Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Tradition

Greetings readers! Jason (better known as "J" the fiancee) here. As Becca mentioned, I will be offering up some guest posts this week while she's bogged down with work. I intend to provide my perspective on some topics that are relevant to this blog and its audience. Becca (henceforth, "B") has shared your input and interactions with me, and I must say I'm thrilled to see so much active conversation and positive feedback. I hope I can offer up some interesting thoughts & ideas and keep the spirit of discussion alive while B is off-duty.

My first topic is a big one -- tradition (cue the Fiddler On The Roof soundtrack!). This is admittedly a broad topic with lots of different points to discuss. For now, I'm going focus on the use of "traditional" as a descriptive term, i.e. "a traditional wedding".

Traditions (in the literal sense of specific acts or practices) have firm roots in religion and family. But the term "traditional wedding" tends to conjure up images that bear little relation to the practices handed down through one's parents or faith. The phrase spurs thoughts of poofy white dresses, men in tuxedos, big flower arrangements, and a fancy sit-down dinner. However, a Google Image Search for "traditional wedding" generates some interesting results: a few photos of multi-tiered cakes and "veiled-dress-and-tuxedo" couples, but mostly Google shows colorful images of wedding ceremonies in India, China, South Africa, and other exotic locales that look nothing like the "white wedding" we perceive as traditional here in the West. The citizens of those countries probably consider the trappings of their weddings "traditional" and think ours odd & unusual. The precedent for our "tradition" only goes back to the early 20th century, and the elements themselves are rooted in European (mostly Caucasian) history.

This brings me to the key point of this post: tradition is relative. What each of us considers "traditional" is influenced by our personal culture, immediate surroundings and recent history. And our sense of whether something is "more" or "less" traditional is defined in relation to where we see ourselves along that spectrum. B and I provide a perfect example of this.

I grew up in suburban Houston, where the prevailing traditions included football, Christianity, and Texas pride. Given my preference for arts & intellectualism, my Jewish upbringing, and the fact that half my family hailed from Pittsburgh, I considered my life quite nontraditional in contrast to my peers. But to B, my upbringing seemed more conventional. She grew up with two full-time-working parents; her mom was the one coming home at 6:00pm; her dad cooked dinner after he spent the day teaching. My family, in contrast, cleaved to the "dad-as-breadwinner, mom-as-caretaker" model (which worked well for us - both my parents loved their roles and fulfilled them wonderfully). B went to an arts school where actors and singers were the "cool kids"; I went to a real-life suburbanized version of Friday Night Lights where jocks and cheerleaders ruled the school. So even though I considered myself nontraditional in the context of my Houston suburb, I was much more traditional (in the mainstream American sense) than B was used to.

This contrast has cropped up in our wedding planning. Many of my initial assumptions about the wedding were based on templates I'd encountered while growing up. I quickly learned that B did not necessarily want all of these things. I'm an open-minded guy, so I began widening my view to include a broader range of options, but I found that some "traditional" elements meant a lot to me, even if B found them undesirable. As we proceed with planning, I try to gauge which of these elements are truly meaningful vs. which lean on tradition by default. If B disagrees with some of my choices, I try to boil down the essence of what I love about them and find a way to incorporate that. Same goes for B's desires...it's all about compromise. In the end, our wedding will be a hodgepodge of traditional, non-traditional, unique and just-plain-beautiful elements, and it will truly reflect us as a couple and as individuals.

Obsessing over whether your wedding should be "more" or "less" traditional is a bit of a trap - it puts restrictions on the event from the get-go, since every aspect is judged in relation to some non-existent standard. Avoid pegging the whole wedding to one point along the "traditional/nontraditional" spectrum. It's better to evaluate the more "traditional" features as a set of options in the overall scheme of planning the RIGHT wedding. Make it about what feels good, what makes you happy, and what will create the most fun & memorable event. If you like a few "traditional" aspects, throw 'em in the mix. If you're aiming for a "nontraditional" wedding but still want a big five-tiered cake, don't let the fear of caving in to "tradition" prevent you from going for it. It's YOUR wedding. Pick and choose what suits you best.


  1. awesome post, jason! great to see you blogging with your kickass fiancee. the "traditional wedding" debate has been eating away at my bride brain ever since we got engaged. we got obsessed with hating on the wedding world for "making us" have a traditional wedding. for example, i would get weird looks when i said i didn't want bridesmaids, or a bouquet toss, or what-have you. but they were only giving us funny looks because it's unique - not reviled. and after finally realizing that the wedding world really isn't making us do a damn thing, we said, "ok. it's our wedding. we make our own traditions. let's stop trying to make our wedding the anti-traditional wedding, and just make it OUR wedding." and ever since then, we've been playing by our own rules and couldn't be happier for it!

  2. I think this is a great post. Welcome to the blogging world Jason! You are absolutely right, the focus should be on the fact that this is YOUR wedding and you are incorporating elements into it that you as a couple value.

  3. Jason, Becca is lucky to have you. You are extremely well spoken and from your thoughts and ideas, I can tell you truly love your bride and bring a phenomenal contribution to your relationship. Your honesty and perspective are so welcome in today's wedding world where everyone has an opinion that usually goes against the 'grain' when it comes to traditions.

    That said, I posted today about 'traditions' regarding ceremonies and my own thoughts of doing something out of the ordinary with what people typically expect at a wedding. That's another word I think works well when people discuss traditions: expectations. Because it's really about what people expect when they attend a wedding...but our wedding (and yours as well) is looking to find the unexpected for our guests by showing that the wedding is about 'us' and our desires and not what you think should be included. Thanks for the great post!

  4. Jason, what an eloquent post! I think you brought up some excellent points about the concept of a traditional/untraditional wedding (or life!). I like how you portrayed wedding planning as all about compromise and discovering what traditions are important to you as a couple. Welcome to the blogosphere!

  5. That's a great approach. Evaluating each element as it comes along gives you a chance to cut down to the bare bones of what is really important to each of you.

    This is where I think the true gift of the internet lies, at least in terms of wedding planning. The internet is a space where wedding standards are almost suspended -- at least in the sense that the whole wedding gamut is represented, and you get to see that there are a lot more options out there than merely choosing between "traditional" and "non." Blogs like this one play a valuable role in validating the process of making highly personal choices -- which in turn frees others to focus on, as you pointed out, doing what feels good and what is fun and memorable. Which is a big win for us folks who maybe otherwise wouldn't have known that it's OK not to categorize ourselves...

  6. Welcome Jason! I really appreciate this post as I don't like the idea that tradition equals bad automatically that can creep up in the liberal wedding blogs. Sometimes traditional is really meaningful, symbolic, and fun. It can also be somber and beneficial. For me, the best part of wedding planning is picking which traditions to keep, which to throw out the window, and which to subvert. The key is, you have to THINK about these things — not just pick cookie cutter "traditional" or cookie cutter "indie."

  7. How cool that Jason is blogging!

    These words are also extremely true. Tradition is in the eye of the beholder. At the end of it, it's the couple's day and choice to incorporate tradition and their personal touches.

  8. Hi J the fiance, great advice :)

  9. Great post, welcome to blog land. WE LOVE your lady.

  10. Thanks for this post - it really offers some great insight!


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