dc wedding planner

5 Wedding Traditions Worth Breaking

As you already know, I’m not a fan of the “have to”’s and “should”’s that often surround weddings. Yes, sometimes certain traditions or ways of doing things are there for a reason - cause they make the most sense or are the easiest way to do something! That being said, there are a couple of wedding traditions I’m all about breaking - so here are my top 5 that I think are heading the way of the dinosaurs:

Who walks down the aisle?

Photo by Susan Hornyak

Photo by Susan Hornyak

I hold this one near and dear to my heart because I made a fairly non-traditional choice when it came to my own wedding processional. More and more I’m seeing lots of couples kick the tradition of the bride’s father walking her down the aisle to the curb - and I’m loving it. Jewish weddings already get it right (and have for years) by having both parents escort both parts of the couple down the aisle. I’ve seen the bride and groom walk down together. I’ve seen brides process in on their own (cue Destiny Child’s “Independent Women” now please). Recently, two grooms had us create TWO aisles and they both processed in together with the ring bearers/flower girls, to meet in the center (love love love that). I personally chose to have my Mom walk me in because I was close to both my Dad and Step-father and didn’t feel right choosing between the two. Either way, it’s a personal choice and every couple deserves to feel they can be creative if they need to be! Do what’s best for you and your family - both past and future!

RSVP Cards

Photo by Love Life Images

Photo by Love Life Images

Embrace technology! Throw those physical RSVP cards of yore directly into the trash. As I mentioned on a previous post, wedding websites now allow you to collect RSVPs online. Do it. It saves you money, time and you won’t find yourself scratching tiny numbers in pencil on the back of your RSVP cards wondering why you ever decided to plan a wedding in the first place. Yes, some older folks get confused by the internets, but it’s still worth going this route and just picking up the phone for those few who can’t handle the online option.

The White Dress

Photo by Leo Druker

Photo by Leo Druker

A lot of brides still love the white dress, and I get it. I wore one. But this tradition is changing and I’m LOVING it. Weddings are a celebration - why not wear color? Or best of all, why not wear pants? A jumpsuit? Have outfit and costume changes? The possibilities nowadays are endless and so many more options are available to both brides and grooms. Go for it and don something new for your special day - you’ll still feel special, I promise.

The Champagne Toast

Photo by Darling Photographers

Photo by Darling Photographers

Very few couples have traditional champagne toasts anymore. Once again, save the money (yay!) and just have folks toast with the drinks that are in their hands. I can’t tell you how much champagne I see dumped out of untouched glasses at the end of the night. Not having special flutes and a “special” champagne toast won’t make those moments or the words spoken any less meaningful. So ditch this tradition and focus on the words rather than the (sparkling) wine.

The special dances

Photo by Ayesha Ahmad

Photo by Ayesha Ahmad

Listen, I love me a first dance. And I also love me some parents dances. But don’t be afraid to either ditch them or approach them with some fun and creativity. Super shy? Don’t have a first dance. Don’t feel like taking the dances so seriously? Mix it up and play with it - one of my favorites was a couple of mine from last year who not only did a first dance to Adam Sandler’s Grow Old With You, but then went into a first dance mash-up including Indian and western line dancing. It was hilarious, them, and perfect.

Easy ways to personalize your wedding

Nowadays lots of my clients express a desire to personalize their wedding. In fact, I’d even go so far to say that they feel the pressure to personalize every single detail. I don’t find that necessary. I think the personalization of weddings has gotten a bit out of hand (much like the fun DIY weddings of days past). So I wanted to outline my top 5 favorite and EASY ways to personalize your wedding:

Your Wedding Ceremony

Photo by Chris Ferenzi

Photo by Chris Ferenzi

Lest ye forget, the ceremony is the whole reason you’re having a wedding in the first place. It marks the official moment you and your partner actually get married. I find that the best way to personalize your wedding is to make the ceremony truly reflect you as a couple. How? That could simply mean making sure your pastor or rabbi really knows you both individually and as a couple. It could mean you both taking the time to write the ceremony yourselves. It could mean incorporating some favorite readings that reflect your own partnership and future together. There are tons of ways to make your ceremony personal - I always urge clients to put the most thought into this part of the day, that so often gets overlooked, because it really is the emotional center of the entire event.


