Wedding Traditions of the Past

We all know what it is like looking back at weddings of the past and seeing all the things we wouldn’t dream of having at our modern wedding. Ever seen the questionable bridesmaid dresses your parents had for their wedding? Yeah, that!

Wedding Traditions of the Past

Wedding Traditions of the Past & Present

But while the fashion and hairstyles were trendy for the time, there are a lot of wedding elements that are fading out for other reasons, and are very unlikely to come back. If you want a glimpse of what wedding traditions of the future will look like, or want to get a look ahead to avoid your children looking back at your wedding with a raised eyebrow, this is the article for you.

Wedding Traditions: Language

Marriage ceremonies have been taking place for centuries, and the religious language that is largely used today has been carried through the time periods. However, in an increasingly irreligious society, non-religious wedding vows are on the rise and the language we use in our services is being reviewed - even at religious weddings.

In the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, later the Prince and Princess of Wales, Diana famously insisted that the word “obey” be omitted from the vows. Instead, she promised to “love him, comfort him, honour and keep him”. Their children, Prince William and Prince Harry, and their respective brides Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, also omitted the word “obey” from their vows. 

In a society of equals between the sexes, brides - even royal brides - are amending the wording of their vows to reflect how weddings are now made out of love, not as an arrangement between two families.

Wedding Traditions: Giving Away

Continuing the theme of language, the tradition of fathers or brothers walking their daughters or sisters down the aisle is a long running one. But where did it come from? 

Well, women were previously seen like a form of property, who were dependant on men to care and provide for them. They were to respect the wishes of their fathers - or brothers in the absence of a father - until she was married. Upon this marriage, her father or brother was effectively handing her over to another man to claim ‘control’ of her.

It was from this social arrangement that the term “giving away” came to be known. However, modern women are doing away with this terminology in favour for “walking me down the aisle”. This simple shift in language reclaims the act of being accompanied down the aisle from the man to the woman, now asking the man if he would do her the honour or favour, rather than her needing to be escorted.

This was famously displayed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, when Meghan met Prince Charles half way down the aisle. Meghan’s father did not attend the wedding, leading Prince Charles to offer to perform the tradition in his absence. Wanting to show she didn’t need a man to walk her down, but accepting the kind offer, they agreed she was walk the first half unaccompanied and meet Prince Charles half way.

Wedding Traditions: Environmental Consciousness

As the world increasingly becomes aware of the climate crisis and the impact we humans have on the planet, couples are taking the environment into a lot of decisions - and we mean a lot. This definitely isn’t a fad or phase, but a considerable change in the wedding industry that will continue and rise.

Many of you might have already noticed rules about confetti being initiated by couples and venues in recent weddings. This is because conventional confetti - made from paper or plastic - became problematic. Venues increasingly struggled to clean confetti from the ground (paper confetti on the ground, rain soaking it, then the sun drying it to the ground, doesn’t make for easy cleaning). Instead, couples and guests are opting for natural confetti, such as hole punched pieces from dry leaves, or dry flower petals.

But eco-friendly wedding trends don’t just stop at confetti. Couples are opting for planet-friendly wedding favours such as flower seeds, wedding invitations that are recyclable and biodegradable balloons.

Wedding Traditions: Throwing The Bouquet

wedding tradition bouquet throwing

Seeing this wedding tradition on the list might cause you to pause and wonder what is wrong with it, but we’ll explain why more and more brides are ditching this tradition.

As previously mentioned, the act of marriage was not always been kind to women and many of the wedding traditions that have emerged in western weddings tie into this. That includes the throwing of the bouquet. What might seem as a nice girly thing to do is now being seen as a bit humiliating for women; gathering all of your single or unmarried female friends into a group and making them try to jump and catch your bouquet for the superstition of being ‘the next one to marry’. Is there an equivalent for single and unmarried men? There isn’t. For this reason, many modern brides are choosing not to incorporate it into their day.

Wedding Traditions: Wedding Gifts

This is one that both guests and couples will probably be glad to see the back of, and we can already see the big shift in attitude when it comes to gifts.

Speak to someone who got married before the 1990s and you’ll likely hear how they received pots and pans from their Aunt Sarah, or a toaster from their cousin. Speak to someone who got married a few years ago and you’re very unlikely to hear that they received any items like this as gifts.

This is because couples getting married today have typically been living together for years before tying the knot. Marriage was once since as the start of a chapter with a partner they’d never been living with (remember, society put a lot of emphasis on ‘no sex before marriage’, even if it wasn’t followed), and therefore getting hitched marked the first time they would be cohabiting with their loved one. This meant they needed items to furnish their home, and Aunt Sarah was happy to supply you with pots and pans, while Aunt Elizabeth might have given you a bedding set.

Today, this act of giving household items for wedding couples is quickly dying out. In fact, almost all forms of wedding gift giving is declining. Currently, many wedding couples will open a fund for people to financially donate to the honeymoon, or give to a charity, but even this act is phasing out.

Wedding Traditions: Animals For Show

Some of you might read that title and say “really? Was that even a thing?”. The answer is yes.

From petting zoos with llamas, arriving in a horse-drawn carriage, or releasing doves after saying “I Do”, animals have been featured in weddings in a variety of ways. Not any more.

Unless it involves your pet, such a dog being the ring-bearer, the use of animals in weddings is fast dropping out of fashion. Whether that is because of rising awareness of animal rights or the novelty wearing off, couples are opting to keep their day strictly human-only.

wedding tradition bouquet throwing

Wedding Traditions: Extended Guests

Once upon a time, weddings were an entire family affair and the exclusion of a relative - no matter how distant - could be enough to cause an internal family fall out. Your parents would expect you to invite your grandmother’s third cousin because she attended your christening twenty years ago and, despite not seeing you since, she’d be upset if you didn’t invite.

Who cares about grandma’s third cousin? That’s the attitude modern couples are having when creating their guest list, no matter how big or small.

What was always a family political minefield is now a celebration for the couple to be surrounded by their nearest and dearest; colleagues, friends from university, neighbours they socialise with are all taking the place of distant relatives in the pecking order.

If this is one you’re considering but not sure of implementing, consider the following; weddings used to be a cheap affair, held in the local church, reception in the village hall for a small fee, and buffet food prepared by mums and aunts. This isn’t the case any more. Weddings are expensive, at an average cost of £100 per guest. Are five distant relatives you barely speak to worth £500 of your money?

Wedding Traditions: Asking Permission To Marry

Linking back to what we said about the ‘ownership’ of women passing from fathers to husbands, the tradition of asking the father for permission to marry his daughter has been ingrained in our culture for a very long time. But that is now changing.

Modern couples have typically been dating for a while before getting engaged, and they know when the time is right for them. If they want to get married, they no longer need anyones permission and this has seen a huge fall in the number of grooms asking their partner’s father for permission to propose.

It is her decision to make, not her father’s.

Wedding Traditions: Name Changes

Another tradition steeped in society’s view of women that they belong to a man is the changing of last names. This act essentially marked women with the last name of the man she ‘belonged’ too, and that just won’t do for many modern brides. If you think that we’re being over-the-top about this, ask yourself why it is called a “maiden” name when referring to your pre-married name.

In an era when women are forging their own paths, careers and ambitions, many are choosing to keep their own last name and the good reputation linked to it, rather than adopt the last name of their husband.

Many couples are looking for alternative ways; men taking the surname of their wives, double-barrelling to include them both, adopting entirely new last names, or merging them together like American actors Carlos Pena and Alexa Vega, who both adopted the last name PenaVega.

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