Wedding traditions. So, like... Why?
Why do we do wedding traditions? Can we create our own alternatives to cutting the cake or are we doomed to first dance forever? All these burning questions + more will be answered from the front line + key-worker of the wedding world.
Personally, I feel a bit bummed when couples are simultaneously slammed, jammed, AND rammed into a specific wedding format that only serves to suit the convenience of others. Weddings have changed a lot in the last 5-10 years that I’ve been shooting them up + I am here to tell you that there is another way.
You can have a ‘wedding’ without feeling like it’s a stage show.
I hear this alllllll the time: “I can’t wait till [insert mundane, archaic, needless tradition] is over *THEN* I can relax” …when this is actually supposed to be the best DAY of your lives.
You should be excited about every. single. part. of your day + not feel tied down to tied traditions.
I’m not actually here to diss tradition. It provides comfort + milestones throughout history. Sometimes it’s for family + sometimes it’s because your veil is banging + it’s the only excuse you’ll ever really have to ever wear one. Traditions are great so long as they resonate with you in some way. Wedding days are way too short to be doing something + not even know why you’re doing it.
TL;DR: Enjoy me ripping on wedding traditions + hopefully pushing some positive reenforcement that you can have whatever day you want.
I don’t know about you (because, duh, I am not you) but there is absolutely no better way to congratulate two people on the happiest day of their lives than through the medium of biodegradable paper cuts to the face.
Lobbing rice, shredded paper, dried petals + heavy machinery has been the single most fun way to symbolise fertility since live ejaculation + literally throwing babies was deemed inappropriate. It was also more difficult to monetise in the mainstream wedding market.
Cutting the cake.
Back in the absolute rave capital that was ancient Rome, the wedding cake used to get smashed over the bride’s head after the wedding. Just for bants. Ancient Romans knew how to have a good time.
These days, it’s easier to distribute cake by cutting it with a comedy-sized knife, whilst staring into a sea of cameras with a look that can only be described as a mixture of sheer terror, dazed confusion + internal despair. Kind of like Princess Diana but you don’t die.
You can cut the cringy atmosphere with a knife but you can’t cut the cake with cringy atmosphere – although that would be a great cake.
There’s a common myth that is distributed by ‘our-friends-but-actually-just-a-corporate-wedding-machine’ at theknot.com who say “family, friends + photographers alike look forward to the moment the couple cuts the first slice”
I’m not afraid to say it…as a photographer + relatively normal functioning human being… I don’t get excited enough about stabbing a cake to warrant it requiring a DJ-style countdown whilst the whole ordeal is photographed.
Why would *anyone* look forward to that?! Obvs i look forward to cake but I have literally never got excited about watching someone cut it just like how I love watching Netflix but I’ve never felt compelled to photograph myself ceremoniously picking up the remote.
It just seems like a really strange thing to make ceremonious + the sooner we all just go back to smashing cakes over brides’ heads – the better.
A veil is a piece of light space netting that brides wear on their head to cover the face…kind of like a beekeeper…or a dinner lady with a hairnet on the wrong side of her head ⠀
A veil used to be a totally legit way for brides to defend themselves against dem pesky evil spirits that are such an ever-present threat at weddings ⠀
Evil spirits see veils + freak out like “YO SHE GOT DAT THIN LACE OVER HER FACE, LET’S LEAVE IT OUT, LADS!”…because evil spirits aren’t reckless. They know that nothing is gonna get through that impenetrable force. Except for bits of tree + flies + whatever else gets caught in it throughout the day.
Face fishnets/veils are also a great excuse for brides to get angry with loved ones as it’s super fun for family to accidentally rip out the brides entire head (of hair) when trying to hug them. ⠀
Veal is the meat from a calf. Generally, brides don’t wear that over their face*, but it is one of my favourite wedding-related spelling mistakes.
*Possible exemption: Lady Gaga
You’ve got married, everybody has left the party, nobody cares that your wedding circus has hit the road + you’re starting to wonder if you were just filling the empty void in your soul with wedding planning.
So what now?
Well thankfully, there’s a tradition that couples can use to distract themselves from the inevitable come down for a few weeks. They call it a honeymoon. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Imagine the sun is setting + you’re riding a horse on the beach with your loved one in slow motion whilst sharing chocolate-covered strawberries. Barry White is on the aux. The horse is called clarence, but you can ignore that.
