Wedding Traditions We Should Just Let Go

I am at that age. The one at which everyone you know is getting married. Right now, I’m attending at least two or three weddings every year, and I’m LOSING MY MIND. There are some things that need to stop very, very soon.  And before you say, “Oh, she’s just mad because she’s not getting married, and she’s jealous,” let me say this. I could get married if I wanted to. I am not there yet. Which brings me to:

The Bouquet Toss. Oh, wow! If I catch the flowers you’ve been carrying around all day, I’m the next one married? No, thank you. I do everything within my power to avoid this awful moment. I have planned strategic potty breaks, I have pretended to be too intoxicated to rise from my seat. I have even been seen going up to the bouquet toss, and jumping away from the bouquet when it flies in my direction. (My mother was dying of laughter at this one.) If I wanted to get married, I would. Why, oh why, do you feel the need to make all your single friends vie to be married? This just feeds into the whole “women are wedding crazy” thing, and I KNOW YOU HATE THE BOUQUET TOSS TOO. Why are you making the rest of us do it? Please stop this nonsense.

The Garter Toss. I mean, as long as we’re at it, let’s stop this too. It is Tacky As Fuck. Especially when the groom shoves his whole head under the dress and roots around for a minute and “isn’t allowed to use his hands.” Look! It’s an oral sex joke! In front of Grandma! There is no good way to do this. And on top of that, you’re going to find a scrap of fabric on your new wife’s thigh with your teeth and then are going to throw it to one of your horny bachelor friends who are only still there to see if they can get laid? How does this not strike everyone as super creep factor?

The Dollar Dance. While we’re on the subject of tacky things, can we talk about this? “Pay money to dance with the bride and groom!” I guess this was pretty okay back in the day when people got married really young and had nothing, but now? Most people don’t get married until their mid-to-late twenties at least, have steady jobs, two dogs, a Keurig, and often are already cohabitating. You’ve already asked your guests to bring you a nice gift to help you start your new life, and now you’re asking for money? Ick.

The Father/Daughter Dance, Mother/Son Dance, Newlywed Dance, Cake Cutting, Toasts, etc. I love wedding events as much as the next person, but can you just pick a couple and move on? When you insist on doing Every Tradition Ever right in a row, I spend half my evening in the chair clapping halfheartedly. And by the time you’re ready to have a party, I’m ready to have a nap because I’m bored out of my skull. Not to mention that fitting all of them in takes a good hour of your reception. The thing about these traditions is nobody really cares about them except you and maybe five other people. And that’s fine. But at least space them out so that when it’s time to clear the dance floor yet AGAIN, I can go get a drink while you have your special moment. It’s just courtesy.

Endless pictures after the ceremony. I hate this. Everyone hates this. I understand that this is a special day and you want to remember it forever and have great pictures. But I have been at weddings where the reception is “immediately to follow” except that the bride and groom forgot to plan for the two hours of pictures you plan to take. And there’s really not much of a reception without the wedding party. Please decide which pictures you want to take in advance and notify your photographer and anyone who is supposed to be in them. Or be honest with everyone about the amount of time you want to spend on pictures and give an option to out-of-town guests so that they have a place to go between the wedding and reception. I know it’s your “special day,” but when throwing a party, you have a duty to see to your guests’ comfort, not just treat them like a ceremony backdrop.

The “Special Day” Thing. Cut the crap. You are not a princess. You are getting married. Any adult (and in Indiana, pregnant minors!) can get married.* It is one day of your life. And if this is supposed to be the “best day ever,” you better hope you don’t live very long, because the next 50-70 years are going to be awfully boring. Especially when you alienate all your friends with the Bride-zilla act.

Yes. I’m bitter. But I’m probably going to have to do this for the rest of my life, and the wedding industry has already ruined “Single Ladies.” Please, future wedded people of America, do this for me. Do it for all of us.


*I know. Maybe not to the person you want to marry, depending on who you are, where you live, and your sexual preferences. But if anything shows how average getting married really is, it’s the fact that marriage isn’t actually about feelings, it’s about property law!

By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

29 replies on “Wedding Traditions We Should Just Let Go”

Every time I read an article like this, my wedding decisions are reaffirmed.

My husband and I had a Quaker-style wedding, during which our immediate family members jointly officiated in front of about 40 of our family and friends. I didn’t have a bridal party because I didn’t want to put any of my friends in the position of having to shell out money for my wedding, but my closest friends threw me a shower anyway. There was no tacky music, our dogs were involved (my dog surprised us and “spoke up” during the part of the ceremony devoted to well-wishes), the food was all homemade, and we had a ton of booze. I forgot to buy a cake topper until two days before the wedding, so our homemade cake was topped with plastic dinosaurs. The only thing we really splurged on was the photographer, and the pictures were fantastic.

