One of the things I love about weddings is that they can feel so iconic. Most of us have happy memories from weddings we’ve attended in the past. Even more so, all of us have seen weddings depicted in movies and popular culture countless times. After seeing wedding traditions played out over and over by people in our communities and on our screens, watching our loved ones take part in these traditions can be incredibly moving. It’s even more exciting and surreal when we do them ourselves!
As a photographer who has captured countless joyful weddings, I have seen the way that wedding traditions – old and new – help not just the happy couple but also their friends and family to really connect with and celebrate what is happening. Wedding traditions like the first dance or the walk down the aisle provide pivotal moments in the journey towards becoming spouses. These are the moments that turn into cherished memories.
Here are 5 of my all-time favorite wedding traditions!
I love getting to photograph the morning just before the ceremony. On the one hand, the excitement is so palpable and on the other hand, this is before all the guests arrive and the day gets into full swing. This precious time can play host to some remarkably tender moments.
One wedding tradition that certainly helps the couple to connect with their closest loved ones is the concept I loosely think of as the ‘group get-ready.’ This is when the bridal party and close family members gather and get ready together. This shouldn’t be confused with the more formal family photos that will take place later in the day. I love the special moments this creates. Whether it’s a bride and her sisters gathering with mimosas and monogrammed pajamas or a groom letting his dad fasten his bow-tie – this is one of those wedding traditions that creates the glorious unstaged moments you may not think to photograph, but you will want to cherish forever.
As wedding traditions go, this is one of the more modern ones! Some couples love the idea of their friends and families recording every second of their day, and it is common now to come up with fun and catchy wedding hashtags so that all of the pictures and videos from the wedding can be found easily.
Some couples, however, want their guests to feel fully present in the moment – particularly during the wedding ceremony itself. After all, when you walk down the aisle, it’s the smiling faces of your nearest and dearest that you’ve dreamed of seeing – not the blinking of their phone cameras. This desire has given rise to couples asking their guests not to take photos and to put their phones away during the ceremony. Some even decorate ‘Phone Check-Ins’ where you can hand in your electronics for an undistracted day. This practice has fallen under some lively debate, but if you’re looking for a guarantee that no annoying ring-tones will interrupt your ceremony, it might be right for you.
When it comes to wedding traditions, this is one that really lets the couple’s individual personality and unique community shine through. Live music is common for dancing at receptions, but I’m talking more about the performances that many engaged couples ask their friends and family to give, either at the reception meal or during the ceremony itself.
It is always so heartwarming to witness a performance that is given as a gift, dedicated to the couple that is being celebrated. One of the older wedding traditions is to walk down the aisle to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, but more and more couples are choosing to bring a fresh twist to the music they choose. Many couples ask close friends to play a piece for them to walk down the aisle to. I’ve photographed a wedding where a friend performed on the bagpipes! Some people provide space for songs to be played during the ceremony, and some (brave!) couples even have an open mic at their reception!
This really allows for personal touches to transform iconic wedding traditions into something that speaks not only of the couple’s love for one another but also of their community’s love for them.
The couple’s triumphant exit from the wedding ceremony is one of those wedding traditions with very deep roots! We have been celebrating this moment where the couple steps out as newlyweds for the first time with raucous noise and joy for a long time. You might think that the tradition of throwing rice feels a little outdated, but did you know that in the late 19th century people used to throw old shoes at the departing newlywed couple? Let’s all be grateful that one went out of style!
These days, a happy procession through a hail of rice is less common, but it has been evolving into new and fresh wedding traditions. Some couples give their guests dried flower petals, some use confetti or glitter (which you will be picking out of your hair all day!), and some, for a gentler but no less fun moment, give bubble guns out and emerge in a cloud of glimmering bubbles.
However you choose to adopt this tradition, you can be sure that it makes for a glorious moment of celebration!
This is another one of these wedding traditions that lends itself to infinite adaptation. I love how the first dance can really give a sense of the couple’s relationship. The song can be one that holds deep meaning in your shared history, and the dance itself can be anything from a meticulously choreographed routine to a simple slow-dance. This moment can be anything from tender to dorky, and I love catching it on camera. Plus, the mad rush onto the dance floor when the moment passes is always so fun!
Wedding traditions connect us with our heritage – but they also begin to set the stage for our future. As such, I’m a big believer that you should never feel guilty for throwing out the wedding traditions that don’t fit ‘you’ and your relationship. Also, you shouldn’t hold back from including any tradition that will bring you both joy!
And for ideas on how you can turn traditions into memories that you will keep forever, let’s talk!