A wedding day is filled with symbolic tradition, from varied religious customs to the never-ending circle reflected in the rings to the types of flowers accentuating the celebration. Even with all the traditional rituals to consider, nearly every couple can find ways to give their special day some unique touches that reflect their personality and love.

Having a wedding in a concert venue is the way Heather and Andrew Davis of Aspinwall, who will celebrate their second anniversary on June 22, made the day reflect their relationship.

Their names were on the marquee outside the Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks.

A curtain rose as Heather Davis entered the ceremony to say her vows with husband Andrew Davis at center stage.

Charger plates made from vinyl records adorned dinner tables. Song lyrics were incorporated into invitations and at seats for invitees.

It was a night of harmony, with both a band and a DJ.

“We spent a lot of our eight-year relationship attending concerts and music festivals together,” said Heather Davis. “We knew right off the bat a concert venue would be our ideal space. We wanted the evening to reflect us as well as be a fun memory for our guests.”

Going beyond tradition

Music sets the mood for every wedding, and it’s an easy place to put your own spin on the celebration, according to Family Features.

Whether you forgo the traditional bridal march entirely or simply look for an arrangement that gives an updated twist to the classic version, let guests know this isn’t your average wedding by setting the festivities against a soundtrack that lets your true character shine.

Their wedding “was a pretty perfect day,” said Heather Davis, CEO of Day of Pittsburgh, a wedding planning business.

“Anything a couple can do to make their wedding unique will create a special memory for them, and for their guests,” she said. “And it doesn’t have to be a big thing. A small detail can have a big impact.”

Cookie table

Laura M. Magone, a native of Monongahela and founder of The Wedding Cookie Table Community, a Facebook page with nearly 62,000 members, said cookies are a perfect aspect of a wedding to personalize.

Cookies can be created in the bridal party colors. She said another personal touch could be including a story with each cookie, such as, “This cookie is grandma’s recipe. She made it for all of the family’s special occasions.”

Magone recalled one couple who had a woodsy-themed reception and had cookies displayed on slices from a tree trunk. She said she’s even seen cookies representing rival teams on opposite sides of a table.

“Creating a unique cookie table takes planning and imagination,” Magone said. “I like when the bride and groom each picks a favorite cookie and each is labeled, so guests will know.”

Venue vibes

Cathy Burnheimer and Jessica Krynicki, both of Buffalo Township, co-own event space Avenue in Sarver, a renovated 150-year-old barn, and its sister venue, 2nd Avenue, 2 miles away in Buffalo Township. If you are having children at the reception, the barn location has a room with toys and arts and crafts to keep young guests occupied.

“When I talk with couples, I try to get them to think outside the box,” Burnheimer said. “I want them to play off their personality and maybe, instead of having a standard buffet, choose food stations. If the groom likes Mexican, have a taco station; and if the bride likes Italian, offer a station with several pasta and sauces to choose from.”

On the menu

Another way to personalize is to serve up a menu that shows guests more about your life together.

That could include choosing a dinner menu of foods the couple ate on their first date, said Victoria Deardorff of Peters, who founded Burgh Brides, a Pittsburgh-based multifaceted wedding planning resource.

Food stations will give couples the option of serving classics fare like steak and chicken, while also allowing guests to add their own toppings or sides for a customized plate, said Samantha Iacia, editor at WeddingWire, a wedding planning resource and marketplace, via email. Couples can consider a cocktail-style reception with tapas or passed hors d’oeuvres served throughout the night, she said.

The most memorable wedding meals reflect the couple’s personalities, whether that means serving a favorite food, cuisine inspired by the wedding theme or venue, or a cultural dish that represents their family history, Iacia said.

”Late-night snacks are a fun way to add personality and pizzazz to any wedding menu, especially for couples who otherwise prefer to stick to a sit-down meal,” Iacia said. “Couples can surprise their wedding guests by serving finger foods and bite-sized snacks, such as sliders, french fries, pizza or ice cream cookie sandwiches, after dinner and dessert.”

Instead of a huge cake, have a one-tier cake and cupcakes with toppings guests can add, Burnheimer said.

Burnheimer got into the wedding business by creating custom cakes. She once made one in which the tiers were shaped like board games. At the top were Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, one labeled “Bride” and the other “Groom.” On the tables, guests’ names were written with Scrabble letters.

“It’s about making the day memorable so that, when people recall that wedding, they remember what set that wedding apart from all the others,” Burnheimer said. “You don’t want what everyone else has. Do what speaks to you.

“It’s the day you’ve dreamed about.”

Wedding party

The wedding party is intended to be a collection of those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom, who help ensure the day goes off without a hitch and who lead fellow revelers in celebrating the start of the new couple’s life together. That being said, there’s no reason this group must be limited to women on her side and guys on his, or even that it’s limited to humans — a beloved pooch can make for an adorable ringbearer, after all.

Deardorff said she has seen just that — couples who loves dogs who have incorporated their pet into the ceremony. One couple had a wedding cookie table which included specific homemade treats made for guests to bring home to their dogs.

Picture perfect

Photography is an essential element of your big day, but think beyond the images you’ll capture throughout the wedding and reception. Photos lend a personal touch, no matter what your color scheme or theme.

Integrate photos of the two of you at various stages of life, together as a couple and with loved ones (perhaps even some you’re honoring in memoriam). You can display these at a table with the guest book, as part of the table centerpieces, or even on the gift table.

Or take things digital and load all your images into a slide show set to music.

Wedding photographers are masters at turning ordinary backdrops into frame-worthy images, Iacia said.

If time allows, she said, some of the best wedding portraits come from locations that the couple would visit in their everyday life, even if it doesn’t seem like a traditional wedding backdrop.

Wedding consultant Hanna Rae Newlin of Delmont who owns Events by Hanna Rae said a way to think ahead is to have a “thank you” sign made and get a photo with the couple or with them and the guests and use as the thank you card.

Personalize it

Other individual touches also make for a one-of-a-kind event.

Newlin said she’s seen couples design custom drink koozies with their names or monogram for guests to use that evening and to take home as wedding favors.

Something more intimate can be a bride carrying a personal item from her grandparents in the bouquet, such as a piece of jewelry from grandma or a handkerchief from grandpa.

Personalized song lists can represent the genre of music the couple enjoys and also what types of dances they want at the reception.

If the event is taking place in a popular hall or hotel, add lighting or a color palette that creates a different effect for your wedding so it won’t look like all the others.

If the couple are sports fans, their team colors can be incorporated into decorations.

Make favors meaningful. Forgo more common items like bubbles and chocolate, and instead send a little of yourself home with your guests. Maybe it’s a memento from a place with special meaning to you both, or a bottle opener shaped like a bicycle to represent the way you met.

Think about the moments and things that define you as a couple and do some searching online. You’ll probably be surprised by how quickly the options pile up.

Iacia said the decor, flower arrangements, menu selections and music are all ways that couples can add their own style and personality while still incorporating basic traditions like speeches, fun wedding party entrances, bouquet toss and parent dances.

Weddings are filled with traditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own touches on the day for a special event filled with memories that are uniquely your own.

“It’s your wedding and it comes down to what you want,” Newlin said. “It’s a time to showcase something personal for the couple, because it’s their day.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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