How – And Why – Have Traditional Weddings Changed?

How – And Why – Have Traditional Weddings Changed

If you ask someone in the United States, Canada or New Zealand to describe a “traditional” wedding you are likely to get a rather standard response. It was held in a church; the bride wore a white dress; the photographs were posed and staged; the cake was made of fruit and had a dry, hard icing.

It isn’t that people didn’t have any imagination, rather it was a time when people generally did what was “expected” of them as it was easier than swimming against the social current. The occasional couple might elope – gasp, shock, horror – but even their grandchildren would still be talking about it two generations later.

Why have things changed?

While many couples opt for the well-worn traditional route, an increasing number of people want something “different.” That may be defined as anything from a wedding on a beach in the Caribbean, to a ceremony at the local pub with family and friends to celebration on a farm in the mountains.

The venues for wedding in the 21st century are limited only by people’s imagination and budget. And while getting married in outter- space isn’t an option, it may soon be.

How have things changed?

The idea of “themed” or destination weddings is increasingly popular as couples want to make it personal. To leave their own mark on their special day.

That is why destination wedding are increasingly popular. Why? As well as being the wedding, it is also the honeymoon. Not everyone will be able to attend – some can’t afford it, others are too sick or old to travel, while a number of people are terrified of flying – so it is easy to keep down  the guest list.

Then again, if you want a gift from Aunty Kay and Uncle Steve, send them an invitation and they will likely come across with a present even if they don’t come to Jamaica for the ceremony.

Has anything stayed the same?

If you strip it back to the bare-bones, the French are right: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Or “the more things change the more they stay the same” for those who are not Francophiles.

The bride still wears clothes – even if it is a tailored suit rather than a dress; there is still a specific spot where the couple says “I do”; photos are still a very important part of getting married as they are a record of the event; the cake may be dark chocolate with blueberry icing. But is it really any different?

The traditional posed black and white photo of the bridal party – where the bride often looked like someone had stepped on her toes and the groom wore a straight-ahead gaze – have evolved with the times.

Historically, photographs were expensive, so they were carefully guarded and shared with family and intimate friends as newly-weds couldn’t afford to pay for a copy for everyone. And it was a time where there were only a few negatives to choose from, so the rule of thumb was to pick the one that looked the least horrible.

These historical records of wedding sat in the bookshelf – or on the piano — to be dusted from time to time. They were literately “a snap-shot in time” that people forgot over the years. Do you recognize the people in your great-grandparents wedding photo?

So, although photos remain an essential element in the wedding, the genre has – fortunately many will say — evolved. Lots of photos; the bride being videoed from her waking moment until the newly-wed couple drives off into the sunset for their honeymoon; copies of everything are sent to everyone; the wedding video is on Facebook a second after the couple said “I do.’

How to decide what sort of wedding to have

Perhaps the first consideration is the age of the couple. First timers might want to have a traditional wedding to make a statement of their intentions.

Others in their 50 or 60s for whom it is a second or third marriage, might want to opt for a subtler ceremony that includes only family and close friends.

The point isn’t what kind of wedding you want, the important consideration is to tailor it to suit your specific situation.

First, decide what sort of impression you want to create. Then pick the venue, the dress, the photos and the cake accordingly.