A thoroughly modern affair

Does the thought of a meringue dress, matching pastel-clad bridesmaids, a vintage car and 12-tier icing-covered cake fill you with dread? Then the chances are you are not the traditional type when it comes to weddings…

Today’s weddings include social and economic influences that have drastically altered the wedding concepts of the past. While every wedding tradition holds the essence of a cultural influence and expectation, modern wedding traditions on the other hand have morphed a lot of our old symbolisms and significances into different forms, changing how the ceremonies are performed and what they mean.
From your frock and the food to flowers and photography, in this age of designer style at knock-down prices, there’s every reason to take a cutting-edge approach to your plans – and ensure you’re the most up-to-the-minute bride walking down the aisle this season.

Traditional to contemporary

Traditional weddings follow a religious or cultural tradition. They generally take place in a church or the place of worship suited to your beliefs, and the ceremony, which includes readings from the Bible or religious text and traditional marriage vows, is conducted by a religious head.
Modern weddings don’t have any real restrictions or limitations. You and your partner can choose every detail including the wedding ceremony venue, theme, vows etc.
As modern weddings are typically non-religious in nature, they can take place in any location such as a garden, park, hotel, beach, art gallery – basically anywhere that you wish or can afford.
The ceremony can be either an event with lots of family and friends, or a couple may choose a simple and intimate civil ceremony. Either of these can be performed by someone who is licensed to conduct a marriage ceremony, such as a wedding celebrant.
Many brides and grooms who opt for a modern wedding also choose to write their own vows or include poems, letters or song lyrics.
Whatever you decide, just remember that this special day belongs to you and your partner.

Footing the bill

While the concept of the wedding ceremony has not changed much, who foots the bill for the nuptials has. In the past, weddings were considered an event worthy of grand festivities that included large cakes, entertainment, food and refreshments. These festivities were also quite expensive even for today’s standards.
Past traditions required that the family of the bride pay for the entire ceremony and in some cases also offer a dowry to the groom in exchange for the union.
Today the cost for the wedding is often divided by the couple getting married – and gone are any thoughts of a dowry! While there are still families that hold true to the bride’s side footing the bill, contributions are often made in other ways – such as helping with the flower arrangements and buttonholes, transport and entertainment.

Dress sense

Another modern wedding custom that has strayed off the straight and narrow of traditional wedding customs is the bride wearing white. For centuries this tradition signified the virtues of the bride as being pure and untouched – even the wedding dresses themselves were confining and covered the bride’s entire body so that only the groom could see her virtuous flesh on their wedding night.
For those wanting to maintain the tradition of wearing white, but without the frills and frippery, go for an A-line or sheath dress that’ll form a blank canvas for whatever accents you wish to add.
Strong, deep colours complement white and cream beautifully and make a bold visual statement that’s far more arresting than pastel tones – try sashes or flowers in deep red, fuchsia, pink or purple.
The bills for today’s wedding dresses can easily reach four figures – and that’s for a frock you’re going to wear only once then confine to a box in the attic!
Why not opt for a designer evening gown in whatever colour you fancy? It’s certainly going to be much more wearable and, unlike a wedding dress, will see you through years of parties to come!

The proposal

It used to be the norm for the groom to ask the bride’s family for her hand in marriage. This exchange traditionally was between the bride’s father and her groom, however, after a few devastating world wars many daughters were left without fathers to ask. Then it became custom to ask her mother or another authoritative figure in her life, at least in some cases.
Now, modern grooms only focus on asking the bride herself for her hand marriage, rather than someone in her family first. Many old fashioned parents still may expect this process, however, not much weight is placed on it, since most couples announce their engagement and then ask for their parent’s blessings after. And it doesn’t just have to be a Leap Year for the lady to propose to her gent. Nowadays, modern brides are so self-sufficient and independent that they take the initiative and reverse those old traditions of who asks whom.

Photography

While traditional family group shots and line-ups remain a popular choice – and a memento of the big day for years to come – changes in photographic equipment and the rise of the ‘selfie’ and social media, has meant that styles are now more versatile and relaxed and the speed with which images are on show is almost instant and the shots more candid.

Venue

Churches too traditional, beaches too cliched, and stately homes too stuffy – so where’s the modern bride to tie the knot? If you want surroundings packed with style, consider a public place. Museums, art galleries and places of interest of all kinds hold wedding licenses – and many have a dedicated planner to help you.
For those who like to go back in time, Preston Court in Canterbury has everything from a large and unique collection of steam engines, fairground rides (including the Victorian Carousel) and musical organs, with the large Gothic-style oast house being home to Victorian steam engines and other curiosities, while gadget obsessives will love partying next to the Apollo 10 command module at the London Science Museum.
Or if you’re an animal lover, why not go on a safari among tigers, lions and elephants at Port Lympne?

Decor

As with your dress, a two-colour scheme in white, gold, silver or deep jewel colours is a brilliant way of achieving a strong, contemporary look without seeming too clinical or minimalist.
Pick sculptured, slender flowers in a dark red, purple or even black – arrangements of roses, lilies, gladioli or tulips wrapped in a simple ribbon (no bows!) fit the bill perfectly, both for bouquets and in displays.
When it comes to your reception, you can’t beat white china against dark tablecloths for an elegantly effortless look. Go for a less fussy look by leaving off the centrepieces and adorning tables with coloured champagne, wine and water glasses – both practical and decorative.

Cake

Start by ditching the conventional stodgy fruit cake and thick royal icing in favour of a more exciting filling – now who wouldn’t prefer a wicked chocolate mousse cake?
or a real departure from the norm, how about a tower of cupcakes (they could easily double as individual favours for your guests to take home with them) or even a classic and stunning French-style croquembouche.