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22 Outdated Wedding Rules No One Follows Anymore

Updated: Nov. 10, 2023

They say some rules are meant to be broken and we couldn't agree more.

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wedding ceremony aisle petals

You need to get married in a house of worship

“We have had a few couples who opt to get married in a church and then come to our venue for their reception,” says Kate Elder who owns Overlook Barn, a wedding venue in North Carolina. “But by far the majority are skipping the church ceremony altogether and opting for a beautiful outdoor ceremony or ceremony in one of our barns.”

2 / 22
wedding party

Your wedding party has to be all women or all men

“It is perfectly acceptable to have either gender as bridesmaids and groomsmen,” says Kristin Watkins, owner and lead planner at Stephanie Rose Events. “We have started using the term entourage to describe the wedding party.”

3 / 22
wedding invitations

You need to mail printed invitation and RSVP cards

“More couples are moving to email and digital invitations,” Watkins says. “It was common for my couples with international guests to email information rather than mail an invitation, but now it is acceptable for all weddings. Couples like that the responses are easier to track and emailing saves on costs. Guests like that they can respond by clicking a link rather than mailing back a response card.” Next, check out these important wedding invitation etiquette rules.

4 / 22
table setting
Anna Malygina/Shutterstock

You need to have a big, formal rehearsal dinner

“Without the traditional financial roles or financial help from the parents, this formality becomes an unneeded expense as modern couples see that they are essentially paying for two receptions,” says Amy McCord Jones, owner of Flower Moxie which helps brides make their own DIY floral creations.  “Instead, couples are opting for a quiet dinner with immediate family.”

5 / 22
write check
James Steidl/Shutterstock

The bride’s parents pay for the wedding

“Most of my couples pay for part or all of their wedding themselves, including the rehearsal dinner,” says Sarah Bradshaw, a Washington D.C.-based wedding and engagement photographer. “If the parents pay, it’s usually for specific things.”  No matter who’s paying, you still want to keep costs low using these 10 creative budget-cutting methods for your wedding.

6 / 22
wedding bridal party

Bridesmaids have to wear the exact same style dress in the same color

All the bridesmaids wearing the identical, solid color dress is less common as couples opt for more personal wedding party attire,” says Lindsey Nickel, a wedding planner at Lovely Day Events. “Couples are really embracing making the wedding feel like their own wedding and personalizing as much as possible. This is one of my favorite wedding trends because it allows people to pick a dress that flatters their figure and that they would realistically wear again.” Here’s how this tradition began in the first place.

7 / 22

Each family has to sit on separate sides during the ceremony

“Guests used to be required to sit on the left side of the aisle if they were from the bride’s side, and on the right side of the aisle if they were on the groom’s side,” says wedding and event planner Ashley Gelfound. “However, nowadays the wedding couple does not uphold this tradition. Instead, guests sit wherever they feel comfortable and the bride’s side and groom’s side intermingle.”

8 / 22

The bride walks down the aisle with her father and the groom walks down the aisle alone

“More and more we’re seeing brides wanting to walk down the aisle with both parents which is beautiful,” says José Rolón of José Rolón Events. “We’re making more room for three person aisle. Also, grooms are now wanting to feel included in this and want to walk down with their parents as well.”

9 / 22
wedding couple

The couple can’t see each other before the ceremony

People say seeing your spouse-to-be before the ceremony is bad luck, but you can try using some of these wedding traditions that are supposed to be lucky to even things out if you want a look at your partner before you walk down the aisle. “Most couples do a first look and portraits now to help ease the stress of the wedding day schedule,” Bradshaw says.

10 / 22
wedding date party
Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Every guest needs a plus one

“A general rule of thumb is that any couples who are engaged or live together should get a plus-one,” says Ranu Coleman, chief marketing officer of online bridal retailer Azazie. “In this day and age, most couples live together before they get married—or never get married at all—you need to show respect for their union.”

11 / 22
man tuxedo black suit

Guests can’t wear black to the wedding

I think it’s appropriate to wear black to a wedding, especially if it’s a black tie wedding,” Nickel says. “Black is so chic and timeless. Guests who want to wear black should consider the venue and season. At a winery in the summer, a formal black dress would be out of place. However, a black sundress would fit in wonderfully. A black dress can be brightened up with colorful shoes and a bold statement necklace.” 

12 / 22
wedding officiant
Mateusz Liberra/Shutterstock

Your officiant has to be a religious figure

“Instead, we are seeing couples have their relatives (we’ve seen dads, moms, aunts, and cousins) or friends officiate their wedding,” Elder says. “It brings a really special intimate touch to the ceremony to have someone who knows the couple so well officiate it! Just be careful to make sure the person you choose is comfortable speaking in front of a crowd during a very special event.”

