10 ceremony traditions to embrace, break or give a new take (No.2)


Over the next few weeks we’ll be blogging about different Ceremony traditions that you might want to embrace, break or give a fresh take. We’re onto our second tradition but if you’re a trend-setting bride you might want to catch up with our first one the white wedding dress – you may find that you have more in common with Queen Victoria than you ever thought! Anyway, here we go, tradition number 2:

Walking down the aisle- the procession

We have been unusually fortunate to have experienced three very different ceremonies all in one year; The Olympics opening ceremony, conceived and created by the amazingly creative Danny Boyle and led by the Greeks; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee ceremonial procession; the Royal marriage of the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge; all steeped in tradition, etiquette and british heritage.

The opening ceremony of the Olympics

        Soon it will be your turn!

But what traditional elements of the procession will you embrace, break or give a new take on?

Marriage in the legal or religious sense was not initially designed to be an expression of love as it is today, it was about the exchange of property from one man to another. A bride’s head of the family ‘gave’ their daughter away to another man and his family in exchange for a dowry ‘ a brides ‘bottom drawer’. Whilst it still exists in some cultures today generally the tradition is more about the sentiment, marrying for love’s sake rather than passing on ‘ownership’ or social politics.

Some brides find satisfaction and take comfort in following traditions and etiquette viewing the walking down the aisle to be ‘a rites of passage’. Others are not so comfortable incorporating a symbol of a patriarchal system.

Whatever your views, the procession indicates the start of the ceremony. Time stops for a moment as the audience awaits your entrance.

Your big day is here after so much planning and preparation, so take moment to imagine this moment.

You arrive at your venue a small private affair at your family home, a breathtaking private country estate, a spring flower garden or woodland, or a hidden gem of a venue; it’s the special place you have chosen to say your wedding vows to each other. This is the point where two individuals and two separate lives become one.

All your family, friends and guests await your entrance with baited breath. It’s one of the top moments in your life that you will look back on and remember for the rest of your life.

 This is big! (deep breath!)

But  how will YOU choose do it?

Will you walk down the aisle?

Who will walk you down the aisle?

 What will the aisle look like?

 How do you want this moment to feel?

Just imagine yourself stood there about to enter, will you embrace tradition, break tradition or give a new take on it?



The procession varies by religion and culture but generally speaking it follows a similar format:

The procession traditionally starts from the the brides home- but as this could be quite a walk, it has been shortened somewhat to an aisle walk.

Families and guests of the bride or groom are usually seated on the respective sides of the bride and groom at either side of the aisle.

The groom stands to the right of the alter so that he can ‘protect’ his betrothed bride from harm with his sword. He is ‘supported’ by his ‘best’ man for the job of making sure her family doesn’t try and take her back! They and the rest of the groomsmen all enter from the side or they can escort the bridesmaids down the aisle.

Bridesmaids enter alone or are escorted by the groomsmen- bridesmaids on the left.

Then we see the entrance of the maid of honour alone or she can be escorted by the best man.

Next comes the ring bearer followed by the flower girl(s) just before the bride.

Then it’s what everyone has been waiting for, the bride, who traditionally walks on her father’s left arm. Some however, prefer to walk on the right so that when she reaches the alter there is nothing between her and the groom.

Sound like your cup of tea? Or perhaps you want a more modern wedding ceremony entrance…..


If the idea of being handed from one man to another doesn’t sit too comfortably with you you might like to follow in the footsteps of Swedish or Romanian couples and walk down the aisle together as a more equal partnership.Your mother and father could announce the bride & groom’s arrival? Or make it more of a family affair where both sets of parents enter down aisle first and greet guests.

Or you could both walk down the aisle individually, the groom and then the bride?

The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest of relationships and one of the biggest influences in a daughter and son’s life. Mother’s traditionally were the ‘wedding planners and co-ordinators’  but as brides have become more independent they have taken on this role themselves or want more ‘objective‘ hired help.  Consequently mothers seem to have been given a more ‘silent role’. So why not give them a more active and public role  have you mother or both your parents walk you down the aisle?


Perhaps you would rather do it alone and not be ‘given away’ by anyone- this would have great impact?

What if you didn’t want an aisle, perhaps you don’t like the attention or want to do something more creative? You could both walk in from the side, or around the outside of where your guests are seated , arrange your seating differently or choreograph your entrance?

You may want to go the whole hog and have a walking wedding procession at your favourite beauty spot, special place or outdoor wedding location. You both lead your guests to where your ceremony will take place.

If you’re looking to break the tradition of a formal aisle and want some alternative inspiration check our page on pinterest

Sound more like you? Or maybe you’d rather  find a happy medium and …..

Give a fresh take?

Like most things in marriage it’s about give and take and compromise, so If you want have a more contemporary twist on tradition you could always meet half way?

Perhaps there isn’t a defined aisle if you are having an outdoor ceremony in a country estate but if there are two tiers of steps that meet in the middle, you could walk down from different sides then meet on the level and walk together the last steps holding hands?

