Why Do We Keep Having Traditional Weddings? The Answer Might Shock You

I sat down with a coordinator a few weeks ago in my Portland workspace. I’m starting a new company geared towards socially conscious, queer-friendly, and nontraditional weddings and I want to bring on vendors who hold the same values in the wedding industry. I ask two questions to anyone thinking of working with me, including “what is the biggest challenge, in your opinion, between a cis wedding and a queer wedding?” The coordinator answered that the biggest issue has got to be finding vendors who don’t make anyone uncomfortable and are accommodating to different pronouns, family situations, and non-tokenization. I was thrilled, as this was the answer that I was looking for. I then asked why non-traditional couples with big personalities stick with the traditional wedding and, again, she had the same response I felt. “Because they don’t know anything else.”

Weddings have not fundamentally changed for hundreds of years. Traditions are outdated, gender roles and heteronormativity are rampant, and millennial couples think back to the weddings they’ve attended as guidelines for their own big day. But really, what do we do instead of a bouquet toss, the best man, the veil, or the white dress we’ve seen depicted since elementary school?

Truth is, you can do whatever you want!

Here are some ideas to remove that monotone sexism from your own wedding and still keep with an upbeat tone celebrating your relationship and partner.

Let's Talk Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

Let’s let go of a night dedicated to your “last night of freedom.” Not only does this reinforce the “ball and chain” mindset within a marriage, but many traditional forms of celebration can be disrespectful to our partners. Instead, you could choose a night out together with your closest friends, a beach bonfire, a backyard barbecue, a night at the clubs just focused on celebrating before the big day, or even a day spent walking through locations reminiscent of where you came from.

Can we revolutionize strip clubs, hot pink dildo hats, drunken nerves, bad mistakes, and pressure from friends into something with more meaning? Let go of anything not conducive to celebrating the both of you, and start your marriage feeling more connected than ever, whatever that looks like to you. If that includes a dildo hat, well, I’m not mad about it.

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A Few Wedding Day Traditions to Ditch and Some to Add 

Let's Face It, Sometimes You Need Games

Sorry, not sorry, we don’t play enough games at weddings. I want a giant game of beer pong, or kings cup, or even Uno. I want to laugh and sit down and not be tied to a schedule or to dance in those heels I’ve been wearing. I want to spend time with the people who flew here for me, not just a small hug and conversation. I want opportunities for interaction.

Wedding Parties Are, In Fact, Optional

If you’re feeling weird about choosing your wedding party, well, you’re not alone. There’s something strange about choosing a dozen people to stand beside you. There’s also an added pressure and stress. If this is the case for you, just don’t do it! You are under no obligation to pick and choose which relationships you hold to a higher standard than others.

On the flip side, sometimes wedding parties are fun, and a tradition you can’t wait to incorporate. Maybe you’ve had yours picked out since middle school. And that’s okay! It’s your day. But maybe there are other ways to do a wedding party in a way you love. That brings me to my next point.

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Let's Rethink Gendered Wedding Parties

So often, I go to a cis hetero wedding and see the queer or nonbinary friends of the couple struggle with bridesmaid/groomsmen life. As we break down gender walls and barriers, let’s start with this gender divide which is so prevalent in weddings. The pressure to wear a dress or to stand based on where your genitalia lies is something that some couples don’t think about, and switching it up could lead to a revolution within the weddings of your own guests. So even if it doesn’t directly impact someone in your own party, the ripple effect could benefit someone else who identifies with gender differently.

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Um, Animals Are Awesome 

Have you ever had a llama at your wedding? If you’re in Portland, you’re in luck. The Wedding Llamas are here to show up in florals and tuxedo garb for your big day. Rojo is a popular llama in Portland who spends his days roaming on a big farm in Ridgefield and his nights on the town.

Wedding animal popularity is growing. We more frequently see the Buzzfeed weddings and shoots with puppies and dogs, goats, and llamas.

