All too often, I see couples blindly swallow all of the cookie-cutter wedding pills, which ends up leaving their day looking and feeling a whole lot like everyone else’s. It’s my personal mission to help you design a wedding day that is as meaningful to you as possible, and sometimes that means bucking tradition and putting your own spin on things (said as a true 5w4 Iconoclast). To give you some inspiration, here are my 7 hot takes on wedding traditions!
Wedding Tradition #1. A Father Walking The Bride Down The Aisle
This is first on my list because I HAVE SOME FEELS ABOUT IT.
This tradition is so deeply rooted in patriarchy, back when a marriage was a literal business transaction. A woman was viewed as property that belonged to the ‘man of the house’, which is why her father would walk her down the aisle and literally “give her away” to her new owner. The woman had zero say in this: how can an object have an opinion?
How fucking gross is that? I am my own adult person. I do not “belong” to someone else. Being escorted feels childish (controversial, I know [is this a hot take or what??] — but I’m pretty sure I can navigate 20 feet in a straight line under my own power 😂), and given away is just completely not relevant anymore (I gag a little when I hear “who gives this woman to be married?” – “her parents do” in ceremonies today). Also, when it comes to weddings, symbolism is huge. If you think of a ceremony as being the start of your marriage, you could think of the individuals walking down the aisle as the ones walking into the marriage. Idk about you, but my parents certainly were not entering into marriage with me and my husband.
Walk yourself down the aisle. Or, walk with your partner down the aisle! What better way to symbolize entering into marriage together?
Bonus: If you’re feeling the Miss Independent vibes and like the idea of both of those things, combine them! That’s exactly what I did. George entered alone first and waited for me at the last row of seats. Then, I entered alone and joined him at the back, before we walked the rest of the aisle together. This is a *perfect* example of designing your wedding day in exactly the way that feels right for you. I talk more about that in this post! Doing it this way was really important to me with the symbolism: I wanted to emphasize that we were our own individual people (entering separately, alone) that were coming together and entering marriage as one unit and equal partners.
Wedding Tradition #2. The Audience Standing For the Bride’s Entrance
The origin of this tradition turned out to be pretty hard to pin down. It seems that standing for the bride was meant to be a sign of respect, similar to the way men would stand for a woman when she joined the table. But today, it perpetuates the wrong stigmas. Why doesn’t the groom or second partner deserve the same respect of a standing ovation? Standing only for the bride also signals that the day is “hers”; that she’s the most important person. We’re all for equality here. A wedding day is for both partners, and should be treated as such! Women/brides are not the only people getting married — her partner deserves just as much recognition!
Before the ceremony begins, have your officiant make an announcement for all guests to remain seated for both partners’ entrances.
Bonus: Having guests remain seated for everyone’s entrance makes for much better photos! It’s so much easier to get shots of those entering when you aren’t competing with all standing guests (the photographer can shoot straight over their heads). It also makes it much easier for guests to see you if they’re shorter and/or not on the aisle!
Wedding Tradition #3. Misogynistic Ceremony Language
We’re really just on a feminist roll here! 😂 In the same vein as #1, there are a couple lines in traditional ceremony lines and vows that are inherently misogynistic. Thankfully, the worst of which has all but been dropped: the use of the word “obey” when a woman is asked for her vow (“I take thee… to love, cherish, and obey, til death do us part…”). But very often, ceremonies close with “You may now kiss the bride.” These six simple words send the message that a woman is not allowed to consent to share a kiss — that the decision to do so falls only to the man she’s marrying.
Change the invitation of a kiss to something like, “You may now share a kiss,” “Let’s begin the adventure of marriage with a kiss!” (this was ours!), “You may seal your vows with a kiss”, or “Let’s celebrate the union of these two with a kiss!”
Wedding Tradition #4. Defaulting to a Big Wedding
A wedding with 100-200 guests is the norm — so much so that I think many people don’t realize they’re allowed to question whether they actually want to do that or not! But for many people, this may not be the right choice. Big weddings are expensive, put a lot of the focus onto the guests’ experience instead of the couple, and may not be a personality match (introversion, anyone?).
Elope. And before your preconceptions of running to Vegas or city hall in secret fill your mind, allow me to tell you that there are MANY more ways to elope, and you don’t have to do it just the two of you. For more info about what it means to elope in today’s day and age, head to this post!
Wedding Tradition #5. A Formal, Plated Dinner Affair
This needs no explanation. 😂
Opt for a couple food trucks parked in your reception space instead of being served restaurant-style with formal food styling. Food trucks can be a fun way to inject some lively personality into your day, and definitely do not need to be limited to casual weddings! I would be stoked to see this at a black tie event.
Bonus: if you have more than one truck (def recommend this with 50+ guests), you can stick to a theme/cuisine for them, or mix it up for some variety!
Wedding Tradition #6. Schmoozing During Cocktail Hour
Cocktail hour originated as something for your guests to do while the couple and their families took all of their portraits (leaving guests to their own devices like, BYE FELICIA!). Nowadays, it’s very common for couples to do a first look and take as many ‘necessary’ photos (formal photos with loved ones, any wedding party portraits, and the couple’s portraits) as possible before the ceremony so they can join guests during the cocktail hour. But if you’re like me (an introvert that loves to eat), cocktail hour is your least favorite part of a wedding day. I’m impatient to eat a real meal and socializing with yet another person you don’t know very well is often, well, boring.
Create an activity or two for your guests to engage in during cocktail hour (if you have one at all!). Better yet, hire a vendor who can put on that activity workshop-style.
Using that time to mingle AND learn how to make the cocktail you’re drinking from a mixologist? Bomb. Get creative here! You could have a joint rolling workshop or bud lounge, learn cool napkin folding tricks that come in handy for dinner, incorporate your wedding favors (writing this in December has me thinking of DIY ornaments guests can take home!), or creating succulent arrangements. The sky is the limit!
Wedding Tradition #7: Seating Guests in Straight Rows, with Family On The Respective Side of Each Partner
Again, this doesn’t need much explanation. For a ceremony, guests’ seats are traditionally arranged in straight rows, with the aisle serving as a delineation from each partner’s family and friends. The loved ones of Partner 1 will sit on the same side of the ceremony as them, and same for Partner 2.
I HIGHLY recommend seating your front-row VIPs on the opposite side of the ceremony as you. Like, this is the one thing I think you should be doing, no exception. It might sound counterintuitive, but I promise it will be worth it! I talk more about that in this post (scroll to the bottom, #4).
Another great option is to ditch the standard square/rectangle seating design and opt for a half or full circle! This way, you’re literally surrounded by your people, and will give everyone a better view.
There you have it friends, my 7 hot takes on wedding traditions! As a wedding photographer, my mission is to teach you how to question all of the status quo wedding traditions we do without even thinking about it. Once you can do that, your wedding day becomes so much more meaningful to you! I hope these hot takes gave you some fresh ideas and encouraged you to think outside the box when it comes to your day.