Wedding planning is full of shoulds, and we are very anti-should, pro-want.
This means we vehemently believe that couples should have a unique wedding day that’s about them, rather than a checklist full of patriarchal things you ‘need for your wedding’ and dated activities that don’t resonate.
However, on the flipside, we’re not here to tell you that you should totally get rid of all wedding traditions either. Thanks to their history, abandoning them entirely can leave you feeling like you’re missing something – and besides, if they symbolise something important for you, why should you miss out?
With that in mind, we thought we’d share some of our favourite ways to take old wedding traditions and make them your own.
Caveat klaxon: this is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it plants some seeds for you to create your own…
Being given away
You might not want to be given away in the traditional sense by your dad or father figure – because you’re not his property to be transferred – but you may still want to honour and thank your parents for their love.
Instead, you could walk down the aisle with both your parents. Or with neither, instead stopping when you see them in their seats to give them a big fat hug and a squeeze.
Brides wearing a white dress
The white dress became the bridal style du jour because Queen Victoria wore it for her wedding.
At the time, it was customary for brides to wear their most expensive dress to their wedding to signify their wealth – and what screams wealth more than, ‘I’m going to wear an expensive white dress that’s highly impractical despite the fact that I’ll be eating so the spill/dirt risk is high’? (Who knew Queen Victoria was such a daredevil hey?!)
After that, white dresses became symbolic of a bride’s purity – yawn.
Nowadays, the only things that should matter when deciding what to wear for your wedding should be how comfortable you are, and how wonderful and celebrated you feel. That may end up being a pricey white dress, a pink suit, or an inexpensive outfit that you just feel brilliant in – whatever it is, that’s what you need for your wedding!
Something old, something new
The old rhyme about what a bride should wear on her wedding day to bring good luck, ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe’ seems to have some flexibility from the off though, according to English folklore, the something borrowed was originally meant to be underwear from someone who’d had children, to speed up your own fertility!
That aside – so firmly aside that you can’t actually see it – many people interpret this ditty as a chance to honour family and friends on the day. Whether that’s in family heirlooms, vintage clothing or other ways of immortalising your loved ones, like their photos on your bouquet or their handwriting embroidered, we love this idea if it’s right for you.
Not seeing each other before the altar
Firstly – you may not be having an altar. Totally okay.
Not seeing each other before the altar on your wedding day stems from the supremely romantic background of arranged marriages, where it was a worry that you might back out of the business transaction if you saw each other before!
Seeing as nowadays we marry for love and not for money (at least – we hope you are), we think you’re probably safe to see each other beforehand.
This includes spending the night beforehand together; if your spouse-to-be is the person who you want to spend the rest of forever with, the chances are they’re the person you want to be near in times of extreme excitement or nerves. For this reason, you may well want to spend the evening before your unique wedding day with them.
The traditional wedding speeches are performed by the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man* – see a theme coming on here?
If you want to make a speech as a bride, please do go ahead. Or if you want to give your mum or your maid of honour some airtime, feel free.
There’s also the Swedish approach to wedding speeches, where guests are allowed to speak too – agreed in advance with a specially appointed Toastmaster, who can keep proceedings going.
* Want another fun best man fact? They were originally chosen because they were the best swordsman the groom knew, not necessarily their best friend. They were there to protect the couple from any threats! Would make for a distracted speech to say the least – pun intended – wouldn’t it?
Cutting the cake and saving it for your baby’s christening
Whaddya know! We’re back to women’s fertility… It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?!
The wedding cake was originally a pile of cakes brought by your guests, which they’d then bless you over. Whilst that morphed into the more modern phenomenon of the couple providing the cake, it then became common to save and freeze the top tier of your cake, to be enjoyed on your baby’s christening or your first wedding anniversary – they were expected to be not too far away from each other!
Nowadays, of course, it’s not even expected that you have to have cake, never mind to save it for your potential baby’s potential christening. Instead some couples opt for cheese towers, donut walls, dessert tables, or no pudding at all.
And if you don’t fancy a cake cutting, why not do something different to symbolise your unity and first steps as a married couple, like pour a pint together, or pop some confetti?
The first dance
First dances can feel like torturous rites of passage. Of course, if you’re wildly uncomfortable with the idea you shouldn’t have to get up there and do it, but from our experience you’ll probably want something in its place to signify the dancefloor officially opening.
If you’re much more comfortable behind the mic rather than in front of it, why not perform a first song? Or, alternatively, assemble your more outgoing and less dance floor-challenged pals, and ask them to officially open proceedings for you?
(Editor’s note: I actually did that! There was a choreographed gymnastics routine!)
Whatever else you want to do!
As we said at the start, this is just the start – and we hope those seeds have been a’sown and are a’growing right now!
What will be your modern twist on a wedding tradition? We’d love to hear about them!