…I’m still a newlywed (two months!), so please forgive me for rambling!

I’ve been through about three or four cycle of weddings and some were more fun than others. The super laid back and “let’s all hang out and drink” affairs were by far the best. Most of my ceremony experiences have been your traditional Western weddings of the evangelical variety and they can either be blessedly short or very long, depending on the couple and officiant. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to see old friends I don’t get to see much and have an after-party if the reception was kinda boring (hell, we sometimes just keep the party going).

I’ve never cared for the bouquet toss and if I am somehow caught and dragged into it, I will stand in the back with my arms crossed.

I grew up Catholic, so Protestant weddings seem absurdly short to me. I always end up going, “Wait. They’re already married? No one has offered flowers to the Blessed Virgin yet!” Huh….beginning to understand the accusations of paganism. I need to go reevaluate my worldview.

I have been to one Catholic wedding when I was pretty young and I’m like, “Wow, you guys do take this seriously! Wait there is communion? Do I participate or will I get struck by lightening?” I did think the ceremony of the mass is very lovely from a WASP perspective.

The longest wedding Mass I ever attended was a joint Irish Catholic-Indian Catholic one – 90 minutes. Beautiful, but loooong.

You totally can go up to the altar for a “blessing” (hold your arms over your chest) but not communion, unfortunately, unless you’ve been Confirmed Catholic (not that the priest asks you to recite catechism or anything). I’m a heathen now though, so I usually just stay seated with the other heathens :)

A friend of mine is an Episcopal ladypriest (her husband is also an Episcopal priest). Every time weddings come up, she mentions the one couple who took her up on a low-stress ceremony: officiant, people getting married, and two witnesses. Then, party.

I grew up going to conservative Evangelical weddings (at least one a year), and I know all of their favorites. The sermon during the ceremony (usually dealing with the inevitable, awkward “they saved themselves for their hot, sexy wedding night” OR something to do with renewed purity, if the couple was older/one or both already had been married or had a child). The awkward “so you’re next, right” comments from adults (those started when I was a teenager). The bouquet toss, occasional garter toss, appetizer-only receptions (when the wedding started late morning, and the reception starts around 3 pm), the cake cutting/cake fight, and a complete lack of booze. And exceptionally awkward dancing. And the one where the ceremony invitations included everyone the couple knew from church, (several hundred) but the actual reception was about twenty people. A few of us who weren’t invited to the reception went to dinner somewhere else.

I think I’ll take Momily’s advice. I can wear jeans to my own wedding reception, damn it.

I really dislike attending weddings and have largely managed to avoid them. I find the typical Christian “themed” wedding to just not for me. Ack, ack, ack. I also really dislike the typical, tacky wedding music. The chicken dance and cotton eye joe and YMCA and all this. No. Do not want.

That said, you mention wedding traditions that are not actually traditional for all peoples. Traditional Oneida weddings don’t look like that at all; Muslim weddings (at least my cousins’) do not resemble this at all. In traditional Oneida weddings, in fact, the women have the power and, if she marries a man, he is adopted into her family and she can opt out of that at any time. Moreover, many people cannot get married at all even if it’s to someone they don’t want to marry because of heterosexism, cissexism, disabilities, anti-immigration efforts, low-income and so forth. So, for a lot of people it’s definitely a special day since they don’t have ready access to such a ceremony if they have access at all. Just something to keep in mind!

That’s why there was a little *

Maybe not to the person you want to marry, depending on who you are, where you live, and your sexual preferences.

And I think it’s better to admit you’re speaking from experience than pounding around on some ideas about Muslim and other non-Christian weddings you only read about.
If you even understand them. I’ve been to a Hindu ceremony once and can only remember I had a blast, it lasted eight hours and that there was henna.

(if this sounds like a grumpy attack, it isn’t. Just saying that I’m sure amandamarieg knows about the other options. The grump comes from my lack of sleep).

Let me clarify. Where I thought the parenthetical could have been a little clearer is that the author argued that everyone can marry even if it’s not who they would like to marry. But, that’s untrue. Many people cannot marry at all, period, full stop because of the barriers that the author very briefly acknowledged. Certainly, marriage may not be an “average” act for some people who can access the institution but cannot access it as readily as others. ;)

I do agree that it’s good form to speak about traditions with which your familiar. It would be, I believe, very problematic to speak on traditions that are not your own. And, to the author’s point, a lot of these Western, Christian wedding traditions tax my very soul, gotta say. Her breakdown of how tiresome and useless some of them are is hilarious, pointed and refreshing. I also enjoy the lampooning of the capitalist and patriarchal functions of such weddings.

