Wedding Planning It's Simply Lindsay

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Or you’re thinking about getting engaged, or you are so far removed from marriage but enjoy reading wedding articles. No matter what has brought you here today, welcome. When you’re planning your wedding, there are so many big decisions and small details to consider, but what I think is most important – more important the flowers, cake, and music – is that you DO NOT stress. That you enjoy your engagement, and with that, comes wedding planning. I know you’ve heard horror stories from your friends, and chick flicks and Bridezillas may tell you otherwise, but truly, wedding planning does not have to be stressful.

As you throw yourself into Pinterest, wedding magazines, and advice from family and friends, here are some additional things to consider when planning your special day. I’ll share some things that worked for me, and if you are already married, I would love you to share some of your own tips when it comes to considering alternatives to wedding traditions.

Wedding Planning Traditions to Reconsider

Addressing invitations: Traditional etiquette says to formally address social invitations to married couples as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. I urge you to consider an alternative to this tradition and either write Mr. and Mrs. Doe or Mr. John and Mrs. Mary Doe. Women have their own names; please don’t devalue them in the name of tradition.

Traditional head table: Talk to your venue and see if there are other options available besides a traditional head table (the long horizontal tables where the wedding party only sits in a line). It can be incredibly uncomfortable to sit on display with only two people next to you. It also makes conversation a bit awkward to have only two options of people to talk to. And what about the poor guys and gals at the end of the head table? Or the dates of the wedding party who maybe don’t know anyone?

My husband and I did a sweetheart-esque table, where we sat in the middle of two adjoining rectangular tables where our wedding party sat with their dates. It allowed us to be close to one another yet celebrate and be social with our friends.

Wedding table It's Simply Lindsay

Garter: You do not have to have a garter. I repeat, you do not have to have a garter. Or, if you do want to have a garter because they’re cute and pretty, keep it to yourself or your spouse. Getting the garter has become a pretty unnecessary, cheesy, or even vulgar part of the wedding – I mean really, do you want your grandma and dad to see your husband going under your dress and pulling a garter off with his teeth? Mmmm, no thanks.


Bridesmaid dresses: No longer are brides bound to choosing all matching bridesmaid dresses. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but you do have options. In fact, many dress brands make the same general dress in various styles, or you can go with completely different dresses. I went with the latter. I helped my friends choose their dresses that fit in my color scheme and that suited their styles, body type, and budget. Look how pretty my bridesmaids were! And these are actually dresses that can be (and have been) worn after the wedding.

Bridesmaids It's Simply Lindsay

Bachelorette party: An alternative to the trending bachelorette parties is to actually go back to the tradition. A bachelorette party was originally a social gathering with the bride-to-be and her friends before the wedding, usually in the form of a dinner at someone’s house. Through the years, this has changed, especially taking a risque turn in the 60’s during the sexual revolution. Now bachelorette parties are commonly filled with distasteful decor and less than ladylike behavior.

Additionally trending is the bachelorette weekend getaway, which is extremely expensive. In lieu of an extravagant vacation, why not have a girls weekend at a nearby city or rural destination in driving distance? Bonus points if you can stay at someone’s house instead of a hotel!

Bachelorette party with It's Simply Lindsay

I had a very different type of bachelorette party; you can consider alternative parties to fit your interests. I had a ladies afternoon high tea downtown Chicago at The Russian Tea Room followed by a chick flick movie night, complete with jammies, homemade pizza, cupcakes, and pink popcorn. This way I included not only my friends, but I got to celebrate with my mom and gram, too.

Bachelorette It's Simply Lindsay

Bouquets: Generally at weddings, you see the bride and bridesmaids’ beautiful bouquets tossed aside on the table or chairs because what are you supposed to do? Walk and dance around with it all night? When you’re eating dinner, there’s no room on the table, so they often end up on the floor. You can re-purpose those beautiful flowers as centerpieces. On our version of a head table, we had empty vases waiting for our arrival, so our bouquets became our centerpieces. (You can see this on the “head table” picture above.)

