Wedding Traditions – Whose Tradition is it Anyway?
Have you ever wondered where wedding traditions come from? Do they still apply to the modern wedding? Are you blindly following traditions, just because… or are you bravely paving the way to creating your own traditions?
There is actually nothing romantic behind western wedding traditions. Most of them date back 100s of years to when the bride was forced into the marriage at the whim of her father and it was nothing more than a transfer of property between the two families. The property being the Bride!
Some traditions are slowly changing as more and more couples decide which traditions suit them and having a wedding completely void of tradition is totally ok as well! Remember, apart from the small amount of legal wording that you and the celebrant have to say, the rest is up to you. You can choose to have the same wedding that everyone else has or you could have a super fun, unique, individually styled wedding fiesta!
So, if some traditions are changing, what is making us hold on to the other ones?
You may already have an idea of what you want to include and what you want to leave out of your own ceremony. Maybe knowing where they came from will help you decide if they have meaning to you and your partner.
Father of the Bride Giving Her Away:
Back in the day, the father of the bride would walk his daughter down the aisle to her waiting groom. The bride and groom would have never met and the bride’s head would be covered in a veil to shield her from the groom’s view until the very last moment, so if he deemed her too unattractive, then, it would be too late. This whole masquerade was a financial transaction between the two families; an arranged marriage that would hopefully benefit them both.
Some people in the modern world still choose to have their dear old dad walk them down the aisle, but the focus is more on the father giving his blessing to the union rather than a business agreement. In the same vein, some people choose to have their mother or both their parents, a brother, uncle, or family friend and some choose to either walk down the aisle on their own or with their partner – walking in together. I quite like this one as it symbolises that both parties have made their own choice to enter into the marriage together and they are starting as they mean to go on.
Wearing a white dress:
Royals originally married in a silver dress, aristocrats in purple and some in blue to symbolise fidelity, and commoners would just pop on their Sunday ‘best’. It was Queen Victoria in 1840 that changed all that when she wore white – she liked that white symbolised purity and chastity.
The old school rule for the last 100 or so years is that your wedding dress should be white and most brides still follow this tradition as it is the most iconic symbol of the wedding day. However, there is no law that says you have to wear a white dress. If you’re got your heart set on on traditional, that’s fine too – it can be white or ivory, but don’t be afraid to add a pop of colour with a sash, a wrap, a funky pair of shoes, or a piece of jewelry. If you want to be super brave and unique – wear your favourite colour or a suit. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
Bridal bouquets originated back in the 1400 and 1500s when people would only bathe once a year, therefore most people were a bit on the nose, and carrying a freshly picked bunch of flowers helped to mask the pungent odour.
There are some beautiful bouquets around now that are made of brooches, buttons, shells and starfish, or even fruit! There are some fabulous bouquet alternatives that don’t involve flowers at all.
Throwing the Bouquet
The story behind this tradition is downright dirty. In medieval times, it was considered lucky to get a fragment of the bride’s clothing, so hordes of guests would follow the newlywed couple into their wedding chamber after the ceremony and stand around the bed, trying to rip pieces of the bride’s gown right off her body. Because dresses were often torn apart, brides searched for alternatives to preserve their gowns and began throwing their bouquets to distract guests while they made their getaway. When the bride and groom made it safely into their wedding chamber, the groom would then crack open the door and toss the bride’s garter to the throngs of people waiting outside as a way of saying that he was about to “seal the deal.”
In the past, at semi modern weddings, the groom would remove the bride’s garter there and then on the dancefloor and toss it to the groomsmen right after the bride tosses her bouquet to the bridesmaids. Traditionally, the unmarried man who caught the garter would place it on the leg of the unmarried woman who caught the bouquet, and it is said that they would be the next two to marry (not necessarily to each other).
You don’t see the garter toss at weddings much these days, but it is always funny (and just a little bit sad) to watch a group of grown women fighting to the death to catch the bouquet…. and maybe if you’ve decided to go down the bouquet alternative route – don’t toss it!