We all know times have changed and relationships and families have changed; children don’t always come second, in fact cohabiting couples now amount to 5.9 million – increasing two-fold between 1996 and 2012. They are the fastest growing family type in the UK, with 39% of those cohabiting couples having children.  http://bit.ly/ZRpYnK

So if you’ve already got children, are getting married second time around or having a renewal of vows ceremony you may want to give a different twist where your boy(s) could walk down the aisle with their dad and the girl(s) could walk with their mum? Or your son could ‘give you away’?

The choice is yours!

A wedding is one of the biggest celebrations in life so whatever you decide your vision is, make sure  you make it your own. Do it your way!

With our Celebration Ceremonies there are no rules or etiquette, unless you want to of course! When planning your ceremony your qualified celebrant will start with a blank sheet of paper and help guide you through the options or incorporate new ideas so that you find what feels right for you.

We hope we have opened your eyes to just a few of the possibilities. If you would like us to help you do it ‘your way’ then drop Jan a line: ceremonies@janshillito.co.uk we love to be part of your special day.



10 Ceremony traditions to embrace, break or give a fresh take- (No 1)


Over the next few weeks we’ll be blogging about different Ceremony traditions that you might want to embrace, break or give a fresh take.

So here’s our first one…

The  Entrance -A white wedding dress

No matter which way you look at it, the wedding dress is star of the show, it’s a statement piece, an extension of who you are and sets the scene for your entrance to the ceremony.

So what will you do? Embrace, break or give a new take on tradition in your wedding dress choice?


The tradition of a bride wearing a white wedding dress did not emerge until the late eighteen Century, when heavy silk satin blue’s, grey’s and brown’s with embroidery and embellishments were the norm. It was not until Queen Victoria chose to break with tradition herself wearing a white satin, silk and lace gown with orange blossoms in 1840 that it became popular.

In a conservative age, when wearing white was actually a taboo for happy occasions; Queen Victoria flouted tradition and even decided not to decorate her dress with any “jewelry or crown, or velvet robes trimmed with ermine”. Her white dress (crinoline-style court dress) was made entirely in England with lace and silk satin with full pleated skirt, and low neckline. The twelve brides maids who carried the trail were also dressed in white.

Because of the limitations of laundering in those days a white dress could not be re-used for another occasion hence white became a favourite for richer families so as to demonstrate their wealth.



Across Europe and America more practical or colourful dresses were more commonplace with red being a popular choice, but less than a decade after Queen Victoria’s wedding, magazine editor of the American magazine Godey Sarah Hale, held Queen Victoria as a role model of femininity, morality and intellect:

“Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever the material may be. It is an emblem of purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one”

In Japan brides firstly wear a traditional kimono with white also being the popular colour- but not to symbolise purity, but death; the bride becomes ‘dead’ to her family. During the ceremony the bride removes her white kimono to reveal another coloured one- usually red- to symbolise her rebirth into her husband’s family.



As wedding colour schemes become more varied where 2012 saw purple being 2012’s most popular colour with blue and pink also being top 3 choices we are also starting to see brides becoming more ‘brave’ and contemporary their wedding dress choices too, stepping away from traditional ivory and white. Hitched W.I.F.E

Perhaps this wonderful Hunger Games inspired red wedding dress or this head-turning 1920’s-40‘s ‘gunmetal glamour’ backless wedding dress by KMK designs could open up your mind to new options?

Or fresh take?

If you’re looking for a more contemporary twist to your wedding dress that’s not just the colour take inspiration from Queen Victoria, a lady who knew her own mind and who chose to have a dress that expressed what she wanted in a wedding dress.

Whether it’s the style or the materials of your wedding dress you want to have a fresh take on there are some amazing designers out there to challenge the tradition of the white wedding dress.

Here are some of our favourites:

Elizabeth Armstrong is a fabulous British fashion designer with a heritage in theatre and film drawing inspiration from Victoriana, Gothic and Steampunk subcultures, historic period styles and has a love of Avant Garde.

Elie Saab, born in Lebanon is a self taught fashion talent. He magnifies femininity working with fine materials and delicate embroideries to make fairytale creations that are simple and sophisticated.


Wai Ching is an exotic fusion of Chinese, Puerto Rican and English genes with a global upbringing and is clearly reflected in her ‘Wild but wearable’ designs. Figure flattery top of her priority list!


We’d also like to share with you a hidden gem, a little closer to our home here in Yorkshire. Rebecca Mills is a wonderful up and coming designer, her designs have a bubbly personality and most importantly at the end of the day her brides can still party the night way in them!



Maybe the colour of your wedding dress is less important to you and your contemporary wedding dress twist is more about having a dress that fits with your ethical values? Blushless  is an emerging sustainable brand founded by Liv Lundelius in 2009 specialising in Avant Garde bridal. The daughter of a punk-rock club owner father, and a bohemian travelling mother she is anything but typical!  Relocated to London she creates an ethically responsible alternative to the traditional gown.



So when you make you big entrance, whether you decide to embrace, break or have a fresh take on your wedding dress or any ceremony traditions we can help you make your ceremony unique and personal. Drop Jan a line:  ceremonies@janshillito.co.uk