By Cara Davis

Today’s brides and grooms aren’t settling for what has always been done.  They’re infusing creativity, personality, cultural trends and most of all, they’re having fun.  They’re creating memorable experiences not just for themselves, but for friends and family who contribute to their big days.

Author and marketing guru Seth Godin recently spoke at a Chick-fil-A Leadercast about how the new normal is not normal at all.  People are questioning why we do things the way we do, thereby turning tradition on its head.  It’s affecting all industries, including the wedding industry.

Here’s a look at eight alternative wedding trends that are popping up in 2011:

1. Mini Wedding Dresses: Whether it’s glammed up, vintage or breezy casual, knee-length wedding dresses are more practical and personalized for today’s bride.  As more stores roll out wedding boutiques like J.Crew and White House Black Market, brides can pick up a wedding dress from their favorite retail store.  And let’s not forget that for some, that’s Etsy, where they can pick up a custom hand-made gown for as little as $40.

2. Fun with Color: From black accents to bold color blocks, color is king this year and it’s not limited to the bride!  Non-matching bridesmaids are coordinating in patterns or complementary color combinations like this crafty DIY wedding of mega-blogger Elsie Larson.  In addition to bold color palettes, shades of gray and stripes continue to be the big color trend for the year.

3. Alternative Gift Registries: Many couples are registering for gifts that will help them in a practical way.  Travel agencies are starting to offer honeymoon gift certificates and some auto dealers are offering gift certificates toward the purchase of a new vehicle.  CardAvenue.com allows couples to create a gift card registry for national retailers.  Couples can get as creative as they want; they can request gift cards to home improvement stores to offset costs of home renovation or register for local restaurants so they can continue dating as newlyweds on a budget.

4. Punchy Personalization: While the structure of the wedding remains the same, (you’ve got a bride and groom, an officiant, a group of family and friends, a ceremony and reception) the look is anything but. The time may be different (think brunch), the seating may be smarter (seated at tables & staying put for reception), the furniture may be funky (varying size and shape or non-traditional choices) and forget the wedding favors – today’s couples are giving personalized takeaways, like souvenir photo booth picture strips.

5. Eco-friendly Finds: Outdoor spaces, reclaimed furniture, flea market finds and even wooden rings are helping eco-conscious brides and grooms celebrate in a big way without the environmental impact.  Green weddings can feature locally grown food and seed-lined wedding invitations that can be planted.

CarbonFund and Terrapass offer wedding carbon footprint calculators, where air travel is most likely to be the big offender. Couples can purchase carbon offsets to lessen the impact, or request contributions as gifts.

6. The Rustic South: There’s been a rise in rustic weddings in the past several years and it mirrors a growing hunger in popular culture for all things Southern (think The Civil Wars, J.Crew fashion, artisan jeans and home-brewed beer).  Today’s vintage and rustic weddings are all about embracing simplicity and infusing new life into old things.  From location (barns or old warehouses) to furniture & decor (antiques and flea market favorites) to apparel (vintage clothes and even broach bouquets), many couples are going for the nostalgic feel of the old South.

7. Cultural Cues: Couples who are looking to add levity to their big day are incorporating pop culture trends.  Food cart fare is showing up in pre-wedding cocktail hour and the after-party.  Culturally significant themes like retro Asian flavors and ethnic icons like sushi, ninjas, geisha girls and Chinese lanterns are being used in inventive ways.  Vintage board games are showing up as Monopoly pieces in bouquets and Scrabble letter tiles as signs for the buffet.

8. Death of the Wedding Cake: The exorbitant cost of traditional tiered wedding cakes has given way to nontraditional desserts like square mini-cakes and cupcake tiers.  Furthermore, dessert buffets may feature pies, macaroons, Whoopie Pies, cake pops, color-coordinated candy and even ice cream sundae stations or cookies and milk bars.

Weddings expert Cara Davis is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot.  She also blogs from her home in Orlando, FL about cheap ways to spend and save at CheapWaysTo.com.