The best advice – from brides to brides

Forget traditional — Recent brides share some of their best tips about planning a wedding today

By Jen Campisi
Posted 3/3/23

While bridal trends come and go, some ideas have gained traction in recent years, possibly due to the impact of social media. Following the coronavirus pandemic, wedding planners and vendors have …

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The best advice – from brides to brides

Forget traditional — Recent brides share some of their best tips about planning a wedding today


While bridal trends come and go, some ideas have gained traction in recent years, possibly due to the impact of social media. Following the coronavirus pandemic, wedding planners and vendors have seen an increase in non-traditional wedding ideas making waves in the past two years. If you’re newly engaged or in the process of wedding planning, here are some ideas that many recent, local brides are incorporating into their weddings.

Custom wedding websites 

Once the news of your engagement spreads, you’re bound to be bombarded with questions from all of your family and friends. “When’s the wedding?” “What’s the dress code?” “Where’s it being held?” “What hotel should we stay at?” “Will there be an open bar?” 

To avoid the deluge of texts, emails and social media messages, (and also to avoid dumping the Q&A duty on your mother, sister, or maid of honor), it’s super quick and easy to create your own wedding website. Your website can highlight pictures, discuss the timeline of your events, and inform your loved ones all about the wedding planning process as it happens. Adding a FAQ section will alleviate additional stress from having to continuously divulge the details of your big day. This is a great way to communicate with your guests without having to do so individually. 

“There’s companies out there that will help you build it, like The Knot or Wedding Wire, but we took an even more custom route and just built a trusty old Wordpress blog,” said Aimee Garrity, 29, an August 2022 bride from Quincy, Mass. “It answered all of the questions for people before they even asked, and we got to write little stories of how we met to make it super personable. We also added a gallery of photos from our honeymoon for the people who don’t use social media to see.”

The DIY Bride 

If you’re crafty and want to curate your dream wedding with a personal touch, you might fall into the increasingly popular DIY Bride category. From customized place cards, floral arrangements, homemade favors, and much more, we’ve seen a lot of brides taking matters into their own hands, especially brides on a budget. 

Graphic design websites like Canva are a lifesaver, even if you’re not inherently artistic. Canva is a free online design tool that allows you to personalize and create your save-the-dates, wedding invitations, thank you cards, and much more. 

“I did as much DIY as I could, from the welcome sign, to centerpieces, to designing my invitations,” said Sarah Curry, 24, a May 2023 bride from North Reading, Mass. “I’m pretty lucky my mom is a very crafty gal, and I personally found that it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment afterwards. The reason I did it is mostly due to price, but also there was some stuff that I did DIY because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. It started with an idea about a year and a half prior to the wedding, and we started creating it all about a year before.”

Online RSVPs 

While fancy stationary and calligraphic cards look aesthetically pleasing, it’s only a matter of time before a few RSVPs fall through the cracks. Whether guests forget to mail them, they get returned through the mail, or somehow they get lost altogether, the easiest way to ensure you’ve got the most accurate head count is through an online RSVP. Not only will it be super easy to keep track (without the stress of having to track everyone down), but you can also input that data directly into a spreadsheet for your venue and caterers.

For added efficiency, you can work an online RSVP option directly into your custom wedding website. (As an added bonus, you’ll save a bunch on postage and materials as well!) 

“When we were putting together a guest list, I realized just how many people we would have to send invite cards out to, and it really worried me about the cost but also about how much of this material would or would not get recycled, because I’m super eco-conscious,” said Bailey Santos, 25, an October 2023 bride from New Bedford, Mass. “The online RSVP was a no-brainer because it was super simple to set up and we don’t have to worry about people mailing their responses. They’re all right there for us to see as people send them, and that makes the process so much easier without chasing everyone around.”

‘Mismatched’ maids 

Long gone is the traditional “one dress fits all.” Many brides have changed the game with alternating and coordinating bridesmaids dresses, rather than a group in which everyone matches. Some brides have chosen one color from a specific designer, but different style dresses for each individual bridesmaid (maybe one-shoulder for Marissa, and strapless for Samantha). Others have selected two or three alternating dress colors from the same designer.

But now, you’ll see an increase in variety when it comes to bridal dresses, with some bridal parties coordinating colors and patterns, without repetition. This allows the bride to choose the dress design and color for each bridesmaid’s individual taste, style, personality, and body type. 

“I was torn between a few different dresses that I really liked for the girls, so I decided to go with multiple options to switch it up a bit,” said Cara Moran, 25, a September 2022 bride from Cranston, R.I. “Two of the girls wore a dark green, two had a medium green, and the other two had a light green, and I had them staggered like a gradient. They were all super comfortable with it, and it definitely fit how I’d pictured it and I didn’t have to compromise.”

Adults-Only functions 

It’s more common these days to see adults-only weddings, with guests limited to age 14 and over, age 18 and over, or even age 21 and over. This has become a simple way to cut down the guest list, save extra money, or just to ensure that the parents are not held responsible for looking after their children all night instead of enjoying themselves. Let a babysitter take care of it!

Many moms and dads will be glad to have the night off and relax. Obviously, this is preferential and varies by the family, but it’s picking up speed throughout the wedding world. 

Recent bride Katrina Leasy, 24, of Pawtucket, RI, went with an adults-only guest list for both her ceremony and reception. 

