Since when did traditions become the standard?

With all this talk about weddings, the idea of having a “traditional” wedding (whatever that means) is bound to enter the conversation. This begs the question: Are traditions the same as expectations?

My sister remarried two weekends ago. It was a small, fun ceremony. I helped her find her wedding dress (I’m practically a professional *rolls eyes*).

This is the "offensive" white dress I wore to my sister's wedding.
This is the “offensive” white dress I wore to my sister’s wedding.

My future daughter asked what I was wearing. She was off-screen during a Skype call, so I didn’t see her face when I told her.

However, since she asked if I knew of any other traditions besides “I know you aren’t supposed to wear white to another person’s wedding,” I think I can imagine her stunned expression. This comment was probably a hint. She wanted to save me from committing a terrible faux pas.

Her remark did, in fact, make me reconsider my wardrobe choice. Here’s my quandary: all my other dresses are either black, summery or too flashy to be appropriate for a simple, family wedding.

What’s wrong with black? Good question. The dress I considered (white bodice, thick line of teal separating from a black skirt) was what I wore to my mother’s funeral.

What sort of statement does wearing a funeral dress to a wedding make?

Apparently, the same sort wearing white does. I guess. For some people. It certainly didn’t matter to my sister – who hadn’t planned to wear white until she found the perfect dress, which happened to be – gasp – white.

I began wondering about the idea of traditions dictating to us, robbing us of choice. I felt fine in my dress until someone commented on how wearing it demonstrated disrespect. (This in response to my remark that I would have had to give someone a hard time if they showed up at the wedding in pajamas.)


What if there were traditions I was blissfully unaware of? Am I held accountable? Is ignorance of wedding traditions an excuse in those cases?

I admit. I didn’t handle the confrontation with grace or aplomb. I blame the high emotions of the occasion (the fact it was all family and my mother’s absence was noticeable). But it made me reflect on this idea that traditions hold some sort of power over our ability to make choices independently of expectations.

Sure, there are traditions in every aspect of life. However, weddings have taken a central spot in my life (and on this blog) in recent weeks, so let’s focus in on those.

The article here gives the history behind ten traditions that we still mainly follow in our era. Tossing the bouquet, giving away the bride, the wedding ring, the best man and more.

Did you know the tradition of giving away the bride was an actual representation of property transfer? Yep, that girl was chattel and now her husband “owned” her. Sure, today it’s considered a symbol of the father’s blessing, but should it be mandatory? If the father doesn’t walk the bride to the altar, does it mean he is withholding his blessing?

And the bride standing on the groom’s left is a tradition, too. This one started so the groom could easily access his sword (hanging from his right hip because everyone was right-handed, you know) and protect her in the event of an attack. That’s a huge concern these days. Should the tradition be discarded since its purpose is extinct?

I didn’t wear a veil at my wedding. Thus, veil-wearing tradition screams I was neither young, modest nor a virgin. According to tradition, those are the three things the veil symbolizes. Oh, and it wards off evil.

The fact that I’m not crazy about veils means nothing, apparently. Not if we are going to let traditions rule us.

I love the “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” tradition. Did I know it also included “and a sixpence in your shoe”? No. And here I thought I was following tradition by including the first four items in my wedding attire.

Do you even know what those things symbolize? If you care to learn, click here.

The saleslady at the bridal store told us ivory is the most popular color for wedding gowns these days. How can people break tradition this way? White dresses are a statement of innocence and purity, right? To go further afield, many designers also offer pink and silver in many of their designs.

You mean my pink wedding dress is now en vogue? Go figure.

Are we letting wedding traditions rule our choices? Should these traditions hold sway over situations like weddings, funerals and family gatherings? Should we be able to “judge” an event based on its adherence to these archaic customs?

3 thoughts on “Since when did traditions become the standard?”

  1. I feel if following traditions is important to the bride that should be respected. Personally it should be more about fulfilling the brides reasonable dreams for her wedding NOT the families expectations, in particular many times a mother wants to take over ithe planning instead of just offering guidance and advice when asked.

    1. Agreed. If there are family traditions, is the bride forced to continue with them? Can she break away without facing disapproval and condemnation? These are the things I wanted my reader to consider. Who decides what traditions are important ant the wedding? You answered it : the bride and groom. It is, after all, their “once in a lifetime day.”

  2. Pingback: The fine art of double-standard | Sharon Lee Hughson, Author

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