New Ways to Honor Classic Wedding Traditions
At their core, weddings are ritualistic. These unions have been in place for virtually all of history—and their evolution, century after century, has resulted in the traditions that we've come to expect at every celebration we attend. These practices include all of the "fundamentals," like your something blue, an escorted walk down the aisle, the first dance, and a cake-cutting ceremony. Chances are, you're including one—if not all—of these expected moments when the big day finally arrives.
Here's the thing: You don't have to. In fact, there are so many ways to bring these longstanding practices straight into the 21st century. The best part? Reinterpreting these tried-and-true ideas often leads to a more personal and authentic wedding day experience. Not feeling married (pun intended!) to all of these tropes also gives you the freedom to abandon the details or day-of events that don't speak to you—as an individual or as a couple. Let's say you're not a fan of public speaking. You can feel free to exchange vows privately, instead of talking into the mic for all of your guests to hear. The same applies to reception rituals. If you or your spouse-to-be don't like cake, there's no reason why you need to serve one. Consider serving up (and feeding each other!) smaller treats, like donuts or your grandma's secret-recipe cookies, instead.
It's important to note, however, that modernizing these rituals doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. Feel free to keep the formalities that feel right. Just know that updating where and when it feels right is completely acceptable. Ahead, a series of inspired, fresh ways to honor the wedding traditions of the past.
The Tradition: A White Wedding Dress
White wedding dresses were popularized by Queen Victoria, who wore a cream, lace-trimmed gown at her wedding to Prince Albert. The bright white garment has become synonymous with weddings—and is still the most popular choice for modern day brides.
The Update: A Jumpsuit or Pantsuit
But what if you're someone that just never felt comfortable in a dress? Enter jumpsuits and pantsuits, which offer a fresh take on wedding-day fashion. Wearing a colorful gown—like a pretty pastel blue or bright pink—is another way to put a personalized, contemporary twist on one of the longest-standing wedding traditions there is.
The Tradition: The Veil
Once a symbol of purity and subservience, veils are now popular simply because they're beautiful, and can be worn alone or as part of a two or three-layer veil ensemble. The longest piece is usually worn for the ceremony only, and it is detached before the reception.
The Update: A Fresh Crown
Some women now choose to marry without a veil, opting instead for a millinery cap, a sparkling tiara, or nothing at all. You might also wear fresh flowers or greenery, arranged in a wreath or artfully worked into your hairstyle.
The Tradition: Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
Tokens for good luck from a charming old rhyme, these classic items are typically small personal treasures that are unique to each bride, and rarely obvious to anyone but those closest to her. These adds can be as modest as a scrap of your future mother-in-law's wedding dress sewn into the inside of your gown in blue thread, or as big as your mother's wedding ring, borrowed for the day and displayed on your right hand.
The Update: Involve the Groom
The groom can get in on the fun, too, by wearing his father's cuff links or carrying a family keepsake. He can also act as your something blue, by donning a sapphire tuxedo.
The Tradition: Meet at the Altar
No peeking! Tradition has it that couples typically spend the night before the wedding apart, only to convene at the altar on the big day.
The Update: First Look
Today, so many duos opt to have a first look—a private moment between the two of you (and your photographer, who's typically there to capture it all!) ahead of the ceremony. As for this option's advantages? It provides you and your soon-to-be spouse time and space to process this incredible life step together and gives your photographer time to take pictures before the day gets especially busy.
The Tradition: Giving Away the Bride
The loving act of "giving away" is not a relinquishment, but rather a symbolic walk from the old life to the new, led by one or both of the bride's parents, or another relative or close friend.
The Update: Walk Solo
You love your parents, but you've always been an independent soul, which means that an aisle escort might not be for you. Instead, make like royal bride and wedding ceremony pioneer Meghan Markle, who revolutionized bridal entrances by walking (the majority) of the aisle solo.
The Tradition: The Reading of the Vows
Whether you choose religious, traditional vows or decide to write your own, most couples read these poignant promises aloud, in front of family and friends.
The Update: Exchange Vows Privately
Maybe public speaking isn't your thing—or perhaps you just want your husband or wife to be the only person who hears these promises. If you fall into either category, leave your guests behind for a moment and walk to a secluded part of your ceremony venue to exchange vows. If removing to another area isn't possible, turn off the mic for privacy.
The Tradition: Throwing Rice
Tossing rice is a longstanding wedding custom, especially in the United States. All guests participate in the post-ceremony practice, which symbolizes showering the bride and groom with abundance after they say "I do."
The Update: Different Materials
For a less conventional exit toss, consider passing out flower petals, glitter, or mini paper airplanes. Or, choose biodegradable confetti, which is eco-friendly and easy to clean up. If you prefer not to toss anything, DIY flags (complete with your wedding logo!) ahead of the big day. Guests can also blow bubbles or ring bells or other noisemakers.
The Tradition: The First Dance
A couple's first spin as married partners is a poignant demonstration of how they will dance their way through married life. It's also an emotional moment at the start of the reception—and a kick-off of the party to come.
The Update: Group Dance
If you don't want the all-eyes-on-you first dance experience, get everybody else up on the dance floor to groove to a special song. Another option? A choreographed group dance, like the one seen here, that can be learned ahead of time.
The Tradition: The Dinner
When it comes to wedding reception dinners, couples typically decide between buffets or sit-down offerings. They both come with advantages and draw-backs—opting for one over the other typically involves considering your venue's floor plan—but they're also tried-and-true. While buffets are more of a modern invention, sit-down dinners have been the wedding dinner norm for the majority of the last two centuries.
The Update: Food Trucks
If you're serious foodies who have a thing for multiple types of cuisine, have a few different food trucks drive straight onto your reception property. Not only does this give guests an opportunity to sample the foods that have defined your relationshi, but it also changes the way they'll eat. Since attendees will have to hop from one station to the next, there will be so much more inter-table mingling throughout the party.
The Tradition: Cutting the Cake
Dessert is a high point of any party, but at a wedding, it's definitely a focal point—not to mention a guest favorite. This ritual typically takes place following the dinner's conclusion. After you cut a slice, you feed each other—a gesture symbolic of your promise to provide for one another.
The Update: A Dessert Table
If a wedding cake isn't for you, you likely fall into the camp of couples who opt for a dessert table, instead. Serve up an array of pastries or bite-size sweets—better yet, use a family recipe to recreate the desserts you grew up snacking on. Since it can be difficult to cut such small treats gracefully, just offer your partner a bite of a whole one.
The Tradition: Tossing the Bouquet
It's a suspenseful moment when the single women gather behind the bride for the bouquet toss, to see who will be next in line to walk down the aisle. The bride typically stands on a balcony, the top of a staircase, or a chair—her back to the crowd—to ensure that her clutch reaches its destination.
The Update: Breakaway Bouquet
If you want to save your personal bridal arrangement (to preserve it as a keepsake, perhaps?), consider throwing a breakaway bouquet. This unique clutch is composed of a dozen or so small clusters of flowers bound together with a ribbon that you untie before you toss. It's also a much more inclusive option, since each woman gets a bunch.
The Tradition: Decorating the Getaway Car
Nothing says "just married" as loudly and proudly as a decorated wedding car. Tin cans make a noticeable clamor and are a happy sight on the street when they're combined with a handmade sign or paper streamers. The display can be further embellished with paper fans, garlands, or flowers (use silk ones, since real flowers won't hold up on a moving automobile).
The Update: An Alternative Exit
Skip the car all together and make your great escape in an alternative getaway vehicle. Today couples choose everything from his-and-hers bikes and boats, to vintage taxis and horse-drawn carriages.
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