Raise your hand if, at some point during your wedding planning, someone has told you what you NEED to include in your wedding day, or what you CANNOT do.
*raises hand high immediately* because SAME!
Planning a wedding or elopement should be a total reflection of who are as individuals, but also who you are together as a couple. That's what people are celebrating, right?!
Society, however, sometimes has other intentions. There are so many "rules" when it comes to planning a wedding and elopement that society has deemed "normal," or worse, the only way to have your day be considered a "real wedding."
Are your eyes rolling, too?
When my husband, Tre, and I were planning our wedding, we were CONSTANTLY being told not to do certain things, or that we were supposed to include more traditional aspects. Friends, family, it didn't matter - everyone's got an opinion. And hey, that's not to say that everyone has your best interest at heart! It's just become so normalized in society to tell people what they should and should not do, especially when it comes to weddings. It can put you in a tricky position as well, as you probably don't want to come across rudely and block out their opinions entirely, yet you also probably don't want to be confused any more than you already are with all the decisions that need to be made by you + your partner.
Here at The Francis Frames, I always encourage the couples I work with to do whatever the heck they want on their wedding day. Honestly, the more unique and unusual your wedding is, the better in my opinion; those weddings feel SO perfect for the couple because they stayed true to who they are and celebrated with out giving a shit about what others think. I am SO here for that!
Even in totally untraditional weddings, you may find yourself wanting to include some traditional aspects into your day, or perhaps you're just curious about how the heck these traditions came to be in the first place?!
Well, rest those Google-searching fingers, hunny, because I've got your back!
I've created a list of common wedding traditions and how they originated in hopes that it will help you gain some insight into the history of the many traditions we're automatically expected to include in our big day. By learning about 6 common wedding traditions and how they originated, it will help you know what's actually out there as an option to include in your day, and will also empower you to make a decision about whether or not you WANT certain traditions to be included in your wedding or elopement.
It's worth noting that I'll be focusing on wedding traditions from Western cultures specifically because that's where my expertise lays, although I do want to dive deep into traditions from other cultures as well, so let me know any recommendations you may have!
I also wanted to mention that, through my research, I've discovered that SO many of our common traditions were created out of fear and superstition, which I've found fascinating. I guess it make sense because marriages were often arranged back in the day, so everyone would be crossing their fingers and toes and do everything in their power to bring luck to the couples' arranged marriage. I imagine that's where a lot of the superstition was conceived. Today, the superstition has been eliminated from these traditions - or at least that's the consensus I've gathered from family and friends that I've spoken to about this topic - yet these traditions continue to play such a massive role in the wedding planning processes. I found this fascinating and wanted to include this little nugget, so bear this in mind as you read through the list and determine what traditions you like, or don't really enjoy.
Another aspect you'll notice is that many of these traditions are centered around a bride specifically. Now, we know that not all brides are the same, and ALSO that not every couple has a bride! I want to reiterate that every love is welcome here, and also that every tradition can be scrapped, or adapted, to suit each couple best. That's the ultimate goal throughout all of this!
Without further adieu, let's dive into 6 Common Wedding Traditions and their Originations!
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Sixpence in her Shoe
I feel like this is a good tradition to start off with because we have all heard of this one, I'm sure.
This phrase is actually sweet because it's all about prepping the bride for a successful marriage whilst also taking into consideration who she is as an individual (this can 100% be used for a groom, too - don't get it twisted).
Something Old was supposed to signify the bride's past.
Something New is supposed to be something that represents hope and well-wishes for her future.
Something Borrowed was supposed to be an item the bride borrowed from a happily-married couple in hopes that the good juju, or luck and happiness, would rub off on her and her marriage.
Something Blue represented something to bring her luck with fertility.
And A Sixpence In Her Shoe was, apparently, supposed to be given to the bride by her father just before walking her down the aisle, as a final token of good luck.
It was also tradition for these items to be gifted to the bride from different female friends and relatives, but again, you can definitely make this your own! You could collect all the items yourself to represent your personal view on your past and hopes for the future, and include a lucky charm of yours, whatever that may be.
This does not have to just be used for the bride either, as I briefly mentioned earlier. I would love to see grooms incorporate this into their day as well because hellooooooo, it's their marriage, too! No matter who you are, if you're getting married to your partner in crime, I think it'd be cute to incorporate this rhyme (see what I did there? hehe).
