In our super busy lives, it can feel like there’s very few occasions left to pause with any sense of ceremony, acknowledging life’s significant moments. Weddings are one such occasion, and with tradition and ritual often travelling side by side, weddings are a rich playground for both. Personally, we love traditions. Call us biased, but photographically speaking, they’re responsible for some of the most photogenic and fun moments on your big day. But we also really admire the couples that choose to break with them, or at least bend them a little. So for anyone whose ever wondered about the origins of such ‘must have’ moments or items of attire (or for anyone who simply doesn’t identify with them), we’ve shortlisted 10 traditions that are totally acceptable to re-consider (*just in case no one told you that you could).
Before Queen Victoria rocked a white wedding dress (back in 1840), wedding gowns weren’t traditionally white, they were simply your “best dress” (or an excuse to have something fabulous created). While the Queen wasn’t the first Royal to wear this shade for her nuptials, she is credited with sparking the trend that’s still going strong - nearly two hundred years later. And there is something undeniably special about wearing white (a testament to its longevity), but if you don’t love the shade, or if you never wear it in real life, don’t feel like it’s your only option come your wedding day. There is no obligation to uphold Queen Victoria’s fashion legacy! Consider instead tones of palest blush or ethereal silvers and greys (or gold for the daring). Many alternative tints are just as magnificent and timeless - you need only to look at Elie Saab’s back catalogue of Haute Couture highlights for all the inspiration you need.
Wearing a Veil
Not particularly worried about evil spirits finding you on your wedding day? Then you’re good to go…sans veil. Like many ‘traditions’ this one is born from superstition, with a veil intended to protect the bride from pesky ghosts. Now don’t get us wrong, we love a veil, particularly from a photography point of view. They’re ethereal and elegant and exquisitely feminine. But…if they’re not very ’you’, by no means feel pressured to wear one. Just look to Valentino or Zuhair Murad for a contemporary take on goddess like hair accessories (think gilded crowns or Helenic wreaths). Alternatively fresh flowers (think Rodarte, versus barefoot & bohemian), or a killer pair of chandelier earrings…did someone say wear again?
An All Female Bridal Party
Is one of your best friends a guy rather than a girl? No problem. Or maybe you and your husband share a tight inner circle of friends with a divide that isn’t as clear cut as ‘his friends’ vs. ‘your friends’, or male vs. female. Consider instead a bridal party of of ‘best people’. For the ceremony, mix it up with both men and woman flanking the bride and groom on either side.
Having A Bridal Party At All
Technically you only need to have witnesses at your wedding, with no requirement for a “bridal party” - and certainly no requirement for them to wear matching outfits! Bridal parties can be the most incredible support in both the lead up and on the day of the wedding (so do think carefully about doing away with this one!). However if you have an enormous family or circle of friends, and the very idea of ‘choosing’ fills you with a special kind of dread (not to mention anxiety about all the hurt feelings), then consider having no bridal party at all, officially speaking. This way, you can still enlist the help of your friends and family in a myriad of meaningful ways (morning-of preparations, attending dress fittings, ceremony readings, giving a speech) - without any drama. Some of the most romantic and memorable celebrations we’ve shot have just been about the bride and groom, hand in hand, side by side and not an entourage in sight!
Being ‘Given Away’ By Your Father
Not to say that this isn’t a super special moment between you and your dad, with the father & daughter relationship being a unique and special bond…but this tradition actually dates back to when women were considered ‘possessions’ to be owned by men, ie. your father literally handed you over to your husband. If that sits a little uncomfortably (!), why not have both your mother and father walk you down the aisle, representing a rite of passage shifting from the family you grew up with, to the new family you are creating through marriage. Or consider any significant ‘guardian’ figure in your life, perhaps a godparent, so that the symbolism of being given away represents more like a ’protective’ release than a ‘possesive’ one. Finally consider this…you don’t actually need to be ‘given away’ by anyone! You can walk confidently down that aisle solo, making it all about you and your future husband, eyes locked firmly on one another. No chaperone required.
A Diamond Ring
Yes, they are forever. And yes, they’e super beautiful, But symbolically speaking, so are some other pretty exquisite jewels. Historically, both Aquamarine and Sapphire represent marital happiness and harmony, while in Victorian times, snake rings dotted with ruby eyes, entwined in a circle symbolised the eternity of union. Choose a stone that resonates with you personally, both in colour palette and symbolic meaning, for a unique future heirloom, that feels intrinsically ‘you’.
Separating Your Guests At The Ceremony
Besides the fact that it’s a bit awkward when the chairs on one side of a ceremony are vastly under represented compared to the other (particularly in photographs!) - a marriage should represent a union of two people, and a coming together of their family and loved ones. Doing away with the tradition of a brides family sitting on one side and a grooms family on the other promotes some social mingling before the reception, and ensures that the bride and groom, no matter which way they’re facing out, can see a mix of familiar faces, surrounding them.
Your Bridal Party Standing Behind You
Also consider this at the ceremony…you’ve picked your bridal party because they’re your most loved humans, who you want to share your most significant moments with. Only during the ceremony, they’re standing behind you…which means they can’t see you (while you marry the love of your life through vows and first kisses) and you can’t see them. So why not having the bridal parties swap sides, with your lady squad positioned opposite you, behind the groom (and in your direct line of sight) and his gents looking straight at him.
Throwing the Bouquet
If at the reception, ’rounding up all the single ladies’ and asking the DJ to cue some Beyonce (for a spectacle we secretly suspect most single ladies dread) then feel free to skip this one all together. Every group of friends and social circle is different, so the best way to figure out if this one’s worth keeping in your program, is by asking yourself if you were attending your wedding, and were single, would you be excited to take part? There’s your answer.
Leaving on Honeymoon Straight Away
These days, it’s not unusual for modern couples to have friends and family scattered all over the globe, or at the very least, flying in from several states. It’s a rare opportunity to pause and celebrate together, and chances are that on the wedding day the moments for meaningful conversation will be scarce. A next-day brunch is a fantastic way to have more quality time with everyone, following the wedding, but if you can squeeze in some extra days, even better. A great option is a destination wedding, or even a ‘rural’ wedding just out of town, encouraging guests to spend 3-4 days over a long weekend - allowing more relaxed time together. The tradition of leaving in a haze of sparklers straight from the wedding itself to jet off on honeymoon (or even the very next morning) may leave some guests who don’t see you very often, a little sad at the missed opportunity. And considering it’s probably the only time you’ll have all those humans in one place, at one time, our best advice is to linger longer, to enjoy and soak it all up.
Images > All images Erin & Tara