So many couples want to make their wedding day different and personal and as a wedding planner I really encourage them to do this. But couples are usually caught with a parent or family member that is questioning them about wedding traditions they had during their big day that they feel the young couple should also do. Many times as the wedding planner, I work with the couple and try to find a balance or way to approach why the couple wants to break the mold and create new wedding traditions.
One way to do this is to educate both parties on where the wedding tradition really started so they can make better decisions, so let’s focus on a few of the typical traditions I’m seeing as a wedding planner, that are being changed and then we will focus on a few that are really outside the box.
Tossing the bouquet: Brides began tossing their bouquets into the crowds to distract people, then making a break for it with her husband to the bridal chamber.
Tossing the garter: It is said the bride and groom had to show proof of their wedding consummation. In order for it to be proven, it was common tradition to have people like family and friends come into the room with the couple.
Now we know both of these traditions don’t have the exact same meaning, but they suggest the same thing, so many couples choose to forgo both as they can get out of hand and many brides feel uncomfortable with the whole garter retrieval process.
Bride standing on the left side: This tradition actually stems from the old days of “marriage by capture”, when the groom needed to leave his right hand (his fighting hand) — which he used to hold his sword — free in the event that he should need to defend his bride from other suitors who may try to steal her at the last minute.
This one I get ask about all the time and when I tell the bride why they are standing on the left, many will move to the right for various reasons such as; they feel more comfortable there, they feel their left side is their best photo side or they don’t want to be facing the sun. I’ve had to moved a bride last minute in an outdoor wedding because the wind was so strong I wanted her gown and veil to be caught in the wind and flow behind her not back at her and over her face. I will strongly encourage brides that mention this if the groom is military to pass this by him first as they seem to have a strong opinion on their bride standing on their left.
Cutting the cake: This tradition has roots where the groom would eat part of a loaf of a barley bread and then he would break the rest over his bride’s head. These days, the tradition of cutting the cake as a couple, symbolizes their commitment to provide for each other, and contains the meaning of good luck and fortune.
Many times the only change a couple has is what they are cutting, as couples are thinking of making it more of what they like to eat, rather than the traditional 3 tiered cake, by moving to pies, donuts, cinnamon rolls, cheese cakes or just a small cutting cake and serving different desserts.
Now let’s talk about the unconventional traditions I’m seeing lately.
Shh!!! They are already married. It’s one of the first questions I ask couples when talking to them. Are you already married? You should see the look of surprise when they ask, “how did you know?” It’s not uncommon and there are so many reason why; he is being deployed the year before the ceremony; to provide medical benefits for one of them; if one is from a foreign country and wants to stay without having to leave before the ceremony; or perhaps getting married in a different state and they don’t want the hassle of finding an officiant in that state. The list goes on and on, but it’s okay, as your wedding planner I can keep a secret and half the time I’ve forgotten and am having to remind myself in my notes that we don’t need time for the signing of the wedding license.
No bridal party: I actually really like this tradition and hope it starts catching on. But first you need to understand the whole bridal party tradition so you can explain to mom why you don’t have all these folks standing up front. Ancient Roman law required 10 witnesses to be present at a wedding, which is considered a precursor to the bridal party tradition. Bridesmaids and groomsmen had to dress just like the bride and groom to confuse vengeful spirit presences (or real-life jealous suitors) who might try to harm the newlyweds.
Now days you just need two people that witnessed the ceremony and know the couple to be of sound mind and are 18 years or older in age. So couples are choosing to stand up with the officiant and have the focus on just them and their vows, while having the witnesses be part of the front row. Or I had a couple that had a small wedding and at the end of the ceremony drew names from a bowl and had those two guests come up and sign the documents.
Whatever the tradition is or isn’t, as your wedding planner, I will tell couples to focus on their day and what they want to do. But I do recommend you talk with your parents and grandparents about small things they did in their ceremonies that might not have been “traditional”, be it religious, culturally, or family created and then to talk about some of the things they want to change and why. From experience I find it best to talk with parents and grandparents months before the ceremony when ‘breaking’ tradition and letting them know why you are doing something different. Having a heated discussion with mom at your final dress fitting about why you aren’t buying a garter in front of people you don’t know is not the time to have this discussion.
So in the beginning of your wedding planning, take some time as a couple and talk about all the traditions but remember the main tradition is the ceremony, and is about bringing two people and their families together.
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