Five Wedding Traditions and Where They Came From
You know the traditions, but do you know where they originated? Sometimes, for me, wedding traditions feel automatic. I craft so many timelines that it can become the routine of… this is when this happens and this is when this happens, but I also want to make sure that every wedding is unique and client specific. So instead of blindly assuming, I always try to be conscious about asking the question. Are you doing a bouquet toss? Are you wanting to cut the cake? Are you doing a first look? If a couple wants my opinion, I will gladly give guidance on pros and cons, while also maintaining the importance of ultimately it being your decision because this is your special day.
Some of these wedding traditions are still widely followed today and some are becoming outdated (not a bad thing), but do you actually know the history of why they became a tradition in the first place? That is what I want to explore with you today! Come along with me on this fun history lesson and hopefully it will either solidify that a certain wedding tradition is for sure something you want to include or give you peace that it is the right decision to skip it.
1. Wedding Cake – We all love dessert, or at least I do, but why is cake the traditional dessert that is served at weddings? Back when food wasn’t purchased at a store or delivered by Uber Eats, “cake” represented fertility & good fortune Ancient Romans would bake wheat cakes and break them over the bride’s head for good luck. Soon it then became customary to stack these wheat cakes one on top of the another, as tall as they could go. The bride and groom were challenged to kiss over the tower without knocking it over. If successful, they’d enjoy a lifetime of good fortune as a couple. The more modern version of this is within the “cake cutting ceremony” where the bride & groom cut the bottom tier of the wedding cake to symbolize the longevity of the relationship. The groom puts his hand over the bride’s hand to cut the cake because it symbolizes his support and promise to take care of her. And the feeding of the cake to each other brings it back to that fertility and good fortune origin – solidifying that good luck by being the first ones to indulge in the sweet cake!!
2. Something Blue – Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I feel like we all know this saying by now, but do you know what it means? The old, the new, and the borrowed always made sense to me… celebrating the bride’s past with something old, her present & future with something new, and something borrowed (typically from a family member) to represent good fortune… but why something blue? Well, apparently, although it is widely believed that the color white represents purity, it is actually the color blue that is the true symbol of purity as well as fidelity. The symbolism of the color blue dates back to early Christianity, when the color was associated with the Virgin Mary, who is often depicted wearing a blue robe.
3. Tossing of the Garter – This one is interesting to me and actually something that I didn’t know before writing this blog. Back in the Dark Ages, the garter was considered a hot item. It's said that family and friends would wait outside the newlywed’s bedroom until they were shown evidence—sheets, stockings, a garter—that the marriage had been consummated (Seriously! Like, who does that?!). In time, the garter came to symbolize good luck, and rowdy guests began making a game of trying to strip the bride of that little fabric band that was traditionally placed around her thigh. To distract the mob, brides began tossing it into the crowd. Today, the practice usually involves the groom throwing the garter to a group of single men and whoever catches it is believed to be the next to marry.
4. Wearing a Veil – The internet has some contradictory claims with this tradition, but everyone agrees it dates back to ancient Roman times (doesn’t it always?). The first thought is that Romans would fear evil spirits being jealous of the bride’s happiness, so she would wear a veil down the aisle to disguise herself from them and avoid any ill will they wished to bring upon her. Other claims say this wedding tradition dates back to the origin of arranged marriages. When traditionally, the groom’s family would not allow him to see his bride until the wedding. This is because if he didn’t like her looks, there was a chance that he might not agree to marry her. Therefore, the veil was used to conceal the bride’s appearance up until the very moment in which they were to be married.
For my wedding, I wore my veil off the back (not over my face at any time) and had the bridal shop sew some lace from my Nana’s wedding dress around the edges. She had already passed when my husband and I got married, but she was one of my favorite people and I loved looking at the photos of her in her wedding dress, so it felt like the perfect way to include a piece of her (and my Papa) with me on my wedding day.
5. Flower Girls – I’m sure many of us were flower girls once. I know I was a couple of times, but what do they actually symbolize? The tradition of a flower girl stems from an Ancient Roman tradition where young virgins would carry sheaths of wheat, which was believed to bring on well-being and good fortune to the newlyweds. Over time the sheaths of wheat have been replaced with flowers that are scattered along the path that leads up to the altar. The flower girl is said to walk right before the bride to ensure that she is (theoretically) the first one to walk on those pedals, soaking up all the good fortune for her and her new spouse.
So, what do a lot of these traditions say to me? That in Ancient times everyone was extremely superstitious!! So much talk about good fortune and fertility. Did you know any of these origins before reading this article? Does it change your mind about having, or not having, any of these traditions be included in your wedding day?
It is important to me that each detail of such a special day and milestone is crafted with intention and purpose. Don’t go through this process alone! Be sure to head over to my services page to see exactly how I can help incorporate some of these traditions or help you bring new traditions into your wedding day. Then click down to the bottom of the page to fill out a contract form and let’s get to chatting!
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