“We only had a few guests that have children, some extended family, none of whom we’re super close to, so having a childfree wedding was definitely a must for us,” said Leasy, who said ‘I do’ in September 2022. “It helped take the extra chaos out of our day, because the last thing that anyone wants as we’re processing up the aisle is a screaming baby or a teething toddler who can’t sit still. Definitely recommend, and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

“Unplugged” weddings 

In the digital age, it can seem as if everyone’s glued to their phone. At the grocery store, at restaurants, and even on walks through the park. But to some couples, the line is drawn when it comes to their wedding. On your special day, you may want to choose the “unplugged” route, to ensure that your guests aren’t in the way of hired photographers by hoisting up their tablet to take pictures in the middle of your vows, or using their phone flashlight during your first dance. By having an announcement made and creating a sign to indicate an “unplugged” ceremony, reception – or both! – this eliminates (or perhaps, reduces) additional distractions during those special moments. 

Katie Miller, 26, an October 2024 bride from Lowell, Mass., is having an unplugged ceremony, after being in a wedding last June that did the same. She got some of her inspiration from social media posts about other unplugged ceremonies. 

“I saw something about it on TikTok, but have always wanted to do it! I’m not a fan of phones potentially being in the professional photos,” said Miller. “I will have a sign and have my officiant announce it, but I’m also thinking about doing a ‘social media moment’ where my officiant would announce to the guests that they have 30 seconds or so to take some pictures, and then phones would go away.”

“Cocktail party” receptions 

Many couples have ditched the traditional wedding reception. The restrictions of structured wedding dinners and rigid sit-down meal schedules often hinder the ability to maximize your time of mingling with your attendees or hitting the dance floor for your favorite line dance. Buffet-style spreads have been making a comeback, thus giving guests the flexibility of utilizing their time to their own liking, a variety of menu choices to satisfy any individual appetite, and doing away with awkward assigned seating at tables with guests you’ve never met before. 

“Our guest list is on the smaller side, and we really want to keep things casual,” said Haley Levy, 30, an April 2024 bride from Westerly, R.I. “We knew we didn’t want the formal three-course meal with a set menu and waiters coming around, and us being confined to the sweetheart table for an extended period of time. I want to make sure I can talk to everyone who comes, and float around in it all.”

Smaller bridal parties 

One thing that has stayed consistent since COVID times is smaller bridal parties. Pre-pandemic weddings saw an average of 7 to 8 bridesmaids and their respective groomsmen escorts, for a bridal party of 14 to 16 people total (not including the bride and groom). Recently, many brides have chosen to downsize, by keeping their friends list close and shrinking their bridal parties, as we now see an average of 4 t o 6 bridesmaids, with their respective groomsmen as escorts. An influx of brides have opted for smaller bridal parties to hone in those who are closest to them, whether that be longtime friends or family members. 

“I was super worried about having a small bridal party at first because I thought people would be offended that I didn’t choose them, or that it wouldn’t photograph well, or that it would look like I didn’t have that many friends,” said Addy Brawn, 22, an October 2022 bride from North Providence. “I ended up choosing my twin sister Logan as my maid of honor, and had three bridesmaids, which were my college roommate, my childhood best friend and next-door neighbor, and one cousin who I’m the closest with. It helped a lot keeping it small because it was less planning, less coordinating, and easier to track everyone down.”

Intimate, private ceremonies 

In years past, vow ceremonies and marriage services were large and extravagant. Some families filled every row of seats, with others resorting to standing-room-only when all the chapel pews have been claimed. Pandemic restrictions limited couples in their guest capacity, but the trend of private ceremonies has continued on well after those guidelines were lifted. 

Lately, many people have opted for small, personal ceremonies with select family and close friends in beautiful or memorable locations that are unique to their relationship. For the minimalist couple, these smaller ceremonies eliminate distractions and focus on the details. 2023 will likely see an increase in destination wedding ceremonies, and non-traditional ceremonies in unique locations (think cliffs, beaches, rooftops, bridges, mountains, gardens, lighthouses, and other attractions). 

Rebecca Violette, 40, a November 2022 bride from Newport, R.I., married her husband on the boardwalk of Gray’s Beach in Yarmouth, surrounded by their close family and friends at golden hour. “We went there for our first date about a year and a half prior, and it was pure magic. I fell in love with the boardwalk, and even more in love with him,” said Violette. “As we were driving home that day, he turned to me and said ‘You know you’re going to marry me, right?’ and I said ‘I do.’ From that day on, it was just common knowledge between the two of us that we would get married, and obviously it had to be at Gray’s Beach.”

Favors with meaning, or no favors at all! 

Let’s be honest, nobody really remembers your wedding favors anyway. At least, not most bridal favors. Modern brides have found that in order for a favor to be memorable, it would have to be useful or thoughtful, and some have chosen to forget the favors altogether. See you later, monogrammed Christmas ornaments and tacky liquor nips in dollar-store cellophane! 

Recent brides have instead packaged desserts to go, such as decorated cookies or chocolate covered pretzels, or had a “late night snack” table for guests to grab on their way out. 

“I’ve been to a lot of weddings where people left favors on the table and that money just went to waste,” said Ava Druschell, 27, a June 2022 bride from Taunton, Mass. “We were really budget-conscious and figured that an edible favor would be a good treat for someone to take with them that wouldn’t go to waste, even if we had leftovers.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.