Photography by Carlos Alejandro
Myths are for Greek literature, not for weddings. Yet for some reason, 21st-century men and women feel compelled to adhere to traditions that predate the early Roman Empire.
Not that some aren’t worth salvaging: The Romans did give us the phrase “tying the knot.” During wedding ceremonies, brides wore girdles tied with hundreds of knots. It was the husband’s job to untie the knots, so this one, minus the girdle, is a keeper.
Then there are bridal showers, which were actually born of, well, pity. Friendly townspeople would “shower” brides-to-be with gifts when their stingy fathers refused to give dowries. Today’s showers aren’t about dowries, but they do involve men. “Jack and Jill” showers bring together both the bride and groom and their co-ed families and friends.
Some weddings boast unwavering traditions, while others breakdance away from them. Don’t allow wedding myths to hamper your unique celebration. This is your day—probably the only day you can ignore the critics. Do what feels right.
Let’s start the myth-busting with proposals. Gloria Steinem helped make it possible for future brides to do the asking, should she so choose. Proposals are no longer dictated by gender.
If popping the question yourself sounds like the way to go, skip the elegant dinner at the elegant restaurant with the elegant engagement ring. One way to shock the heck out of your mate is to plan a surprise scavenger hunt with a ring as the final treasure. The objects can be as creative or outrageous as you deem necessary.
Once the asking is over, plan the before-parties. Destroy the myth that says men have all the real fun. If bachelor parties can boast strippers, bachelorette parties can also go full-force hunk-o-mania. Good girls may exercise their rights to a night of ladies-only bacchanal. Instead of designated drivers, order a limo to ensure equal-opportunity revelry.
The maid of honor generally plans the bachelorette party, a decent tradition so long as she remembers that the bride must be a goddess—not a zombie—on the wedding day. For that reason, bachelorette parties do not have to happen the night before the wedding. If you want merriment closer to the event, opt for a manicure-pedicure party.
Once the party is out of your system, the more serious moments—not to mention the serious myths—await you. One of the biggest: a father must walk his daughter down the aisle.
With today’s complex families, the arrangement can’t suit everyone’s needs or circumstances. Nowhere is it written that a bride must walk down the aisle with her father, but if they are on good terms, it can be one of the most meaningful moments of all.
If there’s a stepfather in the picture, and if he’s served more as a dad than anyone else, the stepfather takes the stroll. If both the dad and stepdad have been loving father figures, it is perfectly appropriate for them to share the walk. When the officiant asks, “Who gives this woman?” both say, “We do.”
This is not a male-dominated field anymore. Brides can walk with mothers, sisters, grandfathers, brothers, best friends, adoptive fathers or children from a previous marriage.
Bobbie Warrusso of Creative Event Designs by Bobbie in Wilmington was impressed with one non-traditional walk down the aisle. “A bride hadn’t seen her father in years, and she wasn’t close to her stepfather, so she chose her uncle instead, and it was a truly memorable moment,” Warrusso says. “It’s very special for the person the bride does ask because it demonstrates their importance in her life.”
To really blow the myth out of the water, brides can walk down the aisle alone. British royal women do it. You can, too.
Weddings are expensive, which leads to another myth: The bride’s family pays for everything. With the trend of couples waiting until later in life to wed, many are financially stable enough to pay for their own weddings. Still, it adds up. That’s why lovebirds are eliminating traditional registries and asking for cash instead. Once considered blasphemous, if not downright gauche, the trend is no longer looked down on. Some couples sign up for money registries to defray the costs of weddings or even mortgages. Others take the money and run to the Bahamas.
Lavonne Massey, owner of A Wedding to Remember in Greenwood, says that though cash registries are a trend, VISA gift certificates also appeal to brides of every age. “Young couples don’t want to end up with two toasters and—let’s face it—nobody knows how to use waffle irons anymore.”
After your guests have been so generous, it’s important to sweeten the deal for them with some wedding cake. Somewhere down the line, an enterprising baker decided that wedding cakes should be the size of Texas. But the supporting pillars, the fancy frosting, the festoons—all such confectionary can be traced back to England and the marriage of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters in 1859.
As to the actual “wearing” of the buttercream icing—a messy tradition that could be the result of released frustration built up during the hostile wedding-planning months—we can again thank our Roman ancestors.
Back in the days of the Roman Empire, grooms ate part of a loaf of barley bread baked just for the nuptials, then cracked the rest over his bride’s head, leaving her dressed in the crumbs. No one knows why exactly, but historians guess that this breaking symbolized the breaking of the bride’s virginal state and the subsequent dominance of the groom over her.
If that’s not reason enough to immediately flatten this baked-goods-wearing myth into a pancake, consider the fact that smaller cakes are coming into vogue. For guests with a sweet tooth, order additional sheet cakes and have them cut in advance. Other options include miniature cakes or individual cupcakes topped with something related thematically to your wedding. Also, decadent dessert bars—all the rage—can complement smaller cakes.
At Cakes by Kim in Wilmington, the Divine Love Cake is the best of both worlds. This two-layer square cake is surrounded by individual cupcakes. It is hugely popular with children. “People want to be different than their parents,” says owner Kim Iorii. “But brides need to express an idea of what they want, and we can incorporate different styles on cakes and sweet tables.”
Again, not all myths are bad. The concept of something old, new, borrowed and blue is a Victorian tradition that inspires a team effort. Something old represents the link with the bride’s family and the past. Something new symbolizes good fortune. Something borrowed reminds brides that friends and family will always be supportive, and something blue denotes faithfulness and loyalty. It’s a lovely sentiment.
As for the old wives tales, suffice it to say that wedding veils do not ward off evil spirits and catching the bouquet like a linebacker does not guarantee a marriage proposal. We apologize to future grandmas and grandpas for shattering this next one, but throwing rice at the bride and groom does not actually encourage fertility. And though it may have been true in medieval times that the bride stood on the left of the groom so that his sword arm was free to chivalrously fight off other men sniffing around his bride, it is no longer. Today, a woman stands where she wants. Besides, if anyone is wielding a sword (we’re speaking figuratively here, of course), it’s usually the bride.