Elopement Planning 101: Traditions – What to Keep and How to Make New Ones

Apr 5, 2021

Elopement Resources


Welcome to Elopement Planning 101: a series where we’ll dive into how to plan your elopement with 8 key steps and considerations.

Each of these blog posts is also a podcast episode. You can listen to The Elopement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play.


Traditions – What to Keep and How to Make New Ones


The topic of wedding traditions is very subjective to what you want and how you envision your day, so starting the conversation can be a challenge for some people. I totally get it! However, it’s an important topic that in my opinion isn’t discussed often enough. I frequently get asked questions like “what’s normal, should we do this or skip it?” or “I’d rather not include this tradition as part of our wedding day but we don’t want to offend anyone… what do we do?”

My partner and I asked ourselves these same questions when planning our elopement. It was definitely a challenge navigating certain traditions – whether to embrace them, modify them to our personal taste, or skip them altogether. Ultimately we chose to do things differently for our elopement which we don’t regret, but some of it came as a surprise to most people. Today I want to shed some light on wedding traditions, how to decide which to keep, and how to create new ones!


First, let’s chat about some of the most common traditions and expectations in the wedding industry.

Tradition #1: You aren’t supposed to see your partner until walking down the aisle during ceremony.

In this day and age, most couples spend so much of their lives together before sealing the deal. By the time they get married, they are best friends, they’ve spent years together, and sometimes they even live together. To spend the night apart for the sake of a superstition or old wives tale is silly (unless it’s something you truly want). I’ve witnessed so many weddings where the couple is separated, and often there is so much anxiety because they just want to be with the person who makes them feel like home – especially on a day with so much pressure involved. If you want to see your partner before the ceremony, go for it! Or if you want to keep your outfit a secret and have a first look, that’s a great option too! Remember that if you want the safety net of your person leading up to the ceremony, you are entitled to that.


Tradition #2: Standard ceremony with basic vows

Just like how we discussed in my previous post all about How To Create a Meaningful Ceremony, a customized ceremony is great to consider! If you are having a standard ceremony that doesn’t feel personal (whether it be out of expectation or religious reasons) but you want it to, write each other a love letter and read it in private. This is a great alternative to allow for some special moments shared between you and your love, without it being witnessed by all of your guests.

Tradition #3: Wedding dress shopping as an event, pressure to find “the one”

I bought my elopement dress from Lulu’s for $80, it was off-white (as opposed to the traditional white) and I absolutely loved it! It felt just like me. This was a decision that was difficult to navigate after our elopement, unfortunately I found out my mother was disappointed that she wasn’t able to have the traditional dress shopping experience with her daughter. I’ve never envisioned myself going shopping for a wedding dress, I am the type of person who knows what they want, sees it, and buys it without putting too much time and energy into it. Looking back there could have been more communication with my mom on what we both envisioned for this part of the planning process, but I don’t regret my decision. When I think about it now, I know I still would have ended up with a dress similar to what I bought because it made me happy!


Tradition #4: Wearing white on your wedding day

Similar to dress shopping, this is so dependent on what feels right to you. Luckily, there are so many alternatives if you don’t want to wear white! I’ve seen brides wear pink, cream, blue – I even had a bride get married in jeans and a white sweater! I also had another bride elope in a gorgeous navy gown, and a few others wore black. Wearing white is very traditional and has a lot of meaning behind it which is great. I love the color white and it photographs very well, but if it’s not your jam it’s not your jam. Whether you go with a traditional white dress, a unique color, or something casual with a hat and hiking boots, choose what feels most authentic to you.

Tradition #5: Being walked down the aisle

Traditions are traditions, but at the end of the day there are no rules. I’ve seen many brides choose to have their mother, sister, brother, etc walk them down the aisle. Or depending on your circumstances, you may not see yourself being walked down the aisle by a family member at all. If you prefer not to be “given away”, that’s totally valid! I’ve had couples walk down the aisle together, seeing it as entering into their new lives together mutually, on the same page. This is such a personal choice and preference for each couple to make on their own.

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Tradition #6: Cake cutting

If this doesn’t resonate with you, same! I personally wasn’t opposed to a cake cutting but it also wasn’t important to me. We had a sunrise elopement with a brunch following, so I had my caterer provide a stack of pancakes with syrup poured on top and some berries – we used this as our “cake” and it was the best! Don’t feel like you have to adhere to what’s standard when it comes to cake cutting. Rather use waffles or pizza instead? Let’s do it!

Tradition #7: Dances

Some couples choose to skip dances (first dance, mother/groom, father/bride) altogether if maybe their family situations are painful or they don’t have that “mushy gushy” relationship to feel natural dancing with their parent. This is completely fine! With a first dance, I’ve had couples who’ve opted to have theirs in private after they’ve celebrated with their families – on a mountain or in the woods with music provide by my handy Bluetooth speaker! My favorite elopement day moments are the ones that are personal and special.

Here are some fun new traditions you can consider for your elopement:

  • Spending the morning together getting ready, going on a sunrise hike, grabbing coffee, or making breakfast together.

  • Write letters to each other to read in private

  • Skip the cake cutting and take a wedding shot together, or have s’mores or pancakes instead of cake


Never feel like you have to do things because they are expected of you, everyone is on their own journey when it comes to planning an elopement and I encourage you to do what speaks to you. There are no “no’s” in my world when it comes to celebrating your love!

Don’t forget to check out the full Elopement Planning 101 series on the podcast, and head to the blog for more elopements, tips, and resources. Still in need of a photographer or help planning your elopement in Lake Tahoe? Reach out!

Ruthanne is an Elopement Photographer & Expert based in Lake Tahoe, California. She specializes in elopements inspired by the beautify and elegance of the High Sierra mountains, but you can find her all over the west at any time. She lives in Truckee, California where she was born & raised, with her husband Demetri & Australian Shepherd, Sasha. 


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