20 Wedding Traditions We're Leaving Behind
— By Raashka Mannie
09 September 2021
"Once upon a time" is how we begin every fairytale - but what happens when that time doesn't apply to your fairytale wedding?
With all of the changes happening in our society and culture, it is only natural that some wedding traditions should be left behind. Weddings are a celebration of two people committing to one another for life. Still, they don't need to include outdated or sexist traditions like the garter toss or having the bride's family pay for everything. Here are 20 traditional wedding customs we're ditching as we move forward!
Image by Patina Photo + Film
1/ Goodbye, garter
The meaning behind the garter toss is, like most traditions, all to do with luck. It's said that if you catch the garter, you may be the next one to get married. There's really no need to continue with this if you're not one for superstitions - or if you're not one to wear a garter. After all, who is buying a fancy garter just to chuck it away after a few hours of use?
2/ Let him take the lead
Like many older wedding traditions, this one has, thankfully, fallen to the wayside in recent times. Aside from the fact that it no longer has a place in modern society, it also doesn't account for all the other types of couples out there. You or your partner shouldn't be expected to "take the lead" in everything romantic or related to the wedding. In this day and age, it's all about equality, baby.
3/ The silent majority
A wedding tradition less noted but still notable, silent brides are just as described: watchers more than participants. All toasts and moments of significance were led by men, which sounds as silly as it is. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did we start to see an upturn in women participating in weddings, whether it was the mother of the bride, maid of honour or bride herself getting a chance to speak up. A famous example is Meghan Markle making a toast at her wedding to Prince Harry - something that had never been done in a royal wedding before.
4/ White weddings
White dresses, white accents and white cakes. The theme of white at weddings is a tale as old as time, originating from the Victorian era. Yes, almost two hundred years ago. On top of making Christmas trees popular, Queen Victoria had a hand in making the tradition of white dresses at weddings a certified hit. In addition to that, it has all sorts of undertones related to 'purity' that no longer have a bearing on modern marriages. Step out of the mould and do something bold and beautiful instead!
5/ Optional flower power
Who said you've got to clutch a bouquet as you step into married life? The wedding tradition of bouquets began way back in the 15th century. At that time, there were a host of issues, including the lack of hygiene. Flowers would mask that not-so-great scent with their own, leading to an upturn in flowers at weddings. Of course, there are a bunch of other reasons from a selection of different cultures and time periods, including warding off "evil spirits," symbols of life and fertility and even the love language of flowers. You can choose to follow the magical tradition of flowers, or you can set that aside and do as you please. It's your choice.
Image by Photography by Andie
6/ Wedding parties: one size fits all
No longer do we have to divide wedding parties by gender or size. It's as outdated as it is pointless. Years ago, it might have been the norm due to gender inequality and a certain fixation with parallels, but you don't have to worry about this wedding tradition. Mix and match your wedding parties as you want to, because you deserve to celebrate with the people who mean the most to you. There has been a definite shift in the way wedding parties are chosen, with none of that single-gender or set number stuffiness to follow.
7/ Your better half
"The groom on the right and the bride on the left." People don't usually realise where this particular wedding tradition comes from - and it's not especially nice, unfortunately. The bride standing on the left comes from the old tradition of "marriage by capture," which was them preparing for the rather terrifying event of their bride possibly being whisked away by another during the ceremony. The groom was required to have his right hand free to wield his sword at a moment's notice. Bizarre and, thankfully, no longer applicable. In other instances, religion does affect which side you stand on, so remember to check for cultural reasons that matter to you. When it comes to where you and your partner stand, however, this is a wedding tradition you can toss out.
8/ Pay up
Who pays for your wedding? Well, that's up to you - but don't let this wedding tradition dictate it! Once upon a time, it was all on the bride's family to pay for the wedding as a sort of dowry in the Western world. It's all very outdated and, let's face it, sexist when we look back on it and has drastically altered in recent times. We've seen the idea of a dowry in tons of famous works, including Jane Austen, as well as continued in several countries across the globe. Today, we're in the lucky position of shedding this wedding tradition and going multiple other routes. Couples can pay for their wedding themselves, ask for equal help from loved ones, or even choose to elope if it suits them.
9/ Veiled intentions
In our opinion, veils are awesome wedding accessories. They're stunning and elegant - but are they practical? The whole idea of wearing a veil started with the ancient Greeks, who believed that it was guarding the bride against "evil spirits." The veil also happens to symbolise "modesty" and "purity," as though the bride is wrapped in some kind of flawless cloud of self-effacement. All in all, very strange - but that's what people used to value in those times. Now, veils are more like optional fashion statements. It's a wedding tradition that doesn't mean much in relation to what it used to symbolise, and more because people think, "Will this veil look good with my outfit?" In other words, we're now asking the real questions.
10/ Give it up
Most, if not all, traditional weddings include this moment of the bride's father "giving away" the bride. It sounds as archaic as it is. Long, long ago, women were once considered property rather than people of their own, and it was the father's "right" to hand them off like an item - usually in exchange for a dowry. Today, this process has morphed into something much more emotional, should you choose to carry it out. It has evolved into a moment of family love and significance, carried out as a symbol of respect between two people instead of what it used to be. In fact, it's no longer limited to brides and their fathers, but all combinations of those to-be-wedded and their parents. If you choose to embrace the modern version of this wedding tradition, know that it's now done with nothing but a good heart and well wishes.