Photo by Shandi Wallace

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Whether you’re a musical person or not, music connects to most of us on a pretty emotional and personal level. So another very easy way to personalize your wedding is to be thoughtful about your music throughout the event. Process into your ceremony to a special song. If you’re doing parents dances, pick songs that mean something to you both. Have music that you love but that isn’t danceable or ceremony-worthy but still reflects you or your partner? Use it at the cocktail hour!

Wedding logo

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

I used to scoff a bit at wedding logos - I felt as though it really hit home that your wedding was something to “market” (belch). But - I will say that if you take the time to create one that feels meaningful to you and your partner, you then have ONE thing that you can use everywhere! It makes a lot of decisions way easier - what to put on the program, the cake, lighting, favors, invites, website, etc? Your logo. BAM. Decision done, now you can go off and do other fun things with your day, all while personalizing that wedding of yours :)

Look beyond the centerpieces

Photo by Hannah Hudson Photography

Photo by Hannah Hudson Photography

Another very easy way to personalize your wedding is to add small little touches to your dining tables - and I’m not talking about votives. I’ve had clients add different Funko Pops to each table cause they were both huge comic fans, clients who framed hilarious quotes from their first online dating conversations, and clients who incorporated all the national parks they’d visited into each dining table.

Cake Toppers

Photo by DuHon Photography

Photo by DuHon Photography

Again, we’re talking easy here. Since you may want to buy a cake topper anyway, why not make it personal? I’ve seen folks have mini figurines made of them (and their dog!) on etsy, one bride’s father hand-crafted their cake topper, and my favorite (I am a musical theatre nerd at heart, remember), a couple use Tangled characters on top of their cake (even Pascal made the cut!). I’ll also mention, my Mom and step-dad deserve a starting-the-trend award since they absolutely SHOCKED their parents back in 1988 by putting some small clown shoe figurines (my step-dad had studied clown/mime back in the day) next to small high heeled figurines in lieu of the traditional cake topper. So this one is close to my heart!

Wedding Guest Table Assignment Ideas

How do you tell your guests where they should sit? There are actually a lot of options out there and chances for you to get creative when thinking about wedding table assignments. Below are my top five favorite ways to communicate those assignments to your guests!

Escort Cards

Photo by Jessica Crews

Photo by Jessica Crews

The most common option is via the traditional escort card, which lists the person’s name and what table they are assigned to. A couple of things to consider with this option is that you need an escort card table to display and arrange the escort cards (though it can often be “flipped” later into dessert or even a favor table, fyi!). Menu choices can also be indicated on the escort cards. One little tip from me to you: if you don’t need to indicate menu choices (i.e. you have a buffet or family style meal), put couples on ONE escort card to save money on how many you need to print! And finally, per one of my earlier tips… alphabetize them, please!!

Non Traditional Escort Card

Robinson Imagery

Robinson Imagery

You can take the same concept, but get creative with some non traditional escort cards! I’ve had couples at an outdoor, farm wedding attach names and table info to fruit (!), insert names/table info to potted succulents or attach the info to other favors. The sky’s the limit as long as you can communicate the name and table details to your guests!

Banners or Signage

Another option is to create a board or creative sign with each table listed and your guests names underneath. This requires the signage to be easy to locate for guests to look at during cocktail hour - and also requires that your guests have good memories :) You can also do the same concept on banners or other items that also list names beneath table numbers!

Wedding Placecards

Photo by Mantas Kubilinskas

Photo by Mantas Kubilinskas

In addition to table assignments, you may also want to assign folks specific seats at those tables. I’ve had couples have fun with it during their Halloween weekend wedding (with vampire teeth as place card holders!), or you can get creative and use new tools like the Cricut to carve out their names, or make things easier and simply add their names to the top of each menu on their place setting.

Don’t! Have a Cocktail Reception Instead

Photo by Stephen Gosling

Photo by Stephen Gosling

I don’t recommend this for everyone - in fact, it’s rare that a cocktail style reception with no assigned seating really works. But it can! A couple of things to consider is that if you’re not providing assigned, formal seating for everyone, you still need to provide plenty of OTHER seating - from low-top cocktail tables, to lounge chairs, you still need to have seating for everyone. In addition, make sure the food you’re serving is actually edible with one hand and no utensils - people hate standing up and eating awkward food. It’s the best way to make guests grumpy. Also, generally don’t recommend this for large weddings. This style of a reception works best for smaller, more intimate groups. And finally, make sure you clearly communicate the style of reception to your guests so they know what to expect (hey last week’s blog post, how you doing?).

