From your bridal party to the reception toasts, there are a number of traditional big-day elements that you're absolutely not required to make part of your celebration.

By Jillian Kramer
June 17, 2020
wedding bridal party getting ready and toasting white
Credit: Krystle Akin

When it comes to weddings, some things seem to be on repeat: Almost every wedding has, for example, a wedding party, celebratory toasts, and a formal cake cutting. That kind of consistency might lead couples to believe there are a list of "must-dos" for everyone's big day, but experts say that's just not the case: "The reality is there really is no such thing as something you absolutely have to do at your wedding," says Melanie Tindell, owner of Oak + Honey Event Planning Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, here are eight things you can totally skip at your wedding—if you want to, that is.

You don't have to choose a wedding party.

If you can't picture tying the knot without your best friends literally beside you, then skipping a wedding party isn't for you. But if you're on the fence, consider this: "Standing solo during the ceremony can avoid drama, cut costs for you and them, and save time," points out Jaclyn Fisher, owner of Two Little Birds Planning in Philadelphia, who adds that she's seen a trend in clients who choose to go wedding-party free. "You can still honor your friends by having them help you get ready, do a ceremony reading, or hand out programs," she says. "They can also help with the wedding planning and wedding-related events, but just in a less-structured and stressful way."

You don't have to hand out paper programs.

While many couples choose to print paper programs for their wedding ceremonies, this is an easy "must-do" to skip. "In addition to being an unnecessary expenditure, they also end up being quite wasteful," says Tindell. "Because the ceremony is one of the shorter parts of the wedding, the life of a program is short-lived and the majority of them end up in the trash." Instead, she suggests, "feel free to post a sign or have details about the ceremony on your wedding website."

You don't have to have reception toasts.

We've all witnessed a wedding toast go wrong: Speakers can broadcast embarrassing stories, or go on for far too long. "For these reasons, some couples are skipping wedding-day toasts," says Fisher, who adds that, "guests won't miss this traditional formality, and some speech-givers will be happy to be off the hook." But if you still want to raise a glass with your closest friends and family, Fisher suggests giving them an opportunity to offer up a toast at your rehearsal dinner.

You don't need to provide guest transportation.

Providing a shuttle or other kinds of group transportation is certainly a nice gesture, but Tindell points out that, "guests will ultimately take their preferred method of transportation to the event," which can make this nice gesture a wasted one—and something you can skip. Instead, Tindell suggests creating discount codes with Uber or Lyft that guests can use, if they choose to do so.

You don't need to display a guest book.

Some couples treasure their guest books forever; others pack them up into a box, never to be looked at again. If you think you fall into the latter category, it's totally okay to save the trouble and skip the guest book. "Your guests are already writing their well wishes in their card," Fisher points out. "Plus, you will have your photos and video to enjoy when you want to reminisce."

You don't need to give guests favors.

"Do you remember the last time you got a favor at a wedding? What happened to it?" Tindell asks. Chances are good you tossed it in the trash—just like the wedding program. "Instead of getting a pointless favor, invest the money in a donation to a charity of your choice and let your guests know during the event," she suggests. "The DJ can announce it or have a sign up at the buffet line. And we can almost guarantee that no one will notice the favors are even missing."

You don't need to have a formal cake cutting.

According to Fisher, many couples are now skipping the formal, announced cake cutting and opting for a silent cake cutting instead. And they're doing it with their guests in mind: "Most guests don't want to stop dancing for this formal tradition," Fisher says. "When the couple cuts the cake with just immediate family and the photographers, the focus can stay on the party."

You don't have to have a bouquet and garter toss.

While bouquet and garter tosses used to be on most couples' must-do list, Tindell says, "we are seeing fewer couples opting for bouquet and garter tosses during their wedding reception. If it feels uncomfortable or unnatural to you, do yourselves a favor and skip this dying 'must-do.'"


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