If you were to ask the average married couple why they followed any traditions at their wedding, the answers would vary from, “Because someone told me I should” to “So Grandma doesn’t write me out of her will” or a general “I don’t know” shoulder shrug. When planning a wedding, it’s easy to become glossy-eyed on the details and forget about the, “Why?” or even ask, “Is there a better way?” Thus I bring you Spins on Wedding Traditions.
Most of the evolutions in wedding traditions happened because someone finally realized there was a better way to do things. So here are a few of my ideas on how you can positively shake up some of those dusty traditions.
1. CREATIVELY DISMISS TABLES FOR THE BUFFET
Traditionally, when dismissing tables for dinner, the MC will announce table numbers or approach and release individual tables until the guests realize they are too hungry to wait any longer and dismiss themselves. But your wedding dinner doesn’t have to feel like an uncontrolled elementary school cafeteria.
If your goal for the evening is an upbeat/entertaining vibe, then consider a friendly competition between tables to engage your guests to interact with each other, build comradery, and set a fun tone for the rest of the evening. My personal favorite dinner competition is a scavenger hunt game, wherein the winner and their table are among the first tables dismissed to the buffet. The DJ announces an item that each table must locate and present; it could be ruby red lipstick, a penny from the year the Groom was born, or a cell phone photo with the newlyweds during college. The possibilities are endless. As a group, the table tries to come up with the item, the fastest table wins. Some DJs prefer to do this game later in the evening, but I find it’s more successful while everyone is seated at their tables and while there is a phenomenal incentive to win: Food.
If guests are required to social distance, “Newlywed Trivia” is a fun alternative, wherein the tables guess answers to pre-answered questions by the Bride and Groom. The first table with the correct answer is dismissed to the buffet next. Your guests learn a bit more about you as a couple and it indirectly keeps you in the spotlight of your wedding without distracting you from eating your dinner or mingling with guests.
Three more spins on wedding traditions to go. Don’t just make yourselves the “star of the show” though, consider being “headliners” by…
2. HAVING YOUR “FIRST DANCE” AFTER YOUR PARENT DANCES
Believe it or not, the “First Dance” isn’t referring to the first dance of the evening, but instead the first dance as a married couple. People who aren’t experienced in getting guests out on the dance floor make the awful recommendation to have the first dance right after the grand entrance, which is a complete mood killer. I’ll go ahead and bet that your grand entrance song is going to be high-energy and that your first dance song is something somber, likely by Ed Sheeran. You’ll have everyone jumping and cheering one moment, and then being instructed to sit down, be quiet, and listen the very next. To guests, it can be more confusing than why fanny packs are making a comeback.
When it comes to main dances, I recommend having them all after dinner and proceeding with them in the following order:
- Groom and Mother Dance: I rarely meet the groom’s mother until the day of the wedding. But I do know mothers of grooms in general. They often feel neglected throughout the whole process. So surprising her by putting her in the spotlight first can mean the world to her. It’s a beautiful gesture to let her know she is important to her son. Once the dance is over, the groom waits patiently to the side of the dance floor while he watches the next dance.
- Bride and Father Dance: Because we’ve had a chance to show Mom how special she is, let’s show your Dad how special he is; by pre-recording a short and simple message to him, telling him how much he means to you. But don’t send him that message, send it to your DJ and have it played during the intro of your song so that all of your guests can hear it too. Towards the end of the dance with your father, your Groom then enters the dance floor and smoothly cuts in, illustrating the beautiful symbolism of the bride going from the first most important man in her life, to the new most important man in her life.
- The First Dance as a Married Couple: Just like every concert you’ve ever been to, the main act (headliner) performs last. You’ve built up anticipation and excitement for the biggest dance of the evening, plus shown your parents how special they are.
One benefit I didn’t expect to hear was how much photographers loved this dance order. It gives them two full dances to get the settings on their cameras and flashes perfect, so by the time of your first dance, every shot is magazine worthy.
Two more spins on wedding traditions to go. Now, with the newlyweds on the dance floor, this sets it up perfectly for the anniversary dance, which when done traditionally, kills your dance floor. Which is why I recommend this alternative way…
3. REVERSE THE ANNIVERSARY DANCE
We’ve all seen it: The DJ invites all the married couples to the dance floor, then kicks off those who’ve been married for 10 years or less, then 20 or less, 30, etc. until the longest married couple is left standing. It’s a cute way to honor and recognize those who have been able to put up with each other’s antics the longest. But at the end, you’re left with just 2 people on the dance floor.
Invite the longest married couples to join the newlyweds on the dance floor. It’s a symbolic and photographic moment to have the newlyweds share the dance floor with the longest married couples.
Then, after a moment of honoring and recognizing that achievement, we invite all the couples to join the newlyweds. Married, unmarried, friends, single parents, tinder dates, etc. We’ve built the dance floor up instead of sabotaging it. With a dance floor full of guests, and guests full of alcohol, that’s when we kick off the party.
One more of the spins on wedding traditions to go. If you’ve planned for 2-3 hours of dance time during your reception, I highly encourage incorporating different ways to keep your guests engaged. It would be beneficial to…
4. TWIST IT UP WITH THE TOSSES, DON’T DITCH THEM
Even with the Wild Berry seltzer beers flowing, few guests are able to dance more than 2 consecutive hours, so providing a non-dancing, but engaging activity will be welcomed. The bouquet and garter tosses are dying because guests being called out as a “single lady” or “single fella” in front of 100+ semi-strangers can be a little humiliating. Or for the garter toss, many brides are mortified by having her husband shove his hands up her dress in front of her dad, her grandparents, and Jesus.
Skip the garter removal entirely. Start with the garter in the groom’s pockets. Then invite all the ladies, or all the fellas, or anyone who identifies as either to their respective tosses. Give everyone a chance to catch the bouquet or garter. It’s adorable to see Grandma out on the dance floor, feeling like she’s in her twenties again. Make it even more competitive by stuffing the bouquet with some Starbucks gift cards so whoever catches it is the proud owner of a beautiful arrangement of flowers and a few free Pumpkin Spice Lattes.