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What's Up Weddings

My, How the Times Have Changed: Ten Familiar Wedding Traditions Over the Years

Oct 13, 2016 02:41PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Tina Byland

Great tradition and etiquette surrounds the ritual of marriage. Perhaps that is why we think about them with such precious, careful thoughts. While some aspects of this time in a couple’s life never seems to change (here’s looking at you, honeymoon), other aspects have shifted meaning through the generations. Some of the most familiar of which are explained here.

1. Timing

Then: Couples were typically in their young twenties at the time of their wedding. It wasn’t unheard of, however, to be married before your 20th birthday.

Now: Couples are marrying later. They are typically waiting until after college, after they secure jobs, and after they have built adult lives for themselves.

2. Location

Then: Nuptials happened in a place of worship and receptions often occurred in a hotel ballroom. The mother of the bride tended to coordinate the event and (gasp) brides may not have had much say in the decision-making process.

Now: From aquariums to glaciers, couples are tying the knot wherever they choose. Receptions range from immediately following the ceremony to occurring much, much later in the day. Brunch receptions, afternoon parties, and late-night blasts are all acceptable and widely chosen by today’s modern couple.

3. Attire

Then: The local seamstress or town bridal shop provided you with your options for dress. You may have wear your mother’s gown. Without the Internet and unlimited wedding publications, there wasn’t as much to compare when searching for the right dress. Jewelry was comprised of gifts from relatives and your sweetheart. Your groom most certainly wore a black suit or tuxedo and he likely wouldn’t want it any other way. As for your guests, white, red, and black were all no-no’s.

Now: Brides travel far and wide to say yes to the dress. If there is particular dress or designer you have your eye on (and an unlimited budget, too), you can end up wearing whatever your heart desires regardless of your coordinates on the map. Brides still wear pieces of jewelry passed down through the family, but they are also going for non-traditional items like flower crowns and costume jewelry. The men? From cowboy boots to Hawaiian shirts, anything goes. Guests are still wise to avoid white and black unless otherwise requested, but red isn’t considered such a terrible color, so long as the red dress in question isn’t so sexy that it would upstage the bride.

4. Paying the Bill

Then: You can thank the notion of a dowry for the tradition of the bride’s family paying for the cost of the wedding. In a time when women either became spinsters or housewives, the one-time cost of a dowry (and then a wedding) was nothing compared to the burden an unmarried daughter would have on the family.

Now: Each situation being unique, you still find the parents of the bride picking up the check for the wedding. You also are seeing couples footing the bill themselves or the groom’s family paying for the wedding. Even more common, most weddings today are paid for from a combination of sources including both sets of parents and the couple.

5. Wedding Party

Then: Bridesmaids were females and groomsmen were males. Your maids all wore the same dress, in the same color, and topped it off with the same shoes and jewelry. The goal was to make them look as uniform as possible.

Now: Brides and grooms are asking best friends of the opposite sex to stand with them on their wedding day. Bridesmaids are more often than not wearing gowns of their choice. The dresses don’t always match in fabric or color, either. In fact, some brides are purposefully mixing and matching their bridesmaid looks.

6. The Theme

Then: White dress, white tablecloths, white flowers, white cake, white invitations, white, white, white! There wasn’t much room for opinion on your color scheme. Brides would add in a “something blue” and would choose a classic, no-fuss feminine color for their bridesmaids to wear. But, generally speaking, you had a white wedding.

Now: Your wedding has an entire look and feel! Couples are picking a color scheme, typography, graphic elements, and even textures to create a signature look for their wedding. The look is best carried out from the beginning when Save the Date cards are mailed. Even napkins, thank you cards, and wedding websites must match the style chosen.

7. Your First Look

Then: Your groom did not dare see you prior to the ceremony on your wedding day. Even an accidental glimpse from down the hall would be reason to worry and garner bad luck.

Now: Couples are choosing to do a “first look” where they see each other all dressed up and ready to go prior to the ceremony. It helps take away the jitters, and also allows for more time to get pictures taken.

8. Processionals

Then: You walked down the aisle with your father to Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” and it never occurred to you to do otherwise. Guests would know to stand and turn to watch the father/daughter couple walk down the aisle as soon as the music started.

Now: The Beatles, Caribbean steel drums, a mariachi band, and bagpipes are all acceptable forms of ceremony music. And it doesn’t have to be your father walking you down the aisle. You can walk alone, with your parents, grandparents, stepparents, or even your dog. Just make sure your officiant reminds guests it is time to stand for the bride. This is your moment!

9. The Getaway

Then: Brides would change into their honeymoon outfits, complete with a hat and gloves, wave farewell to her guests, and toss her bouquet out to the crowd. The couple was then sent on their way no later than 8 p.m. in a shower of dried rice and cheers.

Now: Please don’t stop the music! Couples are dancing the night away with their guests as long as noise permits allow, and then being sent off by sparklers, fireworks, or even Chinese lanterns.

10. Gifts

Then: You registered for kitchenware and fine china. Your china pattern may not even be something you can personally choose, as families had china patterns specifically for their names that you were gracious to call your own. Flatware was made of real silver and a Tiffany & Co. housewares gift was never turned down.

Now: Sure, you still can find a KitchenAid stand mixer on most registries, but you will also find honeymoon funds, lawn care, hardware supplies, and even desired pets on a couple’s registry. Since many couples have already started homes together prior to getting married, there isn’t as much of a need for typical housewares.