Weddings typically have a lot of moving parts, but why do we do things the way we do? Some wedding traditions are rooted in rather bizarre ancient rites. Couples frequently opt out of some of the symbolism while others give in to family pressure because “it’s just what you do.”
But you know what’s cool about symbolism? You can symbolize anything you want. So if you’re hoping to bring your wedding into modernity without upsetting your stuffy aunt or traditionalist grandfather, we’ve got a few tips to update your rituals and make your wedding speak about the two of you!
Don’t feel like property that needs to be “given away”?
This comes up in so many conversations with our couples. Typically a father walks a bride down the aisle to symbolize his willingness to give his daughter away. As property. Like a business transaction. When you think of it that way, it’s more than a little off-putting, but what if your father is super important to you and you want him to walk you down the aisle? You just change the script. What if your father isn’t there, but you still don’t want to walk alone? Invite someone else who is important to you to stand by your side. Personally, I found myself in the latter position, so I asked my mother to step in because gender roles be damned! But I was also 30 years old and had been living on my own for years; I didn’t need to be given away, so I just changed the meaning of the whole thing. As my mother and I reached the altar, rather than handing me off and sitting back down, my husband’s parents stood up and we exchanged hugs with each other. Why? Because our families were becoming our family – one single unit – and it meant the world to both my husband and me to share that moment in front of our crew.
The wedding party stands for WHAT?!
There are a few different versions of what bridesmaids and groomsmen mean, but most historians pin the tradition of bridesmaids to ancient Rome where maids dressed like the bride to confuse evil spirits. So basically, you’re sacrificing your besties. Groomsmen apparently came about to help capture unwilling brides. Fortunately, kidnapping is a felony these days and most couples go into their wedding day actually wanting to be there. In general, wedding parties now exist to include the people you love who have supported you and your relationship and just made life more fun. (And thank goodness we’ve moved past that, “boys are only friends with boys and girls are only friends with girls” bit!) While it’s perfectly fine to opt out altogether, if you want to be surrounded by your closest friends and family, just make it about that. If someone wants to bring up those strange origins, just smile and remind them that we’re way past that.
Love, honor and … excuse me?
Traditional wedding vows can be a little … shall we say, patriarchal? Heteronormative? A whole lot of both? This is your wedding. Don’t stand up there and promise things you don’t believe for the sake of tradition. If it’s at all possible, write your own vows. In most states in the U.S., the only thing you have to say (legally) is that you’re actually agreeing to marry this person, but how you say it is up to you. Include personal tidbits and inside jokes if you want to. Hey, I promised my husband that we’d adopt all of the animals and go on all of the adventures. Find your own way of expressing to your partner that you want to spend forever *doing life* with them in the way you both want. It gives your guests a little insight into your relationship and a deeper feeling of connection to the commitment they just witnessed. It can give you an opportunity to laugh with your beloved as you get more and more reminders as to why this is your forever person.
Your wedding is your opportunity to communicate your love and commitment in any way you want. Traditions can be a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to nix the ones you don’t like, lean on the ones you love or make your own meaning for the things that fall in between. If you’re feeling conflicted on any of these rites and rituals, we’re here to help you write your own script and keep your amazing day flowing just the way you want it.