3 Common Wedding Traditions with Some Messed Up History

3 traditions we really should take another look at and how to make them work for your wedding.

3 Common Wedding Traditions with Some Messed Up History [image source: talkingpointsmemo.com], crowd ink, crowdink, crowdink.com, crowdink.com.au
3 Common Wedding Traditions with Some Messed Up History [image source: talkingpointsmemo.com]

Weddings and feminism don’t usually go hand-in-hand to begin with. But with the current international conversation around feminism exploding (stress on conversation rather than on large-scale meaningful action), and human beings of all genders still “tying the knot” and spending a collective $72 billion each year in the wedding industry, we have to ask: are feminist weddings possible? Are there wedding traditions worth keeping? And most importantly, is there a way to make your parents happy without sacrificing all those dangerous and progressive notions about gender equality?

Catalyst Wedding Co. is “a community for wedding disrupters, creators, and critics alike,” that publishes Catalyst Wedding Magazine, the first-ever print wedding magazine with a feminist consciousness. While it seems like a niche market, they’re at the forefront of asking the wedding industry and those shopping within it to make intentional choices colored by a broader political and historical context than, “this is the dress I’ve wanted since I was 5.”

Here are 3 ways you can have your wedding cake, understand why you’re eating it, and pick up the damn fork anyway.

1. We Have to Talk About “Best Men”
Oh, boy. As sweet as it sounds to have your “best bro” standing next to you as you make your vows, ever wonder why he’s referred to as the “Best Man” and not just the “Dude I Grew Up With” or “Brother?” It’s because, traditionally, he was the “best” around with a sword. No emotional attachment required. It’s just the best bodyguard you could afford. Why would you need a bodyguard on your wedding day? Just in case the bride or her parents or spurned lovers decided that the wedding was a bad idea.

That’s right. The “Best Man” was traditionally there to help the groom kidnap the bride and provide some gentle nudging to get on with the ceremony before she could leave. Adorable.

Can You Still Have a “Best Man?”
100%; absolutely! It’s your wedding; do whatever tickles your fancy. Including important figures from both partners’ lives is a big part of why people go through with the wedding in the first place. But maybe lose the gender stuff. If a groom wants to have women or other genders stand up with him – do that. The same goes for a bride. And if you don’t like the phrase “Best Man,” change it. Choose something that works for you and your relationship with “person formally known as ‘Best Man’.”

2. Matching Outfits for Wedding Parties are Weird
If you have ever been a bridesmaid, chances are high that you weren’t super-happy with shelling out a bunch of money for a dress you were a. only going to wear once and b. probably forced into to make the bride look better. But do you know how the matching dresses became a thing?

Trickery. Bridesmaids were traditionally asked to dress similarly to the bride in the hope that any suitors that didn’t wind up heading to the church with the bride would be unable to discern which woman to kidnap/curse/throw rocks at. Ha ha, less-than-suitable suitor! Not today! You hit, Marlene, not me! Weird. Thoroughly weird.

Can You Still Have a Wedding Party?
100%; absolutely! It’s your wedding; do whatever tickles your fancy. But again, let’s keep the gender out of it. Marlene, Matthew, and M all have a right to stand up with the people they love who love each other. But matching outfits are weird. For all that is good in this world, stop having your wedding parties be indistinguishable from each other. Accent pieces like belts and ties that coordinate with your colour scheme are enough. We promise.

3. Wedding Veils & Giving Away the Bride
These two are bizarrely linked. A few sources state that wedding veils were traditionally used to mask brides from evil spirits and that fathers traditionally “gave away” the brides in order to guard them during their walk down the aisle. Spooky.

The other reason for veils and lugging your daughter down the aisle is decidedly less spooky and decidedly creepier. Veils were used during arranged marriages to prevent grooms from changing their mind once they glimpsed the bride’s visage. That’s right. You arrange it, you buy it, however into the aesthetics of her face you may be. Fathers guided brides down the aisle to make sure they didn’t book after they’d already collected a dowry in return for selling their daughters. Standard delivery included. Gross.

Can You Wear a Veil or Include Parents in the Wedding?
There’s a theme emerging: 100%; absolutely. It’s your wedding; do whatever tickles your fancy. Figure out why you or your partner want a veil in the first place. Then use some headpiece that doesn’t cover your face. It’s your damn wedding! Don’t you want a good view? As for your parents – have them stand up with you or acknowledge them in your vows or give them the prime spots at the front of the ceremonial site. But, honestly, there are only two people walking into that marriage and it’s possible that they should do so without needing to literally be pulled there by anyone else.

Long Story Short
It’s your wedding, do whatever you want. But understanding why traditions exist in the first place will help you make choices that suit your relationship with your partner, your family, their family, and everyone involved in the ceremony. No one’s ever had or ever will have a marriage quite like yours, so why would your wedding look like everyone else’s?

Do you have wedding traditions that really grind your gears? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Ferrante is a poet, editor, facilitator, and writer born on Long Island, college-fed in Western New York and Paris, and then poetically raised in Buffalo, NY; Ireland; and Australia. A former member of the Pure Ink Poetry team in Buffalo and a regular competitor in Dublin's Slam Sunday, Sam was a Co-Creative Producer at Melbourne-based Slamalamadingdong in addition to serving on the Melbourne Spoken Word Committee. Sam has been published in Ghost City Press, Blowing Raspberries, and The Dirty Thirty Anthology and has been featured at The Owl & Cat Session, La Mama Poetica, Girls on Key, and White Night 2016 among others. Her debut book of poetry, Pick Me Up, got rave reviews from her Mom. She is currently the Editor of CrowdInk.