Weddings have evolved considerably over time, in part due to the changing philosophies and priorities of the modern couple. From luxury micro-weddings to backyard barbecues, today’s couples prioritize intimacy over grandeur in an effort to create a personalized experience that speaks to their shared values.
With this shift in mindset, wedding traditions now look remarkably different from the long-lasting customs that we once thought would stand the test of time.
Marriage equality, multiculturalism, and an all-around desire for authenticity have escorted tired traditions out the door, replacing them with an opportunity for couples to create traditions that feel personal and unique to their love.
So what does this look like in practice? How can soonlyweds curate a celebration that speaks to who they are at their core?
Don’t be afraid to let go of what doesn’t serve you.
The modern wedding is about customization — you won’t find cookie-cutter celebrations that look like they’ve been pulled from a catalog. Instead, couples are quick to ditch the traditions they don’t feel will add to the experience.
Bri Marbais of The Bridal Finery reveals a few that are no longer making the cut: “We have seen couples opt-out of having a bouquet and garter toss. Couples are realizing that it makes for an awkward situation if guests do not choose to participate. Having the extra time to celebrate and enjoy the reception is more important to the couples than the outdated wedding traditions.”
A focus on guest experience has also put cakes on the chopping block, as explained by Bridal Bliss and Rock Paper Coin’s Nora Sheils: “Cutting the cake and feeding each other is slowly going away. It’s awkward, and quite frankly, no one wants to watch it!”
Simply put, there’s no reason to keep something in your wedding if you’re not feeling it!
Consider what matters to your loved ones.
While a garter toss might make some guests feel uncomfortable, some traditions may leave friends and family disappointed if left out. Special moments like family dances or toasts may not mean much to you, but accept that there may be pushback from loved ones.
“Every tradition needs to be carefully examined for its value to the couple,” says Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events. “If it doesn’t make you smile or cry (the good tears), then decide if it’s important or not. At the same time, don’t forget those that are important to you. A tradition may not be important to you, but dancing with you at your wedding may be very important to your parent! It’s OK to be gracious!”
Of course, it’s your wedding day, so you still have every right to plan it in the way you envision it. Just be mindful that certain decisions may lead to difficult conversations when setting expectations with others, so make sure to approach them with kindness and respect for their feelings.
Dig into the things you love most as a couple.
If you intend to create your own traditions, you’ll naturally want them to feel like they belong to you. So make it your own! Consider what is most important for you to put on display at your wedding — your favorite foods, music, movies, destinations, and other shared likes can all create an atmosphere that captures the essence of your relationship.
“Many couples go off the cuff and ignore traditions that bear no importance to them,” Sheils says. “Instead, they are infusing their personalities, their hobbies, the way they met, their heritage, and their expectations for the future together.”
For many, music plays an integral role in a love story, so creating a playlist that feels like an intimate mixtape between partners can start a meaningful tradition for a couple.
Marbais suggests: “When choosing the music for the wedding, couples should brainstorm which artists and songs they love and have held an important place in their relationship. Also, consider any live concerts they have seen together!”
Or if you want to take it up a notch and create some unforgettable memories, consider making it a group activity as O’Connell shares: “One of our families started a tradition of rewriting the lyrics to a popular song (the song changes for each wedding) to words representing the couple. Then the family gets up and performs it at the wedding.”
There is no right or wrong when it comes to wedding day traditions — there is only you, your partner, and what you feel comfortable including on your big day. So enjoy the freedom and embrace your creativity together to develop new customs that you’ll be able to pass down for generations. After all, isn’t that what marriage is all about?
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
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