I’m a true believer that your wedding should be completely reflective of you and your love story. The days of having to bow down to tradition and cut a cake in front of guests just because your mother-in-law says you have to are over. In today’s blog post I have some tips for how to modernize your wedding with an example of Hayden and Brett’s beautiful nuptial at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. Ready to bring your wedding into the future? Then read on…
Hayden & Brett’s Central Park Boathouse Wedding
Let me begin by introducing you to Hayden and Brett. The couple now live in Los Angeles, but met in New York City long ago while working together in the mailroom at a talent agency. After many years together, Brett finally proposed to Hayden on Central Park’s Cat Hill.
Since Central Park played such an important role in Hayden and Brett’s romance, it was the obvious location choice for their wedding. But rather than have a typical Central Park wedding, the couple decided to reinvent their nuptials in a much more sleek and sophisticated way.
To begin, with, Hayden and Brett are not huge fans of crowds. It just so happens that on the day of their wedding, Central Park was hosting its annual Oktoberfest celebration. The park was teaming with drunk tourists trying to appear German. To avoid the crowds, I began the couple’s photos first on the private patio of the Loeb Boathouse, and then moved over to the Ramble. While this part of the park is normally sparsely trafficked by visitors, on that particular day we hardly had the place to ourselves. Still, we got some beautiful photos in the forest and it was far less crowded than in the Bethesda Fountain area.
Speaking of which, the Bethesda Fountain was originally supposed to be the location for the couple’s ceremony. I suggested using the patio as a more private place to say their vows, and that’s exactly the spot they chose. Surrounded by only close friends and family (and no bridal party), Hayden and Brett said, ‘I do.’ After the short but sweet ceremony, the cocktail party began, as guests arrived. Hayden and Brett wanted everyone in attendance to have the full Central Park experience, and treated guests to private trips in a gondola. This is the first wedding I have ever photographed to use the gondola, and I can vouch that guests loved the experience.
The frivolity of Hayden and Brett’s cocktail hour segued perfectly into an equally fantastic reception. And while the couple chose to go old school with a live band, they were thoroughly modern with their choice of cupcakes of different flavors for all their guests. No traditional cake cutting with these two.
How to Modernize Your Wedding: The Basics
Feeling like you’re not a traditional bride? Why feel like you need to plan someone else’s wedding, when you can personalize your own day to truly reflect who you are as a couple? Here are some ways to bring your wedding out of the dark ages and into the present.
Rethink your venue location. Unless you need to be married in a house of worship for religious reasons, just about any spot will do nowadays as a wedding venue. How about saying your vows in the restaurant where you had your first date? (Read this article, ‘The Pros and Cons of a Restaurant Wedding.’) You could also transform an empty space, like an art gallery, into the party palace of your dreams.
Think early, not late. Why plan a dinner party when you could throw a really cool brunch? Let’s face it: weddings are expensive. And evening weddings on the weekend are the most expensive. Cut your costs in half by hosting a brunch wedding and treat your guests to unlimited pancakes. Not only will you cut down on your food costs, but venues actively want to book clients during their less popular hours, so you’ll definitely be able to cut a deal.
Keep your party small. And by ‘party,’ I mean bridal party. Can’t decide who to make a bridesmaid? Save all the awkwardness by saying no to a bridal party, period.
How to Modernize Your Wedding: The Details
Change up your outfit. Say no to a veil, and go full bird cage or simply opt for an exquisite barrette. Do something that says you. You can always choose to be a bit more traditional for your walk down the aisle, then let loose with a more casual look for your reception. It’s your day, and you can change outfits if you want to.
Why say ‘yes’ to the dress, when you could say ‘yes’ to the completely chic pant suit? Hayden rocked her elegant outfit, and she’s not my only bride who chose to don a pant suit for a walk down the aisle. Check out photos of the effortlessly chic Melanie in her Flushing Meadows Corona Park wedding.
Don’t feel like you have to wear heels. If flats or Doc Martin boots are more your style, then step out in style – your own style. I’ve seen some very interesting footwear over the years and would love to photograph a bride wearing glitter Doc Martens. Go for it.
Something blue. Here’s a category that gives you free reign to do whatever you want with the color. I’ve seen fantastic heels, not to mention outrageous jewelry.
