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Ultimate list of outdated wedding traditions

and the trends that have replaced them

There are a lot of lovely wedding traditions, the wonderful thing about modern weddings is that there’s no real need to follow them anymore - unless that’s what you want.

Today, no-one’s going to sniff at the bride not wearing white, or the Best Man actually being the Best Woman, so when you’re planning your wedding you can pick and choose whether you like any classic wedding tradition and go with it, leave it out, or give it your own unique twist.

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I’ve been lucky enough to go to a LOT of weddings (naturally!), and over the years I’ve noticed more and more of these wedding traditions become outdated and less popular.

So, here’s my ultimate list of outdated wedding traditions, how people have updated them or replaced them with something that’s more fun, modern or meaningful to them.

For each one there are plenty of customs that you can do without - if you want to. We’ll talk about what wedding traditions have fallen out of favour, and what trends are on the rise.

Chapter 1

Planning Traditions

Your wedding should be unique to you. There’s no point going through with outdated traditions just because that’s how other people have done things, or because you think you should.

If you love a tradition, that’s great! But lots of classic wedding trends are falling out of fashion, just like these.

Who pays?

The first tradition that has almost completely gone out of the window, is that of the bride’s family (or father) paying for the wedding.

In fact, whilst lots of parents help out with wedding funds, most couples today expect to be spending their own money on their big day. 

Paying your own way helps you keep wedding costs under control (it’s easy to bust a budget when you’re not footing the bill!), but also means you’re in full control of what happens and how much you’re spending.

No-one will be able to turn around and say “but I’m paying for it, so we’re doing x!”. And let’s face it, that’s an additional stress you absolutely don’t need.

Presents

Back in the day, your wedding was the perfect opportunity to ask for all the essential items you’d need for your first home together. But today it’s pretty unusual for couples to be living apart before they’re married.

That’s led to the wedding registry becoming a bit redundant. It can be difficult to think of a list of actual stuff that you need, and instead you end up listing stuff that would just be nice to have, and end up never using.

Instead, lots of couples ask for a contribution to their honeymoon, or sometimes even a donation to a charity that they love.

Honeymoons

Speaking of honeymoons… they’re still very popular! But what is falling out of fashion, is heading off on your honeymoon right after your wedding.

You can’t imagine how exhausting your wedding day can be, and lots of newlyweds choose to either stay home and chill, or have a mini-moon right after the wedding, with a big holiday planned for later.

A mini-moon is a little break for you both, probably somewhere not too far from home, instead of a big destination holiday. It’s a good plan if you want to use your honeymoon for doing exciting things, or going off on a long-haul flight. 

Getting up at 4 in the morning to head off to the airport for an 18 hour flight might quite literally be the last thing you want on your first day of wedded bliss!

Having a later honeymoon also means you can have some more time to save, instead of trying to fund a wedding and an expensive holiday all at once. You can even ask guests to contribute to it instead of buying you a gift.

A beautiful wedding flower arrangement

Colours

Having two wedding colours is one of those traditions that goes so far back very few people even know WHY it’s a tradition at all!

In fact, having two specific wedding colours comes from the time when a noble family would have a specific colour associated with them (very Game of Thrones, right?!), so having these two colours at your wedding would represent each side of the family.

Strangely, it’s a tradition that’s stuck around for a long time, but  it’s becoming outdated now as more people opt for either one key wedding colour, or a palette of different shades.

Weekends

I think having a Saturday wedding is less of a tradition, and more that it’s just been the most convenient date for a long time.

Friday preparation, Saturday wedding, Sunday recovery has been the popular choice for a really long time, but I’m noticing more and more weekday weddings each year.

Of course, the great thing about a weekday wedding, is that it’s going to cost you way less than a Saturday in July, but it’s important to think of your guests, too. 

People might be more than happy to take a Friday as holiday for your wedding, but if you plan to get married on a Tuesday they might not be so delighted at the prospect of having to take two days off, or turning up to work on Wednesday hung over!

Full Day Weddings

However, Tuesday might be lovely if you’re not planning for a full day wedding.

One of the newer trends is people having much shorter weddings, with a ceremony followed by a lovely meal out. 

Huge celebrations are becoming a bit of an outdated wedding tradition, particularly if people have been married before, or only want a small, select group of people to be there. 

The small evening wedding is a lovely option if you want something more intimate with just your closest family and friends.

Other couples opt for a short day wedding with no evening do. This is becoming more popular for couples who aren’t really into drinking and dancing the night away, and would prefer to share the day with family and then head off together before the evening begins.

Chapter 2

Wedding Party Traditions

Lots of outdated wedding traditions are about the wedding party, with some of the most classic wedding features becoming less and less popular.

Something old…

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We all know the rhyme, but fewer and fewer brides are actually bothering.

