couple brick wall

Photo: Riverland Studios

These days, there are so many ways beyond your typical wedding to solidify your commitment to your partner. You could go to city hall just the two of you, host an informal celebration with your closest friends at a restaurant in town, elope at the top of a mountain, invite an intimate group to some far flung island paradise and exchange vows… the alternatives to a traditional ceremony are seemingly endless. So how do you know whether you want a wedding-wedding at all—or if you’re more of a to-heck-with-tradition type?

Do you mind being the center of attention?

At your wedding, you and your partner will be the stars of the show—not just all day, but likely for a few days, at least, if you do a rehearsal dinner and the whole shebang. Needless to say, all eyes will be on you two, from what you’re wearing to what you’re saying to how you’re dancing and beyond! Wedding weekends aren’t for the shy types, so if you’re someone who blushes when the whole office gathers ‘round to sing you Happy Birthday, you may be a little uncomfortable being in the spotlight so much at a traditional wedding. While you don’t have to love being the center of attention to love your wedding day, the whole process will be a lot more fun and less stressful if you take all the attention in stride. Want to hide under your bed at the very thought of 120 pairs of eyes locked on you for 10 hours straight? You may want to consider an alternative to the traditional wedding—like an intimate elopement.

Are you comfortable being emotional in front of tons of people?

In a traditional wedding ceremony, vows are the main event—and if you’re someone who is shy about sharing feelings, carrying out one of the most emotional moments of your life before an audience of dozens of people might not be your bag. Even if your vows aren’t written by you, it’s still an emotional moment, let alone an emotional day! You’ll probably cry in front of a large group of people at least once during your wedding day, if not continuously (me!), and you’ll be sharing meaningful, deep messages with your partner, plus hearing them read to you in the form of vows and, later on, speeches. Rolling with the punches and letting the feelings flow is how most of us deal with it (and relying on your photog to be an ace with the puffy-undereye editing tool), but if you’re really stressed about being that vulnerable in front of a large crowd, you could consider an alternative wedding situation where you and your partner exchange vows separately, just the two of you, then celebrate later at a party with way less pressure.

wedding recessional

Photo: Michael Stephens Photography

Are you ready to spend some (maybe a lot of) cash on a party?

Let’s not dance around it: Weddings and everything that come with them can be very expensive. And for some people, those costs are justified: dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a party that celebrates their love along with everyone they love most in the world is totally worth the price of admission to them. For others, spending big money on a wedding may not be a priority over traveling, a down payment for a house, or beyond. The bottom line is, you should not pay for an all-out wedding if you and your partner don’t 100 percent believe you’ll get a return on your investment. Because if you do, you could be stuck with some serious buyer’s remorse—not exactly what you want to feel post-wedding! There are so many ways you can still celebrate your partnership and your loved ones without dropping tons of cash—consider a limited guest list, elopement, or casual backyard affair where you pick and choose what you want to spend on (flowers, catering) and what you want to save on (rentals, DIYing a playlist).

Are you someone who loves planning and organizing?

Not all couples who married at traditional weddings love wedding planning, or hired wedding planners if they didn’t. But the process can be so demanding of a certain level of organization and logistical know-how that someone who really hates things like emails, timelines, deadlines and being in charge of lots of other people might really hate planning a big wedding. I know I am someone who hates all those things and without my now-husband’s aunt gifting us a wedding coordinator, I probably wouldn’t have even had the scale of wedding I did. These tasks can be quite triggering for many people and the end result may simply not be worth it if you never really envisioned yourself having a classic wedding anyway. If that sounds like you and your initial answer to this question is “Ahh, no!” Don’t fret—it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a wedding. It just means you should either opt for a less formal affair or something smaller (say, at a restaurant where there won’t be tons of moving parts), consider splurging for a planner or coordinator, or go for a longer engagement and give yourself tons of time to plan so stress levels stay minimal.

Notice a trend here? Either you’re a big, classic wedding type, or you’re not, or you’re somewhere in between, but regardless, there’s always a way to edit the “typical wedding” to make it fit your needs and personality. So you and your partner shouldn’t throw a typical wedding if it’s not something you really want, just because you feel like it’s what people do, but on the other hand, you shouldn’t feel like there’s no possible way to celebrate your commitment to one another with your loved ones just because certain things about traditional weddings turn you off. Think long and hard (together!) about who you both are and what you both want, then go from there—to heck with tradition! (Unless you love tradition.)