As an offbeat bride, I come from an offbeat family, yet I have been amazed at the expectations that have come up from both sides of our families.
How do I manage the expectations of so many family members, while still keeping the vision of our own, unique wedding intact?
Isn't that so weird, how even the most nontraditional of families still have expectations about what a wedding should and shouldn't be? Suddenly hippie mothers are hurt because you're not wearing grandmother's veil, and hip uncles reveal that while they might seem like a non-practicing Jews, they're actually mortified that you're making your chuppa out of PVC.
It can skew both ways, too: I spoke to a UK bride named Sabrina who told me that her free spirited mother was mortified (AGHAST!) at the prospect of her daughter having bridesmaids.
I wanted a wedding party, which caused absolute havoc in my untraditional family. My mother kept screeching "Bridesmaids? BRIDESMAIDS?" like I'd suggested roasting babies over an open fire. But I wanted to get married with these women around me; they're part of who I am.
In other words, if your father can't believe you're not letting him walk you down the aisle, ask him WHY he wants to walk you down the aisle, and don't let him get off by saying "That's just how it's done." This can be a cool opportunity to really get into the nitty gritty and find a solution that addresses the root concern of the family member without sacrificing your vision for your wedding.
My best advice for how to deal with hitting the brick wall of family expectations is to get into a discussion of why the family member in question has that expectation, and what they really want.
With the father/aisle example, chances are good that the desire to walk down the aisle is in part because he wants to be involved in the ceremony somehow, and aisle-walking is the usual role (or expectation) for how fathers are acknowledged. Once you get to that root of the expectation, you may be able to find a way you can address the root desire without actually giving into the superficial demand. In other words, you can come up with a different and perhaps even MORE meaningful way for your father to be involved in the ceremony. Then it's win/win: your father's root need is met, and you don't have to feel like chattel being walked to market.
Each expectation can be an opportunity to really explore the meat of WHY that expectation exists. If you have the time and patience for these kinds of conversations, they can be enlightening and even a bonding experience for the bride and her family. It gives your family members a sense that you're listening and care about their thoughts about your wedding, but without you having to change your vision.
Then again, you may get to the root of the demand (ie, "I want you to wear grandma's veil because otherwise I had to and I want you to suffer, too!") and realize that you still don't like it. In that case, you have to pull out the big guns and just say no. And that's another answer for another day…