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I am really lucky to work with a really diverse range of couples, from those planning personal weddings that have some traditional elements to those completely throwing the rule book out of the window.

What unites my wedding photography clients is that the majority of them have thought about what makes up the “traditional” idea of a wedding day, to work out what parts of it are meaningful or important to them as a couple.

Today I’ll be looking at elements of the wedding day and how they came to exist and suggesting some alternatives and ways that you can personalise those aspects to make sure they truly reflect you and your values.

Most of these traditions emanate from heterosexual weddings but many of the traditions can be easily adapted to suit LGBTQ couples, whether you want to take a more classical or creative approach.

The marriage proposal

I love a good proposal story.  One of the questions I always ask potential clients is “how did you get engaged?”.

My own proposal was pretty lovely, with Pete arranging a champagne picnic on the roof of our building and proposing as the sun set over London.   He even asked for my parents blessing, which was really important to me as I knew my dad especially was really happy to be asked.


In Western cultures it’s traditional for the man to propose to the woman, often down on one knee, clutching a big sparkly engagement ring to seal the deal.  The ring should cost the equivalent of at least one month’s salary.   The man will often plan the proposal, consulting with the bride’s father to ask for permission, and arranging the setting.  Traditional proposals range from the super simple to the elaborately planned.


There is absolutely no reason why it should be the man that does the asking.  Aimee’s proposal to Dennis in New York was super romantic.

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Den had dropped in to conversation a few times at various dinners, ‘So, shall we get married?’ Or something not to dissimilar to these words. I wanted this to be a memorable experience as I hoped that I would only ever do it once! So…..For Valentines day, I made Den a big love heart made of pin badges that related to our relationship and I left a space. I told him I wanted to buy an ‘I LOVE N Y’ badge from New York when went towards the end of February. I then had a handmade button created saying ‘Marry Me?’. On the 29th of February, I gave him the badge and surprised him with Champagne and a lovely breakfast on a table full of heart plates, confetti, and roses.   

Matt and Owain took it in turns to propose to each other.
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“We got engaged on the 21st of May, 2010 on the Carousel in Central Park, New York. Owain surprised Matt with a trip to the Big Apple whilst Matt was performing in Sweeney Todd.  Matt proposed back to Owain on the streets of Paris a month later during a surprise visit, when Owain was performing Les Miserables at the Chatalet Theatre.

We gave each other matching Tiffany & Co. rings…. Grey Titanium for Matt, Black Titanium for Owain (to match the hair and eyes of course!) and were literally invited for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” upon our return to London by the Bond Street store”

If you’re a LGBTQ couple, you could always create your own ritual around asking each other, like Kate and Camilla did.  These’s something really lovely about the idea of planning your proposal together:

As two women we both had ideas in our head of being proposed to. Clearly with two of us this wasn’t going to happen. One had to ask the other, or we needed to ask each other. And that’s what we did. We decided to combine our summer holiday in Ibiza as the setting for our engagement. We spent a day in central London buying each the rings and then put them away for a few months until a bright, starry night on a beach, the waves lapping on the shore. Asking each other, we celebrated with champagne and kisses.

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The clothes

I think one of the reasons I still love weddings, even after having photographed nearly 150 of them, is the fact that they are all so different.  It’s lovely to see such different approaches and the way couples put their own spin on things and I’ve photographed couples in everything from brightly coloured neon suits (see above) to bespoke


It’s traditional for the bride to wear white, as an indication of her purity (!).  Queen Victoria is credited for starting the enduring trend of wearing white on your wedding day and the majority of the brides I photograph still do opt for white or cream, even the alternative and non traditional ones.

The guys very often opt for suits too and some still opt for the formality of morning dress or even the sophistication of black tie.

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Most people quite like buying something new – a special outfit – for their wedding.  Putting on clothes that you have never worn before gives it a sense of occasion.  There is nothing that says it has to be a white dress or morning suit though.

Petrol blue suits, bow ties, tweed and even pastels have all been huge trends in wedding suits for men and I predict that 2016 onwards will see more guys going for colourful options, which I LOVE.

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Lots of brides put their own spin on the wedding dress too, opting for a short wedding dress, a gold sequinned wedding dress, a floral wedding dress or even this red wedding dress that Nicola wore to her 40th Birthday wedding.

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If you’re a LGBTQ couple you could  choose to wear one element of your outfit that compliments each other’s, like buttonholes or a bouquet or even something in the same colour, or you could wear outfits that don’t have any matching elements at all.  Basically wear what ever makes you happy.

Being Given Away

As a feminist the idea of being given away always sat really uncomfortably with me.  This, combined with the fact that my dad hates being the centre of attention, meant that Pete and I decided to walk up the aisle together.  We loved the idea of walking up the aisle, towards our friends and family, as a couple, ready to make a life long commitment to each other.


The tradition of giving the bride away stems from the days when the bride would literally be given from the possession of her father to the possession of her husband.  Luckily most of us don’t view it in this way any more and it’s more of a symbolic ritual between father and daughter.

