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Origins of Wedding Traditions and 7 Reasons to Not Have a Traditional Wedding

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Jessica chose to elope rather than having a big wedding. She offers encouragement to others who choose to skip the traditional wedding.

Would you prefer walking to the courthouse over walking down the aisle?

Would you prefer walking to the courthouse over walking down the aisle?

Should You Have a Wedding?

If you are asking yourself that question, you may have a few doubts. You may know for sure that you want to get married (if not, that’s a different article), but be on the fence about the big, over-the-top celebrations we have come to feel like we have to have.

You may be questioning whether or not you want all that pomp and circumstance on a day that should be what you want it to be. If you think you and your honey might enjoying walking down the street to the courthouse rather than walking down the aisles, keep reading!

My Personal Wedding Story

As an Italian-American Catholic, weddings were a BIG deal in my family. I remember my Aunt Lisa's wedding in a Catholic church preceded by months of preparation beforehand: the large wedding party, the giant reception, Catholic Mass before the wedding started, and of course, the drama.

I was a seven-year-old flower girl, and I remember my great aunt, Mary, dragging me like a cat to the bath onto the dance floor despite my protests. Clearly, even then, this wasn't for me.

As a wallflower, why would I want a reception with a DJ and dance floor when I don't like to dance the night away? I didn't. I also grew up to be a non-practicing Catholic, which threw my parents' dream of a traditional Catholic wedding right out the window.

I also had family I hadn't talked to in years, and I had moved a thousand miles from home. If I had a wedding and paid for everyone to be there, how many would show up? How much would it cost?

I couldn't justify spending all that money (not to mention time) to celebrate one day. I wanted to travel, buy a house, and—most importantly—follow my dream of being an artist. An opulent wedding with a hefty price tag would put all those things in jeopardy, and it would potentially add financial stress to the early days of my marriage.

I Wanted a Marriage, Not a Wedding

It became clear to me I wanted a marriage, not a wedding. My husband and I eloped to the courthouse, and, for $150, we were pronounced man and wife. I did it despite what is popular and what was wanted for me. My parents were flabbergasted, but they got over it. I have never regretted it a day in my life.

I am writing this to support those of you who are having a hard time distinguishing between what you are expected to do and what you want.

I am here to tell you that, with some courage and confidence, it can be done.

History of the Wedding

We often make jokes today about people marrying for money, but when weddings first started, that is exactly what people did. Weddings were based out of commodity, and the word “wedding” even implied the security the groom's family provided for the bride’s family. In fact, it wasn’t until the 19th century that people started marrying for love.

There are also many traditions in modern weddings that we take for granted, but whose origins we may not be familiar with. Things such as the role of the bridesmaids/best man, wedding cake, rings, and the wedding gown all had a purpose back when weddings originated. Some of the reasons why we have these things are downright strange and even appalling.

Here are some examples:

Bridesmaids/Best Man

Not every woman loves donning a tacky dress in an unflattering style, but we do it because we love the bride more than our own pride. In early Roman times, bridesmaids had bigger fish to fry. They were believed to ward off evil spirits from the bride.

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What about the tacky dress? It wasn't designed to make the bridesmaids look terrible in comparison to the bride; they were actually meant to make the bridesmaids stand out and the bride blend in so it wouldn't be known to the evil spirits which woman was getting married. So bridesmaids, just relax and carry that bouquet!

The role of the best man is just as dramatic. He was to kidnap the bride if she were to run away (crazy, right?). It also wasn't usually the brother or best friend; it usually was whoever was "best," meaning strongest and most capable to keep the soon-to-be-bride on the path to going through with the wedding.

Wedding Dress

Brides actually used to wear a red wedding dress. Wearing white didn't become popular until about 1840, when Queen Victoria wore a white, lacy gown at her wedding to Prince Albert. The white gown was actually a symbol of wealth, as opposed to purity. It caught on, and that's what we have come to know today.

But these days it does seem like a lot of brides are starting to embrace a twist on the traditional white with off-white dresses.

