Outdated wedding traditions couples can acceptably ditch post-Covid

Will Covid mark the end of the blow out hen do? Experts reveal the wedding traditions that WON’T survive as couples are given the ‘green light’ to swap ‘big days’ for intimate celebrations

  • Many couples feel obliged to conform to expectations when it comes to wedding
  • Covid weddings were smaller, less grand, with focus on intimacy and romance
  • Toronto-based Michelle Bilodeau and Karen Cleveland, authors of The New Wedding Book: A Guide to Ditching All the Rules say spells new era of nuptials
  • Encourage couples to ditch outdated traditions and scale back pre-celebrations 

From engagement photoshoots and elaborate hen parties to having a small army in the bridal party, many couples often feel under pressure to conform to big expectations when it comes to their wedding.

But with Covid-19 playing havoc with people’s plans, many have ended up tying the knot with far less pomp, fewer guests – and commensurately less pressure to have things done a certain way.

According to Toronto-based Michelle Bilodeau and Karen Cleveland, authors of The New Wedding Book: A Guide to Ditching All the Rules, the age-old big white wedding was already teetering on a cliff – and the pandemic was the feather that finally knocked it over the precipice.

They told FEMAIL: ‘For years engaged couples have ruminated on following certain traditions and fads, as if the Wedding Police are going to come and lock them up in they don’t conform.

‘But weddings during the pandemic were smaller and less grand, with a focus on intimacy and romance, all resulting in very nice occasions – a refreshing break from the arms race, one-upmanship to be bigger, better, grander or more fun than weddings of yore. 

‘Perhaps there is a silver lining to COVID for those betrothed: weddings may finally come back down to earth.’ 

Here they reveal eight outdated wedding rules and assumptions they believe brides now have the freedom to reject in the post-Covid world.  

With Covid-19 playing havoc with people’s plans, many couples have ended up tying the knot with far less pomp, fewer guests – and commensurately less pressure to have things done a certain way (stock image)

THERE MUST BE PRE-WEDDING ACTIVITIES BEFORE THE BIG DAY  

As if a wedding wasn’t enough pressure or large enough of an undertaking, enter engagement parties, bridal teas, stag and hen dos and showers. 

While some couples relish the over-the-top feting and all that extra attention, others find them unbearable.

If you fall into the first camp of the more celebrating the better, here is a cautionary word: no one is as excited about your wedding as you are. If you’re asking your friends to come to your engagement party, then to Vegas for a weekend, an afternoon shower (there is an assumption that gifts are sort of tied to these) AND your wedding, you’re asking for an awful lot. 

And if you’re thinking, ‘But we all do it for each other, so it’s fine’ — fair, but all that means is everyone’s weekends are spoken for forever. And everyone will be broke. 

Feel free to liberate your social circle by scaling back the pre-wedding events. You might feel pressured to just go along to get along when it goes to planning a hen party, but that might leave you with regret. 

While some couples relish the over-the-top feting and all that extra attention, others find them unbearable, warn Karen and Michelle (stock image)

If it truly feels like a force-fit to you, tell your friends that you’re so, so touched, but you don’t enjoy the attention. Ask if they’d be open to having a small lunch, just the two (or three or four) of you. 

Another way to diffuse the attention is to suggest a party that includes your partner and their friends. That way, you can graciously accept the offer, but enjoy sharing the spotlight.

When talking to friends and family who insist on one or any of these functions, place emphasis instead on keeping things simple for the sake of yourself and your family, global pandemic and all.

IF YOU’RE NOT SPENDING A FORTUNE YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG 

Your wedding budget is important, sure, but your life budget is even more crucial. No bridal magazine is going to run the headline: ‘Plan for how your wedding budget fits into your overall financial goals’ because it isn’t terribly sexy or romantic.

The modern wedding is often the single largest expense many families will ever have, up there with a house deposit or new car.

Do you want to travel? Buy a home one day? Then plan for how to make your budget include a wedding that you can actually afford. 

There’s nothing sacred about favours, save-the-date cards or elaborate wedding invitations. Feel free to skip them entirely. 

Shave down your budget further by shopping for gowns outside of the typical bridal shops, get creative with decor options beyond flowers, and tap the talents of your friends and family to help offset costs. 

Or, steal a page from Lily Allen’s playbook: she and David Harbour eloped in fabulous style with Elvis-themed nuptials in Las Vegas, complete with In-N-Out for their wedding meal.

SHOPPING FOR ‘THE DRESS’ WILL BE A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE

Back in the day, brides weren’t only practical about the size of their wedding, but also what they wore on their wedding day. 

Women got married in a beautiful dress (if they were lucky, a new dress, but that wasn’t always the case), and often wore it again and again, altering it to suit whatever fashions were in style, or to fit their changing shape. 

You’re not a failure if you’re not ecstatic at the idea of shopping for a dress. It is a dress for heaven’s sake (stock image)

These days, in addition to the pressure to shell out huge amounts for The Perfect Dress, there is also high-grade pressure for dress shopping to be some transcendental experience. 

It doesn’t have to be that way, and you’re not a failure if you’re not ecstatic at the idea of shopping for a dress. It is a dress for heaven’s sake. 

