| 14.9°C Dublin

The new wedding traditions - what's in, what's out, and what's out-there when it comes to modern Irish nuptials

From the bride's speech to 'first look' photos and the all-important day after party - THEVOW.ie's guide to the wedding trends that could well become wedding traditions


The headline-making British royal wedding has given us plenty to mull over since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement before Christmas.

Who will be Meghan's maid of honour (or 'chief bridesmaid' as they say in the US)? Will her loose lipped sister get an invite? Is Trump (or the Obamas) on the guest list? Why hasn't Harry asked William to be his best man yet and when exactly did Prince Charles find his apparent 'favourite' wedding coordinator?


Wedding at Palmerstown House Hotel | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

Wedding at Palmerstown House Hotel | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

Wedding at Palmerstown House Hotel | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

The recent revelation to cause a few ructions was that Meghan is poised to take the mic as part of the wedding speeches, when she will - and stay with us on this - presumably thank everyone for coming, say how happy she is, how in love she is, and then gush about how the royal family have made her feel so welcome. All while not swearing.

And while we appreciate that it's maybe not the 'done thing' in royal circles, it's fair to say us common folk have been saying thank you to guests for years and for most modern couples the 'brides' speech' is par for the course.

The fact is, the so-called 'traditional' wedding is no more.

Over the years we've been cherry picking what we like and tossing what we don't (funnily enough no longer the bouquet) and creating new traditions from what might have been presumed just passing trends.

We're borrowing from other cultures, different eras, and creating 'relaxed, informal' big days that - and here's the kicker - often cause a lot more stress than the 'classic' wedding ever would!

Social media, wedding blogs and Pinterest have seen Irish weddings borrowing heavily from American culture, throwing 'elegant bridal showers' (cocktails and fancy canapes) instead of traditional hen parties (feather boas and late nights) and when we do don a sash, we do so in an absolutely ironic fashion.

Cheese wheel cakes have now taken the place of donut stacks which took the place of cupcakes which took the place of the traditional iced-white three-tier our mothers would have been proud of. Now of course we've surpassed the guest-pleasing candy buffet and are on to sprawling dessert tables and - more worryingly for those with a fear of flour - a rustic, all-inclusive 'bring your own dessert' type affair for the afters (though this is one we can't really see translating to the royal wedding).

From the bride's speech to first look photos and ditching the garter toss while double-barrelling surnames, we've been busy letting go of old traditions and making some arguably more interesting new ones in recent decades.

So, with all that said, here's our guide to what's in, what's out, and what's 'out-there' when it comes to the new wedding traditions.


Photo by Tali Photography

Photo by Tali Photography

Photo by Tali Photography

Video of the Day

1. Out: The controversial best man's speech

Gone are the days when all eyes were on the best man to deliver a tight five fit for the comedy store. While the cut-and-paste 'dad jokes' have now surpassed the naff by arguably becoming a little funny again (just us?), a speech from the heart goes down way better with guests.

There are reams of rules out there for the best man's speech but the structure usually goes - everyone looks great, what a lovely day, fair play to the couple for putting it together, something about you and the bride/groom as kids, what your first thought of your friend's new bride/groom, a quote from somebody about love (extra props if it's your/the groom's father) and how happy your are your friend has found it, thanks to both sets of parents, thanks to the venue staff, cheers to the happy couple.

Groomsmen are now ditching the controversy in favour of a more wholesome, creative speech with some choosing to go the route of a self-penned song, rap or poem that could even 'go viral' for the right reasons, and not the wrong ones.

In: The bride's speech

The royal wedding may have shone a light on the bride's speech but many women over the years have taken the mic on their big day to thank friends and family for their support.

And it's not just the bride, at many weddings now the floor is thrown to the bridesmaids and mother of the bride too, and while it may seem like it would result in a never ending game of wedding speech-takes, it works to take the pressure off the best man, groom and father of the bride, who may not be into public speaking.

[TIP! A trick for a nervous bride is to not tell anyone you plan to speak on the day, that way nobody is expecting it and if you chicken out nobody will be any the wiser. But when else are you going to have your loved ones in one room? Plus it means you can push out writing them thank you cards for a few weeks at least... Result.]


A bride sneaks up on her husband-to-be in a 'first look' photo at the Cliff Townhouse | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

A bride sneaks up on her husband-to-be in a 'first look' photo at the Cliff Townhouse | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

A bride sneaks up on her husband-to-be in a 'first look' photo at the Cliff Townhouse | Photo by Niamh Smith Photography

Out-there: The open mic

With the new trend of couples forgoing the traditional 'bridal party' many are opting to throw the speeches out to the floor and have a little ad-hoc chat after dinner. This works for smaller weddings, but can also help to create a more relaxed feel to the day and take the pressure off the father of the bride/groom by giving others the option to say a few words.

