Wedding Traditions and How They’ve Changed Over the Years

The United States is a melting pot of cultures, nationalities, religions and all of these play a big part in the different wedding traditions we see today.

And just as different trends and fads come and go, some wedding traditions fall off and new ones are started. Sometimes different things start as trends and end up staying on through generations as traditional to a wedding ceremony.

1. Some Familiar Wedding Traditions

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An Engagement Party
Usually couples have an engagement party if the couples’ families don’t live near each other and have never met. This gives both sides of the family a chance to meet, along with friends of the bride and groom to get to know each other too.

Engagement parties can be really casual like a backyard barbecue or a casual dinner party. Couples usually won’t spend a lot of money on these parties; they’ll save the catering and music for the reception.

Bridal Shower
This is one of those timeless wedding traditions; a fun party usually hosted by the maid/matron of honor. The guests traditionally have been for the women – mothers of the bride and groom, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and the female members of the bridal party.

These are usually hosted at the maid of honor’s house, but could be at the bride’s house too if the mother of the bride is helping organize it. If the bride has a really big family and lots of friends, it’s pretty traditional for a banquet hall to be rented for an afternoon.

2. Food can be do-it-yourself, donated or catered.

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The wedding tradition for the bridal shower has evolved some though to where both the men and women are invited to a “wedding shower.” And in fact, a “wedding shower” could take the place of an engagement party. It’s still a good idea to keep this party inexpensive and casual.

Bachelorette or Hen Party and Bachelor Parties
Traditionally, this is the bride’s equivalent of a “stag party” for the groom-to-be and usually held the night before the wedding. It’s supposed to be the bride’s last night as an available bachelorette, and the groom’s last night as a single bachelor.

These parties might start out at someone’s house or apartment, and then move on to a dance club, bar or even a “strip bar.” So basically it’s a last night out on the town for the bride and her friends, and for the groom and his friends.

Sometimes the mothers of the bride and groom are invited to hang out with the girls for this night out and other times not. It’s optional. Same with the fathers of the bride and groom at the bachelor’s party.

3. The Bridal Party

Who's who in the bridal party...

There are a couple of wedding traditions for choosing who’s going to be in your wedding.

If the bride has a sister, she’ll traditionally be the maid or matron of honor. But if the bride has more than one sister, she may ask her best friend to be her maid of honor and have her sisters as bridesmaids.

The same goes for the groom. I have a cousin who has five brothers. So he asked his best friend to be his best man and his brothers were all in the wedding as groomsmen.

The number of attendants in the bridal party is up to the couple. In some states, the couple doesn’t need to have anyone stand for them at all if they don’t want to; for example if they’re going to elope or head to Vegas for a quick ceremony.

4. The White Wedding Gown

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Old wedding traditions said that only a virgin could wear a white wedding gown. But today, brides can pick whatever color they want.

Even brides having second weddings or vow renewal ceremonies are wearing white wedding dresses, while some first-time brides are opting for antique white or pink wedding dresses.

Pretty Bridesmaids All in a Row
A lot has changed in the wedding traditions for the bridesmaids today too. Now brides are opting for their ladies to be in different colors or different styles, whatever they feel more comfortable wearing.

And dress designers have picked up on this trend too. It’s pretty easy today to find one particular dress that comes in a variety of styles and colors. So the ladies look coordinated but may be wearing dresses with different necklines, some in strapless dresses and others with one-strap or spaghetti straps.

5. A lot of variety but still looking completely put together!

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Three-Piece Tuxedos for the Groom and Groomsmen
As for outdated wedding traditions, a lot has changed for what the men wear for a wedding. Some couples stick with traditional tuxes, while today’s trends are leaning more toward more casual suits and ties.

And for country-themed weddings, some men are opting for jeans and cowboy boots with a dress shirt and casual jacket.

Church Weddings vs. Civil Weddings
Gone are the days when a couple absolutely must get married in a church. Depending on the wedding traditions in the family, culture or religion, couples can get married anywhere today.

Civil weddings don’t have to take place at the courthouse anymore either as more and more district justices will travel to the ceremony site.

6. There are more “traveling” wedding ministers today too that will come to a ceremony site and officiate a wedding.

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The Bridal Veil
Traditionally, the new bride wore a veil that draped down over her face. It was customary that the veil stayed in place until after the vows were repeated. Once the minister announced ‘You may kiss the bride,’ the groom would lift the front of the veil and drape over the bride’s head.

As far as today’s wedding traditions, you really don’t see a whole lot of that today. Even brides that are choosing the long Cathedral veils may have them pinned up into their hairstyle, but not draped over her face.

7. Other Wedding Traditions That Are Losing Popularity

Wedding Cake Traditions

The groom can’t see the bride the night before the wedding. Since a lot of couples actually live together for some time before the wedding, this means either the groom or the bride has to pack and leave home for the night.

Since this can be a little inconvenient, that tradition has been modified to the groom not actually seeing his bride in her wedding dress before the wedding.

Smashing the wedding cake in each others faces. A horrid tradition, but one that’s still around, depending on the couple. Some couples make a deal that they absolutely won’t do this. And some couples end up breaking that promise and cake ends up everywhere but their mouths.

Tossing the Bouquet and the Whole Garter Tradition
I recently read where this is one of those old wedding traditions that’s seen its days. As more couples are opting for smaller ceremonies, and as more couples are living together, there may not be that many “available” women and men to even make this whole tradition worthwhile.

But obviously if you’re having a pretty sizable guest list with enough people interested in participating, better be prepared for it!

And finally, the Dollar Dance. There are conflicting opinions about this. Some bridal “experts” say it’s tacky and not that many people are doing it anymore. But if you talk to some DJs, they’ll say the guests are expecting it because it’s one of those age-old wedding traditions that guests look forward to.

So use your own judgement. If you want to do a Dollar Dance, or Money Dance, go for it. If not, do something else in its place.



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