The basis of wedding traditions – why you can make them your own
Weddings traditions – do you love them or hate them? Are you including some in your big day or are you starting something new and doing things your own way? Well, before you jump to pack your big day with traditional elements, let’s take a few moments out to think again. Is tradition a good thing? Does it give your day a sense of something special or do traditions pose problems and constrain your creativity? Let’s look at the basis of wedding traditions right now and I’ll also explain why you can do what you want for your wedding.
There is something lovely about including traditional elements in your day. Whether you want to wear a veil or cut into a wedding cake, traditions seem to link us to our past and they also give us a framework to fit into that’s reassuring and rather useful.
However, the problems arise when the traditions in question don’t fit with you. It might be that you’re not comfortable with the thought of being given away or, like Meghan Markle, it might be that your father isn’t able to escort you down the aisle when you arrive for your ceremony.
And here’s where we now have the upper hand on brides of years gone by because now, it’s absolutely acceptable to adjust or ditch those traditions that don’t suit you or the style of wedding that you’re planning.
We’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time. It’s not all that long ago that churches were the only acceptable venue of a wedding with registry offices being seen as a poor relation. Now we have stunning venues of every style licensed for ceremonies and independent celebrants who can craft bespoke ceremonies for couples who really want something different. It’s brilliant and it’s just as it should be because now, you get to have the wedding day that really reflects who you are.
But, traditions still have a place in weddings. It’s lovely to honour your cultural heritage or your family history. You might like to include traditions because you love the thought of them or simply because they epitomise weddings to you.
Today, we’re in such a lucky position. We can include traditions, adapt them or ditch them all together. We’re the ones that make the new rules and we can plan our own weddings with one eye on the rulebook if we like or we can throw the book in the bin and start with a blank piece of paper. It’s our choice.
That said, most couples do include some traditions in their plans so if you’re thinking about wedding traditions now, here’s the story behind some of our most popular wedding traditions AND some ideas on how you can tweak them to make them your own…
It was Queen Victoria that started a style revolution when she wore a white dress to her wedding. Until that point, brides had simply worn their best outfit or, if they were lucky enough to have something new for their wedding, they opted for the most flattering colour and style possible. The majority of brides still love the ‘traditional’ bridal dress but we are seeing changes – bridal separates, colours dresses, jumpsuits and knee-length designs are all mixing things up. If you want to make a statement, start with your gown.
Veils are enjoying a bit of a renaissance of late and you can see why as they’re just such an iconic accessory. Originally worn as a symbol of purity and chastity (and sometimes to stop to groom seeing the woman he was marrying until after they’d made their vows!) veils were traditionally worn over the face. Now, most brides who were them simply have them covering the back of their hair so they get the best of both worlds! Veils now come in a huge range of styles too from cute little birdcage styles to brilliantly embellished designs. There’ll be a veil out there to suit your style.
Dating back to Roman times, wedding cakes were then shared during the actual wedding ceremony! Cakes contained fruits and nuts to symbolise fertility and then they became a symbol of prosperity too. Sugar was expensive so if you could afford to have a huge cake covered in white icing, you were making a statement in more ways than one! Nowadays, wedding cakes are often flavoured sponges and they come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of decorations. Wedding cakes might be traditional but modern designs are anything but!
The honeymoon is a wedding tradition that we’ve all adopted despite its less-than-savoury background! Originally, when grooms literally ‘stole’ their brides from other families, they would hide away post-wedding for one lunar cycle to let everyone calm down and to show that the marriage was real! Fast forward to now however and we all love a honeymoon and so we should – two weeks in the Maldives is so much nicer than a month hiding away from family feuds!
Bouquets and flowers
It’s said that brides used to carry bouquets to scent the air in the days when washing was an annual, rather than a daily, occurrence. Richly scented flowers were the most popular for practical reasons and then the Victorian’s obsession with the ‘language of flowers’ started to have a big impact on what was carried. In fact, Royal brides today still include certain flowers in their bouquets to symbolise everything from loyalty to purity. Today, we can simply choose flowers we love and more and more brides are choosing seasonal flowers, grown in the UK, for a more environmentally friendly occasion.
Not seeing each other before the ceremony
Another of those traditions that should cause women everywhere to sigh and roll their eyes! Originally, couples didn’t see each other before their weddings because weddings were arranged by their families and no one wanted to give anyone the chance to back out until it was too late (see previous comments about veils!). So, this isn’t the romantic tradition that you might think! Now, the concept ‘the first look’ is sweeping the UK and this is something to really love. Here, you get to share that once-in-a-lifetime first look with your partner in private. No guests stepping out in the aisle to take a photo, no ‘walking down the aisle’ nerves, just you two, just the way it should be.
Being given away
Yet another tradition with an unsettling backstory. Brides were literally ‘given away’, taken to their husband at the altar with no say in things at all. Women were nothing more than possessions of men and they could simply be passed from one man to another. So, let’s stop calling it being ‘given away’ and instead go for ‘being escorted’ down the aisle at the very least. There’s also no reason now why it has to be your father who walks with you. Opt for your Mum, someone who’s super important to you or simply channel your inner Markle and walk yourself to your wedding.
Seen as ‘showering the newlyweds in good wishes’, confetti throwing is another of those much-loved wedding moments that also creates AMAZING photo opportunities. The confetti moment used to take place on the church steps as the couple emerged from their wedding but now, it’s often a much more choreographed part of proceedings. You don’t even have to stick with petals if you don’t want to with some couples opting instead for bubbles or other cool alternatives.
Sugared almonds are so rarely seen at weddings now but they were the start of wedding favours! The sweet coated nuts symbolised the bitter/sweet nature of marriage whilst guests were given five almonds to represents health, fertility, long life, wealth and happiness. Now of course, wedding favours come in all shapes are sizes and are generally seen as a great way of bringing your theme or your personalities into proceedings. Of course, there’s no rule saying you even have to have wedding favours if you don’t want them!
As the saying goes, ‘rules are made to be broken’ and whether you adapt, twist or break with traditions entirely, it’s totally your call. This is your wedding day after all.
Until next time