Wedding Rings

This much-anticipated (and expensive) tradition, just like marriage, wasn't a symbol of love, but a symbol of ownership. It was also used as collateral to the the father of the bride in early Roman, Jewish, and Greek times. As women's rights became more acknowledged, men started wearing rings as well.

The First Look and Veil

Especially in the days of arranged marriages, these traditions were used as a way of making sure the bride and groom went through with the wedding so that looks wouldn't get in the way. In some cultures, the veil also was believed to ward off evil spirits and keep the identity of the bride private, in some cases.

There are dozens more, and they are fascinating. They show just how much has changed over the years. It also shows how little we sometimes know about certain traditions. Knowing the origin may help couples today decided what traditions they would like to implement and others that they would rather not based on where they came from.

A traditional church ceremony much like the Catholic weddings most of the people in my family had.

A traditional church ceremony much like the Catholic weddings most of the people in my family had.

A beautiful bride and groom in Bali, Indonesia.

A beautiful bride and groom in Bali, Indonesia.

Benefits of Not Having a Wedding

I know a lot of people may have more personal reasons to not have a weddings, but here are some general reasons.

1. Cheaper

This is first in the list because it is the most obvious. It is no secret that a “cheap” wedding can cost several hundreds of dollars and they skyrocket from there. Weddings can be tens of thousands of dollars. Especially now with social media, celebrities, reality television, and pressures from family that you have your (or their) “dream” wedding, no wonder most couple divorce over finances.

Let's not forget about sharing photos of an elaborate wedding on the internet in an effort to keep up with the Jones's. There are also a lot of people that will say that they can't afford to get married, that is not true. You might not be able to afford a wedding, but you more than likely can afford to get married. Getting married at the courthouse can be done for less than $200 in most cases.

2. Less Stress

I know a few people that had small weddings. One thing I learned is whether the wedding is big or “small,” there is still stress. Sometimes the size of the wedding doesn't dictate how much stress and tension can be present.

It may not be 250 people but trying to plan an event with 50 can be stressful. Not to mention when you do have a smaller wedding with a smaller budget, you often are on your own doing the planning, decorating, coordinating, etc... in a sense, there is a small wedding but not a stress-free wedding. Who wants that?

3. Celebrate Later With a Milestone

How about someday celebrating a milestone anniversary be it one, five, ten years with an epic renewal ceremony of your dreams. Odds are by the time a couple gets there, they will be more sensible and know more what they would like in a celebration.

The funds may even be more readily available and maybe even children can join in the fun! Also, you will have been further removed from living your parents home and feeling like you have to follow their wishes.

4. Less Overinvolved Family

Sometimes family can get so involved in what they want for your big day, you can forget it is your wedding. A lot of times, parents feel that if they are paying for it, they get a say. They mean well but emotions get involved.

Also, sometimes parents may feel like they've waited so long for you to get married that they are entitled to what they want. Some may disagree with me, but I don't feel this is right. If it all may end up in an argument anyways, you might as well let family be upset about you not having a wedding in lieu of getting mad because they didn't get their way at your wedding.

5. Most People Live Together Anyways

Let’s face it, we live in a modern world. While I know there are still people out there who do wait for marriage to live as married couple, there are so many people who don’t. Either one is great if it’s what the people in the situation want. But then why make such a big deal about a single day that could just be commemorated with a simple backyard BBQ and a pair of flip flops?

6. Less Family Feuding

Perhaps there are a lot of families that can set aside their differences to come together for one day for a loved one. But there are also a lot of families who can’t. If a wedding is about bringing family together, if you have one of these families, you may want to steer clear of a wedding.

7. It Shouldn't Be the "Best" Day of Your Life

As little girls, we often dream about our wedding and being a princess for a day. We also build up the day for so many years and count on it being the best day of our lives (until children are born, usually), but why the hype? Shouldn’t we strive to make every day in a marriage better than the last. Of course there will be bad times and worse times, that's what marriage is!