Image by Avodah Photo + Cinema
11/ Line it up
You may be asking, what on earth is a receiving line? It's a somewhat antiquated practice of the newly-wedded couple slowly walking through their guests, giving them a chance to speak to everyone and thank them for coming. It can be formal and a bit stuffy, so you can see why this has fallen out of practice. More recently, couples take time to visit their guests in more casual ways, stopping by their tables at the reception or setting aside time for individual photos. There is less of a pressing urge to consider yourself "hosts" in the most traditional sense, which is freeing.
12/ Colour coordination
The obsession with colour coordination comes from fashion trends that come and go. Once, it was considered chic and in vogue to be totally coordinated throughout your wedding, from the wedding party's dresses to bowties, but fashion has done what it loves to do and done a complete one-eighty. Nowadays, you'll find that mismatched dresses, colours, patterns and even textures are all the rage. Colour coordination matters less and less; complementary aspects matter more and more. You're more likely to find a wedding party dressed to the nines, all with touches of individuality but still somehow seamlessly fitting together. It's the beauty of fashion.
13/ Make way, make way
Linked to the receiving line, over the top receptions fall under the "time to be a good host" category that has, thankfully, dropped out of the norm. Not every couple is a fan of the wedding tradition of arriving at their reception in a shower of lights, music and fanfare. As couples have started to get married later in their lives, the trend of more staid, graceful entries at their receptions has grown commonplace. You're far more likely to see a couple make a smooth, relaxed entrance to their own reception instead of them riding up on a white horse with lights strobing in the background. We leave moments like that to Prince.
14/ A piece of cake
We can all agree that a wedding cake is one of the best things about weddings. Yeah, we definitely love love - but we also love cake. Those two are kind of the same thing, right? The Romans thought the same thing, sort of, when they first began the tradition of showering newly-wed couples with wheat to encourage fertility. This wheat was eventually baked into a cake instead, starting a wedding tradition that we've all come to adore. That said, it's the smashing of the wedding cake in one's face that many couples no longer practice. On top of causing a mess, it's just a bad waste of good cake.
Image by Kirsten Walsh Photographer
15/ Gift away
Wedding registries have evolved over time. It was once considered bad manners to ask for money - or even to ask for anything. Gifts were meant to be given, not expected. Thank goodness this wedding tradition has altered itself into something far more practical for everyone. Couples now fund their weddings, pick out items they wish for and even fund their honeymoons. It's become a valuable and fulfilling tool for everyone. Guests get to contribute in ways that matter to them; couples receive another form of love to celebrate their happiness.
16/'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'
This old English rhyme certainly took up residence as a wedding tradition, didn't it? It's simple enough, with something old symbolising longevity, something new symbolising hope for the future, something borrowed symbolising shared happiness, and something blue symbolising love and fidelity. Yes, you can follow this wedding tradition if your heart desires. No, it's not a must-have in the world of weddings.
17/ Diamonds are a girl's best friend
Marilyn Monroe sang it, but besides being catchy, it doesn't hold much purchase today. Diamonds gained popularity in the 1940s; before then, wedding and engagement rings did not traditionally include them. Thanks to celebrities such as Ms Monroe, the popularity of diamonds shot up and remained coveted for decades. But are they still beloved? Sort of. While still supposedly a symbol of wealth and class, diamond rings are being traded for more unique and eco-friendly materials. There is a lot of pressure surrounding engagement and wedding rings, which many couples are trying to relieve these days.
18/ Here comes the bride
In 1850, Richard Wagner composed “Treulich geführt.” You might know it by its far more popular English name: the Bridal Chorus. This wedding tradition has subsequently been played for thousands of couples as they float down the aisle. Formal and, in many opinions, passé, the Bridal Chorus has turned into an almost boring selection for newly-weds. People opt for songs with more meaning to them, which leads to more unique and touching ceremonies.
19/ Bachelor and bachelorette parties
With a lot of debate surrounding the need for bachelor and bachelorette parties, this is a wedding tradition that you get to decide on with your partner. There is no pressing need for them; they're simply done because they have been done for so long. How long, you wonder? Since the 5th century B.C., as it turns out. It's hypothesised that the Spartans celebrated the groom's "final night of being a single man" with feasts. On the other hand, bachelorette parties came much later, in the 1960s, with their own pre-wedding festivities. Whatever you choose to do, know that it's not a staple that you have to have.
20/ Big bashes
Farewell to all traditional weddings. The drop-off of big, traditional weddings has been in the works for the last two decades. Once, elopements were considered a form of escape with judgemental undertones - but times have changed. Today, micro weddings and elopements are more popular than ever, especially given our pandemic-infused environment. Safety and financial security matter more to couples than throwing huge weddings. Don't feel pressured to follow the wedding tradition of massive receptions and glitzy ceremonies. You can plan the wedding you want to have.
Image by Bonnie Photographics
So there we have it! From the diamond ring to a big reception, there is no sense in following outdated wedding traditions if they don't align with your personal needs or beliefs. When planning your wedding, the main rule to follow is to go with your heart.