The History of Wedding Traditions

Ever wonder why or how something came to be a tradition? The origins and meaning behind some of our most cherished wedding traditions may surprise you.  Here are some ancient traditions you may find fun to learn about and that you may want to incorporate into your wedding.

In the old days, wedding dresses were not white. That is until Queen Victoria wore white on her wedding day in 1840. Since then Western brides have worn white as a sign of wealth and virtue.

Having your bridesmaids in matching dresses is a sign of good luck. This tradition dates back to the Roman times when it was believed that evil spirits would attend the wedding to curse the bride and groom. Bridesmaids were required to dress just like the bride in order to confuse the spirits and bring luck to the marriage.

Brides use to wear veils because the ancient Greeks and Romans believed it would protect her from evil spirits. In Victorian times, the veil length was a status symbol. The royals would always have the longest veils and the longest trains. Today, the veil has become more of a finishing touch to a wedding day look. Veils are no longer used to ward off evil or as a symbol of status.

You may wonder why June is one of the most popular months to get married. Well that is because of the Roman Goddess Juno, who rules over marriage and childbirth. Thus making June a lucky month to get married.

In many cultures around the world- including Celtic, Hindu and Egyptian weddings; the hands of the bride and groom are literally tied together.  This is done to demonstrate the couple’s commitment to each other and their new bond. This is also where the phrase, “tying the knot” comes from.

There is a reason your engagement and wedding rings are worn on your “ring finger.” It was once thought that the fourth finger on your left hand contained a vein that led directly to the heart. From then on, wedding rings have been worn on that finger.

The tradition of a bride wearing, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” comes from an Old English rhyme. Something old, represents continuity. Something new, is for optimism for the future. Something borrowed, symbolizes borrowing happiness. Something blue is for purity, love and fidelity.

The tradition of the wedding cake comes from ancient Rome. During a wedding, guests broke a loaf of bread over the couple’s head to symbolize fertility.

The tradition of the honeymoon was not always a fun trip for the newlyweds. Ancient Norse couples would go into hiding after the wedding for 30 days. A family member would bring them honey wine every day for 30 days or one moon cycle. This is how the term, “honeymoon” originated.

Brides use to carry herbs most commonly garlic, dill and rosemary as they walked down the isle.  It was a way to ward off evil spirits. This tradition originated during the Plague, when people clutched the herbs close to the nose to survive. It was thought that these herbs had protective powers from the plague (or evil). The herbs were used in the marriage ceremony to mark renewal and protection. Today, those herbs have been exchanged for more elaborate floral bouquets.

Giving the bride away is a tradition that comes from the days of arranged marriages. Marriage used to be a business transaction between the father of the bride and the groom because daughters used to be considered property. Giving her away to the groom finalized the deal. Today, giving away his daughter is a symbol of the father’s blessing of the marriage.

Tossing the bouquet, originated in England. Women used to rip off pieces of the bride’s dress and flowers in order to obtain some of her good luck. To escape from the crowd, the bride would toss her bouquet and run away. Today, the bouquet is tossed to single women with the belief that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.

These are just some of the many wedding traditions. Hopefully this will help you understand why certain traditions are a part of weddings and bring some clarity on which traditions you want to have as part of your big day. Happy wedding planning!