Why communication is key to a stress-free wedding

Besides hiring a planner or coordinator (heeeey), the #1 key to a stress-free wedding is communication. Why? Because when you communicate it tells people what to expect. And people are always more comfortable, and then more likely have fun and relax, when their expectations are clear and are met. So here are my top five ways to clearly communicate in order to eliminate wedding-related stress!

Communicate with Family and Wedding Party

Photo by Amanda Gilley

Photo by Amanda Gilley

From the early stages of your wedding, make sure you find out what your parents (and any other family members or close friends who will be involved) want and expect from your wedding. What are their priorities? What are your priorities? Do you have to do everything they want? No. But people always respond better when they feel heard. Plus, you may think you know what your family wants, and then make decisions based on assumptions - when in fact, their real priority is something completely different. As the day gets closer, also make sure to clearly communicate what you need and expect from them - who will be giving a toast (and how long should it be? Answer? 2-3 minutes!)? Where do they need to be for photos? What is the general timing of the day? Again, when people know what to expect, they can relax and (gasp!) have fun!!

Create a Wedding Website

Photo by Porter Watkins

Photo by Porter Watkins

Please oh please, if you don’t do anything else, make a wedding website. Embrace all the amazing options we have out there today and communicate details and information super easily to your guests via your wedding website. I always recommend putting your wedding website address on your Save The Date, if possible. Things to make sure to include? Logistics! Transportation, travel and hotel information, the timing of the day, gifts/registration information, and attire. Want grumpy guests? Don’t mention the ceremony is on grass and have women grumble about their stilettos getting stuck in the mud. The more guests know, the more they can prepare and be ready to enjoy their day.

The other reason to share all of these details? So you don’t get phone calls and emails with questions you have to answer!

It’s also a great place to share more information about you as a couple and the wedding party, so people can start to get to know one another. You can give guests ideas of things to do in the area. Nowadays you can also collect RSVPs online which is a HUGE time-saver. And most importantly, any other small, unique details about your day can be shared there - wedding hashtags (see below!), unique ceremonies, all of those can be described or communicated on the website.

Use those wedding welcome bags

Photo by Love Life Images

Photo by Love Life Images

Welcome bags aren’t just to make your guests feel welcome (and provide that oh-so-necessary water and Advil for the next morning). It’s a great place to communicate with your guests. Lots of couples include an info sheet (frankly, repeating the details on the wedding website!) to hit home the important information guests need to know. Use those welcome bags to your full advantage and slip some info in there to make sure guests know what’s up!


Photo by DeNeuva Photography

Photo by DeNeuva Photography

As I mentioned, above, nowadays I find lots of ceremonies that have unique elements to them. Whether you’re blending religions or cultures, want an “unplugged” wedding (aka no cell phone photos please), or simply want to share more information about what’s going to happen during the ceremony, programs are a great way to communicate with guests so that they feel comfortable and don’t have questions or feel uneasy about what’s going on. Learning about what the chuppah represents, or why a certain reading means so much to you allows them to relax and connect to the ceremony.


Photo by Love Life Images

Photo by Love Life Images

Wedding hashtags can also be a really fun way to communicate with your guests during and AFTER the wedding. By encouraging guests to use a specific, unique-to-you wedding hashtag, you can find guests photos after-the-fact, comment, and enjoy the fun again, after the day is over. If you DO decide to go with a wedding hashtag, make sure to communicate the hashtag widely, both on your wedding website, programs, and even signage throughout the reception!

Unique Wedding Activities

One of our most popular blog posts is the post I did about our family’s annual tradition of hosting our own lip sync battle (yes, seriously). It made me realize a round up of some of our favorite unique wedding activities that we’ve seen The Plannery clients do over the years could be fun and provide some inspiration for those looking to add a little twist to their wedding day. So check out some fun options below and get inspired!

Wedding Professional Performances

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

Yup - we’ve had some clients really go all out. My favorite was the wedding we recently featured that hired a very famous Beyonce drag performer to surprise their guests after their first dance. It was insane and amazing and so much freaking fun!

