It’s a day that celebrates love and commitment, but do you know the true meaning behind all of the traditions?
You may have heard that these customs originated from ancient rites or superstitions. And while some of them might, many others developed more recently in history. Here we explore some wedding traditions and their origins…
The Bride wears white
This tradition is most likely traced back to Queen Victoria who wore a white dress when she married Prince Albert in 1840. Before this, bright colours were worn because white was an expensive choice.
White is believed to show purity and innocence and is still a popular choice for bridal gowns today.
The wedding veil
The wedding veil has some interesting reasons: One, to help the bride to be ward off evil spirits ( a common theme!) and another suggests, the bride’s father used the veil to hide his, (what’s a polite way of saying ugly?) “less pretty” daughter behind, tricking the groom into marrying her. Outrageous.
The Bride stands to the left of the Groom
This custom likely started because it was easier to shield the Queen with her own body if someone tried to attack her while she was standing on the right side of her husband-to-be.
It allowed the groom’s right hand to be free to grab his sword and protect his bride if necessary.
The throwing of confetti
This tradition originated in the Victorian era when rice was thrown at couples as they left the church.
The idea was that the rice would bring good luck and fertility to the couple. A flamboyant way of saying ‘I wish you and your family all the best and I hope you make lots of babies!’ These days we throw confetti as a symbol of joy and good luck.
The couple drinks champagne
Traditionally, a toast was drunk to honour the dead – any alcohol left in the glass after drinking was poured over the grave. Of course, champagne was (and still is) a social status drink and so drinking it at a wedding celebration was a way to show off.
The cutting of the cake
Couples used to smash the top tier of their cake together and eat it. They believed that if they shared a piece of this special cake then they would stay faithful to one another all year long.
The cake is sliced to symbolise the couple’s first task – bringing good fortune into their new married life. In other reports, the wedding cake was smashed over the bride’s head to ensure her fertility. Crazy!
The bride holds a bouquet!
One theory is that this originated in the medieval era when a bride would throw her bouquet over her shoulder to distract any evil spirits that might be following her.
Another belief is that the bride would hold the bridal bouquet to mask her smell as bathing was not as popular back then. Sometimes the bouquet was made of herbs or spices to act as an air freshener! The bouquet toss is seen today and has single women believe that they will be next to marry. Before this, the wedding guests would try to rip items off the bride as this was believed to be lucky (not for the bride!).
The father walking his daughter down the aisle
This represented the ‘transferring of ownership’ from her father’s household to her husband’s. Young women were seen as collateral in a marriage negotiation – the bride’s father would trade them off to the highest bidder in order to gain something in return, such as money or land. Arranged marriage was common back then.
The exchanging of rings
The exchanging of wedding rings is thought to date back to the ancient Egyptians who believed that the circle represented eternity.
A wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was once believed that there was a vein in that finger that ran directly to the heart.
Tying the knot
The phrase ‘tying the knot’ comes from a Celtic marriage ritual in which a man and woman would entwine their hands with either rope or cloth during the ceremony. This ritual signified that they were united and could not be separated.
The bride and groom kiss
Kissing at weddings is a more recent tradition that started in the early 20th century. It was seen as a way to show public affection between the couple and cement their relationship in front of all their guests. In Rome, kissing was a legal part of the wedding ceremony and was seen as a bond that could not be broken!
The Best Man
Would be runaway brides were always a concern so a best man was deployed to make sure she got to the church on time! Sometimes, if the father of the bride didn’t agree with the marriage, the best man was there to kidnap(!) the bride on the wedding day.
Today, the best man’s job is far less dramatic although the speeches often prove to be more entertaining!
Wedding traditions have been around for centuries and are an interesting mix of old traditions mixed with modern practices. As you’ll have seen, a lot of the wedding traditions were based on evil spirits and avoiding bad luck! Weddings today are far more relaxed and the traditions have changed to suit our modern times.
Whatever tradition you would bring to your wedding, be sure to have fun with it and make it your own. A happy marriage should not be reliant on bizarre wedding traditions but instead, is built on love!