When you think of a wedding day, you likely think of the traditions involved such as the first dance, cake cutting, being walked down the aisle, etc. If you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, have you ever considered that you can simply skip whatever doesn’t mean anything to you?! If you’ve always dreamed of being walked down the aisle, or throwing your bouquet to all of the single ladies, PLEASE do it! I’m a big fan of making your own decisions for your wedding day, whether it means breaking the mold or keeping it classic!
However, if there’s a “wedding tradition” that doesn’t feel aligned with your vision for the day it’s 100% ok to skip it. As a wedding photographer, I’m sharing the origins of 5 common wedding traditions and alternatives for each one!
A couple not seeing each other until walking down the aisle used to be normal practice, but it’s more commonly being swapped with a first look. Did you know that this wedding practice comes from pre-18th century times when pre-arranged marriages were common? For a bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony was considered “unlucky”. This and the veil were ways to keep the groom from backing out of the wedding if he hadn’t seen his bride prior to the ceremony.
*Oof. Inhale a big deep breath of gratitude that we no longer live in pre-18th century times of arranged marriages.
Alternative: Do a First Look!
Instead of waiting to see each other until walking down the aisle, do a first look on your wedding day! You can read all about the pros of doing a first look on the blog. Ultimately, it allows you and your partner more of a private moment to see each other before the wedding ceremony. A first look also helps a ton with getting more photos done before the ceremony. I’ve photographed plenty of weddings either way and it always works out!
For more benefits of having a first look check out this blog post!
Another wedding tradition to rethink is being “given away” when you walk down the aisle. This is another wedding tradition that dates back to arranged marriages. Back then “giving away” the bride was more of a transfer of ownership and like a transaction. Young women were often married off in exchange for a “dowry”.
Thankfully this is another tradition that has shifted to be a special and emotional moment when the father walks his daughter down the aisle to her soon-to-be partner.
Alternatives: Change it up!
Maybe you don’t have a father figure in your life or you want to do something different. If you’ve been thinking of changing this tradition up, you could:
The bouquet and garter toss is a wedding tradition I’ve been seeing less of over the last couple of years. Do you know where the garter toss originated from? In the Dark Ages, wedding guests would tear off a piece of the bride’s clothing as a sign of “good luck”. As garters (worn to hold up stockings before elastic was common) became normal to wear this turned into the garter toss. Tossing the garter to someone was considered good luck!
The bouquet toss also goes back to 1700s England when having a piece of the bride’s clothing or touching the bride’s dress was considered lucky. After the ceremony, the single women would rush to the bride just to touch her dress or tear a piece off. To avoid having her dress destroyed, the bride would toss a bouquet into the crowd then run!
Can you imagine if having a piece of the bride’s dress was common practice today? This makes you feel thankful for the simple bouquet toss!
Alternatives: Skip it!
If including a bouquet and/or garter toss isn’t part of your wedding vision then skip it! If you’d still like to include a bouquet toss, you could have a separate bouquet made simply for the toss. You could also toss single stem flowers, so multiple people can grab a piece!
By skipping out on the bouquet and garter toss, you can allocate more time for open dancing or a different reception activity.
Surprisingly, having matching bridesmaids dresses isn’t a tradition just because people like to match. In Roman times, matching outfits were a sign of good luck. People also were afraid evil spirits might try to attend the wedding to curse the bride and groom. Bridesmaids would dress identical to the bride and would be a decoy in hope that the spirits would be confused and would leave the couple alone. Interesting right?!
Alternatives: Mix up the style!
The past couple of years the wedding world has been seeing wedding parties that mix colors, patterns, and styles of dresses. Switch up the bridesmaids dresses however you’d like! Pinterest is a great resource for visual inspiration for your wedding party. Check out my Pinterest here!
Today lots of couples are having alternatives to wedding cakes. Cupcakes, donuts, pie, and other fun desserts are now more common to enjoy at the reception.
The tradition of having a wedding cake comes from Roman times. To symbolize fertility, guests would break a loaf of bread over the bride’s head. The couple would share a few bites and guests would pick up leftover crumbs for good luck. Another wedding cake tradition comes from medieval England. The couple would try to kiss over a pile of baked goods to ensure a prosperous future! Eventually, this led to the tiered wedding cakes you see today.
Alternatives: Offer a variety of desserts!
There are so many fun alternatives to a wedding cake! You and your partner could still cut a wedding cake, but then have different desserts or skip the cake altogether. The options are limitless with donut walls, brownie bars, ice cream trucks, and more.
Another trend that I’ve been loving seeing is a champagne tower pour. The couple stands together and pours 1 or 2 bottles of champagne over glasses arranged in a tower. It’s always a fun photo opp and signals to your guests that it’s time for the party to begin.
Evidently a champagne tower pour could easily turn into a huge mess, so touching base with your venue manager, planners, bar/catering manager would be a great first step to see if it’s possible!
Overall, there are so many traditions that you might feel obligated to include into your wedding day. If a tradition doesn’t fit or sit right with you, then you can simply change it up or skip it all together! It’s fun as a photographer and even as a guest to see how a couples designs their day.
If there’s a wedding tradition that you did a fun alternative for or skipped all together, I’d love to hear about it! Send me a DM on Instagram!
I’m an elopement and wedding photographer based in Las Vegas! I would love to be a part of your dream day, so head to my contact page to get in touch!