There are countless wedding traditions that have clung on through the generations. Up until recently, most brides and grooms opted to follow tradition as closely as possible. But the times are changing, and nowadays, deviations from the norm are well accepted.
There are many reasons you might want to part from wedding tradition. For example, it could be a case of money. You may prefer not to buy a white dress that you’ll only wear once, and opt to get married in a standard formal dress instead. Or maybe you want to have your mum walk you down the aisle instead of your dad, due to your family dynamics.
Whatever the reason, your wedding is yours, and you call the shots. While you might encounter some raised eyebrows from older guests, this shouldn’t deter you from getting married your way. Here’s a guide to 14 wedding traditions that you can safely change, or do away with altogether, in 2020 and beyond.
1) Stag and Hen Parties
It’s tradition in the U.K. for the bride to have an all-girls ‘hen night’ before her wedding, and the groom to have a boys-only ‘stag night’. These usually take the form of a party involving copious amounts of alcohol and humiliation.
For your wedding, feel free to skip the stag and hen dos if they’re not your thing. You can celebrate in some other way - such as a shopping trip, a meal out, or a pampering session at the spa. Or, if you prefer, combine both parties into a mixed-gender celebration - there’s no need for sex segregation in this day and age.
2) Inviting Unwanted Guests
Brides and grooms of the past were forced to invite whichever guests their parents chose - particularly the bride’s parents, as they were paying for the wedding. But in modern times, it’s strictly up to the bride and groom. You don’t have to follow any ‘rules’ except one: if you want them to be there, invite them.
Just because you attended their wedding, that doesn’t mean that you have to invite them to yours. Don’t feel obligated to invite distant family members that you haven’t seen in years, just because they’re related to you. And don’t feel that you have to give in to pressure from friends and family. Invite who you like, and nobody else. (Having fewer guests will also help you save on catering costs!)
3) Wearing a White Dress
Did you know that white wedding dresses weren’t customary before the year 1840? Before then, brides could wear any colour they liked - even black! It was Queen Victoria’s wedding, at which she wore an elaborate white gown, that cemented the colour white as a bridal tradition. It then became associated with purity and virginity, traits that brides were expected to have.
Of course, the world moved on, and now wearing a white dress means nothing - it’s just traditional. You can absolutely feel free to stray from this norm if you prefer. You don’t even need a veil anymore. It’s your wedding, so wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
4) Something Old, Something New
Many wedding traditions are rooted in superstition. But as a society, we’re generally more scientific than spiritual these days, and many people don’t believe in the concept of ‘bad luck’.
So, in this modern era, there’s really no need to have ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’. This variety of garments was originally thought to protect the bride from evil spirits, promote fertility, and encourage a successful marriage. Unless you’re particularly suspicious, you can safely disregard this tradition. Similarly, you can forget about ‘marry in May, rue the day’ and other such notions.
5) Spending the Night Apart
Traditionally, the bride and groom spend the night before the wedding apart, and don’t see each other again until the bride walks down the aisle. This tradition hails from a time when arranged marriages were common, and men and women would literally meet for the first time when tying the knot. It was feared that if either one saw the other beforehand, they may run away.
Of course, nowadays, most couples live together before getting married - so the tradition is entirely pointless. Your wedding day will be one of the most important days of your life. So, if you want to spend every second of it with your partner, feel free to. Breaking this tradition may cause a ruckus among your loved ones, but pay them no mind.
6) Having a Traditional Wedding Party
In a standard wedding, the bride is accompanied by bridesmaids and the groom has a best man (and potentially other groomsmen). The bridesmaids are traditionally single women, while the best man can be of any marital status. There may also be a young male page boy or ring bearer, and a female flower girl (4-8 years old).
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you can change things up in whichever way appeals to you. Don’t have any close female friends? Have male ‘bridesmen’ instead. Your groom has a sister but no brothers? He can have a ‘best woman’. Do you want a childfree wedding? Ask your grandmothers to be the flower girls. Or, if you prefer, simply have no wedding party at all!