Prior to building a flat pack furniture empire, the Vikings were busy creating cute romantic getaways for two. Following a Viking wedding (not a theme), the couple would be sent to live in a CAVE (!?!?!?!?!) for a month + given honey wine.
Presumably, to numb the psychological pain of being forced to live in a cave.
Now, most couples take mini-moons. Mini-moons not only sound like a cute anime character, but they also provide a much-needed chance for newly-weds to recover from the ordeal that was “the best day of their lives”. Totally reasonable.
You can go anywhere for a honeymoon as long as your hotel has towels in the shape of swans. If there is no towel swans…you are not on a honeymoon. Towel swans are usually seen swimming on the couple’s bed, which has been conveniently infected with rose petals. Nobody has ever heard the towel swan song but it’s rumored to sound like something between Sufjan Stevens + slayer.
"Does the groom stand on the left or the right?"
Have you ever wondered “why does the bride stand on the left during the ceremony?”⠀
No? Me neither. Do we care? … I guess we can try?⠀
This is a widely practised tradition that registrar-bots are programmed to say at the end of almost every wedding ceremony. It’s their big punch line so a big shout out to them for this weak dose of wedding wisdom. ⠀
Brides stand on the left because traditionally the groom would’ve captured the bride + he would need to keep his “sword hand” free to defend her from getting kidnapped as they left the ceremony.
I should explain that a ‘sword hand’ is a hand that a groom would hold a sword with. Not an innuendo + this wasn’t some kind of badass pre-hand-evolution stage where grooms were Edward-scissor-hand-wedding-ninja’s so please just get that weird idea out of your head, mmmkay? Stop being weird.
It’s all super fun + definitely not another example of us continuing to honour a tradition with dodgy origins that should’ve stopped around the same time we stopped *kidnapping* woman for a bit of marriage.
The First Dance.
We celebrate the happy couples ‘first’ act through the medium of unwanted attention + awkward “come + save us from ourselves” hand gestures, cunningly disguised as a first dance.
The tradition of the first dance goes back hundreds of years, despite the first-dance-cliche of ‘rule the world’ by Take That only being around for the last 13 years. The first dance is usually followed by a father-daughter dance…or the DJ just launches straight into “everyone’s” favourite second song – “I’ve got a feeling” by the Black-Eyed Peas.
The first dance originates from when royal balls were an actual thing + it was all a big willy-waving sesh where they’d show off their mad dance skills. Conveniently… they danced the waltz. So you could say that they did the “willy wave waltz” but I wouldn’t say that because I’m literally over 30 + I definitely wouldn’t find that funny. Not one bit.
Anyway…somehow someone thought it’d be a bangin’ idea to incorporate this BS into weddings + now it’s a thing that couples think they have to do…even if they can’t dance.
Tossing the Bouquet.
Do you like tossing? Do you like bouquets? I’m going to be sparking joy by explaining what happens when you combine two random things that somehow occur simultaneously. Like sitting a cat.
The ancient art of blindly chucking a heavy floral object originates from when female guests would literally rip off parts of the brides dress, veil, flowers + hair (!!) like a bunch of absolute savages.
These days… the “absolute savages” refrain from ripping out parts of the brides internal organs etc + instead attempt to catch the brides bouquet for epic lolz.
Usually, all the single ladies (+ men, damnit) form around the potential landing zone. “The tosser” (which happens to be the bride) expertly hurls the bouquet over her head like a child that didn’t qualify for sports-day.
The person who catches it is basically the one who’s supposedly next to get infected with a marriage.
Sometimes, nobody catches it + that basically means that all the single friends are destined for a life of infinite loneliness + regret that they didn’t try harder in P.E.
If the bouquet is caught, the person who catches it then has to recalibrate their entire life plan, find a partner + get married to someone because they once caught an arrangement of flowers that were hurtling through the air by complete chance. Dems da rules.
You might think that this is a ridiculous way to live your life but you’re wrong. It’s actually totally logical + it’s just another example of how wedding traditions keep the wedding industry alive. If nobody caught bouquets then nobody would get married + I would be unemployed.
So keep tossing!
The Wedding Breakfast.