2. Out: Spending hours on posed shots with the family

It's no surprise that documentary style wedding photography has overtaken traditional wedding photography. Browse any wedding blog and you'll see 'real weddings' filled with candid photos of the couple and their guests, close ups of the decor and very few 'family tree' style shots. Professional photographers now usually stay with the couple (and often work in pairs) to capture the day from start to finish.

And while most photographers will say that 'posed' photos are kept to a minimum, they do still happen, however a photo with each guests is a rarity. While documentary style photos are great, many Irish couples still request the traditional style family shots for a physical photo album, which can be given to parents, grandparents and family historians for posterity.

In: First look photos

Those with a penchant for Pinterest are probably already well aware of the 'first look photo' that's been adopted from our cousins in the US and is now picking up pace in trendy Irish weddings. The first look photo, if you're not already familiar with it, goes one of two ways. The first works by the photographer arranging a way for the couple to meet and be photographed together before the ceremony, all while not seeing each other. This can be done by the couple being blindfolded and standing back to back, or holding hands around the side of a door, or a number of increasingly whimsical and Instagram-friendly ways. It sounds like it would take military precision to execute - and indeed it's a lot of pressure on the photographer to not mess it up - but it can produce some very sweet photos (and too sweet for some!)

The other version is a first look photo where the couple see each other for the first time before the ceremony, while they are away from guests and family, and their reaction is captured by a photographer. Lots of these photos are taken outdoors, usually with the bride sneaking up on the groom as he waits with his back to her. For some it allows some quiet time together before the hectic day ensues, and a way to get their photos together out of the way before the guests arrive. Traditionalists would prefer to see each other for the first time at the top of the aisle but as with all things - each to their own!

Out-there: The couple getting ready together

Traditionally, a couple isn't meant to see each other before the wedding ceremony however some people who are less superstitious will stay with each other the night before. Many weddings now hold dinners for close family members the night before the big day, and for some couples it just makes sense to sleep in the same room for the night! This doesn't necessarily mean pulling on your hold-in knickers while your other half rushing around looking for their socks, you can get up early and take a walk or have breakfast together, which can result in a more relaxed morning before you see each other on the aisle.


7. Out: The one-day wedding

Think you can wake up, get married, eat dinner and head to bed? Not the case anymore I'm afraid. The new wedding is a three day affair, complete with rehearsal dinner for the family the night before, the big day itself and the all-important day after party. Traditionally, Irish couples tied the knot in the morning, and stretched the celebrations out for the day, ending up in the residents bar of their hotel til all hours and completing the night with a little sing song. But with the amount of dosh being dropped on the day, it's understandable maybe that couples are determined to get more than 24 hours out of the day.

In: The 'day after' party

The day after wedding party has become an integral part of weddings for many who hope to stretch out their celebrations and make their money go a little further (very much the 'in for a penny' type of couples it must be said!) The post-wedding day party in fact has become so popular that most hotels and other wedding venues offer their packages complete with dinner and activities for the day after, so as to encourage couples and their guests to stay on for another day of celebration. The day after BBQ or buffet dinner is particularly popular with couples renting country houses for the weekend, and for many, they look forward to the relaxing day with guests as much if not more than the day itself. Lawn games for summer weddings and trad sessions for autumn/winter are two popular ways to celebrate the day after, with some couples going the extra mile and hiring a band or doing a river cruise. 

Out-there: Rehearsal dinners

Not as popular as the day after celebration perhaps but some couples who are throwing bigger weddings are now opting for 'rehearsal dinners' the night before the big day, as a way to spend some quality time with family members, bridal party members, or with those they'd like to see a little more of over the course of the celebrations. This can be a particularly nice idea to welcome guests who have travelled from further afield, and friends who the couple may not get to see much of. This dinner is becoming increasingly popular as expats return home for a few days for a wedding and plan to stay longer at the venue.

3. Out: Planning the day offline

Whether you're into 'the gram' or not (and that's Instagram if you're the latter), the days of the Monica-like scrapbooked wedding are gone with brides and grooms pinning and screen-shotting and saving their wedding plans to act on at a future date. And it's not just those with a date in mind - hands up everyone who has a secret Pinterest wedding board on the go and hasn't even a sniff of a diamond coming their way in the near future. See? More than you thought...

