LGBT Weddings Are Updating Old Traditions

As LGBT weddings become mainstream, they’re accompanied by an increasing pressure to throw a “traditional” wedding. A decade ago, gay marriage was associated with throwing tradition out of the window, but now, many couples are turning towards the white gowns and black suits of Hollywood fame. When planning your wedding, you’ll have to decide how much tradition you want to incorporate, and which traditions need a little tweaking before they’re right for you.

The Wedding Party

Separating your friends into “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” can get awkward if your wedding is missing a bride or a groom. Playful couples may label friends of both genders as “groomsmaids” or “bridesmen,” while others choose to do away with the wedding party altogether. Instead of molding your friends to fit the shape of a classic wedding party, you can incorporate close friends in other ways, like inviting them to read poetry, sing a meaningful song, or give a speech.

The Vows

Sure, there are the obvious changes you’ll need to make: instead of “man and wife” you’ll need to decide whether you want to be referred to as “partners,” “spouses,” “husbands,” “wives,” or more personal endearments. But there are more subtle changes to consider, too: much of the language in traditional wedding vows stems from archaic and not-so-modern tradition. For example, instead of “honoring and obeying” your spouse, a popular alternative is to “honor and cherish.”

You may want something more personal than prefabricated vows, anyway. If you’re going to write your own, try sitting down first and listing all the things you love about your partner. List the ways they inspire you to be your best, and the hopes you have for your future. List the ways you want to make their life the best it can be. When you look back over the paper, see which parts jump out at you as most important (don’t include them all or your guests may end up yawning midway through), and be sure to mention the most meaningful ones in the ceremony. Give your mother a large box of tissues first.

The Outfit

Brides have a huge range of fashion options. In addition to classic bridal gowns of all styles, you may choose to wear a suit (white or otherwise). While white gowns and veils historically place a heavy emphasis on a woman’s value because of her chastity, modern dresses can be flattering without insinuating anything insulting. Cringe at the thought of a sparkly princess dress, but want to make a splash anyway? Flaunt tradition by wearing it in your favorite color, or wear it with a tie.

Grooms also have an exciting range of options, from casual suits to custom-designed tuxedoes. Decide whether you’ll pursue an elegant look in a classic cut and color, or go all the way with funky fabrics and accessories. Most grooms fall somewhere in between, donning a flattering suit and accessorizing with a brightly colored tie, handkerchief, or flower.

The Garter Toss

This tradition can come off as invasive, with the image of a groom fumbling under his wife’s dress and throwing her underthings to a hungry male audience. If the idea bothers you, toss something your guests might actually want, like a goodie-bag of cookies, gift certificates, or party favors.

If you want to turn the toss into a fun game, announce that you’ll be tossing a mystery object and that all the guests should come try to catch it. When the lucky catcher opens it, he or she will read it aloud to find that they’ve been selected to write and recite a limerick or fond memory about the couple at some point over the course of the evening.

Cutting the Cake

It’s true, the tradition of wedding cake started in Roman times when the groom was expected to break a piece of bread over his wife’s head, symbolizing his breaking of her virtue. Luckily, modern wedding cakes have come a long way from their violent roots. But if this tradition still doesn’t sit well with you, there are plenty of just-as-sweet options. Go with wedding pie, cupcakes, or a table with a variety of desserts so guests can choose their favorites.

To emphasize your partnership, you can pose for the classic photo-op of cutting your cake together, or feed each other the first forkfuls. (Just don’t smash it into your partner’s face—no one appreciates having to pick bits of stickiness out of their perfectly tamed coif.)

The Bachelor/ette Party

This is one of the first traditions you may want to examine. For starters, it’s hard to exclude your spouse on the basis of gender alone. Secondly, who wants to start married life already avoiding questions about Vegas strippers? Whether you choose to celebrate with your friends together or separately, you and your spouse-to-be have many alternative options when it comes to planning the perfect bachelor/ette party. From planned activities, to freeform cocktail hours, to fancy dinners, to weekend getaways, the modern bachelor/ette party is less of an excuse for debauchery and more of an excuse to celebrate your union with your friends. 

Remember, the most important aspect of any wedding tradition is how meaningful it is to you. Most traditions, even religious ones, can be adjusted to encompass your relationship. Make a list of the traditions you’d like to see at your wedding, and see how it compares with your partner’s. Ultimately, all wedding ceremonies are personalized in one way or another, and it’s the personalization that makes them a true celebration of the couple being married.