Email invites. Cut down on your carbon footprint and keep everything digital. Email invites make it easy on the environment – and your guests – because all they have to do to RSVP is click and send.
How to Modernize Your Wedding: The Ceremony
Peek-a-boo before you walk down the aisle. From a photography perspective, you’ll be saving yourself loads of time if you do a ‘first to look’ rather than wait to see each other at the ceremony. A first look allows you to get all of your photos done before the ceremony, so that after your vows all you have to do is enjoy your party. Check out this article to see the time difference in wedding schedules between waiting to see each other at the ceremony and a first look.
Change up your walk down the aisle. For your ceremony, feel free to have both parents walk you down the aisle, or even a close friend or family member. For that matter, why not get rid of the tradition all together and walk yourself down the aisle? You could just as easily meet your other half halfway down the aisle, then walk together to the altar.
Include every member of your family – including your fur family. I see more and more couples including their pets at their wedding. Our pets are like our kids, so why leave them at home? Have your pet walk you down the aisle or even play ring bearer, but just make sure you check with your venue first as well as your officiant. (Read this article to get some tips on including your pet in your wedding.)
How to Modernize Your Wedding: The Reception
No need to cut a cake when there is pie. Or cupcakes. Or mini cheesecakes. It’s your party, and you control the menu.
Be a private dancer. Don’t feel like you have to do a first dance just to appease tradition. You can always plan for a private dance with your other half by telling your DJ to play your special song. But don’t feel like you need to have a spotlight on you if this makes you uncomfortable. I, for one, would feel squeamish about having everyone stare at me during a first dance. Instead, either cut the first dance entirely or do your own thing off to the side and just let your photographer know when your special song comes on.
Ditto with parent dances. Most people’s family puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional, and parent dances with divorced parents can lead to awkward moments. As such, you should feel no guilt in saying ‘no’ to the parent dance tradition. If you would like to mix it up and have a ‘mother-daughter’ dance, as I have seen at several weddings, then by all means own the dance floor on your own terms. And, don’t feel like you have to take the dance floor all by yourself. Rather than have your parent dances one after the other (father-daughter dance followed by mother-son dance), feel free to step into the ring together and have both of you dance with your respective parents at the same time.
Hold on to your bouquet. You have tons of options if you would like to get rid of a fistful of flowers. (Read this article on creative bouquet alternatives.) Your single friends who were cringing at the thought of being brought out on the dance floor to catch your bouquet will thank you. And in the era of #MeToo, the garter toss is almost never seen at weddings.
Centerpieces don’t have to center around flowers. There are lots of table setting options out there, from books and antiques, to feathers and wine bottles. (Read my exhaustive list of non-floral centerpiece ideas here.) Furthermore, don’t feel like you have to put all of your wedding budget into your flowers. Blooms are a nice addition, but the reality is that flowers are one of the most expensive line items in any wedding budget.
Say ‘no’ to swag. The guest favor thing has really gotten out of hand. You are providing guests with an open bar, so don’t feel guilty about not providing a little tchotchke at the end of the night.
Likewise, say ‘no’ to the gift registry. Throwing a wedding is expensive, but so is attending a wedding. Give your guests the gift of not having to pay for their reception ticket with an expensive item you probably don’t even need. We are all downsizing our lives, and if you are like most engaged couples, you come into a relationship already having all the dishes, silverware, etc. that you need. Instead, offer guests the option of making a donation to a charity of your choice. You could also go the honeymoon savings account route, but that option tends to be quite provocative.
And finally… want to really say it forever? Skip the wedding rings entirely and get ‘I do’ tattooed on your fingers. Your mom will be so proud.
Do you have a non-traditional wedding in the works? Drop me a line and let’s chat – an awesome event requires an awesome photographer, no?
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Caterer: Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Bride’s Attire: Custom-designed suit
Bride’s Shoes: Vince Camuto
Hair stylist: drybar
Groom’s Attire: J. Crew
Florist: Lenox Hill Florist
Cupcakes: Two Little Red Hens
DJ/band: Pete Saunders Band
Invitation designer: Rebecca Meixner, Sweet Invitation Co.
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website — KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com