Wedding Traditions Reconsidered

Traditions and customs are a big point of discussion for most couples as they outline their wedding day. Often times, family & friends have opinions to contribute on the subject and this can lead to a couple making decisions to include or not include specific elements that they might not want to. 

 There’s definitely something to be said for tradition. There’s something magical about participating in a custom that has been passed down from generation to generation. Tradition has its place in our lives and special meaning to certain people, so don't throw it all out the window… unless, of course, that's what you feel in your heart you want to do! When it comes to one’s wedding day, couples should do whatever they want to and not feel compelled to do something just for the sake of tradition.  

 Let’s explore the origins of some time-honored wedding traditions and consider some alternatives in case you want to try something different.  

The Bouquet & Garter Toss 

Beautiful rustic style in wedding decor. Closeup view of groom wearing blue shirt, vest and brown bowtie holding wedding flowers in hands. Vertical color photography.

The Tradition 

The bouquet toss and garter toss traditions are said to have originated in Europe in the 14th century when touching the bride was considered good luck. Guests would try to tear a piece off of the bride's dress as a lucky charm. In order to save herself from literally having her dress ripped off of her, brides started throwing their bouquets into the crowd to deter them. They would then make a getaway to the wedding chamber with their new husband. Once safely inside, the groom would toss the garter out of the chamber door. This tradition evolved over time to the modern-day bouquet and garter toss where catching these items is seen as good luck and may determine who is next to wed.  

The Alternative 

The bouquet and garter tosses are less common today and, frankly, are falling out of fashion.  

Here are some alternatives to this tradition couples should consider: 

Compositions of flowers decorated with pink hydrangeas, roses, white carnations and greens, which is located stands on arch for wedding ceremony. wedding decor.
  • Give the bouquet or other flower arrangements to guests of honor, such as grandparents, parents or guests who have special meaning in the couple's life. You could also honor the couple who has been married the longest or the next couple planning to get married in attendance at the wedding.   

  • For small weddings, host a flower ceremony. Take a special bouquet, walk around to each guest, hand each one a flower and say something special or simply thank them for being in attendance.  

  • Use a wedding bouquet to honor loved ones who have passed. Put your bouquet in a vase at the reception surrounded by photos of friends and family who have passed to serve as a reminder of them. 

Wedding Cake 


The Tradition 

Groom Figurines on Wedding Cake

The wedding cake has come a long way from its origins in ancient Rome where marriages were sealed when the groom smashed a barley cake over the bride's head—this is probably where the practice of smashing cake in each other's faces came from. And thank goodness the wedding cakes have evolved past the 17th century British "Bride's Pye" made of cockscombs, lamb testicles, sweetbreads, oysters and spices. Due to the special and expensive nature of cakes, and to bring good luck from their past to their futures, couples would save the top tier of the cake until the christening of their first child. Due to the white color of sugar, it became a natural color for traditional cakes.  

The Alternative 

Here are some ideas how to update the traditional wedding cake: 

Bite-sized Desserts isn't a new idea, but it's still a great one. Bite-sized desserts either placed on a display or, even better, tray passed with coffee and champagne to guests on the dance floor, are a great way to get both a variety of options and to personalize the sweet choices. Custom Plated Desserts; When someone thinks of a wedding, they don't expect a dessert option such as an ice cream sundae; however, this dessert option is quickly becoming a modern favorite! Why not surprise guests with a favorite ice cream treat plated following entrees. Interactive Dessert Stations give guests sweet and fun. Crepes, s'mores, churros, milkshakes (add booze to up your game), waffles, custom fried on-site donuts, funnel cakes or cotton candy all make for engaging and delicious dessert options.  

Waiting to See Each Other Until the Ceremony 

 The Tradition 

Marriage used to solely be a business transaction. A father would promise his daughter to another family's son and in exchange would receive gold, jewels, land and titles. The first time the bride and groom would see each other was at the actual wedding ceremony. One of the main reasons for this was to keep either party, but mostly the groom, from bolting if they didn't find the other attractive.  Nowadays, the custom is practiced with the superstition that seeing each other on the wedding day before the ceremony is bad luck. But actually, most of the world’s wedding couples already see each other as part of the wedding day process. In many cultures and religions, couples meet before the ceremony for other types of traditional rituals such as tea ceremonies, ketubah signings and garland ceremonies.  

Newlywed Couple on Antique Bench

The Alternative 

Either you see each other, or you don't. Think about it. Most of your wedding day is about being surrounded by your family and friends. Getting portraits and wedding party photos out of the way prior to the ceremony gives the photographer and the couple time to capture all the photos that are most wanted without feeling crunched for time.  Although a few additional photos will still need to be snapped after the ceremony, the couple can join in at cocktail hour. Why skip a part of the day that so much time and money has been spent on to make it perfect?  If the “First Look” is the first thing following having hair and makeup done and getting dressed, then a couple won't haven't ruined their pristine look in the heat, snow, rain, tears, etc. It's also more intimate because it is just the couple alone.  

The Wedding Party 

 The Tradition 

The tradition of a wedding party can be traced back to ancient Rome. During that time period, for a marriage to be considered legally binding, 10 witnesses had to be present. To ensure the right number of people bore witness, maids and men stood by the bride and groom. But because the ancient Romans were so superstitious the bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed identically to the couple to protect them from evil spirits. These days, the wedding party tradition continues. Couples choose to incorporate close relatives and their best friends as bridesmaids, groomsmen, attendants, grooms-ladies and bridesmen. Wedding parties come in all different sizes and compositions. Ultimately, these guests of honor are there for support and companionship. 

The Alternative 

Gay Couple Cutting Cake Together on Wedding Reception

 Perhaps just having one attendant, such as a Maid of Honor or Best Man, feels right to you. With the advent of marriage equality, mixed gendered wedding parties are becoming increasingly common. Are you a woman with a male best friend? It's totally acceptable to have him stand next to you. Love knows no gender. Gone are the days of matchy-matchy… and this is a great change! For one, mixing colors and textures looks gorgeous in your photos (and the photos are the thing you'll have forever!). Also, your friends and family will be happier wearing something that they feel comfortable in. Giving guidance is always ok but allowing for each person to choose the specific design of their attire is a great way to have a happy wedding party! 

Justin Ayars