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Marital Traditions: Their Not-So-Sweet Origins & Our Modern Choices

The year is 2020. What was once required from married couples is now optional. There are a lot of marital traditions to consider nowadays.

marital traditions

Sure, some traditions are romantic or religious, but no matter where you stand, you and your partner still have a lot of marital traditions to consider. Unlike the old days, marriage is no longer an ownership. It doesn’t require old-fashioned beliefs or traditions.

For some, these things make a marriage and for others, they are societal standards placed on couples to measure their level of love. Do you want to follow the classics or make your own traditions? It is entirely up to you.

The marital traditions you follow are up to you

Just like wedding traditions, the marital traditions you follow are entirely up to you and your partner. Sure, it can be nice to follow in the footsteps of your parents or grandparents, but if you want to do things your own way, no one else has a say.

[Read: Modern relationship – Have they changed for the better or worse?]

Take weddings, for instance. Some people think a bride needs to toss the bouquet, have a bridal party, and wear white. These things may be tradition, but it doesn’t mean they are necessarily for you.

Many of these traditions began when marriage was a deal between families, when a bride was meant to be a virgin on her wedding day, when a woman’s family paid the man to marry her, or when a wife was her husband’s property.

These were once traditions we are now shocked at for their sexism. Doing these things does not define a marriage. Just as following wedding traditions does not define the success of that day.

Think about what feels right to you and your soon-to-be spouse. And I say soon-to-be because these are conversations that are best had before you are married. These things can be dealbreakers for some, so sorting them out before you take that step can save a lot of heartache down the road.

[Read: 12 questions to ask before marriage to know if they’re the one]

Where marital traditions come from

You may think a lot of the marital traditions that are common today are sweet or romantic. But, when you look deeper into their origins you might find that you find them archaic.

For instance, the bride wearing a veil seems feminine and classic, but it began with arranged marriages when a man’s family would not let him see his future wife before the wedding.

The same goes for having a ring bearer. It seems like a cute tradition of a young boy carrying the rings down the aisle on a fancy pillow. It began as a way for families to show their wealth because only rich families could afford such luxury goods.

In fact, the initial requirement of the best man wasn’t just to support the groom as a friend, but to make sure the bride didn’t run away before the ceremony.

Not to mention, many other traditions began due to superstitions regarding gods and fertility, as well as protecting the couple from demons and evil spirits.

There is a large imbalance of respect and power amongst marital traditions. Many modern couples are foregoing these outdated ways for a more progressive take on weddings and marriages.

Knowing where most of these traditions originated can help you make the choices that best suit your relationship.

Marital traditions to consider

With so many traditions that many people still find to be the norm or even necessary, how do you feel? What marital traditions will you consider and which will you rule out?

#1 The proposal. One tradition that takes place long before the actual marriage is the proposal. And it seems the man is always meant to do the asking. There is a lot behind this tradition.

Do you want your boyfriend to ask your father for permission or his blessing? Do you think that is sweet or shows a lack of interest in your choice rather than permission from the man that is giving you away? But, do you want him to ask you or are you both comfortable with you asking? Will you take the reins? Or maybe you’ll decide together that you’re ready to get married. [Read: Should you dump these modern dating trends?]

#2 Rings. One meaning of wedding rings is that the circle is endless which is a symbol for the marriage. But, historically, the rings were a form of payment from the groom to the father of the bride.

Yes, this has evolved, but it is all about how you see this symbol. Do you need a flashy engagement ring? Will you exchange rings at the wedding and wear them? Many think it is a sign that you belong to someone. What do you think?

#3 Gender roles. Traditional gender roles have the man going to work and the woman staying home. Of course, this is outdated, but it is what works for some. Perhaps you’ll switch these roles or share responsibilities equally.

Discuss this with your partner and figure out what works for you. Will one of you work full-time and the other stay home, work part-time, or run the household? And think about what you’re willing to do down the road.

#4 Taking his last name. This is still common practice. Taking the man’s last name comes from a patriarchal tradition of a husband owning his wife and children. She leaves her family name behind and takes his. This is no longer necessary. [Read: Should you take your husband’s last name?]

Sure, maybe you like his last name better or just want to take it. But, maybe he wants to take yours? Maybe you keep your family names and possible hyphenate the kids’. [Read: What does it mean when a man takes his wife’s last name?]

#5 Vows. It is a very personal decision whether you use the traditional vows for your religion, state, or choose to write your own. Even if you choose the basic vows, removing words like ‘obey’ may be the right choice for you.

#6 Children. This is a big conversation to be had. Some people assume everyone wants children, especially women. This, of course, is not always the case, nor should it be. Deciding whether or not you want children is an important marital tradition to consider.

Also, discussing the possibilities of infertility, adoption, and fostering will help you move into your future more smoothly. [Read: 15 things you should know before you get engaged]

#7 Sharing a bed. I know this may seem odd but think about it. Sure, it is expected for a husband and wife to share a bed, but is it necessary? I have seen countless articles judging marriages based on how a couple sleeps at night.

The thing is, sleep is so important. Would you both sleep better and be happier if you had two beds? Does one of you struggle with insomnia or sleepwalking? I know it may not seem romantic, but you can have a happy marriage without doing the things you think you’re meant to do.

[Read: The secrets of a happy marriage that can make or break your relationship]

There are so many marital traditions to consider. These may come from your family history, culture, or religion. No matter their origin, these choices are up to you and your partner to follow or not.

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...