And it’s pretty easy to see why - unless you have certain things that are meaningful to you, it can be a bit of a faff. 

However, I’ve been to plenty of weddings where a bride has incorporated a bit of Mum’s wedding dress into her own (old and new), borrowed jewellery from Nan, or kept a blue hanky from Dad to add a little extra meaning to her day.

Female bridesmaids, male groomsmen

It’s pretty obvious why this is falling out of fashion - most of us have close friends of both genders, and it feels weird for your husband’s best friend to have to be a bridesmaid just because she’s a girl, or your brother have to be a groomsman because he’s a guy.

Lots of weddings now include Men of Honour or Best Persons, or you can get rid of the titles altogether and just invite people you love to stand with you during your ceremony.

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Matching outfits

Speaking of bridesmaids, another outdated tradition is having your bridesmaids dressed exactly alike.

The reason this custom sprang up is more than a little disturbing, so prepare! Because on their wedding day, brides would be given to their husbands with a dowry (i.e. a big wad of cash), kidnapping the bride was worryingly common.

So, it became popular for the bride to be accompanied by several young women, all dressed similarly, to prevent the bride being stolen.

Fortunately for everyone, this would be a very unusual situation now! 

And seeing as your bridesmaids don’t need to double as your decoys, you can also do away with the custom of having them dressed identically. 

Lots of wedding parties today will pick a colour, or colour palette and let bridesmaids choose dresses they like.

It helps a lot if you can be more flexible, as it saves you trying to find a dress that suits every bridesmaid, or forcing someone to wear something she feels really uncomfortable in.

Don’t see the bride

With more modern weddings, the tradition of not seeing the bride before she walks down the aisle is becoming less popular.

It’s often for practical reasons, but a lot of couples like to spend their wedding morning together so they can take some time before all the palaver begins.

A lot of couples now also go shopping together to get that perfect dress. For many people, their partner is the ideal person to shop with, they understand what suits you and what you feel confident in (as well as being the best person to let you know this isn’t the right style for you - gently!).

Flower bouquets

Another tradition that’s fallen out of style, is having a floral bouquet. Some brides don’t bother at all, whilst others look for more exotic options! I’ve seen weddings with paper flowers, button bouquets and no flowers at all, but special buttonholes for the men with lego figures on.

Flowers are beautiful, and will always be a popular choice, but keeping your wedding flowers can be difficult (and expensive), whereas if you go for an alternative, you can keep it forever.

One thing to bear in mind about going for something like paper or brooch bouquets, is that they are blooming heavy! So make sure you carry one around for a bit before deciding they’re the right option for you. 

Chapter 3

Dress & Ring Traditions

A lot of wedding traditions are about what you’re wearing. From the dress to the accessories, it’s surprising how many old-fashioned traditions have lasted, and how many are fading in popularity today.

The dress

Let’s start with the biggest thing (usually literally!). The wedding dress.

The “classic” wedding dress is a big, white, floor length princess dress. Often including a couple of layers of petticoats to keep it nice and voluminous. 

And that’s the dream dress for lots of brides - but not all.

Wedding dresses now come in all styles and shapes - and colours. I’m seeing more and more brides choosing colours instead of the classic ivory, from blush pinks to bold blues.

And floor-length is no longer the requirement either. Lots of brides prefer to wear something a little more fun and funky - even pairing a shorter skirt with colourful shoes for a more exciting look.

The veil

Another hangover from not seeing the bride before you’re married, the veil can be a lovely addition to your wedding outfit, but if it doesn’t work for you - it’s no big deal.

There are lots of different options that are becoming more popular than veils, from lovely hair accessories to simple flowers. 

Some brides even like to go the full tiara!

It’s important to pick the style that’s right for you and your wedding, and that you’re going to feel comfortable wearing through the day. 

A bride preparing for her wedding day

The suits

Everyone wants to look fab in their photos, but not everyone gets excited about wearing a full suit - or tails! - especially if you’re having a summer wedding.

Luckily for the gentlemen, fewer and fewer people are choosing to go for the full, formal suit on their wedding day.

The more casual look with a waistcoat instead of a jacket, has become a big trend over the last few years. It’s a nice balance of formal and relaxed, and many grooms feel much more comfortable without having lots of layers that they aren’t allowed to remove!

So if you don’t want to wear a tux, tails or a 3 piece suit on your wedding day - don’t! This is one of those traditions that’s becoming more outdated by the day.

The rings

The diamond engagement ring, the matching gold bands, wedding rings come with a lot of traditions - but if you’re going to be wearing this jewellery every day for the rest of your life, so make sure it’s perfect for you.

Firstly, the tradition of diamond engagement rings actually hasn’t been around for as long as you imagine. It’s less a tradition and more just an example of genius marketing from De Beers, who (shockingly) are the biggest diamond company in the world.