But, I also can’t read the author’s mind and infer that she’s aware that she’s speaking about culturally specific wedding traditions or is aware of some of the alternatives. I can only hope. Indeed, on that point, I’d hoped to open up a discussion between myself and the author about the alternatives to some of these Western, Christian wedding traditions, how some people have made the Western, Christian weddings work for them, and yet how the privileging of these traditions can marginalize people who don’t ascribe to them or can’t perform them. (That would be the cultural studies part of me intersecting with my lived experiences and saying, “There’s SO much here to unpack”).

And, you don’t sound grumpy to me or like you’re attacking me, just offering your perspective. ;)

Actually, I’ve been to other types of weddings and have found them pretty interesting. These are just the traditions which I am largely familiar with and think are tired and hackneyed. Familiarity breeds contempt I guess, and I’m sure I could finds things to grump about in any culture given the chance. I am jaded like that.

Ah! I’d hoped so. Like you, I just find these traditions you speak of just…well tacky and YAWN inducing. I mean, and that’s giving due weight to the fact that not everybody even has access to these kinds of wedding traditions. I had an aunt marry recently, and her wedding featured a lot of these things. I admit I was keeled over internally, but I also know that for a low-income Black woman in her 50s who has been a single mom most of her life and been through a LOT of hardships, she totally gets to talk about this like it’s her ~special day~ and engage in these traditions because they’re not readily available to her for many reasons.

But, I’d also kind of love if no one ever invited me to one of these kinds of weddings again. If that’s jaded, WELP, I’m right there with ya. Sorry not sorry, etc.

Hear hear! I’ve been a bridesmaid once and that was for my mother so it was mostly ok (she is a stressmonger and bad at planning but she managed not to go full Bridezilla). A friend of mine has a large extended family who like to have big weddings and she has been a bridesmaid 5 times since I met her in college and I think a couple of times before that in school as well. That’s a hell of a lot of awkward dancing and quizzing about her lack of boyfriend. Madness.

A lot of things about weddings seem really tacky to me, and I have major issues with receiving gifts, so I avoided having a shower, a “real” bachelorette party, and any of the traditions listed here. It drove our families a bit nuts, but I had a blast on our wedding day and it was wonderfully laidback and comfortable for me, which is what I wanted most of all. Weddings are one of those hugely polarizing things, that I think tend to bring out everybody’s best intentions but sometimes their worst presentation of those intentions.

The first time I witnessed a money dance was such an uncomfortable experience. I get why people do it, but…it made me feel weird. :S We only had a couple of traditions in our wedding because I hate most of them. :P We did have a tradition from my husband’s family which I really enjoyed, however. Normally, the men in his family line up and moon the newlywed couple as they leave the reception for their honeymoon. None of the men in attendance wanted to do that for our wedding, so they held up all the babies in a line and mooned us with little baby bums! It was hilarious. :)

I never even heard about the garter toss and the dollar dance before. And I’m glad. And when I was asked for the pictures (“All the giiiirls come on!!”) I hid behind someone because A) At 25 I’m not a girl any more and B) I did the guestbook/wishbook thing. You knew I’ve been there, I hate pictures, leave me alone instead of sandwiching me behind strangers.

Now you only see the woman in front of me crowned by my red curls. This satisfies me.

Oh I agree so much! Sitting there with 200 of your closest friends going through these boring motions, I just don’t get it. I was at four weddings this year and it got a bit wearing.

I’m exaggerating a little, they were mostly fine, I actually didn’t get a bouquet thrown at me once. I don’t think Irish weddings are as bad for this sort of thing. I’ve never heard of a Dollar Dance, how does that even work? We’re quite irreverent, making bets on how long the speeches will last and so on. The last one I was at was in a castle and the staff made the bride and groom cut the cake with the sword of the Lord or whatever who owned the castle, but the tradition said they had to each put one foot on the table while they did it. Good times :)

Oh ok, in that case, yes the dollar dance sounds weird. Oh and also in Ireland it would be really unusual for bridesmaids and groomsmen to pay for their own clothes (…accessories, hair, makeup, shoes, whatever). You want everyone to wear full length canary yellow dresses and green shoes? No problem – but you can buy ’em ;)

I’ve just remembered I did see a garter toss at my aunt and uncle’s wedding when I was younger. I don’t think I really knew what was going on at the time.

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