I'm Tori, a portrait and wedding photographer based in central New Jersey. Thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet; I'm so happy you're here. Come check out the full galleries from recent weddings and portrait sessions, behind the scenes, personal posts, helpful tips and more. Please feel free to take a look, and let me know if there is anything special you'd love to see in a future post. I hope to hear from you soon!
First things first, I want to say that I adore all weddings and none of the content below is to knock a more typical wedding day. The structure of a wedding day WORKS and that’s why it has stuck for so many years! However, I know so many couples who just get so dang stressed and overwhelmed with following traditions they don’t agree with, caring about details they never wanted to care about in the first place, and just not believing in a lot of what a traditional wedding day stands for.
Through all of this, my stance has and always will be: I’m here to support you in whatever day YOU choose to have. I’m here to give you permission to have a day that feels true to you. Wedding etiquette and tradition aside, all I care about is you having an incredible day that represents who you two are!
As I said, wedding days work like a well-oiled machine. There’s a go-to structure and timeline that we follow to get everything covered on a typical day. But you don’t have to follow everything if it’s not working for you!
First, let’s think about your venue! If you haven’t picked one yet, make sure to search around for a venue with a style that fits the vibe and vision you have for your day! Not into the classic, traditional ballroom? Try searching for a venue with a modern, rustic-chic feel, somewhere more industrial, or even just somewhere with all outdoor options from a garden ceremony to a tented or open-air reception! Your venue sets the tone for your whole day (and dictates a lot of how your day will flow), so making sure it works with your style and not against it will help a lot!
Next, try thinking about every part of the wedding day from getting ready to the after-party and consider new ways to spice them up. Keep thinking: how can I flip this or revamp this idea?
When it comes to getting ready, consider spicing up the location! Not a fan of the getting ready suite at your venue? Find a stylish Airbnb, a bowling alley, a cute brunch spot, or go out by the pool! This is such a memorable part of the day getting to hang with your people, so no need to choose a hotel room if it’s not your vibe!
Another way to switch things up is by opting to get ready with your spouse-to-be in the morning, or even get ready by yourself if you’re not into the hype of being surrounded by a lot of people!
Some couples don’t want to read their vows in front of a lot of people, so it could be sweet to get ready close by and read your vows back-to-back or hold hands before seeing each other!
Planning on having matching getting ready outfits for your wedding party? Make them practical, like a cute PJ set or comfy t-shirt dresses instead of a silk robe that most people won’t wear again!
As for your portraits and attire, here are a few ways to change it up from the norm! I typically always recommend doing a first look, which is less traditional and makes your day unique because you get to spend most of the day together with your fiancé instead of apart! You can make this first look super different by meeting up to grab pizza together, get a drink, or head to a spot that means something to you! Consider reading your vows during your first look or giving each other a gift before your ceremony!
For wedding attire, you can opt for something that feels like you! You don’t have to settle on a white wedding dress or stiff suit if you don’t want to! You can look magical in a blue gown, pink skirt, a two-piece, a jumpsuit, etc.! If you’re only going to wear it once, make it something that’s truly YOU! Not into heels or fancy shoes? Go with a fun pair of sneakers. Get matching ones for your wedding party! Your feet will thank you! You can even do a little outfit change later in the day!
Want to add a little something-something to your wedding party?! Consider not sticking to one gender on each “side,” or not even having sides, so your group photos feel more inclusive and casual!
As for attire, you can add some fun visual interest by adding patterns or textured outfits, different florals, different hairstyles, etc. for everyone! They also don’t need to be in classic wedding attire – sweaters, suspenders, funky sneakers, jumpsuits, two-pieces, pajama party, etc. Go wild!!
Annnd, if you want a more low-key day, scrap the bridal party and keep it simple with just the two of you!
The ceremony might be the one part of the day where you see the most tradition, so think about what matters most to you and feel free to stray from the norm here if it feels right! Twist traditions to make them your own, scrap them entirely if they just don’t feel right, or make up your own! No kids in the family? No need for a flower girl or ring bearer OR ask your grandparents, best friends, siblings, dogs, etc. to take on the role. Not a fan of the typical ceremony set up? Reorganize it – put the ceremony in the center of all the chairs so everyone surrounds you, remove the aisle or move it somewhere off-center, sit down with your guests, etc.
Want a really personal and meaningful ceremony? Have a friend or family member officiate so you have a custom ceremony instead of generic words taken off the internet or typical scripts that barely relate to the couple!
If you’re not into the idea of being “given away,” walk into your ceremony together or find a different way to change it up! Don’t like being the center of attention? You can always have a private ceremony to celebrate intimately and privately, and then just invite guests to the party!
Cocktail hour really only exists because first looks were not something couples really ever did years ago. This hour of time gives the couple, wedding party, and family time to get the photos done while guests can mingle. If you do a first look, you can either join your cocktail hour or scrap it altogether and go straight to the party! You don’t need to follow any certain timing – your ceremony can be 7 minutes, your cocktail hour can be 30 minutes or last all night! Your reception can go until morning if you’re not at a venue and just partying it up in a backyard! You can even serve breakfast for dinner if you want to!
Reception formalities are totally up to you, also! If you think introducing your family, wedding party, or yourselves into the room is silly, awkward, or embarrassing, scrap some or all of it! Don’t force anything that feels like an obligation to you!
Get wild with your food selection! Maybe cut a pizza for dessert if you’re not into cake or go for chocolate fondue bars if that’s more your style! Start the night off with all of your guests taking a shot of your fave alcohol! Love late-night snacks? Keep an open bar of french fries and onion rings all night long or bring in your fave fast food for late-night yums! Who wants just chicken and potatoes?! Make the selection a meal that excites you!
Decor wise, you don’t need to do anything you’ve seen before if you don’t want to! Pinterest is great for inspiration, but think of ways you can change up what you’ve seen instead of recreating it exactly. Think about your personalities, favorite things, and what excites you and pull inspiration from there for seating charts, centerpieces, ceremony decor, sweetheart table decor, etc.
Play music you actually love! If you want a chill night just hanging with friends for your backyard BBQ bash, play your indie and folk faves. If you want a raging dance party all night, play the classics, some 90s jams, and the top radio hits. As long as you two are dancing, everyone else will join! And you don’t have to let the wedding end after one night! Have a full weekend camping getaway-style wedding if you want a few days of fun with your people! Feel free to jump in the lake or pool at the end of the night, too!
Annnnnd if you’re really feeling like the structure isn’t your thing – you can consider only picking the parts you love! Want to keep it intimate and only focus on the ceremony and your marriage? Maybe an intimate wedding or elopement out in nature at your favorite hiking spot would be the perfect way to get married! You can always plan a fun backyard BBQ party or wild party another day with friends and family, too!
All in all – break the rules, do your day your way, and know that all that really matters is that you’re marrying your favorite person ever!