There are a few pros and cons. The first might not be obvious until the big day, but all of these animals need to go potty. An indoor wedding or one at a venue that doesn’t want the mess might affect your decision. Rojo wears a diaper to keep himself tidy, although most animals do not. Another thing to consider is the welfare of the animal. Sure, using baby animals are cute and all. But a baby bunny could have a heart attack and a chick or other baby spending too much time away from their mom could die. Please consider this when using animals, and make sure they are from a reputable farm and source.

The pros are that you have a great photo op, a fun way to distract from anything you don’t want to do (i.e. garter/bouquet toss, cheesy dances), and a day to remember.

Please, Let's Stop Giving Away the Bride

We all know the rooted misogyny that comes with a man giving up his daughter and her virginity to another man (blech) but how can we still incorporate our parents and make them happy while letting go of the patriarchy?

That answer is easier than you might think- have your parent or parents walk you down the aisle, but give yourself to your partner on your own. The only misogynistic part of a giveaway is the actual giveaway. Finding ways to bring family into a ceremony is sometimes part of the reason why people have weddings- the very merging of two lives and families.

If you both have very involved sets of parents, entering from opposite sides on the arms of your parents and coming together is a way to balance this out and make everyone feel included if you want them to. You can also walk down the center aisle one at a time verses one of you standing at the altar from the start. This also works well for same-sex/non-binary couples.

Third option is to say fuck it and not stress over your entry or ceremony regimen which is OKAY TOO!

You Might Want to Rethink That Veil

If one or both of you is wearing a dress, you’ll probably consider a traditional veil. But what are they for? Well, heads up, it’s gross. But they’re pretty and this is your day, so also don’t feel pressure to reject them either.

Traditionally, when a father or new husband lifts the veil, it represented the groom's right to consummate the marriage. The veil represents the hymen, and now he has permission to penetrate it.

I know, gross right? The more you know.

Why Does Your Wedding Dress Have to Be White?

White is also rooted in purity and wealth. Even having a differently colored dress can be a metaphorical middle finger to outdated expectations around sexuality and the 1% that often dictates what our society should look like.

Remember, Eloping Is Always an Option

You can always elope. We throw it out as a “last resort” option after the stress of wedding planning sits in, but the stigma around eloping has been revolutionizing the last few years. It’s seen for what it could be, instead of a way out. It’s an emotional and intimate ceremony, hyper focused on your relationship. No pressure, no rush, and an amazing way to start off your marriage and continue your lives together. Eloping lets you control exactly what you want out of a ceremony with 0 pressure to do anything anyone else expects.

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Most Importantly, Hire Ethical Vendors

Does the fact that my florist own 6 guns, voted for #45 and wore an All Lives Matter shirt to our consultation affect my flowers? No. Am I still salty about it? Yes. Will it bother me to give my money to that person? Hell yes.

Vendors with inclusive and bigotry-free mission statements are everywhere, especially here on Catalyst. Wanting to share values with the people you spend your money on and surround yourself with is valid and important. Not only does it make for a smooth and comfortable experience, but it helps the wedding industry as a whole do better.

Hopefully you’re reading this with new ideas to replace those traditional elements you weren’t sure you wanted or needed on your day! The biggest reason we default to the old ways is that we aren’t familiar with anything else. Remember that this is a celebration of your love. It can be as goofy, as stylish, as conscious, and as you as you want it to be.


 Jamie Carle

JAMIE CARLE

Jamie is the owner of Jamie Carle Photography and resides in Vancouver, WA. Her background was always in videography. She was an AV nerd in high school and president of her school video club. When college came, she decided to major in graphic design and put video second. She became pregnant — and knowing she'd be a single mother — she made the choice to put off school while she worked, scraped, and saved. One way she was able to stay creative and sane was photography. Through thousands of photos of her baby, she was able to keep doing something really special.

She found a new passion and moved from her own child to other children, which then expanded into all kinds of family portraiture. She was asked if she offered wedding services, and at the time was floored. So she became a second shooter for another photographer and learned some ins and outs of the wedding business. This has become her favorite thing to do — capture love and tell your story.