Whether you hate the idea of a traditional wedding or simply want to take certain aspects and modernise them, we have collated 10 of the best ways to revive some outdated wedding traditions, allowing you to express your personalities and make your guests feel more involved in your big day...
1. Ceremony Seating
Tradition: The earliest recordings of marriages document the alliance of two families; creating economic and political relationships. Because of this, each family would sit on a dedicated side of the aisle. Nowadays, there is less of a divide between families; with couples typically living together before marriage and families melding together throughout the relationship prior.
Modern take: Less couples want their guests to be divided. Some because there is an uneven split in invitees (making the ceremony would look lop-sided), some because their families have already blended, and some because they don’t want the day to feel stuffy and forced. Whatever the reason, more and more couples are saying ‘pick a seat, not a side; you’re loved by both the groom and bride’, giving greater freedom to the guests and reassuring them that the marriage is not starting with a divide.
2. The Wedding Cake
Tradition: A 3-tiered fruit cake has long been the tradition - classically because it was a favourite, is sturdy, and kept well (like, really well!). A portion of the wedding day would be dedicated to the cutting of the cake: serving the bottom tier to guests, giving the middle tier for them to take away, and saving the top tier for the first anniversary of the newlyweds (I told you it keeps well!).
Modern take: Cupcake towers, donut walls, cheese towers, and champagne towers are all being favoured over the traditional wedding cake as something more interactive and fun for the guests to actually enjoy. Some couples are ditching the cutting of the cake portion of the day altogether, as they would rather maintain the flow of the evening.
Plus, fruit cake is not half as popular now as it was in recent history.
3. The Guest Book
Tradition: Guests would sign their well-wishes in a guestbook for the newlyweds to take away with them following the ceremony. This would primarily be a sweet memento of the day, a reminder of all who came, and, often, an excuse to sit down and soak in the kind words of your guests with your spouse.
Modern take: How about buying a magnum of your wedding wine and asking every guest to sign it? This will make a statement feature piece at the wedding and will be something you can showcase for years to come (and maybe open on a future anniversary?). Some companies even sell display bottles, so you wouldn’t have to worry about the health and safety of people handling a large, expensive, and heavy bottle of wine.
One of our preferred suppliers, Nyetimber, an internationally-acclaimed award-winning English sparkling wine company, sells their most popular wine, the Classic Cuvee, in half, bottles, Magnums (1.5L), and Jeroboams (3L). Within their wedding packages, Nyetimber also offers for couples to personalise their wine bottles - so not only could it have your guests’ signatures and well-wishes, it could be dated and decorated for added effect.
Here at Melt, we were lucky to experience a wine tasting with Nyetimber just last week and are excited to be working with them more in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for a Nyetimber Blog Post coming very soon!
Other ideas include giving guests a prompt for them to write you both a message (or question, or date idea) to be stored in a bottle and opened on a forthcoming anniversary, or providing a photobooth or polaroid-style camera and a sharpie for guests to snap some pics and write a message to you.
Again, these are more interactive things for your guests to do and can be more interesting for you as a couple to experience in the long run.
4. First Dance
Tradition: The first dance is reserved for the newly-weds; the second for the father of the bride and the bride (the groom may also decide to dance with the mother of the bride); the third is for the groom’s parents to dance with the couple and the bride’s parents to dance together; before the dancefloor begins to open up to the rest of the party. Tradition would have the bridesmaids and groomsmen be the first the join, with each groomsman sharing a dance with the bride and the bridesmaids with the groom, and the remainder of the party to follow.
Modern take: That list of dances is overwhelming to a lot of people - it felt a lot to write, so I can’t imagine having to dance it. Whilst some couples are opting to ditch the first dance completely, others are reducing the number of ‘spectator’ dances down to just one and then inviting everyone onto the dance floor before dancing with any other important members of the party.
An alternative to the first dance that I personally love is a last dance. Taking the time away right at the end of your day to spend the last few minutes with your partner in your post-wedding glow. Soaking it all in and literally saving the last dance for them.
