When it comes to wedding planning, even the most cutting-edge contemporary couples might start to worry about heeding tradition.  After all, weddings are one of the oldest rituals still observed by modern society.  But wedding customs are always evolving and have loosened up quite a bit in the past few years, so it’s very much up to you to decide whether you want to stick with tradition or ignore it and go your own way. As you make the hundreds of little decisions that precede your wedding, keep in mind that these old-school “rules” are yours to break.

Ariane Moshayedi PhotographyYou have to wear a wedding dress. Wedding dresses have become less traditional lately—many now include a touch of color as an alternative to the pure white look, and styles have evolved to look more like red carpet fashion, less like fairy tale confections. Recently some brides have taken it a step further by choosing to wear festive party dresses instead of bridal gowns. As long as it makes you feel beautiful and fits your interpretation of bridal, feel free to wear the wedding day outfit of your choice.

Your dad has to walk you down the aisle. This tradition is based on the antiquated idea that a father “gives away” his daughter to the groom, so throw it out the window if it doesn’t work for you (maybe you’re not that close with your dad or have more than one father figure in your life and don’t want to choose). Of course, if you’re a Daddy’s girl and love the idea of taking your last steps as a single lady with him at your side, then by all means follow tradition on this one.  But know that it’s your choice to make.

You need bridesmaids and groomsmen.If your brother, or another guy, is your best friend, why not make him your “man” of honor?  Same goes for grooms with best friends who are female. While it might look more symmetrical in the photos to have same-gendered attendants in matching outfits, you should follow your heart on this one.

Ceremony seating should be divided into bride’s and groom’s sides. You and your fiancé probably have a lot of mutual friends at this point, so why make them pick sides?  And since a wedding marks the joining of two families, you might even decide to have your families sit together at the ceremony rather than segregating them on separate sides of the aisle.

You should throw your bouquet to the single women.  When deciding whether to do a bouquet toss at your reception, consider your unmarried female guests. Will they think it’s good old-fashioned fun to scramble to catch your flowers, or find it demeaning to be put on display for their single status?  Choose accordingly, but don’t feel obligated to perform this ritual.

Ariane Moshaheydi PhotographyYou have to have a wedding cake.  
The days when a multi-tiered white cake was de rigueur are long gone. Instead you can serve cupcakes or slices of pie, let guests choose from a restaurant-style dessert menu, or have a dessert bar in place of cake.  If you feel the need to feed a first bite of something to your new spouse you can still do that with whatever dessert you choose.  Check out these unique cake and other wedding dessert ideas.

The bride’s family pays for the wedding, the groom’s foots the rehearsal dinner bill. Rules about who pays for what at the wedding have very much fallen by the wayside as the average age of marriage has risen, and engaged couples have started their careers and have some money to pitch in.  Often, some combination of the two families and the couple themselves underwrites the festivities.

You must have a rehearsal dinner. On the subject of rehearsal dinners, these night-before affairs have been shaken up in the past decade or so, with many couples forgoing them in place of a more casual party.  While it’s traditional for the wedding attendants, officiant, and any out of town guests to be invited to a rehearsal dinner, you should feel free to invite more guests than that to a big party, or fewer to an intimate dinner (or skip the event entirely and rest up for your big day).

But before you decide which rules to break, read up on the history behind wedding traditions and superstitions to evaluate whether these wedding traditions are meaningful enough to warrant keeping.