Matching Bridesmaid Dresses
Another tradition very much focused on the bride rather than the groom/couple as a whole, but c'est la vie.
It's very common for people to ask their wedding party to match what they're wearing - people nowadays want everyone to look put together and, well, to match, especially if they want to have their wedding party stand up at the 'alter' with them during their wedding ceremony.
However, this wedding tradition originated with the bridesmaids matching the BRIDE, which, these days, is generally viewed as a big no-no. Brides generally want to be set a part from their wedding party, not blended into it, so it's intriguing to know that this tradition started with all the bridesmaids wearing white dresses that even matched the style of the bride's.
Why? Because, back in the day, people were frightened that an evil spirit would come and possess the bride on her wedding day...seriously, I can't make this sh!t up haha! In an effort to prevent this from happening, bridesmaids would wear white dresses in a similar style to the bride's so that, should any evil spirits crash the wedding, the spirit would get confused, and either fly away out of frustration, or possess a bridesmaid instead. Who knew being a bridesmaid was so sacrificial?!
Very logical as you can tell (and very sarcastic if you can't), but come on, talk about being asked to do too much as a bridesmaid! Would you risk being possessed by an evil spirit to save your bff???
This tradition has transformed into the bridesmaids all looking similar, or wearing the same color/same color palette, BUT I have seen a few weddings where the wedding party matches the couple, and I love it! Wedding parties in all white, or even all black, is a vibe I'm here for. If you don't won't the attention to be all about you, which I know is something a lot of couples think about in the lead up to their wedding day, then you may want to consider including the original tradition into your wedding, and have your wedding party wear all white with you.
Avoiding Your Soon-to-be-Spouse Before the Wedding Ceremony
This tradition is one that I find couples to be the most passionate about, although more with intimate weddings than with elopements. The tradition of a couple not seeing each other on the day of their wedding, at least before the ceremony, originated, again, back when arranged marriages were the norm. Couples weren't allowed to see each other until the ceremony to, get this, prevent them from backing out before the ceremony began!
Now maybe that's your intention, too - power to ya - but I feel like the reason this tradition is still so popular is because people want this big build up for the ceremony. People love the drama the anticipation creates, and people also love to see an emotional partner up at the alter, watching their partner walk towards them down the aisle. Honestly, I get it! It's a sweet moment and a great photo opportunity. I think there's a common misconception, however, that any alternative to this tradition won't feel as special or emotional, which could not be farther from the truth. The first time any person sees their spouse-to-be dressed up in their wedding attire is bound to pull on some heart strings.
Couples can opt to get ready with their spouse on their wedding day, which brings a whole other emotional and beautiful aspect to their day. A more common and modern approach is to opt to have a first look. A lot of people think that this moment is just so that photographers can get good photos or something, which, I'm not going to lie, makes me laugh at. Trust me, your photographer doesn't need that moment to get good photos of you two on your wedding day! First looks are truly for couples to share that emotional, anticipated moment together in private, which is a rare occurrence on a wedding day! It relieves the pressure you may feel of having that kind of moment in front of a crowd of people, which is completely understandable as it's such a vulnerable experience.
Tre and I opted to do a first look on our wedding day and we both absolutely LOVED IT! We were originally on the fence about waiting until the ceremony, but the more we thought about it, the more we really just wanted to share that moment between the two of us (and our photographers + videographer haha). It was one our FAVORITE moments from our whole entire wedding day. Not only did it give us 20 minutes to just be alone together on our wedding day (something that is very rare), but it also helped us take a deep breath together before the ceremony, get out those nerves, and feel SO much more relaxed and comfortable. We both teared up during our first look, AND we both ended crying a lot during the ceremony as well, which we were both shocked about! So don't for a second think it makes your ceremony any less special or emotional because it's a totally different ball park.
Tradition has it that people should wear white to their wedding to signify their purity, aka to make it clear to their family + friends that they haven't had sex before marriage. Again, this one is more particular towards the bride, not the groom, which I find unfair, but that's a different subject for a different day.
This one is fairly obvious and relates directly to religion, so I feel like it's definitely a personal choice on how seriously you take this.
I personally am all for you living your best, most comfortable and enjoyable life before your marriage begins, whether that means sex or no sex, you do you. I am, however, a BIG fan of having a wedding outfit that is not purely just white. I personally did wear a white dress to my wedding, and I just feel like I totally missed an opportunity to have FUN with it and wear something more fun, colorful, playful, and, overall, more representative of my personality. I did love my dress, but I always think that if Tre and I ever renew our vows, I'm going for fun bridal vibes for sure.