So many people unfortunately get married for the wedding and forget that if it is successful, the wedding is a mere drop in the bucket as far as your life together. And really the longer you're together, the smaller than time even gets. I have no problem with a celebration, but the pressure and hype is so much.


Finally, the Honeymoon!

As it turns out, honeymoons were not originally a romantic getaway for a newly married couple. They were actually a way for newly married couples to visit family that couldn't be at the wedding. So it was actually the opposite of what we think it is.

Before that, the term "honeymoon" referred to a honey-based alcohol drink called mead. The couple was to drink this after their first "moon" together. It was a gift from guests that was thought to be an aphrodisiac.

Today, it's really just a vacation. Couples often will save up for a big trip quite some time after the wedding or opt for something called a "mini moon," which is a smaller honeymoon right after the wedding. Oftentimes, we are simply too busy with work and obligations to take significant time off after a wedding, so sometimes this doesn't happen at all.

A lot of people would agree that they would prefer a great vacation/honeymoon over a wedding. That is something I can definitely get behind.

Whatever you and your future spouse decide to do for your future together, do it with confidence and be authentically you. At the end of the day, that's what matters most.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jess B


Jess B (author) from United States on June 01, 2019:

Oh gosh yes, funerals. It's necessarily expensive for all those kinds of things. That amount of money is so extravagant and, like you said, would be a great down payment or nest egg. So sad for it to be for one day when all that really matters is getting married and sharing it with some people you love.

Jess B (author) from United States on June 01, 2019:

I totally agree! :) That is great that you could married for free at your church! definitely something that helps a lot as so many venues are so expensive. My father didn't like that I didn't get married in the Catholic church. You're totally right that, in some people's views, it is very Western. It's nice to have so many options available.

Jess B (author) from United States on June 01, 2019:

Simple is often best for sure! I can totally understand it being a nerve-wracking experience too with having to walk down an aisle and everyone staring. I'm all about casual :)

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on May 14, 2019:

I'm totally on board with you on this one. When I get married I just want it to be a casual ceremony and a party with family after. Nothing fancy. I'm scared of being the center of attention so the thought of a big wedding is a bad thought to me.

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on May 14, 2019:

You could still do what my Mom and Dad did, and have a familial ceremony and get-together after the courthouse. I hope to be married in the temple (I' Mormon), and that's free in my church. The marriage ceremony itself can be a private affair, and one could argue that going to the courthouse is still something of a contemporary Western wedding.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on May 14, 2019:

Most men would be happy without having a formal wedding.

There is no such thing as a "Groomzilla".

Weddings like it or not are all about the bride and her living out the (fairytale) dream of being a "princess" since early childhood.

When the groom walks into the church people barely notice. However when the bride steps in the music starts and EVERYONE stands up! The groom is essentially a "prop".

Sometimes the parents and future in-laws make the wedding about (them). This can cause infighting especially when they're telling you who to invite to your own wedding or what you should have there. The best advice is to pay your own way.

If you don't ask for financial help you get to call the shots.

Do your best to keep the cost of the wedding under $10k.

The wedding is just a ceremony/party that lasts (one day).

If someone dreads courthouse weddings they can always have a destination wedding. You combine the wedding/honeymoon at an All Inclusive Resort. Those friends and family who can afford to come will on their own dime. Otherwise the resort will provide witnesses.

The same is true in Las Vegas or on a cruise ship.

It can be as formal or as casual as you desire. People have gotten married in bathing suits or shorts and sandals. It's up to you.

The most important thing is to avoid starting your marriage with a huge amount of debt.

The website pegs the national average at $25,764, while The Knot reports an average of $33,391. The Knot also says the typical wedding includes 100 to 150 guests.

That's not including going on a honeymoon!

Unless you rich blowing that kind of money for a (one day) event doesn't make a lot of sense. This is especially true if you have to go into debt to cover the expenses. Some couples end up getting divorced before they have their wedding paid off.

The cost of the wedding could have been applied to down payment on a house or townhome for the couple or maybe a college fund for their kids, or retirement investments...etc.

Another ridiculous expensive day is the amount spent on funerals!

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