedding abroad, and guests traveling internationally, the mid-week wedding was less jarring than it might have been if we got married in New York. It also gave us an opportunity to host a series of other events (including a welcome pizza party for those who chose to stay at the villa, and a walking tour, rehearsal dinner ,and farewell brunch for all guests). While many of our guests knew only us or a just a handful of others, by the end of the week it was clear lasting friendships had been forged. Plus, it freed up the weekends for our guests to explore more of Italy or Europe as tourists.
Mid-week weddings come with a whole host of benefits. Read on in the defense of the midweek wedding.
When in Rome! Embracing the Tuscan Wedding Cake Tradition
I am a passionate baker and in a different life, I might have made my own wedding cake. But under the stars in Florence, Italy, a traditional, multitiered cake didn't feel quite right for us. While the elaborately decorated cakes make for great photos, they're often more "style over substance," as they might say on Bake Off. As foodies, we wanted to make sure every single bite was stunning for our guests. Expensive, disappointing cake wouldn't fit.
Instead, we embraced a Florentine tradition: millefoglie. This translates to "thousand sheets" and refers to the layers and layers of flaky pastry. Like the French mille-feuille, this beautiful dessert consists of puff pastry layered with Chantilly cream and fresh berries.
In Tuscany, it's often dusted with powdered sugar by the couple to signify a sweet start to the marriage. Planning ahead for summer humidity, I also requested that our layers be caramelized, to keep them extra crispy and flakey.
We also opted to help construct the cake together in front of all of our guests, adding the cream to the final layer.
The result? A little bit of a show for our guests, and a truly stunning dessert that our friends and family still talk about. Building our wedding cake together was a special moment for us and made for an unforgettable experience.
If you are planning a wedding in Italy and want a wedding cake that will wow your guests, I can't recommend this enough.
No Dance Floor, No DJ
For the musical entertainment, we hired an amazing band from Bologna. The group plays Gypsy Jazz, which gave a jaunty and warm tone to the whole affair.
They performed incredible instrumental versions of Lady Gaga's Yoü & I for our processional, and Neil Young's Harvest Moon for our recessional.) During the aperitivo, my talented nephew joined the band for a few songs, too. They relocated once more to the Limonaia (lemon house) to play throughout dinner.
While there was no dance floor, Dan and I organized a choreographed first dance, which we surprised our guests with before we assembled our wedding cake. (The band played a little faster than Dan and I had rehearsed, but that only meant we got to add in a few extra spins.)
Because our wedding week involved so many meals and activities together, even guests who had arrived knowing no one made lasting friendships. I had set out a bunch of board games in the loggia to create quiet introvert-friendly corners, but everyone opted for talking long into the night instead. For further entertainment, we also included a photo booth, which gave us a chance to use our ceremony florals as a backdrop.
Seeing One Another on the Wedding Morning
We were so excited to spend time with our guests, who had traveled from three different continents to join us in Italy. And, like any couple staying at the same hotel as many of their guests, we spent much of our time socializing with them in the days leading up to the wedding. Finding a moment where we were alone – even to talk basic wedding logistics – was near impossible.
That's why our wedding morning breakfast is extra special to me. Instead of staying in separate rooms or avoiding one another, we prioritized a special wedding breakfast, just the two of us. We posted up in the loggia overlooking the Duchess Garden, where we could see our guests enjoying breakfast from afar and enjoyed our espresso and a few moments of quiet together. This was truly the only time it was just the two of us, alone together and with our thoughts, all week. We used the time to transcribe our vows into a book we'd use during the ceremony, and to share a couple moments of quiet.
In the end, it's all about choosing which wedding traditions work for you, and which wedding traditions to leave in the past.
Every wedding is different, and every should be special. Your day should consist of things that are most meaningful to you and your partner, and contribute to the overall narrative of your day.