5. The Wedding Party
Tradition: Historically, bridesmaids and groomsmen have been in place to protect the bride and groom from evil spirits, jealous suitors, and unwanted guests. It wasn’t uncommon for the bride to be kidnapped on her wedding day, so the primary role of the wedding party was to prevent this from occurring, whether that be through physical protection or acting as a decoy. Nowadays, wedding parties are made up of those closest to you - best friends, siblings, etc. - who are to help and support you throughout the planning process and the day itself.
Modern take: This one is slightly less of a ‘modern take’ and more of a public service announcement. Your wedding is YOUR wedding and it can look however you would like it to. If you have two best friends, you can have two maids of honour/best men. There is nothing to say you can’t have a bridesman, a groomswoman, a bridesmate or a groomsmate - depending on how they identify themselves. Do not let yourself be restricted by traditional party labels - rename your wedding party if you think it doesn’t suit you (the ‘I Do Crew’ is a popular choice) or get rid of it altogether (an increasingly popular choice, believe it or not). Weddings are far less formulaic nowadays and people identify a lot more freely than they did historically. Give yourself the same flexibility to personalise your day however works best for you.
6. The Morning of the Wedding
Tradition: For a long time, it has been believed that it is bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other on the morning of the wedding. The first look would be as the bride walked down the aisle, with the groom standing at the altar.
Modern take: First looks are becoming ever-popular, allowing the couple to see each other privately before the wedding and creating another opportunity for photographs. Some couples are even choosing to read private vows to one another, saying the most heartfelt of messages in private before their ceremony in front of their loved ones.
7. Legal Marriages
Tradition: Religious and civil ceremonies, conducted in their relevant approved premises with an approved officiant, legally bind a couple following the signing of a marriage schedule (which is then sent to the local register office and added to the marriage register).
Modern take: More and more couples are moving away from religious and civil ceremonies and are, instead, opting for officiant-led ceremonies. These are not legally binding, but are seen as more flexible in their overall approach: the drama, location, and officiant can all be tailored to the couple. This means a couple would still have to legally register their marriage before or after their wedding day - although this is not a factor that deters many.
Tradition: As women have spent years being seen and not heard, wedding speeches have been dominated by the men of the occasion - the Father of the Bride first, then the Groom, and finally the Best Man. There are a few factors that make this an outdated standard: Not every wedding involves men; not every wedding party looks the same; oh, and women have voices…
Modern take: Brides, bridesmaids, members of the ‘I Do Crew’ and other family members are given the opportunity to deliver a speech nowadays. Some couples even open the floor for anyone to say something. Whilst your wedding planner may not love this due to the logistical nightmare when arranging timings, we think it’s a beautiful moment to give to your guests. Alternatively, you can save your guests from lengthy, drawn-out messages and leave the open mic for the rehearsal dinner.
9. Being ‘given away’
Tradition: Dating back to arranged marriages and marriages that joined together two families (as aforementioned), it was customary for the Father of the Bride to give his daughter away, presenting her to the man who was now to take her and look after her.
Modern take: Again, your wedding can look however you want it to. We know family isn’t quite as cut and dry as we would like it to be - it’s a complex thing and no two families look the same. If you were raised by a single parent, a grandparent, a different legal guardian, or feel a strong connection with someone completely different there is nothing to say that they can’t give you away. Alternatively, you might think the concept of giving someone away is unnecessary and doesn’t fit with you as a couple. Why not consider walking yourself down the aisle? Or walking down the aisle together?
10. Bouquet and Garter Toss
Tradition: The bouquet toss has been a way of signifying who would next be wed; lining up all the single women at the wedding and seeing who should catch it. Similarly, the garter toss lines up the bachelors of the wedding as the groom removes the garter with his teeth and throws it to them, symbolising which bachelor is next to be wed.
Modern take: In a post-feminist world, many of these traditions are seen as problematic (did you read the ‘giving away’ one??), but we think all hope is not lost. Whilst many completely disregard the need for a garter toss, people are becoming more imaginative with a bouquet toss (and some of the ideas are quite sweet). One example we’ve loved is asking all married couples to take to the dance floor and the DJ asking those who are married 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. to sit down. The last couple standing will, in theory, be those that have been married the longest and the bouquet may be presented to them - as a sign of hope, respect, and well-wishes.
Have you got a wedding tradition you’d like us to modernise? Or an additional suggestion for the ones we’ve already mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Siobhan Tinnion
Event & Marketing Manager
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