Wedding Traditions - and how to handle them.

Updated: Feb 15

What are wedding traditions and should you follow them?

I’d hazard a guess that in most parts of your life, if you don’t want something you don’t have it, right? Why do something, or worse still PAY for something, that you’re not really that into or maybe even makes you feel uncomfortable? That’s crazy isn’t it...?

But when it comes to weddings there is a definite sense of there being things you should do, whether you want to or not, for the sake of other people. Those other people are normally your guests and in most cases members of your family who are most likely from a different generation.

Weddings are full of traditions, some lovely, some slightly bizarre, some just a bit outdated. I have no problem with traditions - I actually quite like a lot of them and we followed a fair few for our wedding.

But I’m also a big fan of CHOICE, and never more so than when it comes to one of the most important days of your life. The only people who should be making decisions on what does and doesn’t happen on your wedding day, are you- the people getting married!

planning an untraditional wedding

It can seem easier to go along with what others expect from your day rather than have to explain why you won’t be doing something. There is a lot of pressure surrounding weddings, ensuring they are enjoyable for everyone involved and also that a joyful occasion doesn’t end up being the source of upset.

But does that tradition really reflect who you are? Do you want to spend time on your wedding day fulfilling the requirements of other by doing something you don’t want to do? And do you want to look back at those choices and wonder why you went along with it?

If the answer to those questions is no, then spend some time with your partner talking through what you think a wedding SHOULD look like versus what you ACTUALLY want it to be. Any traditions that don’t serve you, put them aside. I’ll give you an example - at our wedding we didn’t have a first dance…because my partner hates to dance. Who wants to watch us shuffle awkwardly round the dance floor? And why would I put him through that on such a special day?? Instead we made a plan with our wedding party to get everyone up on the dance floor as soon as the cake was cut - much more fun for everyone I’m sure and suited us *The Couple* perfectly.

Depending on what kind of tradition you want to drop, you may be worried about how your families will react. So how do you handle it? Here are some tips for standing your ground without stressing out:

🖤 Be open.

The sooner you tell people what to expect from your wedding, the more time they have to get used to it. Even if their initial reaction is less than positive, it will probably be long forgotten by the time the wedding rolls around.

🖤 Lead with positivity.

You probably have really good reasons for not wanting to join in with certain traditions, and perhaps you are replacing these with things that feel more joyful to you. So instead of talking about what you aren’t doing, start with what you are doing and all the reasons it will be amazing. It’s really hard to disagree with someone when they are obviously excited by and committed to an idea.

🖤 Develop selective hearing.

I know this can be easier said than done, but there really are a lot of opinions you don’t need to be listening to. Prepare a couple of polite, non-committal responses for when a (not so) well-meaning relative decides to comment on your choices. Then walk away and carry on with your plans. Remember whose wedding it is and stay true to yourselves.

So let’s take a little look into some of the UK’s most popular wedding traditions - where they came from and whether you might choose to include or not include them in your day.

🖤 The bride wears white.

It's actually a relatively new tradition, dating only from Victorian times. Before that people just wore their best outfit which was often a dark colour. Queen Victoria chose to wear white - a fashion statement and sign of wealth at the time, and so a new tradition was born. People often mistake the origins of wearing white as a sign of purity and virginity, but actually it was just all about fashion!

Now, I love white and ivory wedding dresses (I worked in the industry for 15 years) and I chose ivory for my own wedding, because honestly there just aren’t many opportunities to wear a long white dress, are there? But my feeling is that a bride should wear something she is comfortable and happy in, whatever the colour.

Should a bride wear white on her wedding day?

🖤 The father giving away the bride.

A tradition dating back to a time when women were the property of their fathers, to be given away to a new family in exchange for a dowry. I feel we’ve moved on a little in the equality stakes, and these days the tradition has a very different, much more respectful feel - but still, families come in all shapes and sizes and the idea of the father giving away the bride may not suit every family. You may choose someone else or choose not to do it at all and arrive as a couple.

🖤Not staying together the night before.

This is one I see being followed less and less as the world changes and a huge proportion of couples already live together and/or want to spend as much of their big day together as possible. Often, if couples are DIYing their wedding or choose a dry hire venue that involves set up, it’s just more practical (and fun) to spend the morning together, and therefore you might as well spend the night together too. It’s often done so the groom sees his bride for the first time as she comes down the aisle - a lovely, if nerve-wracking moment - so if you are looking for a more chilled out day, this is perhaps one to drop.

🖤The first dance. If you both love to dance and want to kick off the party in this way then this is a great tradition! It’s such a fun moment when you hear the song and the couple pull out a kickass routine! But for a lot of couple who are less keen on being the centre of attention, that awkward shuffle around in front of everyone you know can be the stuff of nightmares. It’s the thing people often get really worked up about and dwell too much on, so if it’s not you, don’t worry about it. It’s an easy one to avoid without anyone really noticing - try organising a party game that leads to the dance floor, or get your bridesmaids and groomsmen to kick off the dancing.

Should we do a first dance at our wedding?

🖤The father of the bride pays.

Again this links to days gone by when the father was 'giving away' his daughter for financial gain, and therefore it would be up to him to foot the bill for the party. Whilst the reasoning may be different, many parents (bride or groom’s) still choose to offer this. Some because they are keen to be generous and help their kids have an amazing day, and some because they want a level of control over what kind of day it is. I’ve known people who’ve accepted offers of payment, only to find there is an expectation on the part of the parents to have an input on everything from venues to guest lists. Going back a few decades this would have been the norm, but today most couples want to plan their own weddings, and therefore it’s more likely they will opt to fund (or at least part-fund) it themselves to retain autonomy when it comes to deciding what kind of wedding to have. Just make sure, if you do accept a kind offer from family, that both parties know what to expect from the deal from the get-go. It’s a much harder conversation to have once you’re knee-deep in planning.

So, should you follow traditions? Not for me to say, obviously - it's your choice…and I hope after reading this you’ll feel empowered to make those decisions for yourselves. I’d say the basic rule is, if you find a tradition you love by all means embrace it! It’s all part of the fun. But don’t let yourselves be guilted into following them just to please others. Stay true to yourselves and you’ll have an unforgettable day.

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