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5 Wedding traditions we need to rethink

BY Miriam Sallon

11th Apr 2023 Life

5 Wedding traditions we need to rethink

While weddings are full of wonderful traditions, there are some we could do without 

Weddings have been taking place for thousands of years- the first recorded wedding was about 2350 B.C.- so it makes sense that a lot of traditions have accrued over time. Some traditions have thankfully been long forgotten, like the bride having to wear a silver sixpence in her shoe (where do you even get one of those now?) But there are some that still hold strong, despite being completely at odds with modern thinking.  

Throwing the bouquet 


Throwing the bouquet used to be a technique to get away from the vying crowd

In the Middle Ages, it was considered good luck to touch the bride and take a piece of her outfit as a trophy. Guests would literally attack her, trying to rip at her dress or any other ornaments such as a garter or, indeed, her bouquet. To try and divert the crowd the bride would throw her bouquet before fleeing with her newlywed. 

At the time, marriage was considered very good luck, not just for a bride but for her family too, securing them financially, or at the least reducing the number of mouths to feed by one, as the bride would then be considered the groom’s property. 

Over the centuries it became good luck only for single women in want of a husband.  

While desiring marriage is perfectly respectable for a modern woman, it’s no longer the only way to secure her future. Making single women line up and often battle each other to catch the bouquet seems a little cruel and unnecessary. You could easily modernise this tradition by announcing beforehand that it should simply be considered a good luck charm for anyone who catches it, rather than only associating it with marriage and single women. 

Wearing white 


It was only after Queen Victoria's wedding that white dresses became popular

You might think a white dress is an old tradition, symbolising a bride’s virginal purity and innocence, but this is only partially true. While white was the chosen colour for brides in Ancient Rome, it soon fell out of favour, given its impracticality. From the Middle Ages to the mid-nineteenth century, brides wore any number of colours, often simply picking the finest dress they already owned. It wasn’t until 1840 when Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress for her wedding to Prince Albert, that white wedding dresses came into fashion. 

"From the Middle Ages to the mid-nineteenth century, brides wore any number of colours"

It’s also rumoured that Victoria only did so in order to bolster sales for the struggling British lace industry, and white was simply the best colour in which to show it off. 

This being the case, perhaps it’s time brides did as they pleased, maybe buying a dress that might be worn again rather than simply sitting in their wardrobe for decades to come, collecting dust. 

The father giving away the bride 


A marriage used to be a business transaction, and the bride was the traded goods, handed from father to groom

While the groom traditionally walks the aisle accompanied by both parents, the bride is only accompanied by her father. The idea here is that her father is “giving her away” to her husband-to-be. Dating back to the 16th century, when a marriage was generally a business transaction, women were considered the property, first of their father, and then their husband.

"When a marriage was generally a business transaction, women were considered the property, first of their father, and then their husband"

In a time when women are now CEOs and national leaders this hardly seems appropriate anymore. An easy alternative might be that the bride is accompanied by both her parents, or, radical as it may sound, the bride and groom could walk the aisle together. 

Expensive engagement rings 


The addition of a diamond in an engagement ring is relatively new, only dating back to the twentieth century

The origin of the engagement ring can be traced back to Ancient Rome, worn as an indication of intent. Back then, the ring was made simply of a single metal, either iron or gold. Over the centuries, various fashions came and went, such as gimmel or posy rings (the former a trio of rings, and the latter made of silver, hiding inscriptions of affection). But it wasn’t until the 20th century that the diamond ring became fashionable, and all due to an ad campaign. In a bid to make diamonds seem more valuable than they were, De Beers Diamond Consortium created a campaign to market diamonds as a symbol of love and devotion, with the now ubiquitous slogan, “A diamond is forever.” Diamond engagement rings soared in popularity and have remained the standard offering ever since. This is considered one of the best marketing campaigns of the twentieth century. 

"In a bid to make diamonds seem more valuable than they were, De Beers Diamond Consortium created a campaign to market diamonds as a symbol of love and devotion"

Since then, of course, preferences have varied, with any number of precious jewels now considered appropriate. What has remained, though, is the idea that an engagement ring must be wildly expensive, with the average spend in the UK at around £2000. The explanation is vague at best, with some idea that spending more money shows that a man is serious in his intent. But do you really have to spend thousands of pounds to show someone you love them? Wouldn’t a simple metal band suffice? Or, considering it’s only women who traditionally wear them, maybe get rid all together and simply wait to wear your wedding ring. 

Only men give speeches 


Traditionally the groom, best man and father-of-the-bride give speeches, but perhaps it's time that changed

A popular explanation of the wedding speech is that warring families would often decide to make peace in the form of a wedding between their children. The father of the bride would make a toast and drink to show that the wine was not poisoned, and that this was not a ruse to catch the enemy family unaware. There seems little evidence of this, but what is absolutely evidential is the fact of women’s silence through the ages. In Mary Beard’s book Women & Power: A Manifesto she notes that in Ancient Rome and Greece the very sound of a woman’s voice was considered subversive. So it should be no surprise that she was not expected to speak at her own wedding. 

The current traditional order of speeches is: father of the bride, groom, best man. But it seems an obvious and easy change to allow the bride a word on her big day, or if she is too shy, perhaps her maid of honour or mother. 

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