Weddings are nothing, if not traditional. From that first date to heading out on your honeymoon, everything about standing up in front of your loved ones and committing yourselves to each other is rooted in a tradition of some sort. That said, the wedding rules have changed. Engaged couples today have and will continue to celebrate their love in their own way. There are no rules anymore when it comes to getting married in the Washington DC area – or anywhere else for that matter! Just about the only thing traditional about today’s weddings is the tradition of making it your own,  making it personal and making your wedding a celebration of who you are as a couple. Washington DC area wedding planner Lee, owner of Savoir-Faire, LLC, put together a list of a few wedding traditions that are worth keeping and some worth bending. Here is what she had to say about wedding traditions…

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Photo Credit: Kristen Gardner Photography
from Elizabeth and Paul’s wedding in DC

Weddings are steeped in tradition. Many wedding customs have endured for hundreds of years, but, over time, some of them have lost their significance and fallen out of favor. Over the years, I have seen the wedding traditions that couples are holding onto, the traditions they are choosing to put aside, and the newer wedding traditions that are emerging. Through my experience helping couples plan their big day, here is what I have found to be the “in’s and out’s” of modern day wedding traditions.


Wedding Party – Some wedding traditions just make sense! If you’re planning a smaller wedding, you may think that you don’t really need any attendants. I find that couples who lean this way in the beginning tend to change their minds when we talk about the ceremony logistics. Who will hold the bride’s bouquet? The rings? And don’t underestimate the value of a little moral support at the altar.

Guest Book – Back in the day, a wedding guest book was needed for legal purposes. Wedding guests were officially witnesses to the marriage and their presence had to be recorded. Nowadays, wedding guest books and can be everything from advice cards to photographs to signed furniture, or skipped altogether.

First Dance – Formal dancing isn’t a skill many of us possess these days. A quick twirl on the dance floor with your other half is a great way to get the party started at a wedding, though. If you’re nervous about the two of you being out on the dance floor all alone, tell your DJ or band ahead of time to invite others to join you halfway through the song. Also, consider investing in a couple of dance lessons. You’ll feel more at ease and maybe even learn a fancy move to impress your guests!

Cake Cutting – A “sweet” tradition in every sense of the word! It is a small, but significant showing of how you and your partner will work together as a married couple. And if you don’t want to save the cake top for your first anniversary, have a mini version of your wedding cake made for the occasion. Or you can forego the traditional tiered cake for your favorite dessert, like pie or cheesecake..

Favors – The wedding favor tradition goes back centuries. Weddings have always been considered good luck, and giving out favors to your guests is a way to share that good luck and thank them for their support. Some couples are skipping favors as a way to cut costs, but if you have a fun idea, favors are always appreciated by your guests. And you can create favors that do double duty, like serve as an escort card or as part of the wedding décor.


The Proposal – Who says romance is dead? Couples have taken marriage proposals up a notch lately. There is nothing wrong with putting a little thought into the occasion and making it special! I’ve seen everything from planning scavenger hunts to secretly hiring a photographer to capture the moment of the proposal. What a great memento for future generations!

Bridesmaid Dresses – All of the rules are being broken in this area! Brides are getting creative (and kinder!) by choosing a dress in a different style and even a different color for each attendant. Brides are even letting their ‘maids choose their own dress. The result is a refreshing departure from the cookie-cutter look of the past. And did you see Solange Knowles’s wedding? Bridesmaids can even look spectacular in white without upstaging the bride!

First Look – We’ve all heard it’s bad luck for couples to see each other before the wedding ceremony, but these days couples can’t resist a sneak peek just before they walk down the aisle! A moment alone before the wedding officially gets underway gives you and your partner a chance to connect and say, “You’re amazing; let’s do this!” It can also be logistically easier to do a first look to save time on photographs later in the day. A first look with the bride and her father is also starting to trend.

Ceremony Seating – Blending your families and friends into one big happy group is one of your most important goals for your wedding (and after), right? In the past, wedding guests invited by the bride sat on one side, while guests of the groom sat on the other. This can seem a bit rigid these days, as ceremonies are becoming less and less traditional. Plus, it can be hard for guests who are friends with both people getting married! Most of my couples go with traditional seating for those in the wedding ceremony processional, but let their guests pick a seat, not a side.

Planned After Party – There’s always been an after-the-wedding party, but now they’re official. More and more couples are planning parties for after their wedding as part of their wedding day festivities. If you think you’ll be up for more celebrating after the reception, it’s a great way to spend more time with your close friends and family in an informal atmosphere.

Ultimately, of course, the traditions you decide to include in your wedding should be a reflection of your families and of who you are as a couple. Isn’t it nice that we have some flexibility in the 21st century?


Thank you so much, Lee! It was fun to go down wedding tradition lane with you today and learn more about what couples are saving and skipping for their weddings. For more from Lee, or if you are looking for a wedding planner in the Washington DC area, be sure to check her out at Savoir-Faire, LLC.

For even more locally helpful advice, you may look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.

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