Whilst diamonds are undoubtedly beautiful, more and more people are looking for other options. Whether that’s abandoning the single stone for several, to choosing a coloured stone, like a sapphire or ruby instead.

Another tradition growing in popularity, is moving away from matching gold wedding bands. Lots of couples are choosing more unusual designs for their actual wedding rings, or alternatively choosing more hard-wearing but less valuable metals.

A groom I know who’s infamous for losing things had a titanium wedding band that cost about £30. His wife told me that he was bound to misplace it within the week (I think he actually lasted a month!), so better to keep it affordable!

Chapter 4

Ceremony Traditions

The ceremony is where you’d expect to find a lot of outdated wedding traditions, but whether you’re having an old-fashioned church ceremony, or a modern civil ceremony, you can still pick and choose the traditions that are right for you.

The entrance

There are some obvious reasons why the Bridal Entrance has become a bit of an outdated wedding tradition - what if you don’t have a bride? What if you have two?

Even for straight couples, the wedding entrance can be a bit daunting, and more people are choosing different ways to get down the aisle.

Particularly for same-sex couples, the idea of one person hanging around at the end of the aisle while the other gets the big entrance can feel a little unfair, so lots of people are opting for a double entrance.

This means that both of you get to have a gorgeous entrance to music that’s meaningful to you, and you still have that lovely moment when you see each other for the first time, looking stunning and full of joy.

Another popular option is to enter together, coming to the ceremony together, the same way you plan to leave it. This can be a beautiful moment too, and it keeps that “first moment” between the two of you more private.

Giving you away

Another outdated custom is for the bride’s father to walk her down the aisle. This can be a lovely moment for the two of you (no matter how old-fashioned), but it might also be a moment you actually want to share with your mum, or your step-dad, or even your best friend.

Gone are the days when this was a sign of passing “ownership” on from father to husband, today it’s more of a rite of passage, from being part of your parents family, to starting one of your own.

As a result, today lots of people want both their parents to walk them down the aisle, or sometimes they’d prefer it to be mum. 

I’m also seeing lots more weddings where the groom is walked down the aisle by his parents as well, making it a lovely symbol of two families joining together.

The Wedding March

If I’m honest I can’t actually remember the last wedding I went to where the Wedding March played!

It’s a very outdated tradition now, even at religious ceremonies, as lots of people envision a particular song playing them down the aisle.

Most places are more than happy for you to have your own music for that moment, even if you have hymns throughout the rest of your service.

Taking sides

A classic example of an outdated wedding custom is having to sit on the appropriate side for the Bride or Groom. 

Don’t make your mutual friends have to choose who they like best! It’s also pretty difficult if one person has a massive family, and the other doesn’t. I’ve been to weddings where the groom’s family was twice the size of the bride’s, and it makes for a very lopsided venue!

Throwing things

No, I don’t mean wedding day drama! I’m talking about the traditions of rice throwing, and the bouquet toss. Two wedding features that are declining in popularity.

I’ve not actually been to a wedding where rice was thrown, and I’m pretty glad about that - it hurts! But even confetti is a tradition that’s fading out now. 

A lot of that is due to practicality - confetti and rice make a mess! And some confetti is also made of non-biodegradable materials so a lot of wedding venues ask you not to use it.

But if you love confetti but don’t want to ruin the environment, there are other options. For example flower petals or bubbles - they’re a nice way to update an old custom.

A happy, beautiful bride prepares to toss her bouquet

The bouquet toss is also something that’s not so popular anymore. Most brides would prefer to keep their bouquet than chuck it - and the idea of picking out the single people and making them compete for it feels just a bit mean nowadays.

Getting married

I’m sure this sounds odd, but a rising wedding trend is couples who don’t actually get legally married on their wedding day.

This is because more people aren’t going for a religious or civil ceremony, and prefer to have a Celebrant officiate their wedding.

This means that your wedding ceremony can be anything you want it to be, and you can hold it anywhere you like - but that’s because it isn’t a legal marriage. The legal bit of your wedding is the signing of the register, and Celebrants aren’t able to officiate that for you.

However, it does give you much more freedom in deciding how you’d like your wedding day to go, and more couples are avoiding the traditional church wedding and designing their own ceremony from the ground up. 

Of course it does mean that you’ll need to get officially married on another day with a trip to the Registry Office with a couple of witnesses, but that’s a lovely excuse to get your wedding outfits on again and maybe book yourself a fabulous dinner for after.

For some couples it’s like getting the opportunity to have both a big white wedding, and a small intimate one too.

Chapter 5

Wedding Breakfast Traditions

The Wedding Breakfast is chock-full of classic traditions, and while some of those stalwarts might feature in your own wedding, others are falling by the wayside.

Seating Plans

Undoubtedly the worst aspect of wedding planning - so much that lots of people are skipping it entirely!

