There are several wedding day traditions that can seem anti-feminist when you learn about their origins. Weddings were a transaction between families, hardly romantic, and they were also shrouded in superstition (you can read more about that here).
Nowadays you can conduct your wedding however you want and as a Planner, I encourage the couples I work with to think about what they really want and reframe these tradition ideas in a way that makes sense to them. Below are some ideas on how you can adapt these out-dated traditions to suit you.
The belief that wearing white symbolises “purity” and “virginity” is a bit of a myth; brides didn’t start wearing white until the 1840s when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in a white dress and it started to gain popularity. Before this, colourful dresses represented power and money as the bigger and brighter the dress the wealthier the bride’s family tended to be.
White wedding gowns are still the most popular option for brides. I think we’re seeing a shift away from this but a lot of brides don’t even consider that there could be another option:
- Wear any colour you want. Wear your favourite colour. Wear the colour you feel your best in
- Ditch the dress altogether and wear a jumpsuit or two-piece suit
- Add accessories that make your outfit feel more like you
The Wedding Party
Where did the idea of bridesmaids and groomsmen originally come from? Bridesmaids used to wear matching dresses to the bride to confuse evil spirits so they wouldn’t know which woman was getting married. They would also form a protective shield around the bride so they could intervene if anyone tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry on the way to the wedding. As for the best man, he would be chosen not because he was the groom’s best friend but because he was the strongest and most capable of using a weapon to fend off any attacks from enemies or rivals.
It’s important that you have the people that love and support you around you on your wedding day and traditionally brides pick an all-female group and grooms an all-male group, but we’ve seen this changing a lot of recent years especially with the legalisation of gay marriage meaning that weddings are no longer “a bride and groom”, female and male separately. Choose who you want in your wedding party, regardless of gender.
- Have a ‘man of honour’ or ‘bridesman’
- Have a ‘best woman’
- Have mixed groups
- Don’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen at all
Seeing Each Other Before The Wedding
This is a superstition that has really stood the test of time with many still believing that it’s “bad luck” for the couple to see each other before their wedding. But this tradition apparently also has some creepy origins, again from the time of arranged marriages, the families would want to keep the future husband and wife apart in case they see each other and decide to call off the wedding if they didn’t like what they saw.
I think it’s completely up to you and what feels right. Some people like the anticipation of being away from each other and spending the night instead of with members of their family or wedding party and for some it would feel strange not to be together. If you don’t want to wait until your walking down the aisle to see your partner then there are a few options:
- Do the whole process together – wake up, get ready and go to the ceremony together
- Spend the night together but then get ready separately
- Have a ‘first look’ before the ceremony*
*What is a ‘first look’? This is a lot more common in the US, the couple will see each other before going into their ceremony, often their photographer is there to capture the moment as well.
The Father Walking The Bride Down The Aisle
This tradition dates back to that time of arranged marriages and a transaction being made. The Father would “give away” his daughter as if she were a form of property to settle debts with another family or to elevate his status if he married her off to a more prestigious family. This would also happen alongside a dowry that would be given to the groom and his family to ensure that she would be properly taken care of as she leaves her family home to reside with her new husband and his family.
Today, brides choose to have their father walk them down the aisle as a symbol of their journey together, to honour the help he has given her throughout her life and his acceptance of her new husband into the family. Of course, this isn’t always the case as some brides won’t have a father present to walk them down the aisle, or will feel that this act doesn’t represent the relationship she has with her father. And that’s ok, there are several options you can choose from instead:
- Walk down the aisle on your own
- Walk down the aisle with your fiancé
- Walk part of the way on your own and have your fiancé meet you halfway
- Have both parents walk you down the aisle
- Have another family member or friend walk you down the aisle instead
- Take the journey to the ceremony with your father but walk down the aisle on your own
Cutting The Cake
There are a lot of stories about where this tradition originated from, from promoting fertility by breaking the cake over the bride’s head and guests sleeping with a piece of the cake under their pillow to the bride feeding her husband cake as a symbol of her submission to him.
Today cutting the cake is more of a photo-op for the couple and a marker that the guests can start eating the cake! As with any of these traditions, you can forgo this and carry out your wedding however you want to, for example:
- Forget the traditional fruit cake and choose a cake that has your favourite flavours
- Forget the cake altogether and do something different, check out my blog post on dessert alternative ideas here
Throwing The Bouquet
Some people love it and some people find it patronising, the bride throws the bouquet and the single women are meant to desperately scramble to catch it as it will bring them the ‘luck’ of being the next one to get married.
You can completely forgo this, especially if you want to keep the flowers in the bouquet to dry them or have them preserved. Or if you think this tradition is fun, you can buy a cheaper dummy bouquet to throw so it won't matter if it gets trampled on or crushed. Afraid of offending your single girl friends? Get everyone involved including those who are already married and children, turn it into a fun game instead.
Like the bouquet, the garter was intended to be tossed out to a crowd, only this time to the single men to predict who would get married next. Supposedly the groom would remove the garter as the couple would consummate their marriage and as proof would toss the garter out to the guests waiting outside their bedchamber. The single man who caught it would then place it on the leg of the single woman that caught the bouquet previously.
At some weddings, there will be a show of the groom removing the garter from the bride’s leg in front of their guests. Whether you think this is cringy or a bit of fun is up to your personal preference and as with any part of your wedding you should do what you feel comfortable with.