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Weddings: I have to do what?!

One of the …neatest/oddest/most annoying (choose your own adventure) things about getting married is attempting to navigate all the traditions. Which ones do I do? Which ones are stupid? Which ones have valid origins? It all started with the wedding shower kerfuffle (to have one or not to have one… or two, as it were)… This prompted me to start looking up the traditions behind the things my sister (very traditional) expected me (not very traditional) to do and some of them are *weird*.

Now I’m not sure how much of all this is true, and I’ll link to a site or two for each one … but basically a lot of the traditions that we hold onto and do today have some sort of patriarchal or horrible connection to the past.

I’ll start with some pretty obvious and more well known ones. Obviously the bride is supposed to wear white to show that she is “virginal” and “pure”. I wanted to break out of this one and wear black but the pressure is still *very strong* on this tradition, so my dress is white. Also the term “tie the knot” refers to the knots tied on the back of a woman’s dress/corset that are tied tightly so the room has to work at getting them undone.

Another more well known one is that “bride” actually means “cook”. From wikipedia: “The word may come from the Proto-Germanic verb root *brū-, meaning ‘to cook, brew, or make a broth,’ which was the role of the daughter-in-law in primitive families.” It’s pretty difficult to get everyone to stop calling you the bride, though. The origin of “groom” is a little less clear. Wikipedia just says it is short for “bridegroom” while other sites say it actually means “male child”… but it seems mostly just to mean “male”.

Another obvious one is how odd wedding showers are. When my sister (the MOH) asked when I wanted my wedding shower to be I got to googling and found that showers are basically just an anti-feminist, pro-consumerist American invention. My mom told me that women used to have a “Hope Chest” which you would spend your life filling with all the things you’d make for your life with your husband (doilies, knitted crap, etc) and at the shower you’d get everything else you needed (tea cloths, mixing spoons, apron, etc). Now, with people living together so early, it basically seems like another chance to score presents from your friends and family; beyond that I haven’t found much of a purpose for them!

When looking up what flowers I’d carry down the aisle it hit me… “Why do I need to carry flowers?” So I looked it up and apparently the tradition started with women carrying garlic and herbs down the aisle (and it later evolved into flowers) to either ward off demons or mask their odor from not bathing very often. Demons don’t exist, shampoo does. I’m not carrying a bouquet.

The garter toss has a couple of weird origin stories. First because people thought the bride was lucky so they’d tried to rip off a piece of her dress… or it could also be because the groom was publicly displaying that he would be consummating the marriage that night (I’ve heard this one before – it goes back to ages ago when people would actually go into the couple’s bedroom and check to see if they had had sex). This is creepy and gross. I’m not have a garter toss.

Perhaps you  have heard of “something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new“? Well the something blue is…a bit unclear. But something old AND blue are meant to trick the “evil eye” so the woman isn’t barren. Something borrowed should be an undergarment from someone who has had a litter of children for fertility luck and I guess something new is just… for fun? Who knows. I was a bit into finding my something borrowed, blue, old and new – but after discovering this; I’m not.

Finally, a few wedding traditions are from arranged marriages and marriages where the wife may not be totally into marrying the man. First off, groomsmen were traditionally either used due to Roman law that required 10 witnesses or to fight off the brides families (or anyone else trying to steal the bride) in case they tried to get the bride back after deciding the groom wasn’t who she should be with. Likewise, the honeymoon was a time to run off and take the wife to get her accustomed to her new husband; whether she like it or not. It refers to the period after (sometimes before) the wedding when the man would hide the woman and try to breed with her based on the “moon” cycles (that’s the Norse origin, anyway). Also, the bride being “given away” by her father alludes to arranged marriages; like cattle being handed off to another man. And the veil, when it isn’t warding off evil spirits, is used to mask the unknown bride so the man she is marrying can’t back out if she’s too unattractive.

All of these things I’ve just mentioned are pretty stupid… irritating… whatever… and, while they all have their hand in the jar of patriarchy cookies, they’re now essentially, in Western Culture, pretty harmless and no longer carry these connotations. I honestly think the absolute worst tradition I am coming up against is that my wedding is “my day” …my “perfect” day. First of all – it is mine and my fiance’s day. We’re stoked about it. We’re not stoked about it being perfect – we’re stoked about getting freaking married to each other. We want to spend the morning together – but apparently we’ll be “too busy” and shouldn’t see each other the day of. But this is OUR day and this what WE want to do. We want to spend the morning together to talk about how important getting married is to us and do something fun.

