Something Old – Some Things Very New

No one would ever accuse me of being a traditionalist, however, when it comes to weddings, I can still be a little bit of an old-fashioned Southern boy.

To say things have changed in the wedding business would be an understatement. Today, there are no rules at all when it comes to hosting a “proper wedding.” For the lucky couple getting married, this means the freedom to create whatever ceremonial environment they wish. 

Many aspects of the traditional wedding and reception have metamorphosed throughout time. One of the biggest transformations has been the iconic white wedding dress. 

The tradition for a bride wearing white is thought to have begun in the 16th century with Queen Victoria’s wedding. (Who did she think she was?)

Today the most common wedding dress color can be found in the hues of champagne or even blush. It can definitely be much more risqué compared to previous centuries! These days wedding dresses often have a plunging neckline, low back, high slit, or even mid-drift cut-outs. (Yikes!) 

Though I love this color revolution, I believe every bride has the right to wear white on her wedding day, if she wants to. 

A wedding dress should feel comfortable and reflect your personality, whether it be fun and flirty or more reserved and elegant. Eight out of ten dresses we see here are bejeweled in some form or fashion, and sometimes the wedding dress can actually be a wedding suit. Some serious thought should also go into whether you can dance in it to music from the 80s.

The veil is without a doubt the most prominent missing piece of the wedding ensemble today. Original folklore states its purpose was to ward off evil spirits, or perhaps the groom’s disapproving grandmother (just kidding! well, maybe), and it is also believed that Martha Washington was the first to wear a lace veil during her wedding ceremony. In the five years of facilitating ceremonies here at the museum I have only seen a hand full of brides wear veils, so, maybe in 2021, they will make a comeback?!

Though the cut of a man’s tuxedo or suit has not changed much, except for the daring double-breasted jacket, there are now more offerings in terms of colors. We men are always later to catch up but lately, we have seen a lot more grays and blues walk down the aisle here. 

The one tradition I have found difficult to let go of is the first glance of the bride. It was once thought that seeing the bride, or groom, before the wedding day was bad luck, but the last decade has created a new tradition called, “the first look.” This is where the bride and groom will have the first opportunity to see each other on their wedding day, usually exchanging love notes and participating in the first wave of picture taking. This is actually very popular here in the South were standing in the Texas sun for 15 minutes will quickly deconstruct the most ardent makeup applications. I completely understand the bride wanting to look her absolute freshest for her wedding pictures but, there is something “magical” about a groom’s expression when the bride walks down the aisle for the first time. Guess I am just old school that way, but honestly, sometimes it is as if he has seen her for the very first time!! Yes, I know, old fashioned and corny. 

Other ceremony transformations have been the bridal party, the procession, and the reading of the vows. A modern woman’s bridal party will often have all the bridesmaids in different dresses and an occasional “bridesman” thrown in the line-up. We have seen many ladies, or “grooms woman”, on the groom’s side as well.

Who walks the bride down the aisle has seen the most diversity, from the traditional father to the mother, brothers/sisters, best friends, and on occasion the bride has walked solo. (I mean, who really wants to share the spotlight???) 

Another popular trend has been having your “fur baby” act as the ring bearer. The Bryan has always been dog-friendly and pet inclusive, and they are often more cooperative than your 

5-year-old nephew. Just saying. I do, however, draw the line at ferrets. 

Though I am also a sucker for Mendelssohn’s wedding march, it’s been fun hearing the bride walk to everything from Disney to Lady Gaga. 

Once at the altar, the vows have been flipped as well. Where the officiant was once calling the shots, 90% of couples now recite their own vows. This is one trend that I happen to love and has ironically become a tradition. Three years ago a young couple recited the lyrics from a Prince song and though, at first, I thought I was hearing things, it was actually both very cool & quite touching for the couple to reveal a personal connection to a song. It made for a very memorable moment for all who witnessed and though I won’t mention any names (Dilaura & Chris – lol) few will ever forget your wedding! They were a fun couple!

As I mentioned in my previous article who pays for the wedding has changed as well. I’m sure some grooms would rather this stay rooted in tradition (lol), but it seems as though more parties are contributing to the fund. This, in reality, is only fair, as weddings can be a huge financial burden and it’s nice to see a more communal effort.

Another interesting tradition which has changed is the reception menu. There is less surf & turf and more personal expression in the food served. It’s great to see when couples embrace their cultural heritage or serve what they feel their guests would most enjoy and it’s equally cool when they completely flip the switch. I have literally seen everything served, from a nacho bar at a black-tie wedding to an oyster shuck, and one of my favorites-cotton candy!!

Some other archaic traditions that have waned along the way are the throwing of rice (ouch), freezing the cake topper (yuck), wearing your mother’s wedding dress (yikes), hour-long ceremonies, the “obey” verbiage from vows, the all-nighter bachelor binge, and the smashing of the cake in the brides’ face. That is rarely a good idea and NEVER as funny as you may think. 

None of these will be missed, nor will the mason jar trend!! lol Yes, I said it, and the burlap too!

Though wedding customs have seen change throughout history the main ingredient has remained. The coming together of two people in love that want to share their special day with those most important in their lives 

The Bryan Museum is proud to have been able to witness so many wonderful traditions and we look forward to many more surprises as well!!


Till next time, Take care,

Peter Ochoa