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Wedding Traditions – Strictly By the Book – or Not?

“Something Borrowed, Something Blue….”


Getting married? Even if you are a year away from the big day, you are probably already feeling the stress of trying to get everything just right. There are so many important decisions to make.

Try to relax a bit. Planning a wedding in the digital age has huge advantages that make it easy to stay on top of the details, without losing your sanity. Just think what it would have been like 100 years ago, with no computers! With wedjinni on your side, you can manage everything through special web and mobile wedding planning apps and planning management software designed to take away your stress and give you exactly the wedding you and your groom have been dreaming about.

The first thing to decide is what type of wedding you want. Traditional? More casual? A mixture of both? Before you even start the planning process, you and your groom should sit down and decide in which direction you want to go, so you are both in total agreement. Your decision about the overall “feel” you want will make it easier to choose other elements of the wedding.  Sticking to the traditions will give your wedding a more formal, serious flavor; a casual or civil wedding puts more of the emphasis on you, rather than on the formal setting and ceremony. It depends what type of couple you are and how you want to celebrate.

There are many treasured wedding traditions and superstitions, handed down through the generations, from mother to daughter, from father to son and from ethnic and religious groups across the centuries. Weddings are precious reminder of what and whom we hold dear, the preservation and continuation of family, even in a fast-changing world. And if weddings have a different look these days, many couples choose to hold on to some of the traditions their parents and grandparents may have honored when they got married.

If you and your groom are conservative and prefer the tried-and-true, but don’t know exactly what to do, here is the traditional order of things:-

  • Engagement. The groom traditionally asks the bride’s father for permission to marry his daughter. This is up to you, but could be a good move to get on his right side from the beginning (!) At least it is courteous to ask for his blessing.
  • Registering for wedding gifts at one or more specific stores is a practical way to make sure you get what you want and that no-one else has purchased the same gift. At Jewish weddings it is common to receive cash instead of gifts. Eighteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai” which means “life,” so it is a Jewish tradition to give monetary gifts in increments of 18, thus symbolically blessing the recipient of the gift with a good long life.
  • Bridal Shower, given by the Maid of Honor and bridesmaids.
  • Stag or Bachelor Party, given by the groomsmen for the groom to enjoy a last night of freedom as a single man. Enough said!
  • Wedding Rehearsal Dinner – traditionally takes place the night before the wedding and is usually paid for by the groom’s family. Includes out-of- town guests and family members who took part in the ceremony walk-through that day.
  • Wearing white? White is a symbol of the bride’s purity, although non-traditional brides wear colored or even black gowns to be different. As a practical point, remember that winter weddings and weddings in the snow often photograph better if the bride is wearing ruby or burgundy velvet rather than white. The veil dates back many centuries to a superstitious belief that evil spirits try to ruin the wedding ceremony, so the bride wore a veil, covering her face so the spirits would not know she was the bride.
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses are traditionally chosen by the bride, although many brides-to-be these days chose the color and fabric and let their bridesmaids pick a style that suits their particular body shape. The bridesmaids are expected to pay for their dresses themselves.
  • “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a silver sixpence inside your shoe.” No one is really sure when this custom of carrying certain items with you on your wedding day actually started, but it is believed by many to have begun during the Victorian era and is honored even today.
  • The wedding ceremony. Are you having a religious or a civil ceremony? Most traditional U.S. weddings take place in a place of worship with a priest or rabbi, or other religious officiant known to the bride or groom, however you don’t have to stick with this tradition as long as you chose someone who is licensed to perform marriages.
  • Flower Girls and Ring-Bearers. Flower Girls spread petals down the aisle for the bride to walk on flowers, which symbolize fertility and hope. The Ring Boy or Ring Bearer carries a pillow with the wedding rings on it during the procession.  During the exchange of vows, the ring bearer hands the pillow to the couple for them to exchange the rings.
  • Wedding vows such as “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” date back to the Catholic ‘Book of Common Prayer,’ published in 1549, but many couples these days opt to write their own vows in which they promise to love and be faithful to their partner. At the conclusion of the ceremony, it is traditional for the official to ask if anyone present knows of any “just cause” why the couple may not be married. The couple then exchanges wedding rings, a symbol of their love and commitment to one another, and then they are pronounced, in front of witnesses, to be husband and wife.
  • Traditionally the bride throws back her veil and the newlyweds kiss to seal their union; as they leave the church they are showered with rice, the traditional symbol of fertility. And no, in spite of warnings given by Ann Landers back in 1966, it is NOT harmful for birds to eat rice, so your guests can go ahead without worrying.
  • Reception. This is traditionally paid for by the bride’s family, although different arrangements are common.
  • Grand entrance of wedding party.
  • Receiving Line – includes the newlyweds, their parents plus the Maid of Honor and Best Man. This is a chance for guests can be introduced to the other side of the family
  • Meal
  • First dance by couple
  • Mother/son, Father/daughter dance
  • Cutting the cake
  • Speeches. Traditionally, the Best Man and the parents give speeches. The couple may also toast the guests and thank them for coming.
  • Music/entertainment
  • Throwing of the Garter/Throwing the Bouquet. This is where single women try to catch the bride’s bouquet and the garter. Traditionally, this means she will be the next one to be married. She is also supposed to take a small piece of the wedding cake home and slip it under her pillow that very night to dream about the man she will soon marry.
  • Couple leaves for the honeymoon. Tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed’s car recalls the ancient tradition of making loud noise to frighten away evil spirits. The custom of tying shoes to the car bumper goes back to Ancient Egypt, where a father would give the groom his daughter’s sandal, indicating that an exchange had taken place. Since shoes were considered a phallic symbol, it was also thought to promote fertility for the newlyweds, so later, shoes were tied to the getaway car.


Of course, very few wedding traditions are totally unique to the U.S., however, because so many Americans emigrated from other countries, bringing their traditions with them, so to plan a wedding “strictly by the book”, may depend on whose book you mean. The “traditional” U.S. wedding borrows from a melting pot of cultures that reflects the diversity of the population, and many couples decide to borrow certain features from their own ethnic or religious backgrounds to enhance their special day.

So, are there traditions on either side of your family that you would like to honor at your wedding? If you family is Greek, think about the traditional smashing of plates on the floor at the reception (checking with your venue and caterer first, of course!). Are you from the Caribbean? You might want to incorporate “Jumping the Broom” after your ceremony. Irish?  There’s a tradition in Ireland in which you lock the door of the church so the groom can’t escape! Is your family from Scotland? See how your groom and groomsmen feel about wearing kilts, for a truly romantic wedding look. In Sweden, the bride wears three rings instead of two; the third is the motherhood ring.

Remember this is your day and your wedding, so whatever feels right to you and your groom-to-be is the way to go. You can give a nod to your family’s heritage, however, without going “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” overboard, if this feels excessive to you both. Ask your relatives and your husband’s relatives, and do some research. You’ll create family good will from day one of your lives together, a wise investment in your future. Pick one or two special traditions that everyone will enjoy –and don’t forget to mention them in your wedding day program or reception menu, so that guests will know what is going on.

Whatever your style and choices, can help you set the scene and plan a truly memorable day, which you will both remember “for as long as ye both shall live”.


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