Weddings are steeped in tradition, and these days, you can pick and choose which ones to include. Most matrimonial customs have been around for centuries and could use a little makeover. If you’re interested in modernizing your big day, take a peek at our guide; we’ll share modern wedding traditions, including everything from the father-daughter dance to the engagement ring covered in an easy-to-follow guide.
The history: The tradition of wedding photography originated in the mid-19th century not long after the invention of the camera. Those with means captured formal studio portraits wearing their best clothing, either before or after the wedding. The practice of capturing the big day itself didn’t begin until the surge in weddings post-WWII, introducing a photojournalistic element in addition to formal portraits of the couple and family.
The new twist: We’ve come a long way since the days of single-use flashbulbs, with smartphones putting a high-quality digital camera in the hands of every guest. Some couples are skipping the photographer altogether and are embracing less formal photos from the unique perspectives of their loved ones. Many others prefer a balance of both professional and informal photography, encouraging their guests to post to social media using their one-of-a-kind wedding hashtag. With so many options now available, be sure to weigh the pros and cons, and make the decision that’s right for you.
The Man-gagement Ring
The history: Mankind’s obsession with rings can be traced back to prehistoric times when cavemen encircled their mates’ waist, wrists, and ankles with braided grass as a way to mark their property. Luckily, the ancient Egyptians swept in with a more romantic approach to jewelry; it’s said that they were the first to think of the ring as a symbol of endless love. And Archduke Maximillian of Austria can be credited for kicking off the diamond craze by plunking a bit of bling on his fiancee’s finger way back in 1182. It took a few centuries to catch on, but now some men are now wearing engagement rings (the correct lingo is mangagment), too.
The new twist: Since your bridal budget may be tight, you can breathe easy knowing mangagement rings cost far less than the sparkly showstopper you envision for your own hand. Most guys opt for bands made of titanium or silver. Add engraving or stamping for a little flair.
The Rice Toss
The history: The custom of the rice toss dates all the way back to ancient times and symbolizes showering the newlyweds with abundance and fertility. Oats and dried corn were also popular for pelting the couple. It’s just as well that people are seeking other options since rice can be treacherous for high heeled wearing guests.
The new twist: For colorful photos, go with rainbow sprinkles (oh, how the pigeons will love you) or pom poms. If you have the environment in mind, popcorn, lavender, and packets filled with birdseed are all eco-friendly options. There’s even biodegradable confetti that looks exactly like rice and dissolves once it comes in contact with water. For a truly earthy approach, grab a handful of leaves and use a hole punch to make confetti (this would be particularly fitting for an autumn wedding).
The Bouquet Toss
The history: The bouquet toss tradition began in England long ago when wedding guests tore at the bride’s dress and bouquet in hopes of getting their hands on a bit of her good luck. To avoid having their fancy frocks ripped, brides began tossing their flowers into the crowd for an easy getaway.
The new twist: There’s nothing becoming about all the single ladies jostling each other out of the way to get their hands on the bouquet. A more dignified approach? Present your flowers to your parents or a close friend to express your love. Or thrill the youngest guests at the party by launching teddy bears or candy into the air.
The history: There’s a mind-boggling amount of etiquette about who sits where at the wedding ceremony. According to experts, step-relatives should be shown to their seats first. In Christian ceremonies, the bride’s guests sit on the left, while the groom’s sit on the right. and during Jewish ceremonies, the parents stand under the chuppah. It’s enough to make even the most sensible usher’s head spin.
The new twist: Having the couple’s guests sit separately is an excellent way to scope out if the groom has any cute buddies, but you might as well start mingling from the get-go. Arranging mismatched vintage sofas or laying down picnic blankets and bales of hay ensure a casual vibe. There’s also a major trend in spiral seating arrangements so everyone has a great view of the first kiss. Setting up a circle looks simple, but you’ll need a plan to get the symmetry right.
The White Dress
The history: Many believe that brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity, but for many years, brides were content to put on the best dress in their closet for their trip to the altar, no matter what the color. In fact, the snowy shade was often associated with mourning. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria stepped out in a white gown trimmed in Honiton lace for her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert (her first cousin, no less) that the craze began. Because white was still a difficult hue to produce back then, it became a status symbol.
The new twist: Now you can take your pick of pastels, florals, and saturated hues. Vera Wang, the wedding gown maven herself, has everything from icy pink to dusty rose in her collection of classics. Although anyone who has seen an episode of Say Yes to the Dress can tell you, it takes a little more effort to track a colorful gown down.
The Father-Daughter Dance
The history: Once upon a time, daughters were considered the property of their family. After twirling on the dance floor, fathers passed brides on to their suitors to signify their approval of the marriage. There’s a good chance that you’ve been paying your own ways for years now so this rite of passage may seem outdated. There’s plenty of modern alternatives that may seem more fitting.
The new twist: If you’re a bride who doesn’t relish being the center of attention, invite all the fathers and daughters in attendance onto the dance floor. While you’re at it, allow sons and mothers to come up, too. Or perhaps you both have a case of two left feet. In that case, reciting a poem together can be every bit as meaningful. Reading a letter that you’ve written to him gets point across, too.
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