So much of a wedding is about tradition, from wearing white to the vows many couples choose to exchange. There’s something so special about celebrating this milestone moment in a way it has been done for decades (if not centuries!), but there’s also something wonderful and empowering about being able to update those traditions to reflect modern times and your own values as a couple. Our experts tackle eight time-honored pieces of wedding advice that have been rewritten for modern brides and grooms—just in time for your "I do's!"
The Old: Only engaged or married guests are invited with a “plus one.”
Traditionally, wedding etiquette dictates that in order to be invited with a date, there needed to be a ring on your finger, no matter how long you’d been together, or how soon an engagement is coming.
The New: Couples in long-term or serious relationships are invited together, even if they aren’t engaged or married.
With more couples dating for a longer time and living together before getting married (or even choosing not to marry at all), the ring rule just doesn’t apply these days. Instead, extend an invitation as a couple to anyone who is in a committed relationship. And of course, you could give your wedding party a plus one no matter what! On the other side of the coin, many couples opt to keep their weddings small by not offering plus ones at all.
The Old: The bride’s parents foot the bill.
Old wedding etiquette states that the bride’s parents pay for the wedding, no questions asked.
The New: Either set of parents—or the couple themselves—may contribute some or all of the wedding budget.
While many couples and families do still honor the tradition of having the bride’s parents pay for the wedding, more and more are opting to contribute a portion (or the entirety) of the budget from their own bank account. Before you start making payments, sit down and discuss the budget and talk to both of your parents to figure out exactly who is contributing what.
The Old: Registry information should be spread by word of mouth only.
The wedding party and relatives of the couple were expected to spread the word about the couple’s registry on their behalf.
The New: Registry information is shared on the couple’s wedding Web site.
It still isn’t kosher to put any registry information on your invitation, but that doesn’t mean the couple can’t participate in spreading the word. A wedding Web site is the perfect place to provide links to online registries, as well as list any in-store registries the couple might have.
The Old: The bride wears white.
Ever since Queen Victoria wore white to marry Prince Albert in 1840, the crisp and pure hue has been de rigueur for any bride’s walk down the aisle.
The New: The bride wears whatever she wants.
In addition to ivory and cream, colored and patterned wedding dresses are making it possible for a bride to really express her personality. From blush to black, floral to striped (and of course, the bridal jumpsuit or tuxedo), today’s brides are donning whatever makes them look and feel their best.
The Old: Favors are a must.
Wedding favors find their root in European bonbonnieres—little porcelain boxes filled with sweets to show off the family’s wealth and stature—then evolved into Jordan almonds (signifying wishes of health, wealth, fertility, longevity, and happiness) given to guests, and are now often tchotchkes embellished with the couple’s name and wedding date.
The New: Favors in the form of snacks (or nothing at all).
We all have way too many of those aforementioned tchotchkes hidden in our junk drawers, and there’s a chance you’ll end up with dozens of shot glasses with your own names on them when the wedding is over. And do they really say “thanks for coming” anyway? Instead, write each guest a heartfelt message on their thank you note, and send them home with something everyone wants at the end of a night of drinking: snacks! Pick a treat that the two of you love, whether it be your favorite cookie recipe to burgers packaged to go.
The Old: Guests sit on the bride’s or groom’s side at the ceremony.
Traditionally (especially at weddings in houses of worship), guests sit on either the bride’s side (left in a Christian wedding, right in a Jewish wedding) or the groom’s side (right in a Christian wedding, left in a Jewish wedding) of the ceremony space based on who they are related to or are a guest of.
The New: Choose a seat, not a side.
Unless the religious ceremony is particularly conservative, many couples are encouraging guests to mingle as they take a seat. After all, you’ll all be family when it’s over!
The Old: The bride walks down the aisle with her father.
Back in the days when your father actually was giving you away, it was a must to have him escort you to the altar. In Jewish weddings, both parents escort each partner down the aisle, with the groom and his parents walking at the beginning of the processional, and the bride and her parents walking at the end.
The New: Both partners can get creative with their processional.
When it comes to walking down the aisle, these days there are no rules! You can adopt traditions from other faiths (the Jewish tradition, above, has become quite popular outside of Jewish weddings), walk down the aisle together, tap another family member or friend to escort you, walk on your own, or skip it altogether and simply be waiting at the altar for the ceremony to begin.
The Old: Save the top tier of your cake for your first anniversary.
To celebrate a year of marriage, couples save the top tier of their wedding cake and stash it in the freezer.
The New: Mark the occasion with a new cake—or something else!
Even with multiple layers of plastic wrap and tinfoil, there’s a chance your cake will be worse-for-wear by the time your anniversary comes around. Instead of digging into freezer-burned sweets, ask your baker to make a new, small cake for your anniversary. You could also grab a cake from a local bakery or whip one up yourselves, or skip the cake and celebrate with a great bottle of wine (or whiskey!).