Wedding Planning It's Simply Lindsay

Pictures: Don’t miss out on any part of your special day because you’re taking pictures. I know many brides who skipped their cocktail hour or missed about half of their wedding because they were off taking pictures. This is crazy to me!! Enjoy every second of your wedding; a good photographer will make sure she captures all of your moments discreetly so you can celebrate with your spouse, family, and friends. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have your photo list of shots you have to have, because it is your wedding after all, and you want to document your magical moments and details, but don’t miss the celebration because you’re taking pictures away from the celebration for too long. I actually rushed my photographer out of taking our extra outside pictures to ensure this, and guess what? I still have all the pictures I could ever want.

Wedding Planning It's Simply Lindsay

Receiving line: My advice – just say no to the traditional receiving line! I have seen my poor friends miss out on their cocktail hour, carefully chosen appetizers, and signature drinks because they were standing in their receiving line greeting their guests.

Instead, make the cocktail hour your moving receiving line, where you and your spouse make your way to socialize and greet your guests as you move about the party. Our cocktail hour was on boat, and as we made our way through the double-decker cruiser, we ate, talked, toasted, and took pictures with all of our guests. This was a much more fun and authentic way to greet guests instead of a forced and awkward repeated “Hiiiii, so nice to see youuuu, thanks so much for coming!” Bonus: have the groomsmen be on appetizer patrol and make sure the waiters bring all of the selections to the bride and groom throughout the cocktail hour.

Wedding Planning It's Simply Lindsay

First dance: Instead of a middle-school style slow dance for your first dance, why not try a choreographed dance? In older times, people knew how to dance, so watching a first dance was much more interesting than watching a couple slowly sway in the middle of the dance floor. There is nothing wrong with that, and your first dance is an intimate moment for you and your spouse anyway, but why not kick it up a few notches, have fun, and entertain your guests at the same time? My husband and I took a few dance lessons before the wedding, and it was so much fun! I am not coordinated at all, but this was just a fun bonding experience leading up the big day, and our guests told us how all the twists, twirls, and spins were fun to watch.

Wedding Planning It's Simply Lindsay

My dad and I also learned a few very basic moves and chose an upbeat song by Pink; this was totally up my alley because I’m not a fan of overly emotional sappy moments (for myself). I love watching those moments for others though!

Chairs: Chiavari chairs. I get it. They look nice. But have you ever left a wedding or years later reminisced about a wedding because the chairs were so nice? Likely not. I know every detail is important to you, but I can assure you that you can spend your money in so many better ways than on chiavari chairs. What stands out to you at weddings? The flowers, food, music, cake. If you’re on a budget, skip the up-charge on chairs, and if not, put that money into something that really matters. Instead of upgrading my venue’s chairs, we added a specialty drink station with various kinds of fresh lemonade and a make your own sundae station for dessert.

Wedding planning It's Simply Lindsay

Bridal party: Traditionally, you needed an equal number of groomsmen and bridesmaids, but I’m here to tell you that you do not need to follow this. Instead of me trying to add a girl to my side arbitrarily or my husband trying to cut someone he really cared about, we had an uneven bridal party. All that meant was my brothers walked down the aisle and into the reception with my cousin instead of everyone paired up evenly. A word about bridal parties: You don’t have to include everyone. Your friends should understand that their status in or out of your bridal party does not have any bearing on your friendship.

It's Simply Lindsay wedding planning

Vows: You only have one opportunity to make your vows to your spouse, so why not write your own? Reading mine and hearing my husband’s written vows was one of my favorite parts of our ceremony.

Wedding planning It's Simply Lindsay

Walking down the aisle: Like many of our romanticized Western wedding traditions, a father walking his daughter down the aisle is rooted in the tradition of transferring the property (aka the bride) from father to husband. Depending on your situation and personal relationship with your parents, why not honor them the way you see fit, not the way tradition outlines it for you? I had both of my parents walk me down the aisle – this was always a no brainer for me, but certainly there are other options to meet your desires.

