DIY Wedding Traditions: The Family Crest

Dear Thriving Bride,

I am walking down the aisle in 8 days, and I want to give you a few ideas for traditions you can incorporate into your big day. When we thought about fun things to do for our wedding, we thought a lot about which traditions we would want to incorporate from our  our multicultural wedding.  It’s interesting to think about the traditions you want to hold onto and the one’s you want to let go of.  This journey has been all about learning so much about ourselves and each other, as well as realizing that some traditions aren’t so bad, especially when you can bring the “old school” into the “new school”.  I am basically asking you to keep certain traditions you want to have at your wedding and to create or re create new ones. That’s what we did when we decided to have a family crest.


Family Crests are great DIY wedding traditions. You’ll have to wait until after the wedding to see it!

Say what?  Yes, we did and we are very excited.  The thing is, I love traditions.  I think they help us understand where we come from, what our ancestors experienced in their lives and what lessons we can learn from them.  Having said that, I don’t believe in repeating any traditions just because the people who came before me did them.  For me, if the tradition was harmful or does not fit into my life, then I usually don’t want to do it.  Would you have your wedding at a specific church because that’s what everyone in your family before you did?  That’s all well and good if you are at peace with it.  But, if you are secretly screaming inside, it’s time to break the habit and let go of that tradition.

Repeating traditions for the sake of everyone else and not really thinking about if it works for you as well is like repeating negative patterns in your family.  Usually, you want to break those now don’t you?  But there’s also a different way to go.  There’s reclaiming a tradition or a family pattern and making it your own.  Again, as I’ve mentioned so many times, you can take the essence and leave the rest.  Creating a crest was part of the essence of our wedding: unique, adventurous, quirky, fun and innovative. We’re blending so many traditions and cultures that it was impossible for it not to be unique!

That’s what we did when we decided to create a family crest.  We worked with the fabulous graphic designer Lynn Rawden, who started creating crests when she did one for her own wedding. When I spoke to Lynn, she reminded me that it was important for engaged couples to always keep an element of surprise for each other and their guests when planning the wedding celebration, and that really resonated with me.  This idea was definitely going to be our element of surprise! Even though we originally spoke Lynn about designing some paper invitations for us,  she suggested that we think about creating a family crest.   Now, this was something for us to think about!

Crests are not just a Western tradition. They exist in many cultures, but my Nigerian American family never told me if we did or did not have one.  My grandfather was a village chief, and all I know is that he had a few servants. A  family crest?  It was not part of our understanding of who we were and if it exists, I doubt it was passed on to my parent’s generation.  My partner PJ does not know of one in his family either.  But the fascinating part of all this was that it did not matter if we had one because we could decide now to have one and to pass it on to our children and so on.

This may seem like it is just about crests and DIY wedding traditions, but through this process I have learned a lot about how I want to live my life.  Sometimes someone may not want to do something for me that I need, but who says I can’t create it for myself.  I am creating this wedding with my partner and we are creating our openness to what comes up along this journey and we are also creating and/or recreating traditions.  I think it’s a great life lesson and it feels fabulous!

I looked up the history of crests and many of my ideas about them were true.  Historically, you didn’t create a crest just because you wanted to because it had to be handed down to you, like a family inheritance.  The interesting thing is that just being family didn’t mean you go the crest.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it:

There is a widespread misconception, due in part to Victorian stationers’ marketing of engraved letterheads, that a crest and a coat of arms belong to everyone with the same family name; but usage by persons not descended from the original grantee constitutes usurpation. mily name; but usage by persons not descended from the original grantee constitutes usurpation

Basically, it had to be “granted” to you or you could be seen “stealing” it even if you had the family name.  Sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Well, crests meant a lot to families and still do.

But guess what?  We’re having one.  For us, crests symbolized a shared vision within a community of people (family, organization, etc) that was articulated through a symbol that incorporated shared values to impart to the current generation and those to come.  Some are very literal and say things like the following: love, honor, fidelity.  But, that might not be the road you want to go down.  You can get as creative as you’s like.  They can even serve as great gift ideas. We wanted a symbol to stand for our mixed cultures, our love for each other, important phrases that we wanted in our family, and our family name.  And we get to grant it to each other, to our children and then it can continue.  Who says you can’t reclaim and/or recreate a tradition to fit your needs.

You can.  With a little imagination, you can do anything you want for you wedding!  Stay tuned for my upcoming post about great gift ideas for your wedding guests and my thoughts about gifting in general.  I know everyone has an opinion about that!