So *why* oh why is it called a wedding ‘breakfast’ when there is literally never any granola at a wedding?! Well, I’m gonna tell you because that is why we’re all here. ⠀
One theory is that someone at some point believed that time is reset once you’re married + the first meal you eat after the wedding ceremony should be called breakfast which means you wake up at bedtime + can drink wine in the morning. ⠀
Back in the 16th century (could’ve been anytime – I wasn’t there + can’t fact check) the bride + groom would fast the night before the wedding + the first meal after the ceremony would break-fast …geddit?! ⠀
Human beings don’t do that much anymore because takeaways exist + we all just eat our feelings the night before a wedding because it’s easier to binge on food than it is to socialise with people or face anxiety. tehe/lul/lmayo.
The Wedding Rings.
Wedding rings are symbolic + circular… so they’re all infinite/never-ending + stuff…⠀
Kind of exactly like “all” marriages.⠀
This chunk of marriage metal goes on the third finger of your left hand, but it really depends on the direction your counting + if the thumb counts as a finger. ⠀
Before Beyoncé, the Romans put a ring on it because they thought that a specific finger had a vein in it that ran directly to the gross beating internal organ that pumps blood around your circulatory system.
It turns out that our whole body is full of veins …so you can wear your bling wherever you like
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.
“Something old” wards off the evil eye which naturally causes infertility (straight in there with the fertility threats). Nowadays, families usually pass on an heirloom…presumably with the hope of boosting their daughter’s chances of getting impregnated. Perhaps the bride could wear her dad’s expired viagra pill as a necklace pendant but I’m not an expert so take that as you will. Or don’t. ⠀
“Something new” symbolises optimism for the future so naturist weddings really are my niche after-all. Something new can literally be any stuff you got sucked into buying off Etsy or whatever, so unless you’re actively trying to be pessimistic about the future of your marriage then you probably already ticked this totally unnecessary box.⠀
Something borrowed brings good luck, presuming you’re borrowing it from a happily married person + haven’t just stolen it. ⠀
Take a deep breath. Now process this next sentence slowly…word by word…⠀
“Something borrowed” genuinely derives from when brides would borrow the undergarments of a relative who’s had good fertility fortune. Yum.⠀
A quick note to myself: pitch “fertility fortune” as the name of an amazing new reality tv show).⠀
“Obviously” blue represents love, purity + fidelity so wearing something blue (like a big blue bowler bonnet, pour example) would be a great evil spirit deterrent. It just depends on how seriously you wanna fend off that ruddy evil eye.⠀
More blue = more love, purity + fidelity. Less blue = a marriage full of hatred, sin, filth + orgys. Your choice. It’s personal taste. Some people aren’t into a bit of blue…
The Best Man.
We still call them best men because apparently men don’t have female friends, despite no longer living in the 18th century. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Started by them flippin’ germanic goths (urgh…those guys, right?! *shakes fist*) – the role of the best man was to help the groom *capture* (wut?!) a bride from neighbouring villages when brides ran out at the local Sainsbury’s. True story.
Weddings originally had one singular best man but it is now becoming popular to have multiple best men, maybe due to the increasing numbers of good men, although it is more likely to be down to decreased groom decision-making skills.
It’s usually the best man’s responsibility to be the ring bearer when no distraught children, cute dogs or bears are available. Prior to the ceremony, it’s the best man’s job to also pretend to forget the rings on an hourly basis…because of teh lulz.
Nu-wave tradition dictates that the most important best man’s job is to consistently provide the photographer with regular top ups of red wine. I have nothing funny to add to that. That’s just more of a direct instruction.
The best man typically delivers a heartfelt speech straight from the 1st result on google when you search for “best man speeches”…delivered with 86.5% less humor.
After the wedding, the best man magically transforms back into a normal man + he realises he may never be the best at anything ever again. Now he cries himself awake every morning. …presumably. I don’t know for sure because I am a generally terrible person + nobody will ever ask me to be their best man.
You’ll be relieved to know that this entire ordeal of me decoding the history, myths + reasons behind wedding traditions is coming to an end.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But not so fast, fact fans. Before I let this die slowly in your arms I wanted to check that you’re all satisfied with the full extent of the explanations that you have experienced.
Do feel free to get in touch if there’s any wedding tradition that you need answers to + I’ll provide the usual deep, penetrative analysis of my favourite traditions another time.
I’m not very good at ending things.