Wedding planning It's Simply Lindsay

Asking the father for permission to marry: This goes along the same lines as the previous point, but I am so thrilled my husband knew to ask my dad and mom for their permission and blessing to ask me to marry him. Because…well…duh? Again, a no brainer to me, but of course, this depends on your family situation.

Your last name: I never really knew that the bride and groom had options when it came to the last name after marriage. I’m very happy I realized this before I got married and didn’t fall into a tradition that I did not agree with. Like with any of these traditions, there are so many options. While I chose to keep my last name, other options include the man taking the woman’s name, combining the two last names in a fun way, choosing an entirely new name, or both spouses hyphenating their names. I realize the controversy around keeping my last name, but it was fun to connect with so many people through the viral article on Huffington Post. After all, I believe we should embrace controversy anyway and question tradition.

If you’re married, what were some of the traditions you made your own? If you’re planning a wedding, do any of these tradition alternatives appeal to you?


  • Lauren Angelico

    I too am not a fan of the traditional head table, so we had a sweetheart table and let our bridal party sit with their dates. And we also got a choreographer for our first dance to make it more interesting and add an element of surprise for our guests!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I loved your sweetheart table, and that’s where I got the idea : ) You know that your wedding was my absolute favorite; I had to go to another state to distance myself from your wedding perfection (including your chiavari chairs,which were beautiful). I was incredibly impressed with your first dance, especially Jim!! Who knew the man had it in him? He nailed the man dive.

  • Shann Eva

    We had more traditional Bachelorette/Bachelor parties…nothing crazy. My husband stayed at a friends, and I went out to dinner, then drinks with girlfriends. My bridesmaids dresses were from J Crew, and were super cute, so they could all wear them again. We also didn’t waste money covering the chairs…which is ridiculously expensive.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Those bachelor/bachelorette parties sound perfect and fun! I’m actually trying to help my friend pick out our bridesmaid dresses, and J Crew dresses are the front runners – they are so pretty. What color dresses did you have? I’m not about covering chairs either – that’s a good one!

  • We broke from tradition in many of these ways and others.
    First, we didn’t have a bridal party. Most of our friends are married already and they’ve been shoved into dozens of weddings. We wanted our friends to enjoy the day, and for us, that meant no wedding party – just fun with friends, instead.
    We also had a sweetheart table, and I’m glad we did. It was so easy for us to chat with other people and for guests to come over and give us hugs.
    We had an incredibly small wedding – 50 people – and we loved every second of it. We wanted only our best friends and family there. We didn’t want to look back and say, “who are those people?”
    We also used my bouquet as the centerpiece for the reception. Since there was only 1 bouquet (mine) the rest of the tables had simple hydrangeas on them. I chose not to “toss the bouquet” because like I mentioned before – our friends were all married and I’m fine with that. I find the garter toss thing kind of gross, too. So we didn’t do that. haha
    I did have my dad walk me down the aisle because that’s something that has always been important to him (with 3 older sisters) and because of this, it was important to me. We had a really special time in the carriage, just the 2 of us, and I will always hold those memories dear. 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I love that you didn’t have a bridal party; it takes the pressure off your friends so they can just ENJOY and celebrate with you. I really like that you had an intimate wedding ,too. When we were making our guest lists, I kept telling my mom to please trim the list because I didn’t want people 1. I didn’t know and love or 2. who would get invited and feel like “oh great, another wedding we have to go to.” I love hydrangeas, great choice : ) Oh the GARTER TOSS!!! I need to add that to this post. I completely agree with you on that. You had a carriage with your dad?? Cue the water works, what a special moment and memory!!

