Study: Wedding Traditions Are Changing Sloooowly

Weddings may be full of age-old “rules,” but according to a new poll, views on strong-held nuptial traditions are slowly changing. A new Harris Poll surveyed 2,300 Americans this April to find out where they stand on old-school ideas about how heterosexual weddings are supposed to go down. Marriages might be changing, but weddings? Not so fast.

A whopping 84 percent still support the idea of a bride being given away by her father, and 70 percent still support the idea of the groom asking a bride’s parents for permission before getting engaged. Other traditions that are still popular are ladies-only bridal showers, the bride and groom spending the night before the wedding apart, and the groom’s family paying for the rehearsal dinner. Surprisingly, participants were really divided on waiting until marriage to have sex: 51 percent supported waiting, while 49 percent did not. I find it really tough to believe that half of all engaged couples haven’t slept together yet!

Only half of those surveyed agreed that the bride’s family should pay for the wedding, and 83 percent felt that spending tons of money on an elaborate wedding is a waste. Money (and how little of it is out there) seems to be a driving force on people’s minds these days – about 66 percent disagreed with the idea of an expensive engagement ring, and 44 percent of people who’ve declined a wedding invitation said it was because they couldn’t afford to go.

What’s most notable is that only about half of survey participants agreed that the bride should wear a white dress. (For the record, I think white dresses are stunning on any bride who wants to wear one, but whenever this comes up I also can’t help but think about that moment in “Sex And The City” when Miranda refuses to get a white wedding dress because she wants “nothing that says virgin. I have a child, the jig is up.” I guess the more of us are starting to agree with her!) I wonder if these are the same 51 percent who think the bride and groom should wait to have sex until their wedding night.

When the numbers were broken down by generation, the pollsters found that, unsurprisingly, older generations were more supportive of traditions while millennials veered away from them a bit more. Millennials were less like to support the bride being giving away by her dad, the bride’s family paying for the wedding, or the ceremony being held in a religious establishment.

It seems that most women who plan to get married eventually reach a crossroads that forces them to take a look at just how sexist many wedding rituals are. A father walking her daughter down the aisle is touching today, but not so much back when it was all about a man transferring ownership of a woman to another man. That said, following traditions make lots of us happy, because they’ve evolved into major markers of what a wedding is supposed to be and bring families together. It’s tough to consider whether it’s worth foregoing rituals because of what they symbolize, or doing them anyway because hell, they’re sweet. But at the end of the day, I think most people can agree that there’s no right or wrong way to get married – it just comes down to whatever makes the couple happiest.

[Harris Polls via Time]

[Image of a wedding cake topper via Shutterstock]