Creating the seating plan is usually a headache-inducing process, where the otherwise happy couple have to organise family and friends into tables, being careful not to leave anyone without a friend, or sitting next to someone they don’t get on with.

So, to avoid the issue entirely, more people are just inviting guests to find a seat and sort it out for themselves, or instead of formal circular 12-person tables, having long tables and benches.

Dinner

Of course, an informal seating plan doesn’t really work if you’ve gone for a traditional 3 course “chicken or fish” dinner option.

But this is also a bit of an outdated tradition, and lots of couples are looking for different options instead.

Less formal food in general is a common occurrence now, with options like pizza or a hog roast gaining popularity. 

There’s also a lot more people skipping courses entirely, choosing canapes instead of starters, or having a cake table instead of a dessert and then the wedding cake.

Cake

Speaking of cake, the classic 3 tiered fruitcake is another wedding custom that’s going out of style.

Traditionally, the top tier of cake would be kept by the bride and groom, and then eaten on your first anniversary. Sounds a bit odd - but fruit cake really does last a LONG time!

But fruit cake (longevity notwithstanding) isn’t really everyone’s favourite anymore, and beyond just switching fruit cake for chocolate or vanilla sponge, some people are taking things a little further.

A full cake table has been a popular update, where instead of one cake, you have lots! Some people even ask friends and family to bring a cake instead of a gift to add to the table.

Cupcakes are another alternative, and then there’s also the cheese cake (not cheesecake, which is entirely different!).

For those people who don’t have much of a sweet tooth, a cheese cake is a fab option, usually consisting of several tiers of different types of cheese - which is often brought out as the evening buffet.

Speeches

The most traditional of wedding traditions is of course the speeches. But even this custom is being updated for a more modern wedding.

The standard format for speeches is the bride’s father, the groom and then the best man - but there are lots of weddings now where completely different people give a speech.

Brides are much more likely to give a toast (especially if there’s no groom at the wedding!), and both partners often speak. It’s also a lot more common to hear from the mums too.

With the tradition of the men speaking falling out of fashion, it gives you a lot more freedom just to let people who want to speak, speak. 

Some weddings even go the other way and do away with the speeches altogether!

Chapter 6

Wedding Reception Traditions

Things tend to be a little less traditional once you get to the wedding reception, but there are still some customs that have been around for a long time that are suddenly becoming more rare.

Staged photos

A subject close to my heart! A recent wedding trend is to opt out of the standard staged group photos, and just let the photographer take candid shots throughout the reception.

This can be really nice if you’re not fussed about having any specific family shots, but if you struggle to get your folks all together for a photo, this could be the excuse you’re looking for!

Favours

Favours can be great, but they can also be a bit of a pain. The traditional gift was a bag of five sugared almonds, and today people are putting a twist on this tradition by giving sweets, popcorn or chocolates as favours.

Some couples go a bit further, and instead of individual favours, use a bowl of sweeties or chocolates that double as the centrepieces for tables.

Other people turn their favours into a game, with special favours hidden amongst the regular ones. For example, a wedding I went to recently gave small keys as favours, but three of them opened boxes with gifts in - meaning after the meal guests headed to the gift table to see if they’d won a prize!

First dance

The first dance is still quite the tradition, but what has become very outdated is the formal pattern of dances you’re supposed to follow. Happy couple, then dads, then mums, then everyone.

The classic shuffle around the floor often gets replaced with a funky routine, or just something happy and upbeat that everyone can get into.

Not everyone enjoys dancing, and if that’s you, don’t feel like you need to be Fred and Ginger in your first dance - you can always let your significant other take the limelight with their friends, or just skip it entirely.

Wedding DJ

And as we’re talking about music, the classic wedding DJ isn’t nearly as popular as they used to be.

Wedding bands and DJs tend to be pretty expensive, and there’s always that fear that they’re going to play music that you don’t want to hear.

Lots of couples now create their own wedding playlists for the day. From ceremony, through dinner and into the reception, 3 playlists can have you confident that you’re only going to be listening to the music you love - whatever that might be!

Of course if you do go with your own playlist, be careful that you’re not the ONLY people on the dancefloor! You don’t need to play the Macarena, but picking some tracks that lots of guests are going to enjoy could stop you being up there all on your own.

Bride and groom walking away

At the end of the day

So there you have it, 29 outdated wedding traditions that you can do without or put your own twist on.

There are so many ways you can make your wedding day unique, and though some people might want to embrace as many traditions as possible, some people might abandon them entirely, and lots of couples will pick and choose what works for them.

Remember, you don’t need to follow custom unless that’s what you want, and you can always modernise traditions into something that suits you and your wedding.

And who knows, maybe in ten years we’ll have a whole new set of wedding traditions to talk about!

Have I missed any? Have questions or want to talk about wedding photography for your big day? Get in touch, I've love to hear from you.

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