Celebration – Wedding Traditions

There are so many wonderful traditions regarding weddings and in this post I will explain the stories behind several more wedding traditions and their origins.  Some of these traditions may seem a little strange in our modern world because they are based on old customs and superstitions.

The Engagement and Wedding Rings

  • The engagement and wedding rings are traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand.  The Romans believed that the vein of this finger runs directly to the heart.  The wedding ring symbolizes true and everlasting love in the shape of a never ending circle.
  • Traditionally the wedding ring is worn first so that it is closest to the heart.  During the wedding ceremony, the bride will wear the engagement ring on her right hand and after the ring exchange she will move the ring to her left hand and place it next to the wedding ring.
  • Today, modern couples are still choosing the traditional white diamonds in a variety of different cuts and sizes, but the current trend is selecting other options of colorful precious gemstones such as yellow diamonds, pink diamonds, sapphire and emeralds.

The White Wedding Dress

  • Prior to the late 1800s, brides generally wore their “best” dress on their wedding day.    The tradition of the white wedding dress is linked to England’s Queen Victoria who wore one when she married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840 and since that time the custom of the white wedding dress became very popular.  By the 1890s, due to the Industrial Revolution, a new wedding dress for the bride to wear on her special dress became a very affordable option.
  • Modern brides are still choosing white wedding dresses but the fashions have become less conservative and more daring with a style such as a strapless bodice.  Brides are also adding more color to their bridal fashion with ribbon sashes that coordinate with the wedding colors or accessories such as a blue petticoat to add a fun element of something blue or and sometimes the bride will change to a shorter dress in bolder colors for the wedding reception.

The Bridal Veil

  • The bridal veil was once traditionally a symbol or purity.  In Roman times, the bride was said to be vulnerable to enchantment and her face was hidden from evil spirits.
  • In many religions, the bridal veil is a considered a sign of humility and respect during a religious ceremony.
  • Queen Victoria is known as the first bride to not cover her face with a blusher.  Today, some brides still choose to wear the romantic tradition of a blusher veil while other brides are still selecting a longer train but one that is detachable for the wedding reception.
  • In the Victorian era, the length and quality of a bridal veil were effective by the bride and her family social status.  Royal brides and members of the aristocracy had the longest veils and trains made of the most expensive fabrics.
  • Modern brides are adding sparkling tiaras or floral wreaths to their bridal veils.  Some brides are choosing other options such as hats in a variety of shapes and sizes while other brides are omitting wearing any type of head covering.

The Bridal Bouquet

  • Floral bouquets have traditional been an accessory for a bride to carry on her wedding day.  Originally flowers were used in the wedding ceremony as a symbol of fertility and were made of a variety of herbs.  In the Victorian Era, orange blossoms were a popular floral choice and many brides wore the flowers attached to their wedding dress or woven into their hair.
  • An old Victorian custom of the language of flowers when creating small nosegays with hidden messages can be interpreted into a modern bridal bouquet.  Search online for the meaning of flowers that could represent the bridal couple’s wishes for a happy marriage.
  • As a loving and thoughtful gesture, brides will recreate the same bridal bouquet that their mothers carried on their wedding day.  Another ideas is instead of a mother’s corsage have the florist to make a special bouquet for the mother of both the bride and groom which can be presented to them before the wedding ceremony.
  • The tradition of tossing the bridal bouquet began in England when the custom of the wedding guests was to rip pieces of the bride’s dress or flowers from her hair or bouquet in order to share some of her good luck.  To save herself from this ordeal, brides started to throw their bridal bouquets into the crowd and then would quickly run away with their groom.
  • Today, the custom has developed into gathering all the single women at the wedding reception, then the bride tosses her bridal bouquet and the tradition is that whoever catches it will be the next one to marry.  Modern brides that wish to keep their bridal bouquet will have their florist make a special smaller bouquet from tossing.
  • Another great option is to throw a special “wish” bouquet.  This unique bouquet is created from several small clusters of flowers that are tied together with ribbon that have a note attached with different romantic fortunes such as: love, happiness, luck, fortune, travel, etc.

Tossing the Bridal Garter

  • The wedding custom of tossing the bridal garter started out in a very unusual way due to a medieval tradition of weddings in England and France when guests would approach the bride and rip pieces of her wedding dress which were considered a piece of good luck.  These events would be so upsetting for the bride that eventually the idea of tossing the bridal garter was done to satisfy the wedding guests.
  • The custom of tossing the garter is usually done by the groom who, sometimes with much fanfare, will remove the garter from the leg of the bride.  The single men will gather and the groom will toss the garter into the crowd and the one who catches the garter is the next one to marry.  In some parts of the Midwest, garters were suctioned off to the highest bidder.
  • Today, traditionally the bride will select a blue garter decorated with blue ribbon and white lace for their “something blue”.  Sometimes, if the bride wishes to save her garter, will wear a second garter and that is the one used at the wedding reception.

Other Wedding Traditions

  1. Giving away the bride – The custom of the father giving his daughter away dates back to the time when arranged marriages were common.  Daughters were considered the property of their father and were given way for a price.  Today, traditionally the father will give his daughter away as a symbol of his blessing of the marriage.
  2. Bridesmaids – In past centuries, the purpose of the bridesmaids was that the bride’s friends would dress like the bride in order to confuse the evil spirits away from her.  Today, bridesmaids are chosen by the bride from her close friends to support her during the stressful time leading up to the wedding day.
  3. The Best Man – In Medieval England, there was an ancient custom of a man selecting his strongest men to capture a woman from her family.  Then, his best man would accompany the groom to the wedding ceremony and stand on the left side of the bride to keep their sword arm free to protect the bride.
  4. Cutting the Wedding Cake – One of the highlights of the wedding reception is usually when the bridal couple cuts the wedding cake.  The custom originates in England during Anglo-Saxon times, when guests would bring small cakes to the wedding.  Later, a French baker decided to create a tiered cake and stacked small cakes on top of each other and covered them with frosting.
  5. Throwing Rice – The custom of throwing rice on the bridal couple symbolizes the guests showering their love and good wishes for a happy marriage.  In France, people used to throw wheat and Italians would toss candy or sugared nuts.

Every bride getting married knows the tradition of the Old English rhyme, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”  Please check out this month’s Celebration post “Something old, new…” for ideas and suggestions regarding this wonderful tradition.