Wedding trends and traditions
Wedding ceremonies and receptions are steeped in tradition. We embrace many customs, but as the years go by couples alter traditions to fit their needs and changing times. Ultimately, if you want to get married on the beach, barefoot, and wearing a sarong and then head to a reggae style reception - go for it. It's your day.
For those a bit more traditional at heart, we've outlined some of the customs we see couples modernizing.
Tradition: In the early 1900's the bride's attendants were always unmarried females.
Trend: We threw out the "had to be married" part a long time ago. Recently, some brides are choosing their best male friend to stand up in the maid of honor spot. The same goes for the groom choosing a woman to stand in as the "best man."
Tradition: Rice, a symbol of fertility, is tossed at the couple as they leave the wedding or reception.
Trend: Turns out rice is bad for landscaping and birds like to munch on it to their detriment. Recently, couples are opting to give their guests bird seed, rose petals, bubble blowing wands and even an occasional boxed butterfly to be released when the couple exits.
Tradition: The honeymoon is the new couples' chance to go on their first vacation, have sex for the first time and is really their first chance to truly be alone.
Trend: Even if the couple didn't live together before they got married, the odds that this is their first vacation together or that they have never been intimate are low. Today, many second marriages include children from the first go around in the honeymoon. Another trend is for couples to have their wedding ceremony at the same location where they will spend their honeymoon.
Tradition: A classic band is hired to play at the reception. Traditional music is played at the ceremony. Mendelssohn's Wedding March became popular back in 1858 when Princess Victoria chose the song for her wedding to Prince Frederick of Prussia.
Trend: Couples are opting for a DJ at the reception with a wide repertoire of modern music. For the ceremony, couples are choosing more varied musical selections, including popular and classical pieces.
Tradition: Ahhh the x-rated bachelor party. Back in the fifth century, Spartan warriors offered toasts to soon-to-be-husbands. The same toast was given to salute comrades who died in battle.
Trend: The bachelor party has evolved into a special outing with good friends. Not to say that x-rated nights don't still occur, but they less commonly occur the night before the wedding and are more toned down.
Tradition: Mom and dad of the bride are the main sponsors of the wedding.
Trend: Today, weddings are more expensive and couples are getting married later in life. It is not uncommon for expenses to be shared between the parents of the bride, the parents of the groom and the couple themselves, depending on everyone's ability to contribute.
Tradition: Wedding pictures stick to the formal, tried-and-true format.
Trend: Couples still want some traditional pictures, but in addition to more candid, expressive photography. A few black and white or sepia shots can be added for artistic variety. Disposable cameras left on reception tables give guests the chance to record their perspective.
Tradition: The minister or public official prepares the vows.
Trend: Today, couples are more likely to write their own simple vows or modify and approve the vows their officiant will be saying. The "obey" portion of the bride's pledge to "love, honor and obey" has gone the way of pastel tuxedos.
Tradition: The bride wears a white dress. Contrary to urban legend, white does not represent the bride's virginity. Until the mid19th century, white wasn't even a popular choice for wedding gowns. Then, in 1840 Queen Victoria of England wore an all-white ensemble for her wedding to Prince Albert and created a vogue that has become an institution.
Trend: White is still the vogue for the bride, but we also see ivory, as well as pastel accents on dresses.
Tradition: The father of the bride gives his daughter away at the ceremony. Marriage was considered a property transaction and the daughter was an item used to secure a better status for the family.
Trend: Today the escort down the aisle varies. Brides choose between their mom, dad, step dad, grandpa, brother or any combination that suits their family structure.
Despite whether you have a formal, or informal wedding day, you will no doubt be surrounded in symbolism throughout the wedding. The reasons for wearing white to tossing the bouquet, even going on the honeymoon, stem from way back. Here are the reasons why:
The tradition of wearing white began in the 16th century when Queen Victoria chose to wear white when she married her Prince Albert, instead of traditional silver for royal brides. Before white, brides wore their best dress, and color was a matter of preference. In the Victorian era, white meant purity and virginity, but today it is the color of joy and celebration - meaning any bride can wear white, whether it's her first or fifth marriage.
The veil was originally worn to stave off evil spirits. It was often red for defiance against evil, or yellow for Hymen (the god of marriage). Martha Washington's daughter is said to be the first bride to wear white lace, covering her head with a long lace scarf for her ceremony. Her fiancé had previously commented on her beauty as she stood behind a lace window curtain, so she went with the look, as have millions of other brides today.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in your Shoe
The Old English rhyme above is where this tradition stems from.
- Something old symbolizes continuity.
- Something new, optimism for the future.
- Something borrowed, borrowed happiness. This item is often lent by the bride's family and is an item much valued by the family. The bride must return the item to ensure good luck.
- Something blue, fidelity, good fortune and love. Originated in ancient Israel where the bride wore a blue ribbon representing fidelity.
- A sixpence in your shoe ensures wealth in the couple's married life. Today, some brides substitute a penny.
In ancient Rome, a kiss sealed a contract. So in essence, kissing at the altar is, in a way, legally binding. But also believed, and much more romantic, is that when a couple kiss, part of their soul is exchanged.
Early Roman brides carried a bunch of herbs, such as rosemary, to symbolize fidelity, fertility, and scare off evil spirits. The Greeks carried ivy, symbolizing endless love. But it was the Victorians who popularized the wedding rose, which represented true love.
Throwing the Bouquet
The bride originally tossed her bouquet to a friend as she left to keep that person safe and to offer her luck -- luck in the old days meaning getting married. This came to mean that a single woman catching the bouquet would marry next.
Romans used to break a bun over the bride's head as wheat promised fertility. In the 17th century, a French baker decided to frost a stack of buns creating the first tiered wedding cake.
Medieval newlyweds would spend a month alone together, enjoying mead, a fermented honey drink (honey is an ancient symbol of life, health and fertility) until the moon waned, hence the term honeymoon.