Something Old, Something New: Wedding Traditions In 2017

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Marriage is a centuries-old tradition, which only saw state involvement in the 18th century, with The Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753. The legislation meant couples had to get married in church, announce their union and obtain a marriage licence.

Fast forward to today and while it’s still a binding legal arrangement, so much has changed within marriages and wedding ceremonies.

Here are some of the key traditions, and what they look like in the 21st century…


1. The Bride being ‘given away’
Most of us know this tradition has its roots in less enlightened times, and ‘giving away’ a woman to be married used to be more literal than symbolic! Nowadays, most of us simply see a parent supporting their child as a room full of people stares at her trying to walk in a straight line, wearing a heavy long dress and brand new high heels.

These days, it’s quite common to see Mums walking their daughters down the aisle if Dad is no longer with us, or some brides ask both parents to join her on the walk up to the altar. In the case of civil partnerships, often couples will walk down the aisle together to begin the ceremony, or each will walk down the aisle accompanied by one or both parents.


2. The Cake
Cutting the cake remains a key event and photo opportunity in modern ceremonies, but as for the cake itself – these days, the only limit is your imagination. You can have tier upon tier, or you can have one layer surrounded by dozens of cupcakes.

Those getting hitched in hot countries often opt for a refreshing pavlova-type confection rather than trying to keep a heavy, thickly iced cake cool and un-melted. Creative couples often commission highly-personalised cake designs to portray their personalities.


3. The Speeches
One tradition that has stood the test of time is the best man’s speech. It’s probably the hardest gig in town; everyone’s expecting comedy gold, but if you upset the bride or her aged grandmother you might ruin the day. So, no pressure!

But while dad and the best man invariably have a microphone pushed into their sweaty palms before dinner, the ladies are increasingly stepping forward as well to put the bride in the spotlight – often giving the groom’s second-in-command a run for his money with hilarious anecdotes and cringeworthy stories.

4. Bridesmaids and Best Men
I was the sole bridesmaid for my sister last year, while the groom couldn’t choose a best man – so he had two! It’s a perfect demonstration of the 21st century attitude to weddings – keep the old traditions but do them your way. It’s not uncommon to see a ‘best woman’ beside a nervous groom, or a ‘man of honour’ leading the bridesmaid party down the aisle.

In fact, a photo went viral recently of Rebecca, the Brazilian computer engineer who took hilarious bridal photos with her guy friends because she doesn’t have many close female friends.


5. The Bouquet
A bridal bouquet is a wedding tradition that’s not going anywhere any time soon, but creative brides are putting their own spin on it. Buttons and brooches are very popular for non-floral arrangements, and can allow treasured family mementoes and heirlooms to play a subtle part in the day.

Others keep the flowers but opt for unusual wildflowers, or even dried blooms. Some brides even make or commission a handmade bouquet, with flowers made from colourful fabric, sheet music, or even felt.

Wedding Traditions

By Heather McGarrigle, Excalibur Press