Should Wedding Traditions Change with Society?

The month of June is traditionally the month for weddings.  We have had several conversations recently as we read or saw report on TV and the internet about how weddings are changing, along with marriage itself.  Many things are changing, from who gets married and when to, the life circumstances and experiences of the couples getting married, to changing traditions associated with the preparations for the wedding and the ceremony itself.

The fact that couples today live together before marriage, frequently for several years or longer, and may own a house together and have children makes the wedding a totally different event in their lives, compared to the older tradition in which most couples had not lived together and were setting up a new household.  Many were entering into their first sexual experiences, or at least their first sexual experience with each other. For them the wedding day was truly the beginning of a new life in which they had a great deal to learn about each other and about the process of living together.  Today the wedding may be a significant event in their life together and formalization of their commitment to each other and therefore very important to them. But still very different from weddings in the past.

The age of marriage is increasing and has some good effects on marriage as an institution.  These couples are more mature and take longer to make the lifetime commitment, and researchers are finding that they are more likely to stay married than their baby-boomer parents.

Our questions this week are about whether the changes in the life experiences of couples getting married in their late twenties and thirties ought to also bring about changes in the traditional preparation for marriage and perhaps in the ceremony itself.

We question the tradition of a bridal shower.  It developed to help a young couple setting up a household for the first time to get some of the things they needed – dishes, kitchen utensils, towels and bedding, some decorative items – to live comfortably together.  Today many (most?) couples have already been living on their own, even if not together, and have already furnished a home. They often have the money to have furnished it well.  For some it becomes difficult to set up a gift registry, since they don’t need anything. Some brides have even been so bold as to ask for money to help pay for their expensive honeymoon.  It’s traditional and every bride wants and is encouraged to be traditional, but what real purpose does it serve?

The planning of the wedding is also changing.  Wedding parties are getting larger, especially the number of bridesmaids, flower girls, ring bearers, etc.  Often brides have strong opinions about what the members of the party should wear and may not be sensitive to the financial situations of the people they have asked to accompany them down the aisle.  On the grooms side, rental tuxes have become quite expensive.

After the ceremony, the day enters what is most often it’s most expensive phase, with rented limousines or party buses, stops at bars (resulting in people arriving at the reception already well on their way to being intoxicated.)  The reception includes drinks, an expensive dinner, music, photographers and other expenses, often enough to make a substantial down payment on a house.  We don’t know whether the parents or others really think it’s worth it or are coerced into agreeing because everybody repeats that phrase when the subject of cost arises and they feel pressured into it.

Destination weddings have been growing in popularity and actually seem to be more popular among the couples about to wed than many of their friends and family.  We have heard many people who have been invited to such weddings complain about the expectation that they will spend large amounts of cash on travel and accommodations.  Some have been disappointed that they missed a friend or family members wedding because they could not afford to attend.  Is this perhaps a selfish expectation?

The desire to be traditional carries into the ceremony itself.  Does it really make sense for a father to “give away” his daughter to the guy she is already living with, perhaps for years and a child or two ago?  Would it make more sense for the couple to walk up the aisle together as a symbol of their movement into their public commitment to spend their entire lives together?  The words of the vows themselves seem to be more appropriate (although we can think of some improvements to made there) to couple who are about to enter into the newness of living together, than for couples who, except for the vows, been married for some time already.

In the past the honeymoon was considered a time for the couple to get started on the newness of living together and entering into a sexual relationship  We always enjoyed seeing a couple when they arrived home from their honeymoon with a sparkle in their eyes and madly in love with each other.  For many couples today the honeymoon is more like a vacation.  They get away from their jobs and family for a time, then return to a life that is already familiar.  That isn’t bad, but it is not the honeymoon and beginning of marriage that we lived.

The new path to marriage appears to be working for many marriages that are stable and long-term.  Customs and mores change and lives of married couples are changing with them.  We wonder whether it makes sense to cling to some of the traditions that no longer fit the situations of married couples.  We know that there is a lot of expense associated with those customs and that the wedding planning industry pushes for additions to the tradition from which it can become wealthy.

We wonder what we will see in weddings in the future.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.


Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:

Living Together in the Word

Bob & Rita’s book:  Forever and Day:  An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on or by contacting us.  Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time.  Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.


About Rita & Bob Boeke

Rita Boeke has experience teaching scripture and with her husband Bob has experience in enriching marriages through workshops and retreats. They post a weekly blog at and co-authored Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime.
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1 Response to Should Wedding Traditions Change with Society?

  1. Paula Crow says:

    Terrific article!

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