There are so many wedding traditions that we see at every wedding. Some couples add their own special ones or tweak the traditional ones to make them more unique to that couple, but you might find it odd to find out some of the traditions origins and histories.
Did you ever wonder where the whole bridesmaid’s tradition came from? Maybe you wondered why so many wear matching dresses to support the bride? I always thought it was to set the bride apart from the other girls but this wasn’t always so. Bridesmaids originally wore similar dresses to the bride in order to confuse her exes and outsmart evil spirits. That way, evil spirits, and jealous exes wouldn’t know which woman in the group was getting married. Their job was not just to smile and walk down the aisle before the bride carrying a bouquet, but they were to line up and form somewhat of a protective shield while walking the bride to the groom’s village. They were expected to intervene if any vengeful paramours tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry. Nowadays there are definitely some different responsibilities for your bridesmaids.
2. BEST MAN
Who knew that all Julia Roberts needed in the movie Runaway Bride was the original type of Best Man. The task a best man received was to ensure the bride didn’t escape before the wedding. If the parents didn’t approve of the marriage he was even tasked to kidnap the bride. He wasn’t just the best friend or brother either, he was actually the strongest and most capable to fight when using a sword or weapon to fight off enemies and rival attackers during the ceremony. Can you imagine walking down the isle when to the side is your best man having a sword fight with some enemy who disapproves of your marriage. These days we just have suffer through Tinder dates and potential bad weather on the wedding day.
3. THE WEDDING CAKE & CAKE CUTTING
Wedding cakes have come a long way. The Roman Grooms used to break and crumble bread over the brides head for good luck, then came the idea to stack cookies, scones, etc as high as they could then require the bride and groom to kiss over the tasty mountain with the goal not to topple the whole thing ensuring they would have good fortune. Then we transitioned to the Brides pie which was pastry crust filled with an assortment of oysters, lamb testicles, throat, rooster comb, and pine kernels. Yummy. It was thought that if the couple ate a slice they would have a happy life. They even made the brides pie a fun adventure for the single ladies. The incentive for these ladies to eat this concoction was to be the first one to find a hidden ring because it meant they were next in line to be married (beginning signs of the bouquet toss maybe?) fast forward and now we have the sugary, delicious and artistic versions of the wedding cake we see today. I sure am glad I didn’t have to eat testicles and throat on my wedding day.
Cutting the cake historically as cut by the bride (as a symbol of losing her virginity … uh awkward?!) but as cakes became more intricate and larger, it became much more difficult and most brides would enlist their new husbands to help to make that first slice. The feeding of the cake to one another stemmed from the tradition where the bride would take a bite of the cake and then throw it over her head to her groom symbolizing a life of wanting nothing and ensuring a big mess. This evolved to the feeding of the wedding cake which was meant to be a symbol of the commitment for one another and a show of love and affection. Of course, the smashing in each others faces gained traction and is often great entertainment for your guests.
4. THE WHITE WEDDING DRESS
You guys, pre-mid 1800s brides actually wore red. That’s right. Bright red. White is always thought of to mean purity and the color a virgin bride should wear but the white wedding dress caught it’s fashion trend when Queen Victoria went against the grain and opted to wear a white, lacy dress for her marriage. White at that time actually was a symbol of wealth not purity and this change in color continued to spread.
5. SOMETHING OLDS, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE
This is a long-lasting and old tradition. These items were collected to bring good fortune to the bride, especially when they were all worn together during the ceremony. The something old was worn to connect the bride to her past and her family, the something new was to signify that she was about to start her own family and a new journey. Something borrowed was supposed to be something taken from a happily married couple so that couples good fortune could be passed to the bride. The something blue was associated with faithfulness and loyalty in the relationship, like the phrase “true blue.” However, the part that most brides forget about is the “a sixpence in my shoe,” which brides would put a sixpence coin in their shoe to draw good luck.
6. THE BRIDES BOUQUET
This used to actually be a combination of herbs and spices, not flowers. The combinations of herbs and spices were thought to ward off evil spirits. It was believed that this tiny bundle had magical powers. I think I prefer our graduated version with peonies and gardenias. Although, it seems we stopped worrying so much about these so-called ‘evil spirits’…
7. TOSSING THE BOUQUET AND GARTER
This one surprised even me. I see a lot of brides toss the bouquet but less doing the garter these days. Wait till you find out why these traditions were first put in place. Couples in the past didn’t wait until the honeymoon to consummate their marriage. They would do the deed right after saying “I do” and their family members were supportive. The bouquet toss acted as a distraction for the single ladies so she and the groom could … handle their business. Then the tossing of the garter symbolized that the groom had made things official (wink wink) as eager guests waited outside the bedchamber for proof. No wonder couples are afraid to offend Grandma with the garter toss.
8. THE TRADITION OF NOT SEEING THE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY AND THE VEIL
Once again history shows the level of paranoia because the veil was originally thought to protect the bride from evil, jealous spirits and to also preserve her modesty. Later the tradition of not seeing the bride in her dress on the wedding day until the ceremony was due to fathers trying to trick the groom into marrying their daughters who were, well you could say beautiful on the inside, as opposed to the outside. This was also used in arranged marriages where the idea was to hide the identity of the bride until the unveiling at the ceremony. (This is another reason I love the First Look photo sessions, let’s start a new tradition where the first look is a celebration of all you’ve gone through to get to this point and then the moment he sees you walking down the aisle is still about the upcoming moment where you become his wife!)
9. THE HONEYMOON
These days couples NEED that honeymoon to decompress after months and months of wedding planning and stress. But originally it was literally an escape. Remember the Best Man kidnapping adventure? Well, the honeymoon served as a way for the groom to hide the bride for about a month so her tribe didn’t know where to find her.
10. THE WEDDING RINGS
Yay! A tradition that doesn’t have to do with evil spirits. The brides ring historically symbolized ownership and in Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures they used rings as collateral to pay the father of the bride. This evolved with the woman’s rights movement and brides now exchange rings with their grooms. The reason we wear the ring on the 4th left finger is that it was believed that there was a vein that ran from that finger to the heart, however, this myth has since been debunked.