Exposed: The Ugly Truth About Wedding Traditions
We are a generation of self proclaimed rebels; we express our individuality loud and proud. We have taken it upon ourselves to disrupt just about all aspects of life as our parents, and their parents, knew it to be. Astonishingly though, we still avoid the big questions when it comes to weddings: why the customs and traditions from thousands of years ago are still relevant and whether they should be practiced at all.
When you imagine about your wedding, what do you see? Maybe a stunning, sexy (and expensive!) white dress that would fit in on any red carpet. Or maybe you see the First Dance between you and your now husband/wife/spouse, and, naturally, it is perfectly choreographed and perfectly romantic. Perhaps you see a big, gigantic, drool-worthy cake with multiple layers, sugar flowers, chocolate lace and a surprise inside that is only revealed after you take part in an over the top cake cutting ceremony. Surprise! Fucking sequins in the cake!
Hold up a sec; what if none of that is actually representative of who you and your partner are? What if you don’t even like cake? Or you think spending thousands of dollars on a dress you’ll only wear once seems a bit frivolous given you wanna take a fabulous trip to Hawaii next year? Or maybe you and your partner find only stress and anxiety when you think about dancing solo together in front of an audience of loved ones, which begs the question, are you planning your wedding, or someone else’s?
What are you supposed to do when honouring your true purpose for why you’re even having a wedding doesn’t fit with the typical framework that we’ve come to associate with those big white wedding traditions?
See, when you go to a wedding (or even think about a wedding) there are traditions and typical rituals you expect to experience. Someone walking down a long aisle to some romantic-and-tear-provoking music, a wedding party that is evenly split between beautifully coordinated men and women, and of course, that First Kiss moment. It’s perfectly normal that you would think this way because we naturally associate these with the status quo when we think about weddings, based on our cultural experiences—like from any wedding scene in any Hollywood film for example. We expect these proceedings and vignettes so much so, that if a wedding is missing any of these items it feels like it is somehow wrong.
What I find so peculiar about these traditions, these perceived wedding “rules,” is that we often aren’t sure why we carry them out in the first place. In fact, it’s not uncommon that these customs are not actually traditions in the traditional sense of the word, but rather they have been fabricated by clever business owners and their marketing teams.
This is where your own plans to have a kick-ass, fun AF, and out the box wedding might get sticky. Because the wedding planning checklist you originally downloaded after a quick Pinterest search said something about needing to “find your something borrowed, something new, and something blue…”, and though your eyes rolled so far back into your head, you almost passed out, due to the powers vested in the social constructs of cultural expectation, part of you now automatically thinks that this is just what you’re supposed to do.
We’ve become overly attached to the typical wedding format. But, when you take time to think about it, you might find yourself wondering “What do these rituals really even mean?” And, whether that meaning actually resonates with you and your partner in the relationship you’re experiencing today.
When you look into it, most of the rituals we find in modern weddings—the things we call “traditions”—aren't exactly traditions in the way that you might think. When you look into most of their origins they tend to fall into one of two camps. The first find their origins in old customs dating back as far as the early Roman times (that was a seriously long time ago btw), like the wearing and lifting of the veil, bridesmaids, and even bridal bouquets. And the second have simply been fabricated by the folks behind the marketing campaigns designed to generate more money, status, and importance within the world of weddings. (Because of course, you need an engagement ring and a wedding ring, the idea that one just won't do was born out of a clever marketing campaign by Debeers Diamonds in 1962. Gotcha!)
The truth is, that many of these traditions have either been resurrected from century old customs or just plain made up in order to give weddings some profitable substance. It’s no coincidence that the first appearance of these new wedding “traditions” just happened to coincide with the rise of Mad Men style mass consumerism of the 1950s.
Why did they do this exactly? Well, in years gone by a wedding meant leaving your parents’ home for the first time to move into a brand new home with your brand new spouse. BIG. LIFE. CHANGE. But today, most couples already live together before marriage, so the transition from unmarried to married is no longer as significant as it used to be. It’s not that the decision to be married is without weight, but there likely won’t be anyone carried over the threshold of your new marital home, and you probably don’t need to register for fine china and new bedding from Bed Bath and Beyond to fill it with. TBH, the day to day happenings won't change all that much after the wedding. You’re still you, and your partner is still them. You’ll still wake up and put your socks on one at a time, you’ll still listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade on repeat. Life continues on. But that’s not exactly a compelling marketing angle when it comes to selling products and services is it?
“You’re getting married! Not much is going to change, actually, but don’t you think you should have your friends buy you these 800-thread-count Egyptian cotton bedsheets?”
So yeah, besides the fact that we have developed a sentimental attachment to them, often these “traditions” have little to no real cultural meaning.
Here’s my hot take: as you make your way through your own wedding planning journey you should absolutely question everything you find on your wedding To-Do list. If something doesn’t feel right there’s a good reason for that—it probably doesn’t mean anything to you! Do you know what I mean? Weddings should be an opportunity to pause and take a moment to honour your relationship with integrity and with meaning, but instead what you hear when you start planning a wedding is that you need to follow this strict wedding blueprint of traditions, and if you don’t then it means that you’re doing it wrong.
But, it’s actually THAT sentiment that’s wrong, in my opinion. Because there are absolutely no rules about what you have to include because this entire day is yours to design as you please. This is your wedding and you should feel inspired to design your own rituals, not just blindly follow along with these weirdo ones some Romans made up thousands of years ago.
Your wedding, your ritual.
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