Many people dream about the perfect fairy tale wedding; church, huge white dress, a veil over the face, romantic floatiness, pristine floral arrangements, lavish ball-room reception…you know what I’m saying. This formula has worked well for generations, but society has changed; women are more equal, single-sex marriages can now take place, our multi-cultural society has introduced new influences and with couples now usually paying for their own weddings, they get to do it their way and please themselves, rather than worry about scandalizing the elders by stepping out of the norm. But are you teetering on the brink between alternative and traditional?
In my opinion, although the traditional style has endured, the notion that it will stand the test of time when you look back at the photos doesn’t really hold water. Take for example, wedding dress fashion. There are usually the “timeless”, classic-style wedding dresses that avoid strong, contemporary trends and are usually the more minimal silhouettes. They are certainly sleek and elegant, but not for everyone. Flowers certainly go through style trends – tight, tidy arrangements have given way to tumbling wild, loosely arranged cascades of blooms. In fact, most of the elements that comprise a wedding have shifting trends, all of which still may qualify as “traditional”, but you can still tell that they’re from a different age to that of your mum’s.
So with this in mind, why not just step right out of that box? It doesn’t have to be a huge leap. Just dip your toe into the vast ocean of “everything else”? Towards the land of….” alternative”?
Embrace your uniqueness! We can see that there has been a huge drive on social media encouraging people to be and love their authentic selves and be accepting of other people’s uniqueness, rather than painfully comply with outdated rules of perfection. The message is “Just relax – we’re all enough and we all belong”. We all have our own style. Sometimes it’s a strong look, e.g. gothic, multiple tattoos and brightly coloured hair, quirky clothes, etc…but it can also be understated.
We see many obviously non-traditional weddings in these styles in a range of equally unusual venues, but in my opinion, they are increasingly numerous, so are no longer the outliers. Weddings have become varied and super-exciting!
There are also the couples who do “alternative” by stealth. By taking one element and making it so personal to them that it doesn’t fit in the traditional box…but quietly.
These people may not stand out with their everyday style. In fact, that’s what they cite first in their claim to being “un-wedding”. I’ve had brides come to me, saying that they don’t like being the centre of attention; don’t like trying on millions of wedding dresses in a store with an entourage, or they know instinctively that white is not their colour and they won’t enjoy wearing it.
Why “White” Wedding?
So let’s unpick this convention… white has only actually become the traditional colour of wedding dresses since Queen Victoria wore it to marry Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg in 1840, thus popularising it. Before that, brides simply wore their best dress. The high-born bride would wear a brightly coloured ensemble in exclusive lavish fabrics – fur, silk and velvet, to favourably reflect her family’s wealth and standing. Now the modern, independent bride wants to accentuate her own style, which I celebrate, in view of our more enlightened times. It takes nothing away from the meaning of the event, to buck what is essentially a trend that’s hung around for over a century. I mean we don’t all still wear ruffs, do we (unless we want to)?
We know that the white wedding became a symbol of purity in Christianity (before that it was blue), which was another reason people seldom strayed from this new tradition, lest entire families were shamed by any colour deviation. But we’re a multicultural society now and other cultures connect key values with other colours e.g. Hinduism with red for new beginnings, passion and prosperity, while they consider white to be the colour of mourning. Also, many couples opt for a secular or pagan wedding, taking religion out of it altogether. So it’s acceptable (and well-advised!) to wear whatever colour you want.
“Alternative” is the new norm
As a bespoke wedding dress designer, most of my clients have unique tastes and requirements; sometimes with regard to colour, other times with style. They’ve already rejected the bridalwear mass market because it doesn’t cater to their individual tastes and requirements. What they’re looking for is non-standard, which puts them in a pickle unless… they have something designed and made specially.
By not settling for what is mass-produced, they’re essentially skiing off-piste, by being true to their own style and so, by my definition, are classed as alternative brides.
Increasingly, more couples are tying the knot in the style that reflects who they are, what they like and what they find important. This is breaking convention apart at the seams. People are imaginative and inventive; they are thinking about sustainability, local businesses, seeking out the unusual, commissioning a bespoke wedding dress and other items that hit on something personal to them and the importance of this event. I would even suggest that by doing it your way, you set the terms and your own standards and you don’t have the stress of meeting those set by past generations. A stress-free wedding – how alternative!
Photo credit: Deborah Skorupski, Bamboo Dreams Photography | Florida Wedding Photographer