By Becky Mandelbaum

Brides Wear a White Dress

The Tradition: For centuries, cultures have associated the color white with purity and innocence. While this may be one reason white dresses have clung on for so long, another explanation dates back to 1840, when Queen Victoria wore a white dress to her wedding with Prince Albert. The beloved royal couple’s wedding received ample coverage, and the trend stuck…for a long time. Before this, many brides simply wore their nicest dress, regardless of the color.

The Upgrade: Not only does white stain easily, but it’s also not very exciting, flattering, or versatile. The color is so tightly associated with weddings, you’re unlikely to wear it again to a different occasion. For these reasons and more, many women are choosing to forgo tradition and opt for colorful dresses. Why not wear a dress you truly love? After all, it’s your wedding—your dress should be whatever color you feel best in.

Dad Walks the Bride Down the Aisle

The Tradition: The custom of a father “giving away the bride” dates back to the days when women were considered the property of men. Even if you love your pops, this may not be an attitude you want to perpetuate at your big day. The tradition also poses problems for brides who may not have a dad, or who might simply feel more comfortable walking with someone else.

The Upgrade: Why not have whoever you want walk you down the aisle? In some cultures, both parents walk their daughter down the aisle. If this feels more appropriate, why not? You can also ask a brother, sister, best friend, or even go it alone. There’s also no rule saying you can’t walk down the aisle with your partner-to-be.

Flower Girls Are…Girls

The Tradition: Flower girls date back to Ancient Rome, when young girls attending to the bride walked beside her bearing wheat and herbs, objects meant to symbolize prosperity and fertility. Over the centuries, flower girls have come to symbolize the bride’s transformation from innocent child to wife. Creepy much?

The Upgrade: If the symbolism of losing your innocence and purity isn’t something you want to convey, metaphorically or otherwise, at your wedding, why not opt for a flower grandma? Or flower boy? Or flower friend? Anyone can scatter flowers. While we’re on the subject, why not scatter something other than flowers? What about leaves? Or tree moss? Or confetti?  If you haven’t picked up the theme by now—this is your day. You can do whatever you please.

something new

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You Eat Wedding Cake at the Reception

The Tradition: Once again, the Ancient Romans set the stage for this sugary custom. Although Roman couples didn’t have wedding cake, they did eat a sweet scone-like cake for good luck. The essence of this tradition carried on, evolving over the centuries. In medieval times, people stacked cookies in a tower while the newlywed couple tried to kiss over it. In the 17th century, couples celebrated with meat pies. Tiered cakes became in vogue in the 18th century.

The Upgrade: With food allergies and sensitivities abounding, it can be hard to find a cake for everyone to enjoy. Plus – it may sound crazy—but not everybody likes cake. If cake isn’t your favorite, why not offer up a different treat, or even a buffet of various goodies? Cupcakes, macarons, pies, and donuts all make excellent options. For a more interactive dessert, try a build-your-own sundae bar or crepe station.  

The Honeymoon Comes After the Wedding

The Tradition: The origins of the honeymoon are somewhat contested. One story explains how, in ancient Europe, the calendar was organized by moon cycles. After a wedding, a bride and groom would receive a month’s supply of honey mead to help them relax, get a little tipsy…and work on conceiving a child. Another theory is that men who kidnapped their brides would whisk them away for weeks or months -- to hide out from the bride’s family.

The Update: Planning a big trip is a lot of work, especially if you’re already burned out from planning a wedding. Many couples are choosing to take a mini-moon -- a shorter getaway following their wedding -- and then plan a proper honeymoon a few months or even a full year later. This gives you plenty of time to recover from the wedding, plan a vacation, and celebrate the first months of your marriage in a more relaxed state of mind. Another bonus? You get two trips instead of one.