HOW TO: make your wedding you

It’s time to rip up the wedding rule book. Planner Catrina Duthie tells us how you can have a wedding that truly reflects who you are

bride wearing veil
Who says a veil must be edged with lace? Not AM Faulkner, that’s for sure. Flores veil, £380

As the song famously goes, the Book of Love is long and boring. That’s because marriages have been around for millennia, which means they’ve accumulated an awful lot of traditions. But there is no rule that requires your wedding to stick rigidly to those customs – in fact, I’m here to tell you that your day doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be.

I’ve been in the wedding-planning business for years, and I always encourage my couples to create an occasion that reflects them as people. What this essentially means is assessing each element and working out if it resonates with you, so that you end up doing things because you want to do them, not because you feel you have to, think it’s expected of you, or because everyone else does it that way.

bride and groom with dog; flowers on a table
[Above left] Can’t imagine your day without your dog? Go for it, we say. Photo: Suzanne Li Photography [Above right] Everyone expecting roses? Surprise them all with a bold mix of protea, hydrangea and fern courtesy of Cora Anderson Floristry + Styling. Photo: Tub of Jelly
Of course, it’s very easy for me to say this now. The challenge, when you’re faced with a to-do list totting up to what feels like a million-and-one things to decide for the wedding (and you want to start making some concrete plans), is how do you put this into action? Here are my top tips for creating a day that reflects you.

Ask yourself what your priorities are

One of the first things I recommend when you start planning your wedding is to sit down together and discuss what areas are important to you. Come at it from the point of view of enlightening each other, not judging, to see what you both consider imperative as individuals and as a team. You can start to map out your goals from there.

You may even learn something new about your partner that you didn’t know before. It’s entirely feasible that they’ve never given a moment’s thought to what they’d want for their wedding before, so how could you possibly have known?

wooden dining tables in a barn
Frill Factory’s neon signs and reclaimed fabric backdrops fly in the face of humdrum wedding decor

As you make decisions, ask yourself ‘why are we doing this?’

I don’t mean ‘why are we doing this whole wedding thing?’. It’s at a more micro level: ‘why are we devoting time/space/money to this aspect?’ The answer should always be, ‘because we want to, and we think it’ll make our day even more epic’, not ‘because we should’ or ‘because we have to’.

Weddings, at the root of it all, need just three things: you, an officiant, and some witnesses (and a pen, if you’re being really pedantic, but you get the gist). Now, you may be surprised by a planner saying that but I firmly believe that everything beyond the bare essentials should be there because you want it there. Even your officiant, whether registrar, celebrant or religious representative, should be someone you actively want to marry you.

man and woman on beach; pink meringue cake
[Above left] Heart set on eloping or having a teeny outdoor do? Allow Scottish Wild Picnics to make your celebratory feast [Above right] How about Butter and Bodoni’s meringue-shell tower as a cake alternative?

Don’t have things just because they’re established practice

Weddings, as we mentioned, are steeped in lore, so most people will expect or assume that yours will pretty much follow the usual template. If some of these rituals resonate with you as a couple, then by all means include them. But the ones that don’t sit comfortably with you or perhaps simply don’t apply to your relationship – I say chuck ’em and create a narrative that you’re both comfortable with.

Manage other people’s expectations of your wedding

Balancing the assumptions of others against your own desires for your wedding can be tricky – and even more so if a family member or parent is contributing towards the costs.

In these situations, I’d recommend trying to reach a compromise and discussing openly and honestly why you don’t want to include the thing they’re so keen on (or vice versa). More often than not, they’re just worried you’re making a mistake by going against the grain; talking through your reasons can show them that, actually, you’re 100% convinced it’s right for you.

wooden chairs
Two heads are better than one when it comes to bouncing ideas around. Rose gold ‘Better Together’ chair signs, £4.99, Ginger Ray

This advice doesn’t just apply to relatives who’re helping out financially; it can also be used with well-meaning family and friends who are emotionally invested in you and your happiness.

Don’t feel awkward if they keep mentioning customs that you’re not having – for example, if they keep saying they can’t wait to see your dad’s face when he walks you down the aisle (without knowing that you’re walking it solo) or they want to know what flavour of cake you’re having (even though you’ve already decided to have a cheese tower instead).

Tell them you’re going for something different and, if you want to, explain why. Then they can a) get excited for the alternative you’re going to introduce to them on the day, and b) stop asking questions that make you feel bad!

Have another question you want answered? Get in touch with Catrina here.