When discussing weddings, I say it all the time: ‘do what’s right for you.’ There are certainly a lot of traditions and rules for weddings, and I do love history, culture, customs and most everything about weddings. But I don’t subscribe to the idea of doing something just because that’s ‘how it’s done.’ From the smallest detail to the grandest of gestures, couples today crave authenticity and are looking for meaningful ways to express themselves at this important moment in their lives.
Before it occurred to me it could be otherwise, I thought only a best man could hold the couples’ wedding rings. I now see all kinds of possibilities for that task. One of the truly fun things about being a wedding celebrant is presenting people with choices they never even knew they had.
It all comes down to ‘why’. Why are you doing or saying something? Is it honest? Does it represent your beliefs and ideals? And does it accurately express or symbolize what your wedding means to you?
Taking the example of the rings, you may be perfectly happy to have your best man hold both rings for the ceremony, and that’s fine… but then again, have you considered having your maid or matron of honor (I like to call them best women) hold one as well? Think of it: the best woman hands the bride her ring to put on the groom’s finger, and the best man holds the ring to hand to the groom to put on his bride. Balanced. Now, if you remove the gender identities from the equation, it becomes even clearer. Simply have your best person hand you your ring for your partner! It really just makes sense. Or take it in different direction; how about having a parent or child hold the rings?
A great example of the evolving and changing language of weddings can readily be found in the old phrase: ‘to love, honor, and obey.’ Most officiants no longer say this, and I’ve never said it ever, not once! Women no longer promise to obey their husbands. Marriage is now seen as a mutually shared undertaking based on equality.
Consider the words ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ I never say this either, because the equivalent of man is woman, and the equivalent of wife is husband. I prefer ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife.’ Of course I had to come up with something wonderful for same sex couples now that we have marriage equality, and for those couples I like to say: ‘I now pronounce you good and truly married,’ which, come to think of it, I could say for opposite sex couples too!
Here are a few less serious examples of reinvented traditions. Couples who have mixed gender attendants (bridesmaids/groomsmen) standing with them – women and men on both sides. I love that – have the people who matter the most stand with you. Adult flower girls (or perhaps flower women?) The couple walking down the aisle together.
The point is – change is a good thing, re-examining traditions is a good thing, keep what you like, and let go of the rest. As the old saying goes: rules are made to be broken. So break or reinvent when necessary. There are still many beautiful traditions to follow as well. It all comes down to ‘why.’