By DJ Cam Reeve
Couples planning their wedding often ask themselves the question “Should I incorporate classic wedding traditions into our big day?” It’s a tough decision to make. For years, couples from around the country have fallen back on age-old traditions to fill time at their reception – cake cutting, bouquet and garter tosses, money dances, and more. However, times are changing! Today’s brides and grooms are increasingly looking to raise the uniqueness of their wedding. Do these traditions still have a role and, if so, how can you incorporate them into your big day?
Why traditions exist
Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t wedding tradition haters! Wedding traditions have existed for decades for a variety of reasons, many of those symbolic. For example, the cutting of the wedding cake traditionally symbolized a couple’s first joint task of marriage. The bouquet toss arose because guests in Europe used to attempt to snag a piece of the bride’s dress as a good luck charm. These traditions, carried on throughout the years, brought a sense of familiarity and ritual to weddings.
Wedding traditions have evolved and changed over the years. Many traditions even change based on where you live! For example, many east coast weddings in places like New Jersey follow a very different timeline than weddings on the west coast. Instead of serving salads, dinner, and champagne for toasts and then going into the dance party, New Jersey weddings often break up dinner and intersperse mini dance sets between the courses.
Just because they’re tradition doesn’t make them requirements
We need to start with this – tradition doesn’t mean requirement. It doesn’t matter if every person in your town has done a bouquet toss since 1832. Just because all of your friends or bridesmaids had a receiving line doesn’t mean you need to.
There aren’t any wedding tradition police who are going to swoop into your venue and halt things if you skip over the cake cutting. In fact, it’s highly likely that forgoing a wedding tradition will go unnoticed by the majority of your guests. And some traditions (looking at you, garter toss) have honestly started to feel a little dated and embarrassing. People may even be glad you skipped over this one! But it really comes down to what you want your guests and yourself to feel on your wedding day. If a smile and laugh are important maybe the garter is the way to go, but more times than not, it's embarrassing and does not fit your wedding vibes.
Figure out what matters to YOU
Instead of simply following tradition for tradition’s sake, sit down as a couple and decide what’s important to you. You may both love the idea of cutting the cake! Perhaps you’ve looked forward to throwing the bouquet since you were young. On the other hand, you may not have many single ladies among your guests and so skipping the bouquet makes the most sense. Like anything else on your wedding day, the most important part of planning the timeline is choosing activities that are meaningful for YOU.
Don’t feel forced
Many couples have historically included traditions in their wedding for the simple fact that, well, they’re traditions. Others include them because a parent, relative, or friend feels really strongly that they should happen. However, unless it’s going to offend someone or ruin a relationship, we suggest that you don’t cave to peer pressure. If pushed for an explanation, just explain to your loved ones that you’ve chosen to focus on other parts of the reception and create your own unique traditions.
If you like some traditions but maybe aren’t a big fan of the spotlight, there’s always an alternate approach. Instead of pausing the reception and drawing everyone’s attention to, say, cutting the cake, you could always take a private moment and do it yourselves. After all, you’ve most likely eaten first and can easily slip away and enjoy a few intimate minutes together.
Doing traditions right
If you do decide to proceed with the classic wedding traditions, you can make them run more smoothly by doing things right. Make sure you pay attention to the details that make up each portion of the reception. For the cake cutting, double check that you’ve got a knife set aside along with a few napkins. If you’re going to smush cake in each other’s faces, set aside some time in the timeline for cleanup and/or changing outfits. And don’t forget to let your catering staff (or wedding planner) know to cut and serve the cake after you’re done – we’ve seen too much wasted but perfectly good cake at receptions!
When you do incorporate wedding traditions into your reception, it’s important to think about how your day will flow. Breaking up the traditions throughout the night requires you to recapture your guests’ attention repeatedly. This isn’t impossible, but it requires a good DJ or MC to make sure all eyes and ears are on you. Like we mentioned before, choose those traditions that are significant and have meaning to you.
An example of a tradition that doesn't make sense is doing a 'Fake Send off' to have photos. Too often it takes everyone outside during the peak hour of the dance floor. Unless your family and friends are true partiers you've ruined the vibe and many guests will take that as permission to leave because you have just done your 'Send off.' Don't get us wrong we love good photos but at what cost to your timeline and the attention of your guests?
Consider alternate traditions
If you want to incorporate wedding traditions into your day but are looking for something fresh, there are some great, less common wedding rituals you could try. The unity sand ceremony, for example, signifies the joining of two people in marriage and is a great alternative to the traditional unity candle. Other couples opt to pour champagne over a tower of glasses instead of cutting a cake. Tree planting ceremonies, knot tying, and more – all great options for the couple looking to try something unique.
Prioritize your time and money
At the end of the day, we recognize that planning (and paying for) a wedding is a significant investment. There’s only so much money in the budget and so much time on the timeline. If traditions are important and meaningful to you, then make them part of your day. If you’d rather spend the cake cutting time on dancing and the cake budget on drinks, then more power to you. Our goal is always to make sure that your wedding day is uniquely you – a reflection of the things that matter most to you.
DJ Cam Reeve's Thoughts
"I've DJed weddings for 8+ years now and have seen over 200 weddings. I share this not in hopes that you won't do traditions - I love many of them - but I share it in the hope that you know you have permission to do what truly brings you joy and resonates with you as a couple.
It's stressful trying to please all the parties around you. Take the time and talk to the person you are going to spend your time with. Do things that give you purpose, get you excited, and lead to the photos and video memories that you want to remember.
If what I'm saying speaks to you, let's connect. I love working with passionate couples who want to do things unique to them, including their musical journey on the dance floor. I love things like diving into the deeper music that speaks to you as a couple. I'm all about being yourself and being bold."