5 wedding traditions to keep and ones to toss

A bride and groom with a Just Married sign.
Photo by Ogovorka/Shutterstock

It’s wedding season. Whether this statement has you clapping your hands or burying your face in them probably depends on what kinds of weddings you’ve been to recently. There are a lot of ways weddings can go wrong, but also a lot of ways they can go right.

Part of putting on the perfect wedding is knowing which parts of the ceremony are essential and which you can trash. A lot of the old, standard wedding traditions no longer have a place in modern weddings (historically, marriage has often been downright oppressive). On the other hand, some traditions are fun and meaningful, and give the couple getting married an opportunity to express themselves and their commitment more fully.

Here’s our guide to which traditions to keep, and which to drop.


Mailed invitations

A unique wedding invitation that includes a balloon.

Photo courtesy of wpengine.netdna-cdn.com

An invitation is an opportunity to share with your guests in advance the atmosphere and spirit you’re hoping to create with your wedding. You can make fun invitations, jokey ones, cheesy ones, formal ones. You can use conventional paper cards or print on something unconventional, like a balloon. Whatever you choose to do, make it a reflection of the couple and the celebration they are planning to have together. It’ll get your guests in the right mindset and set the tone way before the event itself.


The vows are the heart of the wedding ceremony. Sure, it’s great hearing a random uncle talking about how the groom used to refuse to wear pants, or hearing the wedding officiate talking about how the couple met on Tinder, but what everyone’s really there to hear is the declaration of love and commitment between the couple. Whether they write their own or use some carefully chosen pre-written vows, this is always the part of the ceremony where the tissues come out.

A wedding cake (or some other baked good)

A giant, multi-tiered wedding cake isn’t an absolute necessity, but some feat of baking is sure to keep the masses happy after dinner. Even a simple, single layer cake can be a nice touch, though you can be as out there as you want. There are wedding cakes made of cupcakes, made without flour, or that aren’t even cakes at all (wedding pies are definitely becoming a thing). And let’s face it: without the cake, you wouldn’t have the best wedding photos of all: the ones of the couple trying to feed one another a slice without making a giant mess.

Speeches (but keep them short and sweet)

Who doesn’t love to hear a heartfelt, funny, and appropriately pithy speech at a wedding? Speeches make the bride and groom feel the love not just from one another, but from their guests. Of course, a boring, obligatory speech can really kill a room’s spirit, so we recommend that only those who want to stand up and say a few words actually do so. As a bonus, speeches give the guests, many of whom don’t know each other, a common focus, breaking the ice, and reminding them of why they’ve all come together.

A DJ or band

Unless you or one of your loved ones is incredibly passionate about music, and knows how to handle any dance-floor eventuality (what do you do when the Macarena clears the room?), this is a job best left to professionals. Having music at a wedding is a must, and no matter your musical inclinations, you can find a DJ or band that will cater to them. If you have any special requirements, talk to your DJ/band leader in advance, and they’ll bend over backwards to find a way to please you. That way the only thing you’ll have to worry about is the dancing.


The overly formal atmosphere

We’ve all been to weddings that feel like funerals. These formal gatherings with every action and moment planned out often have guests covertly checking their watches. It can be easy to feel bogged down by all of the demands of planning a wedding, but something to keep in mind is that it’s a celebration. So every time you start to flounder when choosing flowers or making a seating plan, just remember, it’s not a life or death decision. Focus on having fun while planning, and ditch whatever you don’t need or can’t handle. The ceremony will feel lighter and better because of it.

“The white dress”

Many people are attached to the white wedding dress idea, and that’s okay. But if the bride feels like wearing a lime-green cocktail dress, a little black dress, or, hey, even a suit and tails, then that’s perfectly all right. After all, this wedding is meant to be, in part, a reflection of her personality. The same goes for grooms. Let the personalities of the people getting married shine through, and if that involves colours other than black and white, so be it!

The word “obey”

This is a common part of a lot of wedding vows: the promise to love, honour, and obey. The first two are great. The third…not so much. While marriage once involved a heavy dose of obedience, most marriages today prefer to emphasize respect and care. So don’t vow to obey your spouse—vow to listen to them, respect them, and vehemently disagree with them, if that’s what’s called for.


A close-up of a diamond.

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

While diamond companies would like you to believe otherwise, diamonds aren’t inherently rare or valuable. These days, we’re too savvy to believe that a giant rock somehow makes a wedding more loving or special—particularly when most diamonds come from incredibly unethical mining and refinement practices that harm children and workers. So ditch the diamonds, and find a token of your love that is unique and comes from the heart (not from a corporation creating artificial demand). A family heirloom, a custom-made piece of jewellery, or a simple ring with a loving inscription will serve you just as well (and is more personal, to boot).

Matching bridesmaids dresses

If you believe conventional wedding wisdom, being a bridesmaid is something to be dreaded. You spend all your time catering to the bride’s massive tantrums, you are forced to dance with the groom’s younger brother, and on top of it all, your dress is hideous. Fortunately, a lot of people are ditching such conventions these days, and bridesmaids themselves certainly appreciate it—especially the opportunity to choose their own clothes. Being a bridesmaid should be a celebration of friendship, and friends let friends choose their own dresses. Bonus: letting bridesmaids shop for themselves takes the pressure off the person planning the wedding. Everybody wins!

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