Have you ever wondered about some of the strange wedding customs and traditions we all accept without understanding why? Things like throwing rice at the newlyweds as they leave the wedding ceremony. And, maybe you’ve wondered why the bride tosses her bouquet. Also, there’s probably a reason all the bridesmaids are dressed alike. What’s up with that? Today we’ll take a deep dive into some of the strange customs and traditions that occur at nearly every wedding. We’ll also highlight some of the current and emerging trends happening at today’s weddings that are poised to become tomorrow’s strange wedding customs and traditions.
Old: Throwing rice
You don’t see this one as often today. But, if your parents or grandparents were married in a church, synagogue, or mosque, there’s a good chance they have a photo on the steps being showered with rice. This Celtic tradition was meant to shower the couple with good wishes of fertility and prosperity. Other cultures have similar traditions to bestow joy and luck just after they’re announced as a married couple.
New: Glow sticks, petals, and birdseed
These days only about 20% of weddings take place at a church, synagogue, or mosque. Most wedding ceremonies and receptions are held at specialized wedding venues, hotels, and state or national parks. With popular venues hosting weddings multiple days in a row you can imagine how messy it would be for every couple to be showered in rice. These days it’s more popular to forego the tradition of tossing something after the ceremony in favor of a photogenic moment as they exit after the reception.
Flower petals, an Indian tradition, are one popular option these days, but only if they’re white or light in color. Darker shades may distract from the next couples’ decor. Birdseed is another popular option which, like rice, represents fertility. Birdseed may be a good choice in a city park where birds will be likely to eat it. It should not be used in environmentally sensitive or protected areas. Birdseed should always be used with the knowledge of the property owner or custodian and only with permission. Glow sticks make a gorgeous exit, especially with a long exposure shot. They’re safe, affordable, and look gorgeous in photos.
New and hopefully out: Sparklers
Sparklers. You’ve seen the gorgeous sparkler exits. You’ve read that it’s an inexpensive way to make a big impact for your exit. All the wedding guests lining the exit with the happy couple running through. It makes a beautiful photo. Unfortunately, there is a downside to that beauty. The sparkler exit takes place at the end of the night. Frequently that means some of your guests consume a little more alcohol than they’re used to. And you just put a burning hot branding iron in their hand. Photographers have been burned trying to get the shot. Guests have been burned by their own sparkler or the sparkler of someone next to them. Brides and grooms have had their clothing caught on fire. We love the look of a sparkler exit, but this is one trend we hope is on the way out.
Please do a search for sparkler exit safety and read a few of the articles if you decide to do this one. Glow sticks are a much safer option.
Old: Tossing the bridal bouquet
Anything and everything associated with the lucky bride is said to bestow some of her good luck on her guests. Traditions such as touching the bride and taking home a piece of her wedding dress were thought to make it more likely that her single friends would meet their soul mate. Or, at the very least, someone to help improve their station in life. Traditionally, a group of the brides’ single female guests would gather together in hopes of catching her bouquet. The lucky recipient was thought to be the next to be married. She may even meet her future Mr. Right there at the wedding!
Old: Bridesmaids all dressed alike
It wasn’t always just the bridesmaids wearing matching dresses. Originally they wore the same dress as the bride! To understand this strange wedding custom, you first need to understand why there are bridesmaids in the first place. It could be as simple as a wealthy woman bringing her maid to help her on her wedding day. Just as her groom would bring his manservant or groomsman. Hence the term bridesmaid, although it makes little sense in context today. What we know for sure is that travel was a lot more dangerous in the past than it is presently. Stagecoach robbers, pirates, gangs of marauding vagabonds, and general miscreants were a very real travel hazard. A bride en route to her wedding would be a rich target. She would likely have most, if not all, of her worldly possessions, which would undoubtedly include her dowry. A very rich target indeed.
To confuse any possible thieves, the maids and friends of the bride would go along. They all dressed alike so the bride would be difficult to identify. She would, therefore, be less likely to be kidnapped and forced into marriage with someone else attempting to gain her wealth or status. Bridesmaids today may still ‘serve’ the bride by helping her with her dress and other tasks on her wedding day. However, they are far more likely to be her closest friends and family than her servant..
New: Mismatched bridesmaid gowns, bridesmen, and groomswomen
Couples today are doing weddings their way. They frequently give a color palette to their bridal party and let them choose their own attire. Sometimes they all wear the same color, sometimes they wear coordinating hues of a color palette, and sometimes everyone wears a different color. As long as they all look good together, they’re good to go.
My very favorite trend is the addition of bridesmen and groomswomen. My spellcheck says I’m spelling both of those words wrong, but they will be ‘real’ words in the future. The very near future. Gone are the days when the groom’s sister who has only met the bride a handful of times is forced to stand on the bride’s side. Today she can wear a coordinating gown, or not, and stand next to her brother. But, what about his female best friend or her male best friend? Anyone’s best friend can stand next to them now. It’s allowed. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. It’s your wedding. You can tell them where they can stand.
Old: Saving the Top of the Wedding Cake
This tradition comes from Great Britain. Couples traditionally saved the top of their wedding cake, their wedding fruit cake, to be eaten at their first child’s christening. Fruit cake, as I’m sure you know, preserves very well. It lasts a long time, and would likely still taste pretty good if properly stored. More recently, the tradition evolved to sharing the top tier on the couple’s first anniversary.
New: Favorite Desserts in Lieu of Wedding Cake
Today, however, many couples forego the wedding cake altogether. Some people don’t like cake. I don’t like cake. These days some couples instead feature a dessert table with their favorite single-serving desserts. Or, a tiny pie table, cupcake tower, or donut wall. Some couples have a fake wedding cake with sheet cakes cut and served to each guest. And, if you don’t want any cake or desserts, you can have a pizza table if you’d like. It’s your wedding. It’s the one and only time you’re going to have nearly full control of everything. It okay to have it your way on your wedding day.
The most important part of your wedding day is the commitment you make to each other. Whichever strange wedding traditions, customs, and trends you choose to include are up to you. Ultimately, surrounding yourself with your closest friends and family while you make a commitment to each other is what it’s all about. And, if you introduce a few of your own strange wedding customs, so much the better!
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