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Why wear white?

In this season’s token wedding movie, Bride Wars, the old adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” helps calm…

By Rebecca teBrake , in Bride & Gloom: A social commentary on weddings , on January 28, 2009 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In this season’s token wedding movie, Bride Wars, the old adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” helps calm the tension between two warring brides.

This adage is one of the many cherished traditions that shape weddings. In the midst of all these traditions, I have to ask, what values and ideas are we immortalizing in our wedding traditions? And, what’s the value of keeping them?

Questioning tradition comes naturally to me as a fan of social constructivism. It’s a lot harder for my fiancé, who is a more unquestioning traditionalist.

My questioning stems from a desire to have my wedding reflect my beliefs and personality. Most wedding practices are rooted in a long history or rich meanings, some of which modern brides may or may not want to perpetuate.

For example:

  • Throwing rice is a symbol of fertility.
  • The best man is a medieval German tradition dating back to an era when the groom would steal his bride from a neighbouring village with the help of his strongest friend.
  • Bridesmaids’ original role was to confuse the evil spirits that may be trying to torment the bride.

This year, the wedding industry in Vancouver, held a special event for brides like me who are questioning tradition. January 17 was the inaugural “Indie I Do,” an alternative wedding show that encourages brides to question tradition and “wed your way.”

The show featured vendors that were totally open to blowing tradition away in order to help brides personalize their weddings. Photographers offered post-wedding sessions during which brides could “trash the dress.” Local jewelry and dress designers were there to offer one-of-a-kind pieces. Brides could also opt for risque fashion choices that challenged conventional ideas of modesty.

While I am not sure I want to throw tradition out the window, the idea of the Indie I Do gives a welcome reflection on what I want to communicate through a wedding ceremony. Do I want to keep traditions based on unity, fertility or bride-hunting? Do I want to do something completely different like a yoga ceremony? Or, do I want a happy mix of both?

After I think through the meanings of all wedding traditions, I think I’ll choose the happy mix. It’s not just about compromising with my fiancé. Some traditions I could leave at the door, like throwing rice. To me, it has lost its original meaning, and I don’t think it has any power to make me fertile.

Other traditions really communicate my beliefs. I am not going to forgo the traditional wedding vows, which express the meaning of a marriage relationship for me.

With other traditions, I am going to do some tinkering to better reflect my values. For example, both of my parents will give me away and my fiancé’s parents will also give him away.

And the white dress? Although it’s become synonymous with purity, the white dress did not emerge until 1499 A.D. It was a fashion statement by Ann of Brittany. Before then, brides wore blue as a symbol of purity and loyalty.