7) Formal Dress Code
Weddings have historically been formal affairs, and that tradition continues to this day. It’s the reason many people dread being invited to weddings: having to wear a stuffy, itchy suit or spend hundreds of pounds on a new formal gown.
But as weddings no longer have to be held in churches, you can feel free to switch up the dress code. Have a casual beach wedding for example, and ask guests to wear hawaiian shirts and shorts or sundresses. Or have no dress code at all, and stress on your invitations that your guests can wear whatever they’re comfortable in.
8) Bouquet and Garter Toss
Tossing the bouquet and the garter are both wedding traditions originating from superstition. It was believed that whomever could steal a piece of the bride’s bouquet (or outfit) would have good luck. This eventually transformed into the bride tossing her bouquet to the ladies, and her garter to the men - whoever catches it will supposedly be the next to marry.
Of course, most people don’t truly believe in this idea - it’s done for fun nowadays more than anything else. So if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. For example, if you’d rather keep your flowers to have them pressed, you can skip this custom.
9) Being ‘Given Away’
The tradition of the bride being given away by her father stems from the ancient idea that a woman is a man’s ‘property’. Women were seen as belonging to their father until the moment they’re wed, at which point they transfer to their husband’s ownership. For this reason, her father would walk her down the aisle and literally give her to her groom.
Most people don’t hold such a patriarchal view of marriage anymore. However, the tradition of the father of the bride walking her down the aisle has stuck. It’s now seen simply as a gesture of love. But if you prefer, you can have someone else walk you down the aisle - such as your mother or a friend - or simply walk down by yourself.
10) Registering for Home Gifts
Back when weddings were purely a religious affair, couples would wait until marriage before moving in together. So, as wedding gifts, guests would buy the bride and groom home furnishings and small appliances, to kick start their new life.
Some couples still choose to do this today, and that’s perfectly fine. If you plan to build a home together once married, you can definitely register for home goods.
But if you already live with your partner, don’t feel that you’re bound by tradition to ask for toasters and towels. These days, it’s perfectly acceptable to request cash, gift cards and all manner of alternative wedding gifts instead.
11) Following a Speech Order
The making of speeches at weddings is a well-established practice. Each speech is followed by a toast with champagne, and takes place after the wedding breakfast or during the reception. Traditionally, there is a ‘correct’ wedding speech order: first the father of the bride, followed by the groom, and finally the best man.
Have you noticed anything unusual? Like many other wedding traditions, the standard speech order is fairly sexist. This comes from the old idea that women should be seen and not heard.
For this reason, many modern couples choose to stray from tradition and have the bride or the maid of honour (or both) give a speech, too. You can do your speeches in any order you like.
12) Having a Traditional Wedding Cake
The wedding cake is a staple of any western wedding, and has been for centuries. It’s traditionally a three or four-tiered fruitcake or sponge, iced in white, and adorned with flowers (real or edible). Most wedding cakes also feature a cake topper, usually of a miniature bride and groom.
But these days, wedding cakes can be whatever you want them to be. Go for a crazy colour, a topsy-turvy design, or even a ‘naked’ cake with no icing (just filling). If you’re not a cake fan, have a stand of eclairs or tarts - or even a savoury tower of cheese or pork pies!
13) Honeymooning Right Away
The image of a bride and groom waving goodbye to their guests, as their wedding car drives them to the airport, is iconic. Brides and grooms traditionally set off for their honeymoon straight after getting married.
But this custom is often more stressful than it’s worth. Who wants to worry about having their suitcase and passport packed and ready on their wedding day - or trying to navigate an airport in their dress? Not to mention, you have to organise someone to keep your wedding gifts safe until you return. Instead, feel free to break tradition and have your honeymoon several days or even weeks after your big day. This will give you time to sort your gifts, write your thank-you cards, and save a little more cash.