And why stop at white? Emily Ratajkowski wore a chic mustard yellow pantsuit and a black veiled hat, in jaw-dropping style.

Be a savvy shopper: Don’t get sucked into paying a silk price for a polyester blend. A wedding outfit should reflect your personal style, which may include an off-the-rack frock from a non-bridal store that doesn’t have to be white. 

Grab something that you’ll love for as long as you’ll love your partner (which we hope is a very, very long time!). Scour the market for a previously owned gown and have it altered to suit your taste. 

Watch for sample sales and non-bridal retailers who happen to make stunning dresses you love. Vintage jumpsuit? High Street sexy slip dress? Rent a gown? Ask a local designer or dress maker? The options are endless! 

A good tailor can make any garment look and feel special on you. Model Sylvia Flote flouted the white gown route and wore a traditional Norwegian dress to wed The Hon. Sigmund Oakeshott, the son of the Liberal Democrat Lord Oakeshott.

YOUR WEDDING MUST BE A WEEKEND AFFAIR 

Think that your wedding has to be a packed day of meals, drinks and a late night party? Think again. 

If the idea of a one party feels overwhelming, then a full day or weekend of festivities might be downright off-putting. 

After a year of simple-but-elegant micro-weddings, not only might a packed schedule of events feel superfluous, it can be tedious to plan, let alone expensive.

By all means stretch out the celebrations for as long as you like, but don’t feel pressure to do so because it it’s billed as tradition, or because other people are asking it of you. 

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WEDDING INSPO ON SOCIAL MEDIA

While you’re aimlessly scrolling through wedding inspiration, looking for ideas or hate-watching someone’s OTT proposal video, know that you are literally crafting your own special type of Hell. 

The more you follow, like, and consume, the more you are telling your social media channels, ‘Please give me more of this!’ And it is not pretty: According to a Cornell University study, more than 70 per cent of engaged women were planning to lose weight before their wedding day. 

Do yourself a favour by doing a deep social media audit. Unfollow like you’ve never unfollowed before. Your algorithm will quickly adapt and stop serving up that insensitive rubbish. 

It’s so easy to get lost or feel like you need to fit a certain image, which we’ve seen time and again. So try your best not to participate if you’re not into the whole white wedding thing. 

Instead look to fashion magazines, photography (vintage and contemporary) and art. Seek out social media accounts that jive with your personal style and beliefs. Follow a person (or three) whose style you admire for ideas on cuts and colours that will flatter you and make you feel good on your day. 

All these tweaks will help create an algorithm that we can get behind, and reinforce that you can 100 per cent just be you on your wedding day.

SPLURGING ON HAIR AND MAKE-UP FOR THE BRIDESMAIDS 

We love to get glammed up as much as anybody, but hiring a hair and make-up artist for the bride and bridesmaids can be a pain. In addition to the cost and the seemingly endless hours of waiting around, what’s to say that everyone is going to like how their hair and make-up look after? 

We love to get glammed up as much as anybody, but hiring a hair and make-up artist for the bride and bridesmaids can be a pain (stock image)

You might instead want to invest in a group online make-up lesson and some long-lasting products, or just agree to let everyone get ready on their own. 

If people want to get theirs done themselves, great! If not, let them arrive feeling their best. You love them for who they are, not how they’ll look in photos, right? 

ALL WEDDING DAY CUSTOMS MUST BE ADHERED TO 

The trappings that we consider central to weddings are, for the most part, post World War Two constructs. The romanticisation of domestic life, coupled with an exploding advertising industry sent couples to the altar in record numbers. 

The nuclear family was revered like nothing else, and so we started to fetishise weddings. So, before assuming that you have to include something in your wedding, ask yourself and your partner if it is truly meaningful to you, or if it’s a matter of being on wedding auto-pilot. If it isn’t important to you both, simply don’t do it.

If you’re not into them, feel free to ditch the following: a wedding party (all you really need is two witnesses anyway), the ‘giving away’ of the bride, hiring a fancy car to drive two miles, a post-wedding breakfast, wearing white (or a dress for that matter!), tossing your bouquet… the list goes on. 

Essentially what we’re saying is, if it doesn’t feel like something you want to do at your wedding, don’t feel pressured by your family, friends, society or social media, to do so. 

You can edit these so-called traditions to suit you; why not dance with your mother instead of your father (or both for that matter) – or simply ditch this tradition altogether.  

AN EQUAL NUMBER OF BRIDESMAIDS AND GROOMSMEN

The idea of a wedding party that is perfectly symmetrical and gendered feels less relevant and less inclusive these days. It feels a little contrived that a couple would have exactly the same number of friends, who happen to be of the same gender. 

Do grooms not have women friends, or brides not have men friends? What space does this leave for same sex couples or non-binary people? 

The idea of a wedding party that is perfectly symmetrical and gendered feels less relevant and less inclusive these days (stock image)

We’re all for a fresh take on the matter, which is to have the people you love stand up for you at your wedding, but with zero regard for having the same number of attendants, or their gender. 

It’s 2021, and time that our wedding parties reflect that! Maybe you each have one person as your main attendant, or maybe it’s a mashup of both of your friends and family… or maybe it’s no wedding party at all. You do you.

The New Wedding Book: A Guide to Ditching All the Rules is available to buy on Amazon now. 

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