Wedding Silent Disco

Silent Disco Wedding

Tarra worked a wedding (that will be featured on our blog soon!) where they did a silent disco! I love this idea, especially for any venues that have sound/noise restrictions! Such a fun way to work past those limitations and still have an awesome, unique wedding!

Wedding Flash Mob

Katie | the plannery Favorites-0049.jpg

I once got an email from the mother of the bride asking me to help with a surprise - she and a ton of other family members had put together a flash mob to surprise the bride during the reception with a huge dance to celebrate. It was so much fun and the bride loved it - it definitely got the dance party started, too! This obviously takes some rehearsal and planning/prep work, but it’s worth it if you know someone who loves dancing and loves surprises :)

Wedding Lip Sync Battle

I obviously had to include this one. One of our couples did a huge, hilarious lip sync battle at their holud, the night before their wedding. People really ran with it, including ridiculous costumes…

Wedding Performance by a Bride or Groom


This one is personal for me - my husband surprised me with a song he'd written me at our wedding. But we’ve also had one of our clients who was a musician with the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, surprise her husband with a performance. Whatever your talent is - it’s a fun time to share it with your new partner!


You can’t go wrong with inviting local mascots to the wedding. I’ve had brides invite them to surprise the groom, I’ve had them act as ushers, and I’ve had them simply join the dance party (which even got some local press!). They’re also always a fun photo opp for guests, too!

Fun accessories!

Light up wedding bracelets

One of my weddings bought these amazing bracelets that were gifted to all guests that lit up, changed colors, and flashed at different times based on the music that was being played. It was super fun and made it feel like a real dance party

Adam and Ryan's Carnegie Institution of Science DC Wedding

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

Adam and Ryan signed on to work with me back when I was about to have my 2nd baby! I helped them get started - nailed down the venue and some of the major vendors, had my baby (!), then came back to help them out with the rest of their planning. And I’m SO blessed and thankful that they took a chance on a very pregnant woman. This might have been one of my favorite weddings of all time. They were so much fun to work with and I knew that their love and their wedding would be so special. Justin McCallum’s awesome photos capture every moment, big and small. They started the day with some photos around the Carnegie Institution of Science. Then after signing the license with friends and family, they had a beautiful ceremony in the round. One of my favorite details was that they’d ordered two custom gobos - one for during the ceremony (which listed both of their “maiden” names), and one after, pronouncing them, The Hunters :)

After the cocktail hour, their wedding party had some of the most fabulous entrances I’ve ever seen, including their officiant walking in to Like a Prayer, the ring bearer dancing, and of course, Ryan clacking that fan.

Dinner by Main Event Catering was delicious, as was their stunning custom cake (which incorporated their married logo) by Fluffy Thoughts.

And then… it was the best part of the night. Adam and Ryan did their first dance to Beyonce’s XO, and then announced the incredible Riley Knoxx. This infamous Beyonce performer surprised the guests with a 20 minute set and kicked off the dance party like no one else. (and BTW, she also appears in Taylor Swift’s new music video!). It was legit one of the best weddings I’ve had the honor of being a part of - I need more Beyonce in my life (who doesn’t??).

Thank you and congrats again to Adam and Ryan for allowing me to help plan and organize this awesome day! And a special shout out to Scorpio Entertainment. They not only kicked ass as DJ but had a ton of other elements to coordinate - like Riley’s performance/lighting/sound, the special logo lighting, etc - and nailed it all.

Adam and Ryan’s Vendors:

Planner: Katie Wannen, The Plannery

Venue: Carnegie Institution of Science

Caterer: Main Event Caterers

Photographer: Justin McCallum

DJ, Lighting, and Sound: Scorpio Entertainment

Florist: Highway to Hill

Cake: Fluffy Thoughts

Hair/Make-up: Ebonie Jones

Performance! by Riley Knoxx

Liz and Kyle's Blind Whino Washington, DC Wedding

Photo by Carly Arnwine

Photo by Carly Arnwine

Liz and Kyle were married on the most perfect summer day in D.C. in August at The Blind Whino (now CULTURE HOUSE DC), their kickass venue that I swear has a life of its own. While I was busy setting up for their ceremony and reception, this couple along with their fun-loving and ultra-fashionable wedding party, took some absolutely stunning pre-ceremony photos. Can someone please get me a room at the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC aka The Wharf?! What a hotel lobby and what a pier, their first look could not have been cooler. If that wasn’t cool enough, we all know the Blind Whino for offering some of the best photo ops in the city.

