Wedding Traditions and How They Can be Broken!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably engaged or at least hoping to be married someday. We’re wedding people, and we know that weddings are the most universally accepted method of celebrating the commitment and love between partners. But weddings have been around for a long time, and it wasn’t always exactly about love and commitment… 

That means that some of the traditions still used at weddings today are deeply rooted in sexism. Weddings used to be very transactional. Women were goods to be passed from father to husband. Plenty of wedding traditions become pretty icky if you think about them too hard. They are also not necessarily applicable to queer couples. 

That being said, feel free to reclaim them. When your father walks you down the aisle, it can just be about getting support from the man who raised you. No one will think that you are sexist if you choose to follow through with any traditions you like. You do not make decisions for the same reasons that they were made 200 years ago. 

We want to talk about some of these traditions and offer some possible alternatives that can work for any couple.

Traditions are not Laws!

There’s always the chance that you will get some push back from loved ones when you decide to break traditions. If this happens, gently remind those people that it is your day and explain why you dislike the tradition. If that family member is contributing financially to the wedding, you could always work with them to find a new way of doing things that works well for both of you. 

First, we’re going all the way back, before the proposal! Does a man really need to ask a woman’s father for permission to propose? Definitely not. This is a tricky one because some dads are really attached to the idea of having this heart to heart talk with their future son-in-law. Here are our recommendations if you are set against it:

  1. When you and your partner start to get to that place, have a conversation with dad. Does he care about this tradition? If so, does he understand why it is upsetting to you?
  2. Bring this info casually to your partner. Let them know that you do not want your parents to have a role in this decision.
  3. If you are the proposer, assess whether or not your partner would want this? Are they traditional? Are they close with their parents?
  4. If you are about to propose and want an alternative to this tradition, it is always a little better to talk to both parents if they are available. 
  5. If you do not want to ask for permission, you might consider simply talking to the parents beforehand and letting them know that you are going to propose. Maybe you could ask for their help in planning the surprise!
  6. If all of this fails and a parent is still upset that they didn’t get to give their permission, calmly remind them that while you are sorry they didn’t get to participate in this tradition, their child is an adult who gets to make their own decisions. 

So about that white dress… Again, if the symbolism of the white color doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t need to be changed! Practically no one actually thinks that a white dress announces virginity anymore, and for most brides, this is a tradition that they will want to keep. If not:

  1. Pick a color or pattern that you prefer! Everyone will still know that you are getting married. For a lighter option, adorn your white dress with colorful appliqués or with a colored tint. 
  2. Wear a white jumpsuit, suit, or anything else you are comfortable in! Not everyone is comfortable wearing a dress, and they should not have to wear anything they dislike on their wedding day!
  3. There absolutely does not have to be one in white and one in black. Two in white, two in black, two in pastel pink, two people in love can look however they want on their day of celebration and unity!

Not seeing the bride until she walks down the aisle seems romantic now, but it was originally conceptualized as a way to ensure that the groom did not leave the bride at the altar if he disliked her appearance. Ew… If this makes you cringe, consider these alternatives:

  1. The first look gives the future spouses a private moment to take in one another’s looks and deviates from the tradition. (plus, it makes for great photos!)
  2. Couples often don’t see one another until late afternoon on their wedding day. Now that just doesn’t seem right. One option is to get ready together! This makes a great intimate moment, photographs beautifully, and may even allow you to walk down the aisle together. It’s nontraditional but… so beautiful! This is an especially good option for non-heteronormative couples who might otherwise have to try to designate who would walk down the aisle first, or if anyone would at all.

Should dad give you away? First of all, not everyone has a dad, so that’s an issue. Second, this is, of course, also rooted in misogyny, the transfer of property, blah, blah, blah… It’s not a good history. But it can still be a special moment with dad, so what can we do to make it better?

  1. You know how the officiant will ask, “who gives this woman to be married?” Well, they don’t have to ask that. It can be answered in an empowering way, such as “I give myself,” but it might be best to just leave it out if you are uncomfortable with the question. If it cannot be removed for any reason, another more modern answer is for Dad to say, “Her mother and I do”.
  2. Both parents or only a mom can walk you down the aisle. It’s really whoever you want to be supporting you at that moment!
  3. You can walk yourself down the aisle and keep your moment in the sun all to yourself. 
  4. A repeat from above, but it’s just that good: walk down the aisle together!

Singling out the single ladies? The bouquet toss is becoming less common. It’s pretty embarrassing for the unmarried women in attendance to compete for who will get married next, even if it is just cute and silly. Not everyone wants to be married.

  1. Keep that bouquet and have it preserved! If you haven’t yet, drop everything and look into wedding flower preservation now! You can ship your flowers to these businesses, and they will create beautiful resin pieces to maintain your memories for all time. 

The garter toss is rare at this point, but in case it needs to be said… You do not need to let your partner put their head under your dress and rip off an undergarment with their teeth to throw to their friends in front of your grandmother. That’s something that can happen on the wedding night. Or never. That being said, if you like to own your sexuality and you like this idea, we support you completely. It’s very sexy.

    1. One possible alternative is for the bride to also take something off of the groom. Let’s make it even, folks. 

    Finally, your name! You don’t have to take your spouse’s name. You can always hyphenate, keep your own name, and maybe even pass it down to the kids, too. Or, take their name, for any reason you like! Maybe you love their name, maybe it is important to your partner, or maybe you just really want to have the same last name.

    The bottom line is, the choices are yours to make. Reclaiming traditions for your own reasons is just as powerful as rejecting them all together. 

    Continue reading and check out our blog on Alternative Registry Ideas!

    For more ideas and unique finds for your special day be sure to set up a consultation with Angela today!

    Cover Photo Image Credit: Golden Aura Photography

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