Feeling the need to do your nuptials, as Frank Sinatra once sang, your way? These seven wedding customs can be molded to suit your style:
1. The bride's family pays for (nearly) everything. This should be considered on a "case-by-case basis," says DC event planner Jodi Moraru. "It all depends on the financial situation of the bride and groom and their families, the number of guests each side wants to invite, and the relationship between the two families."
2. Immediate family members cannot host the bridal shower. Once considered taboo because it looked like a grab for gifts, a bride's mother, sister, or close relative can feel free to throw a shower. Immediate family members are often the most convenient and willing hosts, and this old-fashioned rule is rarely followed.
3. Second-time brides should not wear white. "It's perfectly okay," says Anna Post. "You're marrying the person you love and it's not diminished because you've done this before." However, brides also should not feel obliged to wear white if they don't want to. Planner Michelle Hodges has had clients wear navy, yellow, and even, for a New Year's Eve wedding, a dark cocktail dress.
4. The bridal party should include only your closest same-sex relatives or friends. It has become more common to see a man mixed in with the bridesmaids or a woman standing alongside the groomsmen. Bridesmaids no longer have to wear the same dress—or even the same color. "There's a lot of room to play with the ceremony," says Moraru, who once witnessed a bride being walked down the aisle by her three brothers.
5. Out-of-towners must be invited to the rehearsal dinner. While it is a gracious gesture, inviting all out-of-towners to the rehearsal dinner can be impractical and cost-prohibitive. "It would be another wedding," says planner Lois Schiff of McLean's Party Portfolio. An easier alternative? A "welcome party" with drinks and light hors d'oeuvres scheduled after the rehearsal dinner.
6. The bride and groom must steer clear of each other before the ceremony. If you don't want your husband-to-be to lay eyes on you—or your stunning dress—until you're walking up the aisle, feel free to take part in this long-standing tradition, which is meant to add mystery and excitement to the big day.
7. Let them eat cake. More and more couples are skipping wedding cakes in favor of more creative desserts: cupcakes, ice-cream sundaes, fresh-from-the-oven cookies, or ethnic delicacies that have special meaning for our guests. If there is a traditional cake-cutting, planner Michelle Hodges offers this piece of advice for grooms: "Never push the cake into the bride's face. It shows poor judgment and, in my opinion, a horrible lack of respect."