Beware the It's Traditional Wedding Guilt Trip!

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © 27/03/2022
Categories: | Wedding Ceremony
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Bride looking puzzled
                        with the caption Why do PPL insist that all
                        weddings must be traditional?Have you ever wondered why, when you share that you are planning to do something untraditional in your wedding, particularly in your wedding ceremony, other people keep telling you that you can't do that, that your wedding won't be a proper wedding if you don't do the traditional things - never mind that those traditional ways may well be sexist, expensive, outdated, or just plain weird in the context of the modern life you live? There is more than one simple explanation. And, together, these add up to real resistance. 

The key to avoiding being guilt tripped into a traditional wedding is to understand why so many people rusted on to the idea that the only proper (and safe) wedding is a traditional one.

If they don't understand it ... they don't like it!

Everyone knows how a wedding should be, don't they? At least, that's the way the story goes. For generations, thanks to royal influence, weddings have followed a formula establishe by British aristocrats mimicking Queen Victoria's wedding. Or so they think, because weddings have evolved in subtle and not-so-subtle ways over the past two centuries. New traditions have overtaken old ones.  However, it is not uncommon for people to automatically decide they don't like something they don't understand. Don't worry. In discussing choices I'll give you the facts and the history that lies behind the tradition or belief so you can explain them to your nearest and dearest.

They've only experienced weddings done that way

What is accepted as "the way it is done" or "traditional" varies. The way weddings are done in the UK, for example, is different to the way they are done in Australia (our weddings have evolved into a hybrid of British and US ways of marrying). Secular civil ceremonies may differ from what is usual in a church wedding. There are cultural differences, and class differences.

In Australia we see them all. So, for me, it is not unusual to have a wedding where the processional is ordered in the American/Australian way - bridesmaids first, the bride escorted by both parents following the long tradition of Jewish weddings, the couple exchanges the traditional vows (Church of England) with some personal promises added, but there is no kiss after the pronouncement (for Asian cultural reasons). And it all feels quite natural because this is Australia.

However, I've also had experience where someone has insisted that there is only one way. For example, an newly minted function coordinator who interrupted the rehearsal to insist that the couple had to stand with their backs to the guests, facing the celebrant. On gentle questioning it turned out she had only ever been to church weddings, and very few of those.

They are superstitious ... even if they don't think they are

Many of the customs associated with weddings come down to superstition inherited from earlier times when bad omens and evil spirits were an accepted part of normal life.  At the time, the only way of securing a woman's economic future was to marry. No-one wanted to compromise that, so beliefs were treated with great respect. The superstitions have survived while the underlying reason no longer applies.

Must have a red carpet? Because is you don't and your feet touch actual ground, evil spirits will take advantage!

The groom seeing the bride at all before the wedding? That's evolved into not seeing the wedding dress and spending the night before the wedding apart. First looks are becoming more common, as is a couple shopping for wedding dresses together. To the best of my knowledge this as not resulted in an uptick in rejections at the altar, a possibility that was a huge worry when the couple had never met, the marriage had been arranged for strategic advantage for the bride's family, and the groom had probably only seen a hugely romanticised portrait.

It makes life easier

For vendors, and anyone else helping with the planning of your wedding, having you follow a tried a true formula makes life a lot easier. One size fits all is a model of efficiency. If wedding ceremonies are all done the same way, they can operate on automatic.

You will spend more money

The large wedding party, top-shelf venue, all the bells and whistles wedding costs money. If you look at the standard wedding planning checklist it just goes on and on. Yet every part of it, with the exception of someone legally authorised to solemnise your marriage, every single thing on those lists is optional.

The best reason to smile and keep doing your own thing  ...

is that nothing bad will happen if you do your own thing, in your own way. Except ... if you allow it to become a battle of wills with people you love, potentially damaging your relationship, or you just give in and comply with what others insist you do. The bad thing in both cases will be regret.

Related information

Thanks for reading!
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