BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Weddings have always been steeped in tradition, with rules and logistics that have been culturally ingrained decade after decade.
Time will tell how the increasing legality of same-sex marriages will influence the institution. But brides and grooms have already been adding wrinkles to the longstanding matrimonial blueprint, ranging from the quaint to the unusual.
The changing face of ceremonies is worth paying attention to for anyone in a business related to weddings. Each year, there are approximately 2.5 million weddings in the U.S., and more than $70 billion is spent on them.
"I think that the idea of a cookie-cutter wedding is a passe concept," says Lori Stephenson, co-founder of
Lola Event Productions
, a Chicago event and wedding design firm. "Everything is about your preferences, customizing it and making it feel like your day. Every single bride I work with now is saying, 'I want it to feel like us.' There no, 'I have to throw the bouquet or do the garter or the cake cutting.' There is no 'have-to' anymore; it is all about whether you want to do something."
That has meant, for example, that once-forbidden black is starting to show up with bridesmaids dresses. The dowry-inspired tradition of the father of the bride footing the bill is becoming more of a shared responsibility among families. The fact that many, if not most, of couples live together at some point before the big day is also a catalyst for change.
"I've even had a few couples who, instead of [the bride] walking down the aisle on their dad's arm and being given away to the groom, walk down the aisle together," Stephenson says. "They are coming together to the altar as equals and there is none of this old-fashioned idea of leaving your family."
Increasingly, couples are also trying to relieve the pressure of weddings by having smaller, low-key legal ceremonies ahead of time.
"We have a lot of people who are choosing friends and families to officiate their ceremonies," Stephenson says. "While it is very easy to get ordained online, sometimes people feel more comfortable doing it in advance, either with a religious person of their faith or at the courthouse. They want to know that all the legalities are managed and they can do absolutely whatever they want during the ceremony and it becomes a reflection of their personal love story, rather than something that is dictated as something that they have to do ... Everything else is just show and theater for everybody else."
The following are five new twists on wedding traditions, ranging from those creeping steadily into the mainstream to the unusual: