Old School Things That Make Wedding Ceremonies Wonderful - and a Few that Don't

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (19/12/2021)
Categories:  |  Wedding Ceremony |  Wedding Planning   |
previous     |    contents    |    next

My mother on her wedding day - formal studio
                    portrait. Jennifer Cram Marriage Celebrant
My mother on her wedding day
Formal studio portrait
by Howard Shaw

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for ditching old school traditions and ways of doing weddings that no longer sit comfortably in the 21st century.

But in all the rush to be modern and contemporary, I think we often downplay the old school things that make wedding ceremonies wonderful. In fact, many wedding professionals act as if nothing old school happens during the wedding ceremonies they are involved with. But just because they are not acknowledged, doesn't mean they aren't there! Here is my list of all the (largely unacknowledged) things that have made weddings special forever, and continue to do so.

Communal Experience

In an age where people are more likely to interact on their phones than with the people they are physically with, and where it is getting rarer and rarer to gather in a group for the sole purpose of being present in the moment (except for footy, cricket, and concerts, of course!), having a group of hand-picked people come together for a wedding ceremony is a communal physical and emotional experience, both for you, as the marrying couple and for the people who have gathered to celebrate with you. It is a positive confirmation of love and support way more powerful than a like on a FB post!

Continuity of Ritual

However modern, most weddings, at least those where there are guests, include a wide range of ritual elements inherited from the past. While it is not uncommon for wedding professionals to claim they are disrupting the industry or reinventing weddings, truth be told, most just tweak an age old ritual. So even if given a fresh veneer, these old school traditions convey a comforting sense of continuity, something that is extra important to a sense of well-being in a world where "new normal" is the watchword, and where everything has changed radically over the past two years.

So whether you choose to walk down the aisle by yourself, together, bop you way with your whole wedding party, or something different, exchange something other than rings, sing your vows, or high five after the kiss, that sense of continuity and familiarity will prevail.

Focus on the marrying couple

Even in the days where marriages were strategically arranged for the benefit of two families, and the marrying couple were mere pawns in the game, during the actual wedding the focus has always been on the couple. That hasn't changed. Nor would be want it to. You are the focus. The limelight is on you. Enjoy it. It won't happen again, unless you do something extraordinary that just doesn't happen to most of us - climb the highest mountain, win the biggest lottery, or be convicted of some heinous crime. Please, not that last one!

Sense of occasion

However small your wedding, everyone approaches it with a sense of occasion, your vendors, your friends, your family, your FB friends, and of course, the two of you. For the ordinary person, it is a rare experience

Snail Mail, Paper, and Print

Who writes letters with pen and paper any more? When was the last time you bought a stamp? Most of us love the many different ways we can instantly communicate, wherever we are, to whoever we choose, however far away they are at the time. But when it comes to a wedding, there we are poring over designs, choosing paper for its thickness and feel, working on the wording, addressing envelopes and buying stamps! And for the guests, the rare experience of having an invitation or save the date delivered, and the joy of seeing that invite on the fridge for the next how many months. Old school indeed. The etiquette around inner and outer envelopes and wording might have changed. The experience of sending and receiving a physical invitation hasn't.

Quality Photographs

Digital photos are great. The fact that we all have at least one device on us all the time that allows as to take acceptable quality digital photos of ourselves, our friends, and whatever grabs our attention or takes our fancy, is fantastic. But, for a wedding, we go old school to the extent of hiring a professional with great equipment to take photos that can be printed and framed or put into an album. Special indeed.

Experiencing how the other half live

A wedding is a curated experience. The clothes, the meal, the decorations, usually inspired by weddings of people far more socially connected and cashed up than we are. Which means an experience that isn't day to day. A very special experience.

Everyone sweats the small stuff - on your behalf

Everyone really does sweat the small stuff. Near enough is good enough is not the mindset of anyone who is providing a service for your wedding, or your friends and family who are attending. Vendors take extra care that everything is perfect. Your friends and family take extra care over choosing a gift for you, what they wear, how they express their love and support. Everyone sweats the small stuff on your behalf, so you don't have to. So you can enjoy your day unbothered by details.

Old School Things to Avoid

  • Painful adherence to "etiquette"
    There used to be so many petty little etiquette rules to follow for weddings that whole books were written about them. Much of those have gone by the board. As long as you
    • communicate the who, where, what, and how of the ceremony and reception
    • are considerate about the comfort and safety of your guests
    • are nice (and kind) on the day and during the planning process
    you can forget the old school rules
  • Gender Role Stereotyping
    Old school weddings were littered with reminders that one gender was deemed more important and more powerful than the other. And only two genders were ever acknowledged.  Not only that, but wedding parties were strictly divided on gender lines. Kick all of that to the kerb, and make sure that the words and the actions in your ceremony convey a message of total equality. Same deal with the reception. Forget the nonsense about only males speaking/making toasts!
  • Sermons
    A carry over from church weddings - what I call the lecture - gratuitous relationship advice aka as reflections on marriage from the celebrant/officiant. Presumptous, not necessary. Say no to that. Include something that is meaningful to you both without being painful for the guests. A unity ritual, for example.
  • Standing with your backs to the guests
Did you enjoy reading this post?  Let's talk about how we can make your dream wedding a reality.
<    previous     |    contents    |    next   |   get in touch    >