The job of a bridesmaid originally was to act as a decoy. All the bridesmaids would dress the same as the bride and try to fool any men who tried to capture the bride before she made it to the church. If a bride was captured, the villain would have his way with her, therefore consummating their marriage and the father of the bride would be forced to pay him a dowry. Nowadays the bridesmaid’s job is to attend to the bride’s every whim whilst trying their darnedest not to upstage her at any time.
The old tradition was that bridesmaids were female and groomsmen were male – end of story, but sometimes when you’re a girl, your best bud is a boy and vice versa. Why shouldn’t you get to share your wedding experience together just because your best mate has got the wrong genitals?
The ‘modern’ old school rule was that the bridesmaids should wear matching dresses and shoes and hairstyles – this is down to a) tradition and b) fashion – regardless of the bridesmaid’s shape, colouring, taste, or opinion!
The new ‘rule’, if you want to call it that is still based on fashion, however, it’s a little more user friendly for the bridesmaids. Brides are choosing a colour or a colour pallet and letting their girls choose the style that best suits them. Check out this blog on brides.com
Something old, something new, etc…
This Victorian rhyme is a time-honoured tradition that is supposed to bring the bride good luck.
“Something old” expresses the newlywed couple’s desire to retain connections with their family once they enter into married life. One tradition suggests that the bride’s “something old” be an old garter given to the bride by a happily married woman so that the new bride would also enjoy a happy marriage.
“Something new” conveys that the couple is creating a new union that will endure forever and looking to the future for health, happiness and success.
“Something borrowed” is an opportunity for the bride’s friends or family to lend her something special as a token of their love.
“Something blue” is a symbol of fidelity and constancy.
Many modern brides find it fun to keep with this tradition by wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Think of creative ways to incorporate all four items into your wedding-day ensemble.
Not seeing each other the night before
During the time when arranged marriages were custom, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see (or even meet) each other before the wedding at all. Remember the business deal that the bride’s father had going on with the groom’s family? Well, this was another way to stop the groom pulling out of the deal before the marriage could happen.
Although today arranged marriages are not that common (unless you’ve just watched Married At First Sight), most brides still don’t want their groom to see them all done up before the wedding. Many believe it makes the day more exciting and memorable. However, some couples feel they’ll be more relaxed if they see each other for just a few minutes before the ceremony. The added bonus is that you can take your formal pictures pre-ceremony when everyone is freshly done-up. It’s completely up to you and your partner. Talk about it before the big day arrives and find out what makes the most sense for you.
Why So Formal?
Traditionally weddings are a fairly formal event, but your ceremony can be as black tie or as barefoot on the beach as you want it to be. There are plenty of ideas for wedding themes. Just think about what comes naturally to you and your partner and go from there. If you’re beach people – go to the beach. If you’re low key happy to stay at home people – maybe a backyard BBQ is more you? If you love nothing more than cracking out the designer crockery for a highbrow dinner party with your friends – then that’s exactly what you should do.
Here’s an idea – Design your ceremony programs to suit your style. If you’re a fun couple, you could turn your programs into a playful comic strip or a crossword puzzle with clues about your relationship. Guests will love the fun idea and they’ll appreciate having something to do while they wait for the ceremony to start.
Vows – Saying “I do!”
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the same vows that so many couples have said before you, except that we are now living in a time where women and men are (getting to be) equal and the thought of standing in front of your friends and family and promising to “love, honour and obey” your new husband gives me goosebumps – and not in a good way.
Vows should be declarations of love (in addition to the legal bits) that you say in your own natural language. They should be meaningful only to you and your partner. Be as creative and unique as you like. I once went to a wedding where the bride promised to try and type quieter on her laptop because she knew that it annoyed her partner. If you are unsure where to start you can look to song lyrics, poems and storybooks for inspiration.
Let me finish by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with including traditional standards into your wedding. Nothing at all. But I can’t help but feel that there is a change in the air and that excites me no end.
Marriage equality for all, new creative ideas, and the birth of new traditions… That’s where it’s at for me.