In: Personalised hashtags - the social media wedding

Many modern couples live out their love story on social media - from the time they changed their Facebook status to 'in a relationship' to their engagement announcement selfie on the 'gram, like it or not social media posts have been part of their journey to the aisle. So for some it makes sense for it to be part of the big day to. Couples are now choosing their own personalised hashtags to help guests share their candid snaps of the day, and are encouraging people to share their favourite parts of the day. Of course more and more is being done online when it comes to weddings - from the couple's personalised website where you can see dates, maps, locations and times of the wedding, as well as accommodation and details of the 'next day' party if there is one. Guests can RSVP online too, which really helps.

Out-there: The 'unplugged' wedding

With the rise of the social media wedding, comes the tide against it, and for some, an 'unplugged' wedding is the only way to celebrate the occasion. While most couples won't be going the celeb route by confiscating phones at the door, many are requesting that guests unplug for at least the ceremony, and refrain from taking photos. Couples can request this by popping a sign at the door, a note on their ceremony booklet, or asking the celebrant to mention it at the beginning of the ceremony. Others are asking guests to refrain from posting about the day on social media completely.

4. Out: Heading off straight away on honeymoon

While traditionally a couple would run off to the sunset (or sun at least) straight after the reception, most couples these days are leaving some time before heading off on honeymoon. Whether it's down to work holidays or just trying to keep the party going for that little bit longer, it's often a few weeks before people take their first flight as a married pair. Far flung honeymoons are the post-nuptial 'vacays' we now expect to hear about, with many couples taking the chance to visit increasingly remote and exotic locations to add to their lists of travels.


In: Minimoons

While the tropical tour is high on the list of to-dos for many newlyweds, the traditional honeymoon - a short trip to somewhere on the emerald aisle - has made a return as a 'minimoon', but is now serving as a bit of a stop-gap while couples save up for their trip-of-a-lifetime. The minimoon (or as Meghan Markle might call it, the 'staycation' - sorry, we'll stop now) is an opportunity for couples to unwind straight after the wedding by visiting one of Ireland's top hotels and tourism spots that they may not have had the chance to see before, or that they have, and loved!

Out-there: The runnymoon, 'honeyfunds'

There are all sorts of new honeymoon trends on the go, and admittedly while we're all about 'new traditions' it would be a surprise if many of these became the new norm. The runnymoon - a popular choice of honeymoon for fitness fanatics who maybe aren't too pushed on spending two weeks drinking cocktails by the pool - involves planning your honeymoon around an event such as a race, marathon or triathlon so that yours is a particularly active holiday that allows you to cross something off the bucket list together. Another is the 'honeyfund' idea, which sees couples asking for monetary 'gifts' which fund their honeymoon. This usually involves an online registry whereby guests can 'buy' an experience for the couple (elephant ride in Thailand, dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant, entrance to a museum exhibit) or put money towards a flight upgrade in lieu of a traditional wedding gift.

5. Out: The traditional wedding party

The traditional wedding party hasn't gone anywhere just yet, but the idea of 'the wedding party' is indeed changing. Bridal parties are smaller than they were years ago, with less siblings in families and cost of having to dress each person. Many couples are now doing away with the bridal party altogether; asking close friends 'will you NOT be my bridesmaid' as a way to highlight and include friends in a fun way, or by having a single maid of honour in everything but name (think Kate Middleton at sister Pippa's wedding last year). Brides have male bridesmaids or the 'bride's best man' and it doesn't have to be 'even stephen's on both sides of the party either.

In: Bride's mother/brother/aunty giving bride away

While there's talk of the idea of 'giving the bride away' as being a wedding tradition that could be done away with, many women are still keen to be walked down the aisle by their father. However it's no longer a man's job to give the bride away, and while some brides are happy to have a brother, uncle or male pal walk them down the aisle, many are now asking both parents, or their mothers, or their female friends to give them away. Some are even taking the walk by themselves. Fact is, the walk up the aisle is a bride's to take with whomever she wants, and whatever way she wants.

Out there: The flowergran

While some couples are doing away with the bridal party, others are just mixing it up and having fun with it. Keen to get their grandmothers and fathers involved in the day a little more, some couples have offered the flower girl position to the elder members of their families.


Prince George (second right) leaves with other page boys and flower girls following the wedding of Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews at St Mark's church in Englefield, Berkshire.

Prince George (second right) leaves with other page boys and flower girls following the wedding of Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews at St Mark's church in Englefield, Berkshire.

Prince George (second right) leaves with other page boys and flower girls following the wedding of Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews at St Mark's church in Englefield, Berkshire.