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Most Popular Wedding Traditions

Almost everyone has heard of the old wedding rhyme "Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue". But these days, traditions are changing. There are so many new and unique spins on the classic routine that are really worth considering. Even across the world, there are plenty of extraordinary traditions that are celebrated. If you’re looking to make your wedding stand out and leave lasting memories, these traditions can really make an impression. Perhaps you can incorporate some new traditions with an individualistic flair to it, or add some different culture to your ceremony.

bride and groom sitting chairs being lifted in the air

Image by Orange Turtle Photography.

The Ceremony

While you’re walking down the aisle, you can play lively songs instead of the usual wedding march. A live band is a great option because they can play soft music during the ceremony and continue to bring the party during the reception. Playing your favorite song during the wedding can make everything much more personal and comfortable. It makes everything unique to you and your marriage instead of just having a very general song play. For gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies, the couple may choose to walk down the aisle together holding hands, or to proceed simultaneously down two adjacent aisles. If you’re going this route, make sure to inform your photographer so you’ll both be photographed as you proceed down the aisle!

bride and bride wearing wedding dresses walking and holding hands

Image by Augie Chang Photography

The Wedding Dress

Traditionally, American brides wear white dresses to their weddings. This is almost universally true for first-time brides, and is still common for brides who have celebrated multiple unions. The dress is usually selected by the bride and her closest female friends and family, and is traditionally revealed to the groom for the first time as the bride makes her way down the aisle on the wedding day. Same-sex couples may choose to wear gowns, suits, or any combination of the two.

strapless sweetheart line white wedding dress with ruffles

Image by Orange Turtle Photography.

groom kissing groom on wedding day

Giving Away the Bride

Brides are traditionally accompanied down the aisle by their fathers. Mothers, uncles, aunts, siblings or close friends also commonly serve as escorts. Modern brides may choose to walk unaccompanied down the aisle, which is fitting the bride prefers to present herself on her wedding day. Same-sex couples may choose to walk down two smaller aisles at the same time, or walk together through their closest friends and family.

Depending on the nature of the ceremony and reception, many newlyweds drive away from the ceremony in a vehicle decorated by the wedding party. The car usually includes streamers, balloons, cans or bells, and a sign relaying that the couple inside was "Just Married."

groom kissing bride in the air while guests watch and hold sparklers in black and white

Image by Taylor Lord.

The Bouquet

At American weddings, the bride traditionally carries a bouquet of flowers down the aisle. The bride’s bouquet may be echoed in smaller arrangements carried by the bridal party, and the groom and his groomsmen usually wear matching boutonnieres. As the bride reaches the altar, she traditionally hands her bouquet to her maid or matron of honor for safekeeping during the ceremony.

bride and groom nose to nose kiss

Image by Erich McVey

First Dance

To kick off the dancing at wedding receptions, the bride and groom traditionally have a ‘first dance’ in front of their assembled guests. The couple can dance for an entire song, or can switch partners (traditionally the groom dances with his new mother in law and the bride with her new father in law) to indicate the floor open to the other guests.

Wedding Cake

Traditional receptions also typically include a wedding cake, which the newly married couple will cut ceremonially. The cutting of the cake usually occurs between the meal and before the dancing, although the timing can be dictated according to the needs of the couple. Traditionally, the new couple cuts one slice of wedding cake and each feeds the other a ceremonial bite.

three tier white wedding cake with yellow flowers on table with gray linens and yellow decorations

Image by Orange Turtle Photography.

Traditional Wedding Toasts

At traditional receptions, both the best man and maid/matron of honor will give toasts honoring the new couple. Occasionally the parents of the bride or groom will give a small speech as well, depending on the desire of the newlyweds and the nature of the reception.

Bouquet Toss and Garter Belt

Near the conclusion of the wedding reception, the bride traditionally tosses her bridal bouquet over her head to an assembled crowd of unmarried women. The woman who catches the bride’s bouquet is thought to be the next married.

Similar to the bouquet toss, it’s traditional for the groom to remove a garter from the right leg of his new wife. Once the garter is removed, the groom tosses the garment into a crowd of single male guests. The catcher may then place the garter on the right leg of the single woman who caught the bride’s bouquet.

Cultural Wedding Traditions

If you’re looking to incorporate some culture into your nuptials, you can take a look at other countries traditions when couples get married. There are definitely some surprising choices as well as romantic options that you can easily blend in with your own ceremony.

Wedding Traditions in America

Starting with revamped traditions here in America, you can change things up during the ceremony. When the bride takes her first steps, all eyes are on her. They’re also on the aisle in which she’s walking. It doesn’t have to just be the aisle in a church. It could be a brightly filled path full of flower petals on a beach, or it could be a chalkboard with loving words written on it. You can even get creative with lining the chairs. You can have mason jars with lights in it. Or perhaps some glass bottles filled with seashells. Even flowers can be used to line the way to the altar. You can choose classic white flowers or have them be every color under the rainbow.

