In this modern age, certain wedding traditions seem old and outdated: getting the father of the bride’s permission, the bride’s family paying for the ceremony, the white bridal dresses or Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus. It’s “your day,” but the structure of the wedding day and its various elements are determined by family tradition, religion, convention and social obligation — so, is it your day? Traditional weddings can stifle your individuality and the unique bond between you and your partner, but is there a place for traditions still? After all, traditions serve to connect us to the past, infuse meaning into events and help to organize various facets of our lives. When planning your modern wedding, consider the usefulness of traditional elements, and balance these with modern features that highlight the one-of-a-kindness of your relationship.
Changing Wedding Trends
Times have changed quite a bit since our parents’ generation and modern weddings present the perfect case study to assess this change. How do you update the features of a wedding to suit you and your soon-to-be-spouse while satisfying your traditional, old-fashioned parents? Most weddings follow a general outline (detailed below); however, to upgrade this centuries-old tradition, consider mixing and matching the traditional order of events with updated elements, like modern wedding cakes, non traditional wedding dresses (such as modern vintage wedding dresses), or modern wedding rings. Following the features of a traditional wedding (which is by no means an exhaustive list), there are a couple suggestions for mixing and matching modern and traditional elements for your wedding.
Features of a traditional wedding:
- Separate Seating. The bride’s family on the left and the groom’s family on the right.
- Traditional Attire. A white dress with a formal train is worn by the bride, the bridesmaids all wear the same dress and tuxedos and ties for the gents.
- The Procession. This is when the wedding party walks down the main aisle and takes their places for the ceremony.
- Ring Bearer & Flower Girl. Usually done by two young relatives.
- Classical Wedding Songs. These include Air on G String by Bach; Suite for Solo Cello by Bach; Clair de Lune by Debussy; Arioso by Bach; Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach; Air from Water Music by George Frideric Handel; and, of course, Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus as the bride walks down the aisle.
- Readings & Vows. The readings can reflect the traditional religious elements of the ceremony, while the vows are the promises made to one another.
- Ring Exchange, Pronouncement & Kiss. As a couple exchanges rings, they traditionally say, “With this ring, I thee wed.” The officiant makes it official by pronouncing, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” The kiss signifies the union of husband and wife.
- Traditional Photographer. While the wedding party is having pictures taken by a professional photographer, a cocktail hour occurs to entertain the rest of the guests.
- Traditional Dinner. A traditional sit-down dinner is usually served at the reception after the wedding ceremony, wherein the best man and maid of honor give toasts.
- First Dance. The bride and groom dance their first dance as a married couple. The bride usually dances with her father immediately after her first dance with her husband.
- Cutting the Cake. This usually occurs about two hours before the wedding reception will end.
- Honeymoon. The honeymoon usually begins the day after the wedding ends.
Modern Wedding Processional Songs, Fun Florals & Traditional Venues
According to a survey by The Knot, the number of couples choosing to get married in traditional venues (such as banquet halls and hotel reception rooms) has dropped significantly in the last eight years. Instead, unconventional venues (such as barns, farms or beaches) are on the rise. One way you can mix and match traditional and modern elements for your wedding is to keep the venue traditional, while filtering in modern aesthetic elements, like crazy floral arrangements or unique, modern wedding songs for the wedding party to jam out to as they filter down the main aisle. When you choose a venue with so much history and heritage, you are able to let loose a little with other design elements: wild florals in a classic locale creates an unexpected twist on your fairy tale wedding. Alternatively, a modern, unconventional venue (such as a boat) could be paired with traditional wedding flowers (such as roses, tulips, peonies or lilies) and traditional processional songs.
Classic Color Palette with Personal Touches
The color palette for your wedding includes everything from the exact shade of the bridal dress to the tablecloth at the reception. Muted tones for the napkins and bridal party attire allows you some freedom with pops of color strategically placed elsewhere: vibrant bouquets can accent the ceremony and reception giving your modern wedding a kick of personality. Trends come and go, but a classic color palette with white linen tablecloths, navy blue napkins and gold cutlery is timeless. For a modern wedding with traditional twists, consider using white ceramic plates for the reception dinner.
Alternatively, go wild with the bridal party attire or venue decorations, but go for subtle floral arrangements composed of white roses. Add personal touches all throughout the ceremony and reception: unique place settings for your guests or personally-made centerpieces for each table add a modern flare, allowing the personality of you and your soon-to-be spouse to shine through. DIY wedding favors and paper fans printed with a unique message for each of your guests also add a personal element your guests will absolutely adore.
Vows, Toasts & A Father’s Permission
A wedding is primarily a public declaration for the benefit of those closest to the couple, rather than for the individuals getting married. Certain features of a traditional wedding are hard to let go of for some, as they seem to be the essence of a wedding: the vows, toasts and granting of permission are all proclamations of love for the individuals joining together in marriage. Though these features are distinctly traditional, you can tweak them ever-so-slightly for your modern wedding.
