In an ‘Anti-Wedding,’ It’s Personality Over Tradition

Amy Shack Egan describes herself as an “anti-wedding” event planner. The company she founded in 2015, Modern Rebel, creates what she calls “love parties,” personalized events that celebrate the couple and their relationship and often include modernized or reimagined wedding traditions (or sometimes almost no traditions at all).

The couples she works with may forgo walking down an aisle or even conventional attire. (Ms. Egan once did an event where the wedding party was dressed as astronauts.) Another offered permanent tattoos to guests instead of a wedding favor. A few might skip the dance floor, but maybe have a bouncy castle instead.

Though she is involved in her clients’ lives, she would never call herself a couples’ therapist. “But I might call myself a relationship expert,” said Ms. Egan, a 32-year-old Orlando, Fla., native who now lives in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood with her husband, John Egan, 41, and their 2-year-old son, Arlo.

“When you have a front-row seat to the intensity of the wedding-planning process, you learn a lot about what makes a relationship work and how important it is to reflect that relationship — and to celebrate it — in your event,” she said.

Ms. Egan started her company after helping a stressed friend organize her wedding. “I wasn’t identifying with this defining wedding moment,” she said. “Neither were my friends. They were excited to get married, but weren’t excited to plan a wedding. They didn’t feel seen, celebrated or represented.”

She averages 50 weddings a year, working mainly with young couples who find her from referrals and from searching online using keywords like “anti-wedding” and “untraditional.”

“They usually spend $100,000 to $200,000 on their event and are more relaxed about their wedding, rather than feeling defined by it,” said Ms. Egan, whose rates starts at around $15,500. (The average cost of a wedding nationwide last year was $35,000, according to a recent study by the Knot.)

Ms. Egan described her process of planning anti-weddings and explained why these types of celebrations are becoming popular.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.

It’s a wedding that has personality. Wedding planners plan and focus on the wedding, not the relationship, which is what I’m highly invested in, and making sure that relationship is reflected in the event. I call weddings “love parties” because that’s what these are, parties about love. It’s really asking people to think about their wedding differently. The moment you get engaged, you’re saddled down with expectations. We’ve become obsessed with perfection, trends and putting your big day on a pedestal. I try to subvert that with love parties.

We give couples permission to rewrite the rules and to do the wedding their way. Perhaps that means getting rid of traditions they’ve been talked into believing they need in order for it to be a wedding: that there’s a bride and a groom; that she will wear a white dress; and walk down an aisle. Some people don’t feel connected to those ideas. We get rid of them and ask, “What if there were no rules or you could rewrite them? Then what would your wedding look like?”

People in their mid-20s are finally voicing that they want to be connected to their experience rather than being told how to have an experience, and what that experience should be and look like. There has been an anti-bride trend on TikTok and Instagram over the past year. A lot of women were saying, “I don’t care about being a bride as much as you think I should.” Then others said they felt the same way, saying “I’m excited to get married but this isn’t the most important day of my life.”

Couples are shifting away from tradition and leaning into what makes them unique. They want a party, and for that party to be about love. They’re interested in it being a relaxed version of what they have been sold and told their wedding should be — a fluffy dress, a band, cutting the cake. These couples are getting pizza delivery on the dance floor, they’ve got bridesmaids dressed as astronauts, a bounce house at a reception. You wouldn’t have seen that at your parent’s wedding.

Because this is an experience-driven economy, couples want to walk away feeling that they were moved, collectively, and that their wedding didn’t feel like another wedding. Having personalized details and choices that directly reflect their relationship and that celebrate their partnership is what they’re looking for.

Personalized design details. They want silly quotes about their relationship on cocktail napkins rather than seeing a specific type of flower on their tables.

A couple designed a scented candle that burned during the cocktail hour. One couple took rugs from their home to use for walking down the aisle.

Solo walking down the aisle, or no aisle at all. The solo walk feels empowering to them, which is a choice they’ve made. Some couples don’t want the spotlight. Weddings can feel very public and performative. Those couples might not get on a mic, or they’ll skip the first dance.

I love moms; I’m a mom. But the wedding-planning experience is a rich opportunity for a couple to learn together how to delegate, communicate, budget and problem solve. When you get to the end of planning a love party, and you’ve collaborated together, that’s a huge, cool moment. Hopefully you’ve learned more about what your partner’s strengths are, and what yours are. That’s going to serve you in the relationship moving forward.

A marriage mantra is a phrase, quote or lyric that resonates with your relationship. It’s not defining your relationship, but it holds meaning. It’s specifically done halfway through the planning process so couples can reflect on why they’re getting married, which is an important conversation to have. It also gives us something to use in the design process that personalizes it further.

Some memorable ones were: “Out of this world”; “Keep it bright and bold”; “I don’t want to lean in, I want to lie down.” For that one, the couple didn’t want to do any dancing, so everything had a living-room vibe. Couches were everywhere. We had a cannabis bar, boba tea and comfort-food stations. We had video games and did a first Mario Kart match instead of a first dance. The party felt like home

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