Good news: Traditions are not written in stone, and you can totally pick which you embrace (and which you skip) on your wedding day. Because while some traditions can be wonderful—think: a joyful first dance between a father and daughter, your adorable nephew toddling the rings down the aisle—others are…not so much. Many wedding traditions can feel constricting; things we feel we have to do instead of what we want to do.
While everyone should decide for themselves which traditions feel right and which feel cringey, we put together a list of the traditions we think should be retired—and those worth holding onto.
Traditions to Ditch
1. Garter toss
When was a groom sticking his head up his bride’s dress to remove a circle of fabric from her upper thigh—with his teeth, and in public!—ever a good idea? We promise that your guests are not enjoying this. Even the more tame garter rescue missions are not the coyly sexy events you think they are. For the love of your grandma forced to watch this awkward tradition at the table front and center, please skip.
2. White Dresses
If you want to wear a white gown, by all means, wear one. White is gorgeous, and because we so strongly associate the color with weddings, it’s almost become the only time you can wear head-to-toe white without people thinking you’re headed to the altar. But that’s the problem. We’ve come so far from the whole white equals purity and virginity stuff, let’s scrap this color constraint and instead wear whatever color dress—or non-dress!—makes you feel the most beautiful. Bonus: The industry knows you’re willing to pay top dollar for your wedding dress, so white gowns are the most expensive. You could save hundreds, or even thousands, by picking a dress in a non-white hue.
3. Diamond rings
The diamond industry has done a mighty-fine job of convincing us that a diamond is the one and only stone we should accept in our engagement rings. But there are so many reasons why a diamond may not be your best choice. There’s the conflict and violence in sourcing them, the premium price tag, and the aesthetic preference for a different stone—say, a striking red ruby or a luminous pearl. Or maybe you just don’t dig wearing rings. Sure, diamonds may be forever, but so is your right to choose what’s best for you.
4. Changing your name
Sisters have been doing it for themselves for a long time now, and we’ve established identities under our own—not our husband’s—names. If you’ve built a following, whether that’s at work or online, under your own name, there’s no reason to have to switch it up, unless you want to. As many as 20 to 30 percent of brides opt to keep their maiden names these days, with that number increasing for more professionally accomplished ladies.
5. The bride’s family paying for everything
Weddings are expensive, and the financial burden shouldn’t automatically fall upon the bride’s parents simply because they had the good fortune of having a daughter. So many factors should be involved in deciding who pays for what—the families’ financial situations, whether this is a first wedding, cultural beliefs, the couple’s orientation, and so many more—that the old adage of the father of the bride cutting a giant check is just that: old.
6. Throwing Rice
Back in the day, wedding guests threw grains of rice at the departing couple as a sort of fertility blessing/offering. The tradition is full of good intentions, but it’s possible you don’t want food thrown at you on your wedding day. This is completely valid, and there are other fun things you can do to announce your departure that don’t involve projectile basmati. Tossing flower petals, lighting sparklers, and blowing bubbles have become very popular alternatives, but you could always just slip out without the fanfare.
Traditions to Keep
1. Wedding speeches
Yes, these can get too long. They can be embarrassing. Wedding speeches can even become slurred attempts at a failed stand-up routine. But when done right, wedding toasts and speeches can be the highlight of the entire day. It’s a chance for friends and family to say a few (just a few!) words about the couple, their relationship, and their history together. These can truly be unforgettable moments that you want to have, so give them a chance to unfold.
We are all for cookie buffets, ice cream trucks, and pie bars at weddings. Really, the more sweets the better in our book. But there’s something about that showstopping, tiered wedding cake that screams celebration. Besides being delicious, a cake doubles as the ultimate reception centerpiece, inspiring enticing, sugary anticipation in all who gaze upon its glory. The cake is a wedding day icon for a reason, and when it’s not there, it feels like something is missing. Let them eat cake!
3. Getting your family involved
Weddings are one of two opportunities in life to get all your friends and family in one place, at one time. (Funerals are the other, and obviously don’t carry that same level of joy.) Involving your family in ways that are comfortable and make sense to you creates special moments, the kinds that you and your guests will remember long beyond the day itself. Maybe it’s having your teary-eyed dad walk you down the aisle, the groom spinning his mom around the dance floor, or your sister performing a song she wrote just for the two of you. Bringing those closest to you into your day is a tradition that will never go out of style.
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