Tying the Knot: Then and Now
Thu, February 2, 2023

Tying the Knot: Then and Now

As urbanization and technology dominate the world, couples have transformed wedding traditions the way they see fit. / Photo by: IVASHstudio via Shutterstock


A wedding is an established rite found in almost every society. It is probably the only ceremony that different cultures around the world consistently have in common. Couples long for and plan for this big day when they exchange vows to endure each other for the rest of their lives. Basically a ceremony of love and partnership, this gathering is a celebration of the union of the hearts of two individuals to become one.

The conventional ideals associated with weddings have changed substantially over the years. As urbanization and technology dominate the world, couples have transformed wedding traditions the way they see fit, at least to a certain extent. From minor to major shifts, wedding traditions have indeed evolved.

Permission to Marry

For centuries, grooms seek their future parents-in-law’s permission before proposing to their would-be brides. While regarded as romantic and respectful, this tradition has declined in popularity over the last decades as it is viewed as an outdated practice especially since a lot of couples decide to marry when they are of legal age, meaning they really don’t need to secure their parents’ permission anymore.

Walking the Bride Down the Aisle

 In the last century or so, the father walking the bride down the aisle has become passé as many brides have chosen to walk alone. Today, the tradition is being revived and gaining strength. In most cases, both parents walk the bride. The solidity of this tradition lies in its capacity to adjust and refresh with the times.

Wedding Expenses

Derived from the concept of the dowry, the tradition was to have the bride’s family pay for the wedding. This is because women in the past cannot live on their own, work outside of the home, or own property. As such, unmarried daughters were considered burdens. Families then basically had to pay a man so that he would carry these burdens instead.

Today, families of the bride no longer have to foot the bill as women are now fully independent and don’t pose a burden anymore. Wedding expenses are fully shared by both families, with most expenses born by the working bride and groom.

Wearing a White Wedding Dress

Up until the mid-19th century, brides wore bold colors, like red, on their wedding day. Easily soiled, the white-colored fabric was only possible for the rich then. It was only in 1840 that white was worn when Queen Victoria insisted on wearing a white satin gown for her wedding with Prince Albert. Decades later white became the preferred choice for brides to symbolize purity and innocence.

Today, colored wedding gowns have made a big comeback. Around 90 percent of brides have worn wedding gowns in ivory, champagne, mocha, and blush colors. Brides-to-be get wedding dresses that fit their budget and at the same time express their own personal style.


Around 90% of brides have worn wedding gowns in ivory, champagne, mocha, and blush colors. / Photo by: Moskvina Olga via Shutterstock


Bride’s Veil and Train

In ancient times, Greeks and Romans believed that demons and witches attended weddings to curse the bride and groom. The wedding veil hid the bride from harm as they could not be seen by them. In the 1860s, the longer and bigger the veil, the wealthier was the status of the bride. As arranged marriages were common during that time, the long veil and train were intentional to prevent the bride from running away from her new groom.

The traditional accessory has been revived lately. The veil has become a statement piece, incorporating meaningful messages or lyrics and adding drama while the bride walks down the aisle.

Bridesmaid’s Role

In Roman times, bridesmaids wore identical gowns to confuse the demons and witches on who the real bride was. These lookalikes also protected the bride from rejected suitors who may kidnap or harm her. Usually, 10 maidens were chosen as bridesmaids.

Today, bridesmaids are no longer expected to look exactly like the bride. Their gowns are a mix-match of styles and contrasting colors and shapes. It is not necessary to wear a uniform color or style. The trend is more personal to allow individual expression. They are expected to assist and support the bride during the ceremony.

The Best Man's Speech

In more than 250 years, the best man’s role was as a “protector of the bride” until the day of the wedding. Today, the best man is usually the best friend of the groom, and his speech is now focused on humor to entertain guests.

Tying Tin Cans to the Bridal Car

This practice started in the Tudor period when guests threw their shoes to the bridal car purportedly to bring good luck. To avoid walking back home with only one shoe, the tradition was tweaked into tying tin cans at the back of the bridal car. Over the last 100 years, this tradition has faded away, but in recent years, more couples have gone back to the tradition and it once again has become trendy.

The Couple’s First Dance

Thought to be a special moment for the bride and groom, the first dance of the newlyweds has been revolutionized to encompass the participation of close friends. Upbeat group dance routines have become vogue.

Wedding Cake and Flowers

The cutting of the wedding cake has become more popular now than in the 20th century. Color palettes shifted from traditional pinks and pastels toward sunnier palettes of yellow, orange, ivory, and nudes. Floral accents on wedding cakes whether handmade or fresh were arranged ikebana style rather than the traditional tight clusters. More couples opt for a sponge rather than the traditional fruit wedding cake.

Throwing the Bridal Bouquet

The tradition was formed when lady guests strived to take a piece of the bride's dress or flowers as tokens of luck. To be fair to all ladies and avoid hard feelings, the bride decided to toss her bridal bouquet to female attendees to pass on the luck of marriage. This practice only started in the 21st century.

Weddings are imbued with time-honored traditions and beliefs. However, the generation today has become bolder in discarding outmoded practices, embracing instead those more meaningful to them. Nonetheless, two essential traditions will forever remain: the pronouncements of marriage vow by the couple and the celebrant, followed by the sweet kiss that melts everyone’s hearts.