As you plan for your wedding, have you ever thought about some of the traditional things that you're "supposed" to do and where they came from? You might be surprised how far back their history goes and why they're even included in modern day weddings. In terms of wedding photography, think about some of these old traditions. Do they apply to you? Why are you including them? If you've followed my blog in the past, you know I urge every couple I photograph to be unique in some way. Maybe it's time to rethink some of these traditions and how they apply to you.
The White Wedding Dress
You can thank Queen Victoria of England for the modern white wedding dress. She married Prince Albert in 1840. (not quite as ancient of a tradition as you thought, right?) Up until the mid 1800's, the common color for wedding dresses was red, or simply the color of the best dress that you owned. Victoria chose white because she thought it better represented her wealth and status. Kind of a lame, materialistic reason in my opinion. Nevertheless, she was the queen of the most powerful kingdom in the world at the time and the trend caught on. White is still the color of choice for western cultures, but in my travels as a wedding photographer I've seen some beautiful, vibrant Pakistani and Korean wedding dresses. As you shop for your dress think about choosing off-white or adding a hint of color to the dress. It will set you apart from other brides.
Going back to the ancient Greeks, brides would carry bunches of garlic, herbs and spices to ward off evil spirits. If you look back one thousand years to the middle ages these same herbs and spices were thought to help ward off the Bubonic Plague. Remember the "ring around the rosie pockets full of posey" children's song? Supposedly that also refers to herbs and flowers in your pockets to keep the plague at bay. Luckily modern medicine has taken care of the plague and today's brides have bouquets because... they're pretty? Actually I have no idea why we still carry bouquets but I'm not complaining. As a wedding photographer I would recommend keeping it small and light. Brides have a tendency to hide behind their bouquets during pictures. Also, flowers can get really heavy, and you have to carry that thing around for a large part of your day!
The Wedding Cake
History seems to have several variations of how cake came to be a tradition at weddings. The earliest known examples date back to the middle ages when a simple cake made of wheat was brought to the wedding to be a symbol of prosperity and fertility. These cakes were then thrown at the bride. Grooms, I don't recommend this at your wedding, although it could make for interesting pictures... Another source says that cake was only crumbled and sprinkled over the head of the bride. Guests would then clamor at her feet to pick up the crumbs thinking they could absorb some of the good luck. In modern times, the cake seems to have become a way to simply feed your guests dessert. Want the photographer's opinion? Cupcakes and pies have become popular in addition to cake. They also photograph well and offer up a different way to personalize your wedding.
The Garter and Bouquet Toss
This tradition seems to have started a few hundred years ago in England and France. It seems that guests would often rip pieces of the wedding dress to keep as good luck for themselves... while the dress was still on the bride. No one wants to arrive at their wedding reception naked, therefore the groom would often select the less important parts of the dress to toss to the mob as appeasement or distraction while he and the bride made their escape. No word on whether it actually worked. Apparently throwing flowers would also help assuage the thirst of the needy guests. Today guests are better behaved and the tradition lives on as the garter and bouquet toss. The Photographer's opinion: I'm going to be a party pooper on this one. Although the tosses are becoming increasingly rare, some couples still decide to include them in their reception. Please don't. Here's why, your guests love you, don't throw anything at them. By the time these two events happen at weddings, people tend to be a few beers deep. The pictures are not flattering. The dance floor is usually covered with water and beer and is slippery. I run out of hands counting the number of falls I've seen during tosses in the hundreds of weddings I've been to. A drunk guy slipping a garter up an embarrassed girl's leg in front of hundreds of other people watching while dirty music plays in the background is a recipe for disaster. It does not make for a good picture from any angle.