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  • Olivia De Santos

5 Ways to Update Common Wedding Traditions

Wedding ceremonies are some of the most universal elements to human society the world over, dating back centuries and centuries to celebrate the chosen r arranged marriages of millions of people. Rituals, both religious and secular, have been passed down through the generations which is both awe-inspiring and tiresome. I for one believe in customisation at every level of your wedding and that includes updating tired old traditions that just don’t gel with your personal values or wishes for your big day. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on these but here are some traditions I think we can afford to update to bring them into the 21st Century.

Groomsmaids and Bridesmen

Gosh, going straight in with the kill with this one. Okay, before we dive in here, let’s reflect on all of the wonderful changes that have surfaced over the past ten, or even five, years with regards to heteronormative discourse and gender identity. I am not a social justice warrior, so let’s not go there and I don’t want to inflame a gender war here BUT I do genuinely think that groomsmen and bridesmaids are a little outdated. Don’t get me wrong, in my previous video I referred to groomsmen’s suits and bridesmaids’ dresses to blend with your colour scheme, but who says that you can’t honour your best male friend by having him be the Man of Honour or that a groom can’t have groomsmaids? If you have a mix of male and female best friends then why not make up your bridal party with them? Even if you wanted your bridesmaids to all wear the same colour, you can totally achieve this with coloured men’s suits and matching buttonhole pieces if you want everyone to be uniform. I think if you have a mix of friends, you shouldn’t exclude the male members of your posse just because they aren’t wearing a dress. I know that the idea of groomaids and bridesmen are a bit radical, but when you think about it...why the hell not?

First look

The very established wedding tradition of not seeing each other before the wedding ceremony is slowly being challenged by the emergence of ‘first look’ moments, which appeared on the scene about 3 years ago. First looks are private moments between you and your fiancé before the wedding ceremony in which you see each other for the first time, all dressed in your wedding dress and/or suit. Often couples have this moment captured by their photographer and vidographer so that moment is cemented in memory forever. There is such a lovely intimacy in seeing each other, away from the rest of the party, so you can feel all of those feels out of public view. This is also a great option for those who are a bit anxious and nervy (like me!). It can calm all your nerves and spark excitement in you if you get to have a couple of minutes of quiet with your soon-to-be spouse, before the big day begins. You’ll be reassured you look amazing, and the rollercoaster of emotions happen away from prying eyes (except for maybe your photographer, which I do recommend). Of course, if you’d prefer to have your reactions seen by everyone, then keep the secret going for longer and see each other at the wedding ceremony as tradition dictates. But don’t overlook first looks.

Giving away the bride

The tradition of giving away the bride stems from our patricarchal history, in which the bride is literally ‘given’ away by her father to the new man in her life, her husband. It was very transactional, and some wedding ceremonies still have this element of the father of the bride actually handing the bride’s hand to her fiancé’s hand. Alot of people have scrapped this but the roots are still ever present. This one completely depends on your family situation. What if your Dad is not around? What if you have a better relationship with your Mum? What if you want to be walked down the aisle by your son to show that he is an active part of the wedding and your union? What if you are a strong, independent lady to walk herself down the aisle like the queen she is?! Whoever you choose to walk down the aisle with, it should be a completely personal decision that stems from within. Ignore the tradition here and go with your heart!

Scrap table plans

Okay, this point is a two-pronged problem. First is the ceremony. Traditionally, the bride’s family and friends sit on the left and the groom’s family and friends sit on the right. More and more, we’re seeing some couples throw out this idea of segregating the wedding party, allowing people to sit wherever they want. With this in mind, it would be good to create a sign, letting everyone know that there is no set seating for the ceremony. There are some lovely ways of saying this too. My personal favourite is:

Take a seat, either side, you are loved by both groom and bride

Now onto the second problem - seating for dinner. What if you want to throw out the idea of set seating completely? There is nothing stopping you from not having a set table plan for dinner service BUT I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you are having a seated service. Table plans make it easier for your catering team to know where those with special dietary requirements are located, so that Aunty Jacqui with the raging nut allergy doesn’t accidentally get a plate of satay chicken. Table planning also helps out the wedding planners and in-house organisers when it comes to placing high chairs and helping those who have access needs. For this reason, table planning, though time consuming and difficult, help avoid your catering service becoming a logistical nightmare.

However, there is one situation in which scrapping the dinner table plan works swimmingly. And that is with...

Street food

Yes, I just rolled two points into one! If you want to scrap the table plan for a more relaxed vibe, then why not have a street food style service with food stalls? Food stalls are not just for outdoor marquee weddings, although I will admit that it does work much better for outdoor weddings. Depending on the size and facilities of your venue, you can have food stalls indoors. This works best with a range of different catering options at each stall. I have done a wedding in which there was an american stall, serving hotdogs, hamburgers and potato salad; a spanish stall, serving four different types of paella and a moroccan stall serving koftkas and shawarma. Not only did guests love the idea of mixing and matching their food for a truly customised wedding meal, but it made the vibe very relaxed and lively, with people sitting wherever they wanted and meeting new people in the process. A stall style service also means that those with special dietary requirements can choose their meal accordingly. You can also get your caterer to make a special meal for someone, if none of your other options will cater to them. They can then simply go to the person serving food at the stall and make themselves known to the catering team to get the special meal that has been prepared for them.

That’s it for today’s wediquette video and blog. What did you think of these updates to wedding traditions? Will you be having a Man of Honour? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on my Youtube channel or my Instagram where we can keep the conversation going.

Next week we’ll be talking about where to start with your wedding planning.

Ta ta for now!