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The Rules Worth Breaking for Your Wedding

Wedding planner Hovik Harutyunyan shares his expert tips for wedding planning outside the lines.

Learn the risks and the rules worth breaking for your wedding day from wedding planner Hovik Harutyunyan of Harutyunyan Events. Find out what you can do to make your big day all yours!

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Photo: For the Love of It

As our world recovers from a year of social unrest and a global pandemic, I’m sure most couples want to stay away from anything in the realm of “risk” associated with their wedding plans. But if there has been one silver lining, it is that we can adapt to unforeseen circumstances and pivot to happy outcomes. Couples planning in the time of COVID-19 saw long-standing wedding traditions, customs, and etiquette get flipped on their head. And, after all was said and done, we still survived without these rules.

When I say take risks and break rules, I am not encouraging you to do off-character things not sound with wise wedding-planning practices. Quite the opposite, I am invoking you to make your wedding more in-character. To me, a “modern” wedding is not the rejection of tradition, but rather the thoughtful adaptation of traditions.

So, let’s start breaking some rules.

Find a Meaningful Space

Your wedding venue is the most important wedding decision you make. It not only determines the aesthetic for the event but also defines the planning process. It will impact the overall experience for guests – from the food and cocktails they enjoy, to the music they dance to, and everything in between. 

No two venues are the same. They all have their own rules, requirements, and offerings. Understand each of these elements and how they will impact your ability to create the celebration of your dreams. A great way to assess comparisons is to request copies of the event contract, not just the sales brochures. Contracts will outline all of the costs but also what is, and isn’t, included. This way when you compare your desired wedding venues, you are comparing “apples to apples.”

Unique Wedding Venue: Sheats-Goldstein Residence
Photo by For the Love of It; Planning & Design by Harutyunyan Events

As COVID-19 reduced the ability to hold larger gatherings, couples were able to really explore a whole new world of venue options. Don’t rely on the tried-and-true standards or the go-to hotspots... Make it personal. Look at private estates, architectural homes, museums, art galleries, plane hangars, vineyards, gardens, yachts, and rooftops. Who said it has to be a venue at all? Look to environments like ocean bluffs, bamboo forests, mountain peaks and trails, and so on. These unique spaces often have a lot of character that may resonate with you and your partner more than a traditional site.

Keep in mind that unique spaces will have unique considerations. You want to ensure your choice is conducive to vendor load-in/load-out, in particular for your caterer and rental vendors. Make sure there is adequate space for all of your production needs.

Curate a Team of Artists 

You can apply that same spirit of openness to selecting your wedding vendors. Some of the most talented professionals I hire for weddings are not wedding vendors at all. For example, a select few florists I love are actually painters and sculptors. One of my favorite caterers is actually a private home chef. A band that I discovered at a stand-up comedy show is one of my preferred music vendors for my parties. Many of my favored photographers are actually from the fashion and editorial worlds. 

The point is this: don’t just book vendors to cross off a checklist. Curate a team of artisans who will bring your vision to life. It goes without saying that high quality and professionalism should still be at the forefront of your selection process. This is where hiring a planner will be most helpful, as they will assess whether a particular professional will be the best fit for your wedding. Your desire to create the wedding of your dreams should never come at the cost of compromising the quality of execution.

Colorful Flower Arrangement at Wedding
Photo by For the Love of It; Planning & Design by Harutyunyan Events

Produce an Experience

Design is the area I wish more couples were brave enough to stay true to themselves. Between social media and the internet, we are constantly bombarded with wedding images. As a result, pressures begin to rise to have a certain look. 

I’d like to clear the air on this: as long as you design a wedding that is personal and meaningful to you, it will be absolutely beautiful. Couples are often so worried if their wedding colors are right or wrong; if the linens are the proper texture; or if the flowers are the exact shade and shape they saw on Pinterest, that they forget successful design doesn’t come from a checklist, it comes from sharing a story and connecting with guests. After all, we design with the intention to make family and friends feel and experience something beautiful. 

To me, successful design is when function intersects with meaning. There is no right or wrong as long as you are intentional with your design; there is only what is right or wrong for you. It’s not only inspiring, but also, quite frankly, liberating. Don’t copy what’s trending if that really isn’t you. In my 10 years of producing and designing weddings, the best celebrations weren’t the ones with the most complicated designs or the highest budgets – they were the ones that were truest to the couples. While your guests may not know professional design, they know what feels right and welcoming, and design isn’t just what is seen, it’s what is felt.

Slushie Drink at Wedding Reception
Photo by For the Love of It; Planning & Design by Harutyunyan Events

Create a Moment in Fashion   

Working with my brides and grooms to help them find the perfect look for the day is thrilling. The wedding is a great opportunity to express your personal style. The rule to break here is to buy the dress you want. Not the dress your mom wants; your bridesmaids want; your fashion-influencer cousin wants... the dress you want.     

Don’t be afraid to don something stylish yet unconventional; edgy yet effortless. If you like it, and feel beautiful in it, then it is the perfect dress for you. I often hear of the hypothetical future bride who may look back at her wedding photos in 30 years and realize the style hasn’t aged well. We are continuously warned to not be her. My question is this: What is so wrong about having your taste evolve and change? 

Also, don’t hesitate to go for an outfit change during the reception. I think having two different looks throughout your wedding day is a wonderful way to tell your wedding fashion story. It’s worth every penny to make the extra investment, especially if you’re having a difficult time deciding in which direction to go.In my case to take more “wedding risks,” it is important to note that I am not encouraging you to disregard sound wedding-planning processes. As an etiquette specialist, I am the first to defend the implementation of proper etiquette. But wedding etiquette is not a matter of this or that – it is a spectrum of practices to be adapted to you and your guests so as to create the best celebration. Never do anything in your wedding planning to compromise this.

Modern Bow Bridal Gown
Photo by For the Love of It; Planning & Design by Harutyunyan Events

I am not advising you to “take risks” as a way to invite uncertainty into your plans. I am simply giving you the space to let your wedding truly be your wedding – without fear, doubt, or apology. Instead, let’s view it as an opportunity to create an inspired, once-in-a-lifetime celebration with your loved ones. In a lot of ways, having the wedding you want, and in the way you want, is perhaps the most classic and timeless thing you can do.

For more advice from Hovik Harutyunyan of Harutyunyan Events, discover wedding planning advice for your personal style, get tips for hosting an intimate micro-wedding, and see more real weddings planned by Harutyunyan Events!