While some of us might feel that asking a father’s permission goes against modern, feminist morals, others of us value this long-standing tradition as a sign of respect and of valuing the family as a whole unit. After all, most fathers nowadays probably wouldn’t have any trouble giving his blessing and the act of asking is more a formality than anything else. When a father gives his permission, it is akin to him blessing the couple or proclaiming his love for their bonded union. To modernize this tradition, consider having a family dinner with the parents of both the bride and groom in which the couple tells their parents of their engagement, rather than asks for permission.
Toasts by the best man or maid of honor during the reception are a common traditional element of weddings and is valued as a public announcement of acceptance of the couple. To place a modern spin on reception activities, consider hiring an entertainer (such as a fortune teller, a cover band or professional dancers) so that your guests don’t have to do all the work.
Wedding vows, whether traditional or modern, is where the two stars of the show get to tell their own unique love story. To add a modern flare to your vows, consider writing your own modern wedding vows rather than relying on religious or commonly used vows. More than any other feature of a wedding, traditional wedding vows remain relatively common and the act of sharing vows (modern or traditional) will not soon be forgotten.
Brides’ & Bridesmaids’ Dresses
It’s not just venues, color palettes and reception activities that are changing — the casualization of bridal party attire and bridal dresses has swept the nation. Stores like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo have been affected by the millennial emphasis on casual dress, with the latter filing for bankruptcy and the former having to adapt to the trend. Modern wedding dresses are no longer stark white: think blush, off-white and even black! In fact, 20 percent of brides today are opting to explore alternative wedding dress color options. If white bridal gowns appeal to you, consider making your shoes pop with a color that compliments your color palette for a fun, modern dazzle.
Additionally, fewer brides are asking their bridesmaids to wearing the same dress: only 41 percent of bridesmaids wear the same dress at weddings today. Not every bride is comfortable with letting their bridesmaids pick out just any dress though — some guidelines as to formality and color palette offer a nice compromise to the traditional feature of monochromatic attire and the modern desire for freedom of choice and expression.
Wedding Cakes (some things are here to stay!)
Who doesn’t like wedding cake? It is shocking that these people exist; however, there are options now for people who say, “cake just isn’t my thing.” Whether the tradition of cutting the cake with your new spouse during your reception speaks to you or you just like cake, it seems that the presence of a wedding cake is a tradition that most people can get behind. In fact, 82 percent of couples still enjoy that precious tradition of cutting the cake either at the reception or in private after the guests have gone home.
For a modern twist, switch it up: modern wedding cakes and treats can include brownies, cookies, meringues, doughnuts, cupcakes or oreos! A third of couples also serve guests a variety of desserts via a dessert table: from pies to a cookie buffet to an ice cream sundae bar, it is no doubt that the wedding cake isn’t the only dessert of the night. Whatever sweets you crave, that should be your modern wedding cake. Form it into the shape of a traditional three-tier wedding cake to mix and match your modern cravings with traditional aesthetics.
The Millennial Trend: Minimal Planning, Low Budget, Small Guest List & Big Commitment
The trend for modern weddings seems to be leaning towards smaller, cheaper and quicker weddings and wedding preparations focused on locally-made products for the wedding. Locally-grown flowers, locally-sourced food and local brews are just a few ways that millennial wedding planning has altered the traditional wedding. Consider keeping it small with only close friends and immediate family. No need to invite everyone you’ve ever met plus your cousins in England you haven’t met. Cut down on costs in areas where you don’t need to spend money: modern wedding invitations can be as simple and low-budget as an evite! Don’t hire a wedding planner — instead, ask your mom to help you come up with at home wedding ideas on a budget. For the reception dinner, organize a BYO picnic and encourage everyone to bring at least one meal option to share.
Remember: though the institution of marriage is more for your guests than it is for the two shining stars, ultimately, it professes a public commitment to one another. It is about you and your partner even if it doesn’t seem like it’s about you: underneath it all, your commitment is what matters, so let your wedding day reflect that: incorporate a fun, wacky and wild element that just the two of you will enjoy. Whether it’s personalized, modern wedding vows with a dorky poem or colorful converse shoes, add a feature that is new and uniquely you. Start a new tradition.
The Perfect Day: A Healthy Mix of Old & New
Crafting the perfect day requires more stress on average in each day leading up to that perfect day in order to have that one day shine. Though wedding planning is hectic, this doesn’t have to be due to traditional vs modern wedding struggles. There is a balance to be struck between familial, traditional and social obligation, and nonconformity, individualism and contemporary values. Traditionalism vs modernism doesn’t have to be a battle you wage on your wedding day — instead, let the day be a healthy composite of features that mean the most to you and your spouse. Traditions provide a structure that enable us to showcase what we truly value, while modern features emphasizing personal choice allow the uniqueness of the couple to be the highlight of the day. When used with this understanding, there is a place for tradition in your modern wedding.
This post was written by Kara Roberts, blogger and content writer for Sincerely Silver. We specialize in creating custom made jewelry in sterling silver, gold and rose gold and have been featured in a number of publications, including Glamour. For gift ideas and personalized jewelry creations, check out our blog!