  • Nicole Leith

    Beautiful pictures! We skipped the head table and the garter. We sat with our parents. As for the garter…just can’t wrap my head around someone sticking their hand up my dress in front of my family!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I love that you sat with your parents, and it sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to the garter hahaha : )

  • I agree completely! There’s no need to stick with a tradition just because it seems to be a standard part of weddings. We skipped many of these too! I was adamant about skipping the bouquet and garter toss. I had no desire for my family to watch my husband fetch the garter — ugh! And I totally agree about the head table — so awkward! We sat at a large round table with our wedding party and it was awesome.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Do you have any wedding pictures on your blog?? I would love to see bride Brittany! I love that you sat with your wedding party at a normal round table. It’s so much more enjoyable that way, I feel.

      • I agree! I have a few on random wedding-related blog posts, but not a ton. I’m using one for tomorrow’s post, actually. It’s been fun to look through them today. 🙂 I do have a ton on my personal Facebook page!

  • Tiffany {A Touch of Grace}

    We broke a dew traditions as well. We had a sweetheart table for the 2 of us so our wedding party could sit with family and friends. We also didn’t do a receiving line. Instead we went around to each table at the wedding to say hi and give hugs. I love seeing how people make their wedding day their own.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      The sweetheart table is so, for lack of a better word, sweet : ) I’m definitely all about people doing what works for them; it sounds like we had the same feeling about the receiving line though.

  • Ughhhhh the receiving line! I’m so glad we did not do that! You’re right it takes up so much precious time. We did a first look so we were able to get a lot of the formal pictures done before the wedding that way we could really enjoy the ceremony with our guests!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Ohhhh I bet those first look pictures are stunning!! What a precious moment to share before the ceremony.

  • Great post! I chose to forego the garter part! Like you said, I didn’t really want my grandparents seeing that-haha

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Makes sense : ) I don’t think they would be too interested in seeing that haha.

  • So funny, we did basically every single one of these traditions 🙂 We loved our wedding and wouldn’t have changed a thing, but I agree, brides should do whatever they want, including break tradition!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Absolutely nothing wrong with that! Like I said, the only goal it to show people that options do exist. I’m so happy you loved every part of your wedding – I hope everyone feels that way : )

  • Becky @Disney in your Day

    We did a number of these things – we had a sweetheart table, we skipped the garter toss (but still did the bouquet toss cause I like that one!), and my bachelorette party was a night out at the Melting Pot for fondue. Another one I would add to your list is that the table centerpieces don’t have to be flowers. Flowers are so expensive! I made my own centerpieces. We had a fairy tale theme so in the middle of each table I had a pile of books topped with something to represent a fairy tale – so one table had a glass slipper, one table had an apple for Snow White, etc. The centerpieces were one of my favorite parts of the wedding!

  • Paige Allison

    Mrs. Leitch here to comment! Ha. We also did the traditional vows. I love knowing that so many other married couples said exactly the same words we said, and will continue to say the exact same words we said for centuries to come. It made connected to so many married couples! I love how your bridesmaid dresses turned out! I was open to that idea too, but we found a dress that was amazing and looked great on everyone (one shoulder taffeta with a natural waist – if you want dresses to look good on everyone you avoid dropped waists, chiffon and straight cut sleeveless dresses!)

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Not just Mrs. Leitch, Mrs. Kirk Leitch ; ) That’s a really good way to think about the vows; there’s beauty in that tradition, thinking your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. vowed exactly the same thing. One shoulder taffeta with natural waist? Sounds like my dream dress. I’m trying to help my friend pick out bridesmaid dresses, and it’s proving very difficult. Did you get yours at a chain? I need helpppp.

  • Love this article! We did a lot of these as well. We wrote our own vows. I felt they were so much more powerful that way. We skipped the garter toss and bouquet toss. We also didn’t do a receiving line, but instead visited each table when we were finished eating. We definitely went un-traditional with the bridal party. We had an uneven number and I had a Man of Honor AND and Maid of Honor!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oh my gosh, Erin, how did I not know that you had a man and maid of honor?! Have you written about that on your blog??

