Where Did That Wedding Tradition Come From?

Where Did That Wedding Tradition Come From?


Learn About Your Favorite Wedding Tradition Origins

Wedding Tradition Symbols

Wedding ring. The unending circle of a ring was thought to symbolize eternity; a wedding ring held the hope that love would last forever. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed that a vein in the third finger travels straight to the heart. Medieval Christian grooms were said to place the ring part-way on the thumb, then index finger, then middle finger of the bride while saying the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The next finger was the “ring” finger — and the groom left it there, presumably while saying, “I do.”

White gown. Until the late 19th century, American brides wore formal dresses during their weddings. Black was the color of choice. Queen Victoria popularized the wearing of white gowns in England, when she broke cultural norms and donned one at her wedding. At that time, white outfits were reserved for funerals and grieving. (They still are for Eastern cultures.) Some fashion historians say white represents purity and virginity but, by all accounts, wearing white first symbolized unabashed joy. Americans fell in love with white bridal gowns sometime during the early to mid 20th century.

Bride’s veil. At least three reasons are given for why brides wear veils during the wedding ceremony. Superstition led some to believe a veil would protect a bride from evil spirits. It’s also thought that brides wore veils to hide their faces from grooms during arranged unions. Today, the veil symbolizes a bride’s modesty.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Wearing something old, usually given to the bride by a relative married for many years, was thought to guarantee a lifelong marriage. The “new” represented the beginning of married life. A borrowed item imparted the happiness of the giver to the wearer. The bride showed her modesty by wearing something blue.

Flowers. Flowers and herbs were important features in the pagan ceremonies which joined men and women long ago. Each variety, herb and color had its own significance. We further the wedding tradition today when the bride carries a bouquet down the aisle or decorates the wedding and reception areas with floral arrangements.

Cake. In ancient times, the breaking of cake, like the breaking of bread, was seen as a fertility rite when performed during a joining ceremony. The practice of layering several cakes, one on top of the other, just to the tipping point, began much later. The bride and groom were expected to attempt a kiss above the precariously-perched cake. Their success in kissing without toppling the layers would result in a lifetime of good fortune.

Wedding Tradition Rituals

Candle lighting. In some Christian faiths, the bride and groom each hold a lighted candle and together light a third, known as the “unity candle”. It is a solemn ceremony symbolizing the joining of two souls to make one.

Kiss. In ancient times, Roman agreements were sealed with a kiss. A bride and groom are thought to exchange souls during their kiss in many of today’s cultural traditions. Once the kiss is performed, the marriage contract is said to be binding.

The toast. Hold onto your lunch. It’s called a “toast” because the French used to place a piece of bread in the bottom of a wine goblet, to impart flavor. Each celebrant quaffed and passed the goblet to the next hardy soul. The person for whom the toast was given would drink the goblet dry while slurping up the toast. Not just for breakfast, anymore! We offer great advice for wedding toasts!

Garter toss. In the 14th century, it was customary for the Groom to remove the Bride’s garter and throw it toward the single men in attendance. Legend said that whoever caught the garter would be next to marry. At the often-rowdy party following the wedding, a few drunk and impatient men would occasionally try to remove the Bride’s garter before the Groom had his opportunity. This ritual is being replaced by gentler, more modern affairs.

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