Tradition is important to so many people, and has had a huge place in wedding ceremonies for centuries. But in today's modern world, many couples are choosing to stray away from the safe and known.
Most modern brides and grooms want to create their own unique, contemporary wedding that makes sense for them as a couple, while still finding some way to embrace the traditional practices they find meaningful.
It's not always easy to find the right balance between tradition and modernity. That's where this guide comes in. The following inspirational ideas will help you incorporate your religious, cultural, and family traditions into your wedding without making it feel old-fashioned, overdone, or passé.
1. Mix Traditional Readings with Your Own Vows
A great way to honour your family's traditions is to choose a traditional reading, such as from the Bible or poetry, and then write your own unique vows into the mix.
For example, you might take your favourite bible passage or the classic "for richer and poorer, in sickness and health" vow, while following up with something that you've written yourself for a modern touch. And you don't need to be too formal in your language if you don't want to be! Don't be afraid to express your true feelings - it is your wedding, after all.
2. Have a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Many cultures have some sort of traditional tea ceremony, from Japanese-style to Indian-style. If your culture has one, you can incorporate this into your wedding – or completely redesign it so that it suits you as a couple.
For example, if you're getting married in Louisiana, this could take the form of a southern style champagne or punch reception, as well as an afternoon tea or a formal dinner. By combining a modern concept with some ancient traditions you can have a truly memorable wedding ceremony.
3. Involve Your Children or Grandchildren
Involving your children in your wedding is a great way to make the wedding immediately seem more modern – after all, in times past, it would be scandalous to have kids before tying the knot. (Thank goodness times have changed.)
You can still walk down the aisle wearing white, but involve your children (or grandchildren) in some way – for example, have them throw the bouquet or garter, or read a poem during the ceremony. You could even have
your son or daughter walk you down the aisle, rather than a parent. The more personal traditions are always some of the best ones!
4. Play a Mix of Traditional and Modern Music
If you're getting married in a traditional venue, you might feel obligated to use their traditional music for the ceremony. However, there's no reason why you can't play some of your favourite songs as well.
The beauty of today is that it’s completely up to you which song you walk down the aisle to- and what you dance to at your reception. Everything from classic string quartets to DJs are available on-demand, so take advantage of what modern times have to offer. The more you can personalise your ceremony, the better!
5. Have a Handfasting
A handfasting involves having the couple’s hands tied together with a braid or cloth during the wedding ceremony. Though it’s an ancient Celtic tradition, this practice can also be used in modern Christian or secular weddings to give them an unusual twist.
Having a handfasting is a way to get married without saying the traditional "till death do us part." You can even have a handfasting instead of a wedding if you’re not quite ready to say your “I dos” yet – as a way of promising yourselves to each other.
6. Sing Modern Songs Instead of Hymns
Back when every English wedding took place at a church, it was commonplace to have the congregation sing traditional Christian hymns as part of the wedding service. You can still involve singing in your wedding ceremony without going the hymn route if you want a mix of tradition and modernity.
Why not pick some well-known but more modern songs to sing instead of hymns at your secular service? This may be something sweet and classic like “You Are My Sunshine” or “Daisy Daisy” – or it could be the latest Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift number one single. There are really no limits – just don’t forget to provide the lyrics in your order of service if you expect everyone to sing along!
7. Create Your Own Wedding Ritual
Make your wedding feel traditional but still unique by designing your very own wedding ritual. You can still have that magic “I do” moment with traditional wedding vows, but make your wedding special to you in some other small way.
This could be something as simple as lighting a candle in a place of significance in both of your lives, doing something symbolic like writing each other's initials on your hands, or it could be something as big as a handfasting (as we discussed previously). The more personal you can make this wedding ritual to reflect your relationship, the better!
8. Fashion a New Wedding Dress from Old Cloth
Ask your mother or grandmother whether they still own the dress that they got married in. Most people used to (and still do!) keep their wedding dress in the hope that their daughter might get married in it someday – or just for nostalgia purposes.
The problem is that fashion changes all too quickly, and most wedding dress designs from past generations look outdated and antiquated by today’s standards. If you’re having a vintage wedding, this hardly matters – but if you want a more contemporary style, it’s not ideal.
There is a solution, however. If your relative doesn’t mind, have a professional seamstress re-design their dress into a modern style; for example, removing the puff sleeves and changing the box neckline to sweetheart. That way, you can still carry tradition with you as you walk down the aisle, and won’t look out of place.
9. Modify Your Grandparents’ Wedding Rings
What better way to honour those who came before you than by using their rings for your own wedding? Chances are, your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ wedding rings still exist, and are being held onto as heirlooms. It’s the dream of many parents to pass their rings on, one day, to their descendants.
Having a tangible piece of your past at your wedding will make it that much more meaningful. But that doesn’t mean you have to have an old-fashioned ring that looks out of place in the modern era. Professional jewellers will, for example, be able to take the stone from an old ring and set it into a new ring with a modern design – so you’ll be able to create something unique to you, while preserving your family’s history.
10. Invite Your Parents' Wedding Guests
Although this isn't always possible for people who are getting married far from home, if you can find a way to include some of your parents' guests at your ceremony it will add some extra meaning. Chances are, these are people that meant a lot to your family back in the day, and will still be people that you know well, and would want to involve in your wedding somehow.
You can ask them to participate in the ceremony or just greet them at the evening reception. Most importantly, it will be a nice way to give back to those who have given so much to you!
11. Choose an Auspicious Wedding Date
Even if no other parts of your wedding are “traditional” by previous generations’ standards, you can still incorporate one element of tradition by choosing an auspicious date to get married on.
This is particularly important for people of Asian descent who believe that certain days are luckier than others. However, there are also some western superstitions about the right and wrong times to get married – for example, the saying “Marry in May, rue the day”.
By choosing a wedding date that has special meaning to your family or your culture, you can give your wedding some traditional significance while at the same time giving the celebration as many modern touches as you’d like.
12. Serve a Blend of Traditional and Modern Cuisine
Food is a big part of almost every culture on Earth, and every country has a traditional dish or style of food that usually makes its way into wedding fayre. Including some traditional dishes at your wedding can be a great way to honour your culture, your family and their past.
However, you can make your cuisine a little more contemporary by serving it alongside some more modern wedding foods – such as having a sweet table laden with fashionable desserts. You could even have a reception buffet offering a mixture of traditional dishes from your culture and more “on-trend” foods, such as pizza or French fries.
13. Have Traditional Speeches Made by Non-Traditional People
Speeches and toasts are a classic part of any wedding, and something that all of your guests will be looking forward to at the end of the wedding breakfast. Traditionally, the speeches are made by the groom, the best man, and the father of the bride.
But if you want to incorporate some innovation into your wedding, consider having “non-traditional” wedding party members make the speeches, instead of (or as well as) the traditional ones: such as the maid of honour, the bride, and the mother of the groom. This will create a nice fusion of feminism and tradition that would suit any modern wedding.
14. Personalise Your Wedding Stationery
Bride and Groom Direct stock hundreds of wedding stationery templates that combine classic elegance with a contemporary flair. All of our designs are fully customisable to your own preference, so you can personalise the font style, text colour, and wording to your liking.
We offer a fast delivery of 3-5 working days, so you can have your ideal wedding invitations, thank you cards or table plans.