And the PRESSURE for it to be perfect is so intense. …The planning and details and stress of it all is just ridiculous. I think it is unhealthy to put this idea into the minds of women that the wedding day is “ours” and that it needs to be “perfect”. I have some serious mental issues (OCD/intrusive thought syndrome) and I spent the last 2 months stressing that they would interfere and ruin my “perfect” day. When I finally talked to my fiance about it I realized how silly I was being. It’s not the wedding day that really matters; it’s all the days after.

So screw these weird traditions and screw throwing even more money into this wedding to make sure it meets everyone else’s expectations of what “perfect” is supposed to be. Our perfect days are yet to come and I’m sure our wedding day will be one of the many. And perfect to me isn’t making sure I have flowers to cover up my B.O or look extra pretty… perfect to me is being with the people I love and having a great time; and I think that’s pretty easy to accomplish.

Let’s all remember to question the crap out of every tradition that gets put in front of us. Ask why… and don’t be afraid to say “no way!” when the origin ends up to be something stupid and something you can’t get behind.

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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish


  1. June 12, 2013 at 11:15 am —

    I totally agree. It doesn’t need to be ‘Perfect’ and it doesn’t need to be what anyone other than you and your partner want it to be. I remember being told both ‘its YOUR special day’ and ‘its really for your parents’ (so you should do whatever they want).

    Looking back, what stands out to me is having our two families together (including some family members who are now gone), how the two of us felt and communicated, and I’ll admit, the lovely outdoor garden setting. Details of the food, the music, the invitations, the decor, the JP’s speech, who sat next to who, etc have faded into obscurity, while our love, commitment and ability to provide one another with health insurance coverage 😉 has remained strong.

    How do you feel about the mashing cake into your spouse’s face thing? I don’t know the origin of it, but it seems like an odd choice to make while wearing the most expensive clothing you will ever put on. We skipped that, sitting down while my new mother in law was chanting for it like a ‘chug’ at a frat party..very weird.

    • June 16, 2013 at 10:43 am —

      Thanks for the comment – I need to remember that the details don’t *really* matter. As, you’re right, it will all sort of fade except the actual experience of being with my future hubby and our fam.

      We’re not even going to be having cake! So there will be no cake-face smash. I think it’s super weird, too.

  2. June 16, 2013 at 10:09 am —

    Chris and I photographed his niece’s wedding. He took the groom and I took the bride. Which was fine; I got some great photos of the dress and stuff, but the bride and her six bridesmaids were basically cloistered in what amounted to a large closet while the groom and his groomsmen ran around this beautiful lakeside venue. All because they couldn’t see each other before the ceremony. I was annoyed and no one understood why. I just took photos and (mostly) kept my mouth shut.

    • June 16, 2013 at 10:42 am —

      That sounds absolutely horrible. People make really stupid decisions to try and fit these ridiculous traditions. I don’t get it.
      We’re getting ready in separate houses but we’re seeing each other that morning for a breakfast picnic and doing the rehearsal on that morning.

  3. June 17, 2013 at 11:45 am —

    You will have a much better wedding – and a much happier marriage – with that attitude.
    The last thing you want is to be bitter at each other because one of you forgot to do a thing, or bring a thing, or say a thing, or dropped a thing, or had a relative who said a bad thing, or drank too much of another thing …
    No. It’s just, “Wow, that guy’s being a bit of a douche at our party, isn’t he? Hmph.” and you shrug and life – your happy, married life – goes on.

  4. June 18, 2013 at 12:03 am —

    Obviously the bride is supposed to wear white to show that she is “virginal” and “pure”.

    Actually, the “tradition” of wearing white for a wedding is quite recent, relatively speaking — and it actually has its origins in a fad. You see, up until the 1840s, most women wore any color dress, usually their best ones (and black was not uncommon, either, at least in some countries). Then, in 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in a white wedding dress. Queen Victoria was a trendsetter on both sides of the Pond, and pretty soon, fashionable women were marrying in white, too. Eventually, it became the norm — but white wedding gowns have only really been traditional for less than 200 years.

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