In most ceremonies, whether religious or civil, there is room for negotiation regarding the specific language that’s used.

I especially liked this suggested response to the question “who gives this woman”

“She gives herself freely, with our blessing”

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Pete and I walked up the aisle together and then our ceremony officiant ask both sets of parents to give their blessing to the marriage.

You could skip this bit all together and just arrive at the same time as your guests, like Steve and Andy did.  There was still a walking in moment, as they both had to go through some formalities with the registrars before hand, but it was much more relaxed when they did come in as they’d both already had a chat with their guests.

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The ceremony

At the moment in this country you are limited in terms of locations where you can get married.   You can either marry in a venue licensed for civil wedding ceremonies or a religious wedding can take place at a church, chapel or other registered religious building.  That doesn’t leave you entirely without options if you want to do something different thought.  


For the purpose of this article I am going to call both religious and civil ceremonies “traditional” as they both follow a similar format.  Of course you can personalise them as much as you like with readings, performances and music, subject to the flexibility of your ceremony officials.

Anna and Dil had  Catholic wedding ceremony with a really touching reading from Anna’s mum.

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Sarah and Ross had a surprise singalong of All You Need is Love during their civil ceremony at Islington Town Hall.

Lauderdale House Wedding Photography sarah and ross-64Matt and Owain had several of their performer friends sing or perform during their church wedding blessing.

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If the fixed format of a traditional church or civil ceremony is too restrictive, there are a couple of ways that you can have exactly the ceremony you want.

If you choose to treat the “legal bit” of the ceremony as a formality and pre-curser to the actual wedding day, you can pretty much have what ever kind of ceremony you like.

Pete and I went to the registry office, together, with our immediate families, on the Monday before our wedding.   We then went for afternoon tea.  It was really, really lovely and we basically had two brilliant weddings as a result.

On the day of our wedding, because we were already legally married, we were able to ask a friend to act as our officiant and we wrote the ceremony entirely ourselves.


Missy and Yoni wanted to create their own ceremony, that reflected Yoni’s Jewish beliefs and Missy’s humanism.

When it came to our ceremony we tried to include everything that we believed in and leave out anything that we didn’t understand or didn’t agree with. As our ceremony was a mix of Jewish and secular values – broadly a Jewish structure with humanist content – we tried to honour both of our cultures the best we could. Our Rabbi was amazingly accommodating and creative and that made it much easier for us to create something that really spoke to both of us. We said secular vows that we wrote ourselves in Hebrew and in English, and asked family members to create 7 blessings for us inspired by the Sheva Brachot. We also had our vows put together in a ketubah-style document to sign as part of the ceremony and added a blessing for equal marriage over wine.

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And Laura and Brian did the same as me and Pete and did the legal bit a few weeks before their wedding, so they could have an outdoor Humanist wedding ceremony.

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Other Traditions and how to personalise them


Bridesmaids and ushers

There is no reason in the world why your ushers have to be male and bridesmaids have to be female. Mix it up and have a brides man or two or some female ushers.
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You could even have some Men’s Maids like Matt and Owain did.

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Decide who you’d like to speak.  You can follow the traditional formula of Father of the Bride, Bridegroom, Best Man or a variation of that if there is no bride or more than one bride.

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You might prefer to ask a selection of representatives to say a few words.  For example one person representing each family, a close friend of each party and or even dispense with speeches all together and just take the time to thank everyone.

You may decided to dispense with speeches entirely.  Or do something very cool like Su and Owen did and have an open mic session, where friends and family are invited to perform.

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I love it.  Let’s never get rid of it as a tradition.  It looks awesome on camera (assuming you have a good quantity. And that it’s not a hideously windy day!).

Stick with biodegradable or real flower petals (although be prepared to be picking it out of your hair for weeks if you plump for petals) for the sake of the environment.  Confetti canons look awesome.


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As an alternative use bubbles or make pretty DIY ribbons on sticks like Pete and Natasha did and ask your guests to wave them as you walk back down the aisle.

View More: http://babbphoto.pass.us/peteandnatasha

The receiving line

This gets a bad rap and is often dismissed as being stuffy and formal.  Personally I think they are a great way of making sure you have properly said hello to each of your guests, so you can enjoy your dinner and the rest of your party without worrying about offending/missing someone.

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Create your own tradition

I loveeeed this at Rob and Ashley’s wedding.  Every 10 minutes or so, during dinner, a table would pop up and start singing.

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So there you have it.  Some wedding traditions and ways of making them your own.  Are there any other traditions you are struggling with?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to see if I can help.

Do check out my other articles about wedding photography and planning here.


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[…] Wedding traditions, your way ♥ Have you got your Rock n Roll Bride print magazine yet? ♥ Natural Disasters Are the Hottest […]
[…] Wedding traditions, your way ♥ Have you got your Rock n Roll Bride print magazine yet? ♥ Natural Disasters Are the Hottest […]
[…] Your wedding is all about you and you don’t need to have a whole load of wedding traditions just for the sake of having them.  Work out what’s important to you.  And do traditions your own way. […]

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