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What is a Traditional Wedding Anyway?

So many times throughout your wedding planning you are likely to hear the phrase 'well traditionally…' and it may start to grate on you, after all who wants to do what's been done what's already been done before? But what does traditional even mean?

Traditional can mean what usually happens within cultural and religious norms, but modern weddings are more often anything but 'normal'. And that's ok. Between blending families for a second or third marriage, to blending religious traditions, but even more than that it's a bringing together of a couples ideas and personalities. What traditionally happens at a wedding according to your family or friends can actually be a good starting point to discovering what you don't want, as much as it can help you find out what you do want.

Handfasting is a traditional part of many different cultures and religions, and goes back a very long time. It symbolises the entwining of two souls, through the wrapping of a couples joined hands with a ribbon, rope or other binding, though it isn't always called a handfasting. There are specific vows for a legal wedding ceremony and they have to be as per the prescribed text but you'll likely be offered the opportunity to add your own pledges to each other, which can form a separate part of most services and in many cases can be much more personalised to you. Having a celebrant or friend oversee a non-legal ceremony offers you the free-est route for truly personalised ceremonies and vows. So if you want to make your promises to each other in Klingon then a celebrant is the way to go.

But what comes next?

Your wedding reception is the celebration of your union so it should represent the two of you, right? A wedding breakfast (first meal as a couple) is a tradition more about family and solemnity than it is what we think of a celebration, so it's only right that you decide if this tradition is something you need or even want. Of course, if you do want a wedding breakfast, it doesn't have to be a 'normal' traditional three course meal, go for food you'll be excited about eating.

A tradition that is very rarely used now is the receiving line before the wedding breakfast - this used to be about the parents and couple greeting the guests formally and thanking them for coming. Nowadays it's seen as an unnecessary waste of time especially as you've seen people as you came out of your ceremony, possibly been off to have photographs taken with them, plus families have changed so who do you even include in a line up? Ditch it if you don't want/need to do it.

If you're looking for ways to save a bit of time and a fair bit of cash, skipping the wedding breakfast altogether is a great start.

Your wedding reception should reflect you as a couple, the celebration is for you and your union after all. If you're big party-goers and could dance 'til morning then why not go straight to the music, let your hair down and enjoy your night. However, if you're really not ones for a long party then a shorter, more relaxed reception might be more up your street. Pretty much anything goes these days. Check your venues licensing hours for your latest finish time and then plan the reception you want. You're not restricted to venues if you don't want to be inside - fields, gardens, farms are all possible now, but you must bear in mind either licensed hours of operation or the sanity of your neighbours. You really don't want the local council or police turning up to stop the party.

The wedding first dance tradition goes back a fair way but not every couple is comfortable doing this, it's a lot of pressure to make it fun, quirky, professional looking or even just non-cringy. Add to that new traditions we're inheriting from elsewhere, like dad daughter dances, we're putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be dancing kings and queens. If you don't want to do it then don't! Start the music, get your besties up on the dance floor with you and get the party going. Or skip the party bit altogether if it just isn't you!

I'm going to go out on a limb and say you've probably been asked what you're doing about a wedding cake. And suddenly you're feeling pressured into deciding on a flavour of cake that you're probably not even going to eat… If you don't like cake, then don't get conned into believing you have to have one. Cheese towers are a thing now and have been for a while. Dessert bars are a newish idea we've inherited, and it encompasses all sweet and non-traditional tastes. Or do a tower of something else, like donuts. Or do nothing at all, the choice is yours.

What haven't we touched on yet?

Ahh yes the idea that you have to wear white/ivory and chaps have to wear dull suits… that can definitely do one. Wear a colourful outfit if you want to. Up until Queen Victoria there was no real tradition in the UK for a white wedding, plus different cultures have different ideas about what is traditional and lucky. Oo there's another tradition to bin if you want to - lucky sixpences, something borrowed something blue, etc. even the idea of not seeing your partner before your ceremony/wedding day, can all be ignored if you so choose. I've been involved in a few weddings where the couple arrived together, walked the aisle together, or did first looks before the ceremony and I'm pleased to say that they are all still happily married.

Being walked down the aisle by someone. Do you remember the controversy over Meghan Markle walking down the aisle without her dad, and you know what, the wedding was still beautiful and she didn't need to be 'given away'. However you want to walk down the aisle and whoever you want to do it with, whether it's alone or with your mum, brother, sister, nan, step dad or whoever, you decide.

If there's some tradition that you're being asked to keep to, but don't want, please let me know. In the meantime, you do you for Your Wedding X