Wedding Traditions and Origins
Around the world there are so many wedding traditions, in the UK the typical ones include “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”, throwing the bouquet, and of course the dislplay and cutting of the wedding cake. But have you ever wondered where these traditions originated?
In this blog, we take a look at some of these traditions and how they came about.
Tie The Knot
A custom from Roman times – the bride and groom’s hands would be tied together during the ceremony, only releasing them when the marriage was official. This tradition is still common in various cultures and is called “handfasting”.
A ring represents eternity, with no beginning or end. Ancient history shows women wearing papyrus rings around their wrists and ankles; with the Romans this changed to iron, which eventually changed to gold and became the first wedding rings.
Wearing a wedding ring on the fourth finger stems from the Egyptian belief that this finger contains a vein that is connected straight to the heart. How lovely!
A Wedding Veil
The wedding veil originates from arranged marriages where the groom was forbidden from seeing his bride until the wedding itself. The veil was a way to conceal the bride up until the very last moment so the groom couldn’t decide not to proceed with the marriage.
Did you know that blue is actually the true colour symbol of purity and fidelity, not white? This dates back to early Christianity and the Virgin Mary and her blue gown. But blue wedding dresses aren’t quite so popular, hence the little something to represent.
Rice is known as a sign of prosperity and fertility, so showering the bride and groom with it is seen as offering them good fortune.
In more modern weddings, we now often see rice replaced with petals, bubbles and waving of sparklers.
The tradition of bridesmaids actually started as protection for the bride. In Ancient Rome, bridesmaids wore the same dresses to confuse evil spirits and stop them from finding the bride, and therefore there would be no evil curse on the wedding day.
Rather alarmingly, the tradition of groomsmen originates from the ancient tradition of kidnapping the bride! The groom’s friends had to fight off warriors and stop the bride’s family from finding the couple. The groom’s main warrior friend would be the equivalent of the best man.
Page Boy / Ring Bearer
During Victorian times, a page boy would carry the bride’s train and a prayer book down the aisle. Rings were also placed on small pillows as a display of wealth – pillows were a luxury item only afforded by the wealthy.
Naturally, this tradition developed into the page boy carrying the rings on a pillow.
There seems to be many explanations for the bridal bouquet tradition, but it’s commonly suggested that the first bridal bouquets were made up of herbs and garlic to drive away evil spirits. I’ve also read that the bouquet was to mask people’s odor in the 15th century at the time of “annual baths”.
Throwing the Bouquet
Previously, the bride would actually through her garter to the men rather than the bouquet to the ladies as we know now. The groom would then have to save his wife from the burly crowd, which inevitably caused chaos. In a move to something supposedly less rowdy (we all know a few ladies who will tackle for the bouquet right?!), this tradition changed to the tossing of the bouquet, leaving throwing the garter to the groom!
The Wedding Cake
According to history, cakes represent fertility and so Ancient Romans would bake wheat cakes and break over the bride’s head. They would then stack as many loaves as they could, as tall as they could, and the bride and groom would be challenged to kiss over the tower without knocking it over. If they were successful, they would be blessed with a lifetime of good fortune.
Cans Tied To A Car Bumper
This isn’t one I’ve seen done for a long time, and again there are many reported origins, but one source comes from the English Tudor period. Wedding guests would throw shoes at the newlyweds’ as they left the ceremony. Each shoe that hit the carriage was a token of good luck for the couple – sounds awful to me!
Today, shoes have been replaced with cans tied to the bumper because a) who wants to throw their shoe? and b) throwing anything at a passing car is barbaric and grounds for trouble!
Ah the honeymoon! This tradition dates back to the 5th century when the calendar was represented by moon cycles. Once married, the newlyweds would drink mead made with honey during the first moon of their marriage, hence the term honey-moon.
What traditions will you be having, or did you have at your wedding?
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