Photo by Folk + Follow.
Since you’re reading this blog, we’d say there’s a good chance you’re the type of couple that wants to do things a bit differently on your wedding day. You’re looking for a non-traditional venue, where every detail (the menu, styling, tunes, vibe) will reflect what you’re all about.
But have you thought about the ceremony itself? Your ceremony can really set the tone for the rest of your celebrations, so it’s a good idea to spend some quality time deciding how you want this part of the day to roll out.
Couples are often surprised at how little of the marriage ceremony is required by law and how much is based on tradition alone – many of which are outdated, irrelevant and often super sexist.
To truly make your ceremony meaningful and memorable, WedShed celebrant Andrea Calodolce uncovered the history behind many of the most common marriage traditions and shared some awesome ideas with us of what you can do instead.
The groom can’t see the bride before the ceremony
This tradition comes from the time when marriages were essentially a business deal between two families and were arranged without the couple having met before. On the wedding day, the bride was ‘given’ to the groom in exchange for a dowry. If the groom were to see the bride before the ceremony and decide he doesn’t like the look of her, the whole deal could be undone.
While there is nothing wrong with adding to the excitement by creating a little mystery, it’s not essential and there are some other things you can do instead…
Get ready together
Photo by Anna Taylor Photography.
Your wedding day is so full of excitement and anticipation – why not share that with your partner by getting ready together? You could even duck off for a romantic drink before the ceremony, just the two of you, and really relish the moment before you say ‘I do’.
Have a first look
Photo by Ben Sowry.
If you still want to have that moment where you first see your other half all dressed up and decked out but don’t want to leave the party after the ceremony to have your photos, why not opt for a ‘first look’ and do your photos before the ceremony.
Your makeup will still be perfect and you’ll have the chance to really enjoy each other without a whole heap of other eyeballs on you. Plus, with some clever choreography, your photographer can still capture the moment when you first lay eyes on each other.
Bride’s father walks her down the aisle
This one also comes from the times of marriage as a business deal, where the father of the bride literally hands over ownership of his daughter to her new husband. Not only is this problematic for the obvious reasons (sexist much?) but it can be difficult for brides whose father’s have passed or who come from more complex family arrangements than the regular two parents, two kids, nuclear family.
What to do instead…
Walk in with both your parents
Photo by Alex Marks Photography.
If you still want to acknowledge your parents but don’t want to favour one over the other, walk in with them both. That could be your mum and dad or both your mums or both your dads.
Walk in with your partner
Photo by Marie-Luise Skibbe.
Why not make an entrance together? Works especially well if you’ve spent the day getting ready together or have had a ‘first look’.
Walk in with your kids/dog/best friend
Make the tradition your own by choosing someone special to walk by your side. That could be your beloved pet or one of your children (a great way to include them in the ceremony).
Walk in alone
No one owns you. No one is giving you away. Make the ultimate statement by walking in alone. Don’t forget Beyoncé style swagger.
Don’t walk in at all
Don’t like the idea of everyone catching up and drinking without you before the ceremony while you hide in a room? Then don’t do it. Say all your hellos and mingle with your guests pre-ceremony and simply get started when you’re both ready. Perfect for those who don’t like the limelight.
Formal giving away of the bride
This is the part where the officiant asks “who gives this woman to be married to this man?” It’s not very common these days (except in the movies) and is not a legal requirement. If you don’t feel like you need anyone to ‘give you away’ but would still like to acknowledge your parents here’s something you can do instead…
This is simply a couple of minutes in the ceremony where your celebrant asks your parent/s to stand (great for non-nuclear family arrangements as it can be as many parents as you like) and talks to them about how grateful you are for how they have raised you and the values they have instilled in you. Then you can choose to add a formal question asking for their ongoing encouragement and support as you begin your married life. (Hopefully) they all say “we do” and you’ve acknowledged everyone without ruffling feathers and created a really nice moment in your ceremony along the way.
Bride on the left, groom on the right
The number one question I get asked by the couple at wedding rehearsals is “which side do we stand on?” And quite frankly, if you don’t know, then it can’t be that important.
Traditionally the bride stands on the left and the groom on the right (if you’re facing them). The reason for this is so that the groom can hold the brides hand with his left hand keeping his right hand (his sword hand) free in case he needs to defend the bride mid-ceremony.
So, unless you’re having a medieval cosplay ceremony, it really doesn’t matter what side you stand on.
With this in mind, here are some things to consider…
Is the bride wearing something in one side of her hair? Do you have a preferred side or even a particular tattoo you’d like to see in the photos? Then have that side facing out when you’re facing each other holding hands.
Is the bride entering from the side of the venue rather than the back? Then the groom should be on the opposite side to ensure the best view as she walks in.
Having bridesmaids and groomsmen
Traditionally the bride would have ten bridesmaids dressed identically to her to trick any evil spirits who may want to harm the newlyweds. The traditional role of groomsmen is to help the groom defend his bride in case of attack.
So, realistically, we’re probably cool to do without these guys if you don’t feel like you need to have them standing by your side during the ceremony.
But don’t think doing away with bridesmaids and groomsmen means you have to do away with the ‘party’ altogether. There is no reason you can’t still invite all your girlfriends to sip champagne with you as you get ready (bride) or play a pre-ceremony round of golf with your mates (groom). Plus, you save yourself the headache of having to choose – and a bunch of cash in the process.
If you can’t quite bring yourself to fire your bridal party, then I suggest you at least acknowledge them in your ceremony.
Introduce the wedding party
Besides standing there looking gorgeous, your wedding party don’t do a whole lot, so why not acknowledge them and what they mean to you by having your celebrant introduce them. This can be a simple as “Sally is Justine’s best friend from uni. Their friendship was forged over red wine study sessions and a shared love of The Gilmore Girls”. Sally gives a wave, all the guests now know who she is and why you’ve chosen her to stand by your side as you get married. This also acts as a great conversation starter for the reception.
Groomsmen have to be men and bridesmaids have to be women
Photo by Willa Kveta Photography.
Is your best mate a guy (bride) or would you like to have your sister as your best-man (groom)? Then do it! As the role of the wedding party has changed, so have the rules. Choose the people that mean something to you – Bridesmen and Groomswomen, and Man of Honour and Best Woman are totally a thing.
Witnesses should be the best man and maid of honour
Who said? I can’t find any historical reason why people believe the Best Man and Maid of Honour must be official witnesses to the marriage. In Australia, the only requirements are that the witnesses are over 18, they are present at the ceremony and they understand all that is said (either they speak English or use an interpreter). So…
Choose whoever you like
If there are people you’d like to include or acknowledge in your ceremony but you’re not sure how, having them act as witnesses is a great option. I particularly like the trend of having grandparents as witnesses (if you’re lucky enough to have them at your wedding).
Witness lucky door prize
If you really can’t decide, add a bit of fun to your ceremony by conducting a witness lottery or lucky door prize. When it comes time to sign the paperwork, your celebrant can tell everyone to check under their seats or draw names from a barrel to select a winning witness.
After more wedding planning advice? You’ll find practical, no BS tips and suggestions right here.