Gay and Lesbian Wedding Traditions

Same-sex weddings are typically a hybrid of typical American wedding traditions and fun, new, personal and meaningful traditions. Many same-sex couples offer their guests champagne or sparkling wine before ceremony, to add to the sense of occasion. Same-sex weddings also traditionally feature a fun take on the walk down the aisle. A larger aisle for both partners and their fathers, two adjacent aisles, or a simple procession of the couple together are all common accommodations. Similarly, the officiant (religious or otherwise) will traditionally declare a gay or lesbian couple "partners for life" instead of "husband and wife."

Mexican Wedding Traditions

In traditional Mexican weddings, wedding guests pin money on the bride and groom as they dance. The best man usually kicks off the money dance, and guests are invited to pin cash gifts onto the dancing couple. The tradition can also function as guests ‘paying’ for a dance with the bride.

Greek Wedding Traditions

In Greek Orthodox wedding ceremonies, guests lightly spit on the bride as she is escorted down the aisle. The spitting gesture (or slight spitting sound) is believed to ward off the evil eye. It’s traditional to spit three times to present a compliment, or to wish the bride the best of luck.

Jewish Wedding Traditions

Jewish wedding ceremonies are traditionally ended by the groom smashing a glass with his foot. The glass is typically covered by a cloth, and indicates to the audience that the ceremony is over. The guests then traditionally cheer "Mazel tov!" meaning ‘"good luck or fortune" in Hebrew.

Filipino Wedding Traditions

In the Philippines, the bride and groom release two doves into the air. These doves represent a long, peaceful, and harmonies life together. You can choose whatever time you wish to release them. Perhaps after you say I do, or during the wedding reception.

Wedding Traditions in Europe

Norway has a different take on the traditional wedding cake. They instead build a layering almond cake that generally has a bottle of wine hidden inside as a treat for later. The Norwegians call this a kransekake.

For the Romanians, they hold a little game of abduction for the bride and groom. The bride is "kidnapped" by family and friends and is held until the groom comes to rescue her. This usually happens through some romantic declarations of love or perhaps some whiskey. Either way, it’s all in good fun and the groom usually walks away with his bride back to the wedding.

French Wedding Traditions

For the French, they also have their version of the wedding cake. They serve a croquembouche which is a tower of crème filled pastries that can be dipped into different sauces. It can be decorated with fruit, nuts, honey, and other glazes. It makes for a delightful centerpiece.

Indian Wedding Traditions

In India, the bride is lavishly decorated in henna ink to celebrate the joy of the occasion. Sometimes even other females in the bridal party are also embellished in tattoos. They are filled with bright colors that represent joy, hope, and love.

bride and groom dressed in traditional Chinese wedding garments holding red envelopes

Image by Door 51 Photography.

Wedding Traditions in the East

In Pakistan, the bride can choose to wear a decorative red scarf and dress. She also can have henna tattoos and precious jewelry on. The groom will have a ring of flowers around his neck in celebration.

Chinese Wedding Traditions

Red is a very symbolic color for the Chinese. It represents boldness, luck, and love. Before the wedding occurs, the bride wears a red veil over her face and her mother holds a red umbrella over the brides head to encourage fertility and the growth of her own family.

Wedding Traditions in South America

In Costa Rica, it is common for the groom to serenade his bride the night before the wedding. This is his time to show her how much he really loves her as well as showing the rest of their neighborhood their love.

In Guatemala, the mother of the groom breaks a white bell during the wedding reception. It’s generally filled with flour, rice, and other grains. It symbolizes the welcoming of the couple to the party which brings luck and prosperity.

For someone living in Chile, it is common for the bride and groom to wear their wedding rings before the ceremony. However, they will typically wear them on their right hand and then switch over to the left hand during the wedding.

South African Wedding Traditions

In South Africa, it is tradition for the parents of the bride and groom to bring fire from their own fireplaces into the new couple’s home. They ignite the hearth in the couple’s fireplace to represent them changing over from their childhood homes into their own home.

Australian Wedding Traditions

For wedding receptions in Australia, they might have a unity bowl present. Guests are each given stones at the beginning of the ceremony. At the end, they are asked to place their stones in a decorative bowl. The couple will keep the bowl which now symbolizes the support and the grace of their friends and family.

All across the world, there are creative ways for couples to celebrate their love. From wedding invitations to flowers and décor and various cultural traditions, your wedding celebration should be uniquely yours. You can follow the traditions of your heritage and choose to cherish and represent it in your own ceremony. Or you can create something all on your own to pass on to your friends and family. No matter what you choose, it’s sure to be beautiful and unique to you.

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