  • I think it’s so important to really evaluate your (and your future spouse’s) personal beliefs and situation when planning a wedding. Decide what the most important things are and then work your way down from there. We totally skipped he bouquet and garter toss because 90% of our guests were either married, in a serious relationship, or twelve. A wedding should be a reflection of the couple – not full of things people feel like they “have” to do. Great article!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Haha, your reasons for skipping the bouquet toss made me laugh – makes absolute perfect sense to skip it. I’m glad you agree that these decisions should be personal and unique to each couples’ beliefs and tastes ; ) Thanks for reading, Kalyn!

  • I totally agree with you on a lot of these. I hate the idea of feeling like I HAVE to do something for our wedding, we can make our own tradition! Especially the sweetheart table and bridesmaids dresses! I love your bridesmaids dresses!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks, Jackie! I love my bridesmaids and their dresses, too. There is nothing wrong with tradition, but I hope people realize that you do have options if that’s what you want : ) Thanks for reading.

  • Great post, we forwent most of these traditions when we got married and it was so worth it.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for reading, Angela! Glad you were able to connect with some of these points : )

  • Michelle Mink

    you and i are on the same page about so many things. i have told my friends for years that i don’t want a garter because i think it is so awkward! i also don’t want a head table and believe me i won’t be missing out on the food.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad we connect on a lot of these points, Michelle! Never never ever miss out on food : ) It’s a good motto to live by.

  • Caitlin Moore

    Really, skip on photos? How about a good photographer knows how to manage their time and doesn’t make a the couple miss out on wedding but that is what the cocktail hour is for but I am a photographer and I have never made the couple take photos for an hour because I know my shots and what I am going to do but I still think it is disrespectful of this article to say to skip photos and not worry about it.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Hi Caitlin, I’m not suggesting to skip on photos, but many brides I know have literally missed their entire cocktail party or at least an hour of their own wedding reception. That’s sad to me! It sounds like, from your perspective, that may be the photographer’s error, not the bride and groom. I’m not entirely sure how this was disrespectful; did you fully read the article or maybe misinterpret it? As a wedding photographer, what tips do you have for brides?? I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom in this field!

      • Caitlin Moore

        I’ve just seen so many articles lately saying that photography isn’t important or you shouldn’t even hire a professional which is ludicrous to me and I’m not saying that because I am a professional but because photos are the only permanent take away from the day. You don’t get to keep your cake, you don’t keep the food, and so on. So it just hit a nerve saying it wasn’t the most important thing. I realize you aren’t saying to skip it. I didn’t misread, like I said it just seems no one is valueing the photos and photographer anymore. Not saying you are doing that. Just in general. I probably jumped the gun on my comment so I do apologize.

        • Lindsay Katherine

          I totally understand! I think photography is SO important; I’m sorry if that didn’t come across in the post. I cherish my photos and look at them weekly with my husband, even though we’ve been married 3 years : _) They really just bring you back to that day and each moment so well.

  • I’m getting married next year so these are wonderful tips! I literally have no clue about a lot of wedding traditions and there are definitely some that I will be skipping!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Congratulations on your engagement Shaylee! When are you getting married??

      • We just booked our Venue for May 20, 2017 🙂

        • Lindsay Katherine

          Hooray!! Congratulations. My wedding date was May 25. Great choice : )

  • Love these! We ditched the head table, the garter, and the receiving line! Love all of your beautiful wedding photos!


    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks, Annie! How long have you guys been married? Do you have any wedding pics on your blog??

  • Neely

    We did not do a head table. We did open seating with a few reserved for family/bridal party. Then Andrew and I ate during cocktail hour and made the rounds during the reception.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oooh, I like that – what a great idea!

  • What a great post, Lindsay!
    I am in the midst of wedding planning so this was perfect for right now 🙂

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Lindsay Katherine

      How fun Jenny! When are you getting married?

  • Sarah Emily

    I love how many different opinions there are on all things wedding. We are getting married March 12! We defintely decided against a receiving line. I just thought it would be forever long. We are instead going to go from table to table during the cake eating!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Congratulations Sarah!! How exciting for you. Wow, that will be here before you know it. Can’t wait to see your wedding pictures ; ) How do you feel about everything? All ready for the big day?