13 / 22
write planner date
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Your wedding weekend should only last one day

“Rather than being a short celebration, we are seeing couples turn the entire weekend into a celebration, starting with a welcome party for out-of-town guests on the day prior to their wedding, going into the ceremony and reception, all the way to a brunch on the following day,” Elder says.”Creating more time for celebration means more fellowship with loved ones and a great weekend-long memory! This is especially true for destination weddings.”

14 / 22
wedding petals
Jurij Krupiak/Shutterstock

You have to have a receiving line

“Receiving lines have disappeared over the years,” Nickel says. “This formality used to be expected at church weddings, but with so many wedding ceremonies taking place outdoors and feeling less formal, couples now skip the receiving line. Instead of receiving lines couples are opting to go straight into wedding party photos and have more time to enjoy cocktail hour.” However, these are the wedding etiquette rules everyone should still follow.

15 / 22
cut wedding cake
Andrii Medvednikov/Shutterstock

The cake cutting has to be a huge affair

In the past, couples made a show of cutting their wedding cake during the reception, but this is becoming much less common, according to Bradshaw. “If couples do it at all, it’s often private, unannounced, or quietly in a corner without many people around.”

16 / 22
wedding cake
Kate Kultsevych/Shutterstock

You have to have a wedding cake

These days, many couples don’t even opt for the traditional wedding cake, nevermind them cutting it in front of everyone. “We are seeing couples create a variety of dessert tables including small dessert bites, pie spreads, donut walls, or even candy stations,” Elder says.  Here’s how wedding cakes became popular in the first place.

17 / 22
child food wedding
Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock

You have to have kids at your wedding

More and more couples are asking their guests to leave their kids at home rather than having them come to the ceremony and the reception to make the affair more sophisticated. “One of my couples is putting a no one under 25 rule, specifically to exclude some just-turned-21-cousins from attending their open bar wedding,” Bradshaw says. Need advice on navigating other tricky wedding etiquette situations? We’ve got you covered with tips on how to say no to kids at a wedding.

18 / 22
wedding flower bouquet

You need to do a bouquet and garter toss

“While this was a fun highlight of a wedding reception back in the day, it has now become the dreaded event that sends all singles to the bathroom in a mass exodus,” McCord Jones says. “Generally, women do not want their relationship status on display, nor do they want to cat-fight for a bouquet in hopes that they will be the next lucky girl to head down the aisle. Brides are now sensitive to this and often hand off their bouquet to the couple that has been married the longest.”  Lisa Mark and Rebecca Lozer, wedding photographers turned co-hosts of “The Secret Life of Weddings” podcast, say you can update this tradition by instead having a dance for married couples and having the DJ to ask couples who have been married five years, ten years, etc. to sit down. Eventually, the couple married longest will remain and the bouquet can be presented to them out of respect. You might opt for this based on the history of the bouquet toss.

19 / 22
hundred dollars cash
White Space Ukraine/Shutterstock

You can’t ask for cash gifts

“Asking for cash gifts used to be considered tacky, but now requesting cash contributions is acceptable and very popular,” says Susanna Williams, a consultant for Leaf + Petal event planning. “Now that most couples have lived on their own, most traditional gifts like kitchen appliances are unnecessary. Instead, couples can take the money that would have been spent on gifts and put it toward a honeymoon experience or major life milestone.” While you’re at it, also learn these must-follow wedding gift etiquette rules.

20 / 22
wedding favors

You need to give wedding favors

“Often times they are a small, sometimes meaningless item for each guest,” says Logan Westom, a professional wedding photographer. “I have seen a lot of people just make fun of them or not appreciate them to the level that the bride and groom probably spent thinking about them. When I got married, (my wife and I) put that money to a donation in the name of everyone at our wedding to a charity that was important to us. We printed a small note at the bottom of each table menu for guests to see.” Find out more secrets your wedding planner won’t tell you.

21 / 22
honeymoon roadtrip couple
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

You have to go on a honeymoon right after the wedding

“Most of my couples do a weekend mini-moon somewhere close by, and then are back in the office by Tuesday after their wedding,” Bradshaw says. “They save up and take a big trip honeymoon six months or so after their wedding.”

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You have to follow the rules

“The rules are there are no rules,” Westom says. “This is what I tell my couples. If they want to do their wedding reception first and then do a ceremony, that is 100 percent OK. Do what makes sense for the both of you. Your wedding is about you and it should show your personality. If that means an early ceremony and tons of yard games and activities instead of dancing that should be alright. Just because your mom and dad’s wedding was one way does not mean your wedding has to be that way too. Unless you are marrying someone in the royal family, you can do whatever you want.”