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.

Celebration – Something old, new …

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.”  The exact origin of the poem is unknown but the tradition can be traced back to the Victorian era.  According to the tradition, usually the items are given by the bridal couple’s family and friends or more recently the modern bride will collect some of these items herself.  This is a perfect opportunity to add special meaning to a wedding and the items used should be personal and sentimental to the bride and groom.

When presenting these items, at a bridal shower or bridesmaid luncheon, the gifts should be given in a very special way.  To start the presentation, explain the tradition of why the items are collected for a bride to have on her wedding day and what the meaning of each item represents.  Then, I would suggest that each item should be opened individually and to make the presentation very meaningful, explain the story behind why that particular item was chosen.  I think it would be very interesting for the bride and her guests to hear.

The meaning of each item with ideas and suggestions:

Something old represents a link to the bride’s life or her family.  This is probably the easiest item of the four to acquire; usually a mother or a grandmother of the bride or the groom can have a special piece of jewelry that can be passed down from one generation to the next.  Sentimental items can be a first communion cross, a pearl necklace from her mother or a special locket from a grandmother, other pieces of jewelry could be a bracelet, earrings or a necklace.  An old rosary or an antique handkerchief or perhaps a button from an old suit of the bride’s father which can be sown into the bridal dress, or a piece of fabric from an old dress of the bride, mother or grandmother can be wrapped around the bridal bouquet are other ideas for something old.

Here are some more ideas for something old:

  1. Have the wedding ceremony or reception at an old and historic venue.
  2. Travel from the ceremony to the reception in an antique car.
  3. Display wedding photographs of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents at the wedding reception or tuck a small copy into a bridal purse to carry down the aisle.
  4. Carry a relative’s monogrammed handkerchief on the wedding day.
  5. Use an antique hat pin in the bridal bouquet.
  6. Shop for a vintage purse, compact or gloves to use on the wedding day.
  7. Use the parent’s old cake topper or if one is not available shop look for a vintage one in an antique store.

Something new represents a hope for the future of the bride and the groom on the occasion of their marriage.  The obvious choice for most brides will be her wedding dress, headpiece or shoes.  Perhaps the bride’s future husband will have purchased a special piece of jewelry to mark their wedding, such as a pair of earrings, necklace or a charm bracelet with a special charm for the wedding day.  Another suggestion for something new could be simply a new bottle of a special perfume.

Here are some more ideas for something new:

  1. The bride can wear beautiful new lingerie for her wedding day; maybe splurge for a lovely pair of silk stockings.
  2. Purchase a new special lipstick shade for the wedding day and tuck it into a new make-up bag.
  3. The bridal couple can purchase a brand new car for transportation after the reception as they drive away to their honeymoon.
  4. The groom can surprise the bride with a new puppy or kitten!

Something borrowed is traditionally an item that comes from a happily married woman who is letting the bride “borrow some of her martial success”. The borrowed item be could something as sentimental as a wedding dress or veil that was worn by a parent or grandparent.  Another idea could be a piece of jewelry loaned from a family member, a parent, grandparent or even a great grandparent.  The important thing to remember is that the something borrowed needs to be returned after the wedding.

Here are some more ideas for something borrowed:

  1. Borrow a father’s silk handkerchief, the groom can use it tucked into his tuxedo pocket or the bride can use it wrapped around her bridal bouquet.
  2. Borrow an old family bible to use at the wedding ceremony.
  3. The bride can borrow a headpiece or veil from a family member or friend.
  4. Borrow the toasting glasses or the silver knife to cut the cake at the wedding reception.
  5. The bride can borrow a button-down shirt or a bathrobe from the groom to use while she is getting dressed for the wedding day.
  6. Borrow a poetry book from the library to use for the reading at the wedding ceremony.

Something blue represents fidelity and loyalty; this item can be a fun way to express the bride’s personality or her quirky sense of humor.  This item can be something that is hidden from sight or it can be used as a bold fashion statement of the bride’s style.  Traditionally, this item is usually a blue garter decorated with blue ribbon and white lace.  Another traditional idea is blue-stone jewelry, such as: sapphire, aquamarine or tanzanite.  A fun idea which is popular with the modern bride are blue shoes or blue nail polish on her toes.

 Here are some more ideas for something blue:

  1. The bride can use a blue ribbon or blue flowers in her bridal bouquet or the groom’s boutonniere.
  2. The bride can wear a blue sash or petticoat with her wedding dress.
  3. The groom can wear a blue tie or baby blue socks with his tuxedo or maybe even a blue suit on his wedding day.
  4. The bride can wear a special tiara made with blue stones or carry a blue purse.
  5. The wedding flowers can incorporate blue flowers for the ceremony or reception.
  6. Use blue confetti at the end of the wedding ceremony instead of rice.
  7. … or simply the bride can tie a blue thread around her finger!

The last item is the sixpence which represents good fortune and prosperity for the bridal couple.  The sixpence is traditionally an item carried by British brides and it is placed in the bride’s left shoe.  Today’s modern brides can have a sixpence or another special coin sewn into the hem of her bridal gown or she can carry it in the purse used on her wedding day.

Here are some more ideas:

  1. The bride or groom can carry an old coin from the year of their birth or a coin from the country of their parents or grandparents ancestry.
  2. Another option is to get a coin from the year of their marriage.
  3. Purchase travelers checks for the honeymoon.

Here is a great craft idea to present these items at a bridal shower or bridesmaid luncheon.  I found the paper mache boxes at a local craft store years ago.  I liked them because when they are stacked, largest on the bottom and the smallest on top, and with the pattern on the boxes the look resembles a wedding cake.  (If you cannot find similar boxes, the same style can be achieved with a pattern paint design)