My specific favorite elements of this wedding were the dresses, the ceremony florals, live band, and candy bar. Liz’s dress was out of this world - modest, tasteful, and drop dead gorgeous as were her bridesmaids. One I will remember for a long time.

The vast greenery designed by Sill Life really made this ceremony for me. It was so dramatic and so unique. Just breathtaking and perfect for this venue. There were some concerns about the lighting or lack thereof in the space particularly during the ceremony, but I found everything to be quite warming and theatrical in the best way.

The jam band that Kyle found and made sure would play at his wedding was something everyone from this event will remember. They were phenomenal! I believe a DJ was important to others involved, so I especially liked our compromise and plan to have the band play pre-ceremony as guests arrived as well as through cocktail hour making it extremely lively and fun. After dinner, guests returned downstairs for dancing and CANDY! After all of the weddings I’ve done, I am pretty sure this was my very first time setting up a candy bar and I loved every bit of it.

Congrats again to Liz and Kyle!

Liz and Kyle’s vendors

Coordinator: Tarra, The Plannery

Venue: Blind Whino

Catering: BLin

Photographer: Carly Arnwine Photography

DJ: DMV Premier Entertainment

Band: Power Source

Make-up: Amie Decker Beauty

Florist: Sill Life

How to start planning your wedding

Photo by Jess Latos

Photo by Jess Latos

Talk about your wedding priorities

So you're engaged! Now what? This week we're discussing the first steps every couple should take to get started planning their wedding. First step? Talk to each other and any other family that will be involved (generally parents). It's important to set aside time to really discuss what matters most to you - your priorities and expectations when it comes to vibe, location, and the number of guests. Take notes and see what type of wedding it's shaping up to be!

Establish a wedding budget

So you know your priorities and expectations - what's the next step in getting started with planning your wedding? Budget! Everyone's favorite subject. If you don't have a planner (like us!) to help you, there are lots of sample budgets available online to help you get started. My main piece of advice is to be realistic about both what you CAN and what you WANT to spend. Budgets are also where your priorities come in handy - you may need to cut corners here or there, so decide what matters most so you know where to allocate the most funds

Create a wedding guest list

The third step in getting started with wedding planning is creating your guest list! Create a guestlist spreadsheet with your partner so you can see who you (and other family) really want to invite. You can't pick a venue before you've finalized your guest list - no one wants to find themselves in the bad situation of having to disinvite people because they won't fit, or having too few folks in a huge venue!

Wedding venue

After you've narrowed down your priorities, guest list and budget, the next step is the venue and location. Local wedding cause all family is local and you have a huge family? Destination wedding to a location that matters to you both? Your hometown? Indoor or outdoor? Consider and talk through all the possibilities and what matters to you and your family.

Hire a planner!

The final step in how to get started planning your wedding... is hire us! :) Seriously though - it doesn't have to be us, but a wedding planner is truly a wonderful resource that can help you get started - we help you navigate all the conversations (from wedding vibe, guest list and location), we help you create a budget, and we help to narrow down your options so the whole process isn't overwhelming

Victoria and Brian's Murugan Temple of North America, MD Wedding Ceremony

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Victoria and Brian were full planning clients of mine - we started working together back in January for a September wedding. I was so excited to work with them because their wedding day was going to be very eclectic - they'd start off with a traditional wedding ceremony at Murugan Temple of North America in Lanham, MD, and end the day with a non-traditional, modern reception at the Newseum. I decided to split this wedding into two blog posts cause it's just too good not to :) So today we'll focus on the morning ceremony and tomorrow we'll dive into their modern reception!

The day started off with Victoria getting ready at the Hotel Monaco. They then proceeded to the temple for various ceremonies throughout the morning (including a saari change!), followed by a luncheon of delicious food post-ceremony at the temple.

I just adore the beauty captured by Shandi Wallace - so much color, joy, smiles, and detail! Enjoy this look into their stunning ceremony and come back next week for a look at their reception...