Wedding traditions and their origins

Bride on swing

Steve Armishaw Photography

Weddings all over the world are saturated with age old traditions and myths, many of which we still adhere to today without understanding the originations. Good, bad or just plain crazy, let’s explore how these rituals came to be.

 

The White Dress

Before 1840 (when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert), the majority of brides would wear the most expensive dress they owned on their wedding day. Victoria chose to break this tradition and instead wear white as it was the colour of her favourite lace. This then spawned the tradition we are most familiar with now; wearing white as a symbol of wealth and purity. However, in recent years we’re seeing more and more women break away from these colour crosslinks and wear whichever shade of white they simply feel like, regardless of their sexual history or financial backgrounds.

 

The Tiered Wedding Cake

In medieval times it was tradition for guests to bring small cakes to place in front of the bride and groom and for the newlyweds to then try and kiss over the pile to guarantee a happy marriage. The traditional tiered wedding cake as we now know it came into play at the wedding of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, in 1882 following and placing pillars between each of the tiers began to appear around 20 years later, being originally made from chopped broomsticks covered in icing.

 

Being Given Away

As with many wedding day customs, the bride being walked down the aisle by her father was born from the ancient Romans. In these days, marriages were arranged and women were quite literally passed to their new ‘owner’ by her father, often in exchange for a price or dowry. This practice has long died out, however the wedding day tradition carries on and now brings with it positive, loving connotations.

 

Throwing The Bouquet

The throwing of the wedding bouquet stems from a French 14th century tradition in which guests would rip the bride’s dress to shreds and keeping a scrap for good luck. This then  morphed into the groom throwing the bride’s garter into the crowd to keep the bride’s dress in one piece, before the bouquet was established as a more civilised alternative.

The First Dance

This tradition comes from formal balls in which the guests of honour would initiate the night’s dancing by taking the floor first. The first dance was always moulded to the taste or custom of the guests of honour of of the country the ball was being held in, and the custom hasn’t much changed in present day weddings where the newlyweds commence a boogie of their choice to a tune of their choosing!

 

Having Bridesmaids

Nowadays, your bridesmaids are your right hand women for helping you with your wedding planning, keeping your old uncle Pete under a watchful eye and touching up your makeup. However, the tradition of bridesmaids comes again from Roman times, where you would choose ten witnesses who would dress in the same dress as you to act as decoys to evil spirits who might want to harm the bride as well as to rejected suitors who might want to kidnap her on her way to the big day. No pressure, ladies!

 

Love them or hate them, wedding traditions are an integral part of the big day and should be respected and enjoyed to some degree. Learn about them and admire them, but don’t feel the need to comply with them. Modern day weddings are taking on fabulous new forms, so if you want to take your wedding bouquet home with you, do just that!

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