Discarding wedding traditions and getting married on our own terms

Guest post by Kirilee Rae
Illustration photo by Riley Glenn Photography. Coordination of styled shoot by Cillia of Marion Matrimony Events LLC.

With wedding-related emails filling up my inbox, and a to-do list full of “closer-to-the-date” jobs, the topic of matrimony seems to be frequenting my conversations beyond anything I'd previously expected. Unfortunately so do the opinions and expressions of every old dame, whose in-built radar has spotted my engagement ring and the sticky-fingered kid hanging off of it.

And with every questionable-twist of the lip, my matrimony-related-decision-making process comes slightly un-done and I'm left asking myself: are the decisions I'm making about our wedding, which will ultimately be the bunting-draped rocket that launches us into married life, the right ones for us?

Of course, I'm not waxing on about choosing flowers, wine, dresses, etc. (which are of course stupidly important, but I'm sure with enough wine will be less so on the day). I'm talking about the decisions that dictate how much, and what kind of tradition we'll be incorporating into our marriage. This — I know — is the female fiasco that plagues every slightly-inclined-to-call-herself-feminist-thinking bride to ever question the merits of “something blue.”

With the very foundations of what marriage is being passed down in a sugar almond shell, it's up to every woman to decide just what exactly she'll take from the woman before her, and what she'll pass down to those that will hit the aisle in her footsteps.

Don't get me wrong: tradition has never been our thing.

Our three children will be present at our wedding and there certainly was no bending down on one knee (I can handle surprise babies, but I think a surprise proposal would have put me out cold). We talked about getting married, as a form of mutual decision, and I practically announced to my fiancée when I decided it was time. We openly discussed the ring and I designed it myself. My godfather is a “bridesman,” and our daughter will be our flower girl (or, err.. she'll thud down the aisle first, and take down anyone in her way).

But marriage is also not what it traditionally used to be. My property doesn't instantly fall into my fiancé's lap the day we get hitched. No one is expected to trade cows for my hand (although I'm sure they wouldn't say no to a case of beer).

However, whether you like it or not, with something as age-old as marriage, tradition always manages to rear its white-wearing, virginity-flaunting head. From small things like “something borrowed, something blue,” to bigger, scarier things: like being given away at the altar or throwing off your maiden name like a bride's nightie (see what I did there?). Marriage can be as steeped with tradition or as uniquely different as you want it to be.

I feel that at the end of the day, it's about harnessing the beast and taming it into something we're comfortable with, something we can call our own. If we were getting married so we could buy a house, start a family, and choose a dog, I think it'd be different. I think we'd be more prepared to do things the way we're told to; but that wouldn't be for us. I don't need a piece of paper to tell people it's socially acceptable for me to go forth, procreate, and co-own a fat Labrador. I'm quite happy living in bull terrier-sharing “sin.”

That's not what marriage is about to me.

It's about taking something traditional, something that our parents did, and turning it into something new and different. Something that suits us, and that I'll be happy to pass down to my daughter, to then tweak and re-arrange and make her own.

It's a way of saying that I want to spend my life with this person on our terms, not the terms our parents laid out. Not the terms that anyone else believes dictate the roles individuals in couples should play. But on the terms we choose for ourselves and each other, demonstrated through whatever treading or trampling of tradition is necessary.

It's about not feeling obligated to anyone else outside of our marriage, taking into account what your families think, but having the audacity and the respect for ourselves and each other to say “No, that's how you did it, but it's not for us.”

So this is where I'm at; somewhere between the red flowers or the white. And choosing whether I want to be “given away,” or declaring that I give myself, not as property, but to our marriage as an equal half.

If I want to wear a flouncy white marshmallow dress I can; if I want to wear a sequinned mini I can do that, too.

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Comments on Discarding wedding traditions and getting married on our own terms

  1. My mum says it’s hurtful and humiliating for my father to not be able to walk me down the aisle, regardless I hate that tradition and will be walking in with my FH as I feel it is important for us to enter the marriage as equals.
    So my idea thus far is to have both sets of parents walk down the aisle ahead of us and then wait for us, once we get down the aisle we can hug them and thank them and then guide them to their seats. Other suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. my fh and I are going to walk to each other and meet in the middle f our guests for the ceremony.

  3. I had just this predicament myself. My stepfather stopped speaking to me last October when he found out that I wasn’t having him, or my mom walk me down the aisle. I didn’t think it was fair to pick between him and my dad, plus I never wanted it in the first place, and having them both do it was not an option. I also didn’t see why I would want to have someone who has said so many terrible thing about me and my husband to my face on more than one occassion. I stuck to my decision, and even though my mom and stepfather have basically cut all ties with me, I don’t regret it.

  4. This is exactly what I needed. I am in the throws of planning my own wedding, and I have been getting so much flack from family and strangers alike! I want to have a very non-traditional wedding, a unique ceremony in the middle of our reception, a potluck dance party to celebrate, kegs, sharing etc. When looking for advice about hosting a “pot luck” type reception, all I get is criticism because it isn’t traditional, “you need to be a good hostess and provide your guests with everything they need”, “your reception is a gift to your guests” etc. Despite the fact that my fiance and I have what we think are good reasons to have a pot luck rather than a formal sit-down dinner we are still dealing with the naysayers. This article was great to read because it has reminded me that it’s OK to say “no” or “we’re making this our own thing”.

  5. Wow, so this helped me decide the isle thing. My dad is a great dad, and we don’t dislike each other, but we are not friends either. I live in another state and see them on holidays, like a distant aunt. Someone pointed out that I could have his and my parents walk down before us and then we could go together which is GREAT. You can take down YOUR wife dad, I will be taking MY future husband.

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