Wedding Traditions: Which to Keep, Which to Toss?

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When planning a wedding, the one thing you’re never short on is advice. Everyone from event planners to TV experts to your great-aunt Ethel is only too happy to let you know exactly how the perfect wedding should go. The problem is, the so-called “essentials” are the one point that no one can seem to agree on.

Are you ready to ditch it all and elope? Just remember: All traditions start somewhere. Whether you borrow yours from generations past, or prefer to create your own, your wedding day belongs to you. Below are some suggestions to get the wheels turning.

Traditions to Toss:

Avoiding Each Other Before the Ceremony

Although romantic in a superstitious way, avoiding each other before the ceremony is impractical. It’s the best time to take photos, as you’re both in your wedding day finest and full of excitement for the ceremony to come. Taking photos together before the ceremony frees you to enjoy your own reception afterward. Besides, the superstition comes from a time when parents arranging marriages were afraid their children would bolt if they saw how unattractive their future spouse really was.

The Bridal Shower

Unless you’re going out of your way to show your friends a good time, the bridal shower can seem like a shakedown for gifts. It can also be a burden on bridesmaids who are traveling from far away and can’t easily organize a shower in your hometown.

Cake in the Face

After all the careful makeup and hair preparation that goes into your wedding day, why ruin it with a messy handful of cake? Show your new spouse how much you really care for them and skip the part where you smash dessert into their face.  

Giving the Bride Away

Many modern weddings choose to skip this entirely, along with the part where the bride promises to “honor and obey” her groom. Since wives aren’t seen as their husband’s property anymore, a slight update may be necessary. Some weddings have the couple walk down the aisle together. Similarly, although it’s nice to include the bride’s parents, they don’t have to be asked for “permission” before the groom proposes. Instead, no matter who pops the question, call both sets of parents to share the good news. 

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

Originally, bridesmaids were included in the ceremony as decoys so evil spirits wouldn’t be able to locate the bride. Now, however, the drama of having to choose a select handful of friends can make malevolent spirits look like a welcome alternative. If you or your partner are having trouble picking a full wedding party, do away with the tradition entirely. You can always honor your loved ones – any number of them – by having them contribute in other ways.


If you can’t think of the perfect object to give your guests, don’t despair. Most people don’t expect favors, especially if you’ve given them dinner and a nice evening out. A popular alternative is to give donations in your guests’ names instead. Be sure to pick a non-controversial charitable cause. 

The Bouquet/Garter Toss

While these involve an element of audience participation that can be fun, they do draw on old superstitions that don’t age well. Catching the bouquet is only a competition because every woman is supposedly itching to get married. Removing the bride’s garter is a throwback to when chastity belts were more common, and there is no equivalent invasion of privacy for the groom. If you want the fun of the toss without any uncomfortable connotations, try something more gender-neutral, like tossing the cake topper for good luck.

Wedding Gifts

If you lived with your fiancé before getting married, chances are you already own all the kitchen appliances you need. Instead of piecing together a might-be-nice, wish list registry, consider asking for intangible gifts instead. It’s not uncommon for guests to contribute funds to a honeymoon registry so you can afford a special vacation. You can also ask people to donate their talents, whether artistic, culinary, or emotional, to help make your wedding a personalized celebration.

Wedding Traditions to Keep:


Although some timid best men and maids of honor would probably prefer it if you skipped this one, toasts are a perfect way to share stories and express well-wishes. Have a talk with your more bawdy friends beforehand to make sure they understand what’s safe territory in front of the relatives. Keep toasts short and genuine, and you can’t go wrong.

Serving Food

Serving a full dinner can get expensive very quickly, and you’re not obliged to feed everyone caviar. But guests still appreciate being fed, especially if they’re going to keep their energy up for dancing. You can serve tapas, hors d’oeuvres, or even just cocktails and desserts and still satisfy your guests and your budget. 

Thank-You Notes

Showing appreciation for your friends’ generosity never goes out of style. While an email or a phone call is a nice gesture, the handwritten note still reigns supreme. Take the time to write something meaningful.

No matter what you choose to incorporate into your wedding, rest assured that the right traditions are ultimately those that make you, your friends and family happy. Even the most traditional weddings have personalized elements, and even the most offbeat celebrations turn to tradition at some points, so the key is finding a balance that’s meaningful to you.