  • Hil D

    I had a super un-traditional wedding a pagan handfasting blended with a wedding, a Friday morning, vegetarian lunch, choreographed first dance for sure, head wreathes and lanterns instead of bouquets. For my “bachelorette” weekend, we went camping at a women’s retreat. It was amazing, relaxing, and relatively cheap 🙂 Living in Quebec the name option wasn’t really an issue, as most people did not have the same last name anyway!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Your wedding is so fascinating! Do you have a blog post about it at all? I would love to learn more and see pictures. I heard that in Quebec there isn’t really an option now to change your name, is that correct?

  • We did the same thing with our bouquets; we used them as center pieces at the bridal party table! And I did NOT have a garter, I thought it was so weird and tacky!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I never really understood garters either : ) Definitely a great idea to use the bouquets for centerpieces! Do you have pictures of your wedding on the blog at all??

  • These are all awesome tips! We wrote our own vows and I’m so glad we did that instead of saying the traditional vows. It was way more personal. My girls also planned me a bachelorette getaway instead of the cliche party with male strippers and penis cupcakes LOL and I’m so glad they picked a weekend trip instead.

    All the Best,

    • Lindsay Katherine

      My husband and I keep our written vows in the nightstand, and every so often we take them out and read them to each other. Where did you guys go on your girls weekend??!

  • Definitely saving this for (hopefully) the near future! Thanks for all of these tips!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Aww thanks for reading; hope they come in handy in the (near) future.

  • My fiance and I have an odd number of bridesmaids/groomsmen, he asked both my parents for permission, AND we’re not going to have a traditional head table. Hollah!

    Coming Up Roses

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Erica, awesome!! When are you getting married??

      • September! <3

        • Lindsay Katherine

          How exciting!! Congratulations! It will be here before you know it : )

  • That’s a great idea to use the bouquet as a centerpiece!!! I didn’t think of that and totally doing it!! And I plan to also do different dresses for my bridesmaids!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Awesome, Taylor! I’m glad you got a useful tip about the centerpieces ; )

  • I completely 100% agree with you on most of these! I agree with the addressing invitations, the head table (I want a sweetheart table) and the bachelorette party(totally not my thing!)

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Very cool, Courtney. I think sweetheart tables are very, well, sweet! ha. Are you engaged?

  • Definitely pinning this for later! SO MUCH great info!!! I’m almost positive that all of my bridesmaid dresses aren’t going to be the same. I think I would like there to be two separate colors. My friend did this for her wedding and the dresses were dark purple and light purple. It was stunning. I need to re-visit your wedding post that I remember you wrote a few months back!! I remember thinking how stunning your pictures were. Thanks for the great post, girl!!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oooh, your friend’s bridesmaids dresses sound so pretty in dark and light purple!! Do you have any ideas of what colors you want?

  • Karlin

    Thanks so much for your first point – I’m getting married in a few days, and I cannot tell you how much pushback I have received from people when I tell them that I do not want to be introduced or referred to as Mrs. [his first and last name]. Even though I will be taking his last name, I refuse to relinquish my first name too. I’m my own person and I do not understand why others don’t understand – or at the very least, respect – my choice. Infuriating! Thanks for bringing attention to this!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      You’re getting married in a few days?? Congratulations, how are you feeling??!! I’m glad you connected with that point about Mrs. (his name); people will give you pushback about annoying things your whole life, but ultimately you just have to kindly but firmly stand your ground. I am infuritated FOR you, Karlin, but am so excited for your upcoming wedding!!

      • Karlin

        It feels like it snuck up on us, but it’s going to be great. I laughed when reading this article because I think Vince and I are doing almost all of the things you suggested. I hope that means that more and more people will be adapting old traditions to be more authentic to themselves!

        • Lindsay Katherine

          That’s so great – you are going to be the most beautiful bride. I hope you soak in and enjoy every minute of your wedding. Don’t let one thing bother or stress you out. Can’t wait to see pictures : ) We’re all grown up now, aren’t we?