Of course, this is such a personal preference and the choice is completely up to you! I think the key here is that 1, you actually DO have a choice about what your wedding outfit will look like, and 2, that if you've been toying with the idea of wearing something bold, a little funkier, and more unique on your wedding day, then you 100% should. Or at least have an outfit change for the reception so that you get the best of both worlds :)
White wedding outfits are classic, stunning, and snazzy though, too, so you can't go wrong either way! Again, this is a reminder to wear whatever you want on your wedding day that will make you feel like the badass you are!
Okay, this tradition's origination is hysterical.
Incorporating a wedding cake into a wedding day is, personally, a favorite detail of mine - I just love the nostalgic look and feel of photographs of couples cutting their cake on their wedding day, as it reminds me of the black and white photos you'd see in your grandparents' wedding album, and it gives me all the feels.
I'm a big fan of alternative wedding desserts as well, but I was curious to find out why a wedding cake was a big deal in the first place. Apparently it dates back to medieval times and, as cakes are made out of wheat, it symbolized fertility for the couple. It didn't stop there though - it was tradition to THROW THE WHOLE FRICKEN CAKE AT THE BRIDE! As if there would be a wheat, fertility osmosis or something that would occur!
As common as cutting a wedding cake together as a newly married couple is these days, it is still common to see couples smash their slice of wedding cake into their new spouse's face, which, hey, maybe that truly is the traditional way of doing things, given the wedding cake's origination! No matter how you slice it (sorry, couldn't resist the pun), cutting a wedding cake or dessert is a tradition you can decide to include or exclude if it's not really the vibe you're going for! If you decide to be real traditional and throw the cake at your partner...at least hire me to document it all for you haha!
Wedding Bouquets and Throwing The Bridal Bouquet
I can't be the only one who LOVES giant-ass bouquets! Traditionally they weren't made out of flowers, but rather garlic, herbs, and spices. It was said that these plants would ward off evil spirits (have you spotted a theme yet?). Others believe that bouquets helped hide body odor - slay!
So then why throw the bouquet to a bridesmaid? Well, wedding guests used to want to touch the couple to receive some of their good luck so that they could get married someday, or have a healthy love life, etc. So to help prevent people from touching the couple all the time, it became tradition for the bouquet to be tossed to single, female friends. Legend has it that the female to catch the bouquet would be the next to marry.
Similarly, garter tosses used to happen in the actual bedroom of the couple on the night of their wedding! Guests would literally be in the room with the newly married couple, snagging articles of clothing from them as they couple stripped and things got heated in the bedroom. The point of guests snagging articles fo the couples' clothing was to both keep their own love life in check apparently, and also to get some lucky love vibes from the newlyweds. Again, it began to feel like an invasion of privacy for obvious reasons, so the garter began to be tossed into a sea of single men during the ceremony instead.
Now, I personally fall under the group of people who prefer no bouquet or garter tosses at weddings because I feel like it's still quite invasive, but again, to each their own! I've seen some couples get pretty creative with this, yet I'll also say that this tradition is one that I see less and less of each year.
Bonus Tradition: Wedding Speeches
I put a question box up on my Instagram to ask what traditions The Francis Frames community loved, and also which ones they're not the biggest fans of. Wedding speeches got a mixed review, so I decided to look into how they originated, as it was something I had never considered looking into before.
I found an interesting blog post that is dedicated to this topic entirely, so I figured I'd send you there for the most in-depth explanation for this one, as they said it all better than I can!
To summarize, there are a few different ideas of how this tradition originated, including to prove the host hadn't poisoned the wine they were toasting with; offerings to Greek Gods; toasting to good health; and sticking toasted bread in wine. Seriously, the article linked is a whole journey in itself, so definitely go give it a read!
And with that, I'll wrap up this journal entry of 6 wedding traditions and how they originated.
Which of these traditions surprised you?! Has learning about these wedding traditions and their originations swayed your decision about whether or not you want to include them in your wedding day at all? I find this topic so intriguing and would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts!
Also, with SO many wedding traditions out there, I could definitely make a Part 2 to this journal entry! Let me know what other wedding traditions you'd like to know the originations of!
Thanks so much for reading, and speak soon!
The Francis Frames