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Top 10 Wedding Traditions and Their Origins

Wedding traditions have been in vogue for as far back as we have record. They’re often considered a way to connect with our ancestors, as well as carry on important symbols and gestures that will hopefully bring good luck to the newly married couple. Here’s our list of the top 10 traditions and where they come from.

 

 

1. Where did “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” come from?

 

 

While certainly a tradition most are familiar with, this old saying is rooted in a rhyme found in Old English.  Each item is intended to bring good luck to the bride at her wedding. Here’s what each item means:

  • -“Something old” symbolizes the groom and bride’s old life.

-“Something new” symbolizes their future.

-“Something borrowed” is actually supposed to be an item the bride receives from a happily married person (friend, relative, acquaintance). The goal is that the item will rub off good marital fortune on the new couple.

-“Something blue”— the color blue, lastly, is symbolic of love and fidelity.

Photo by Ashley & Justin Photography

2. Why do brides carry a bridal bouquet?

This tradition (like many wedding traditions) roots back to Rome and Greece when the bride would carry a bouquet of herbs to ward of evil spirits. The popular floral bouquets we know today became the tradition following Queen Victoria’s snowdrop arrangement she carried down the isle in her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. The snowdrop was his favorite flower and ever since, brides have followed suit. Need some ideas on florals?

Photo courtesy of Ashley & Justin Photography

3. Why do brides wear white dresses?

Once again, this tradition kicked off with Queen Victoria. While she wasn’t the first to wear a white wedding dress, she certainly was the one to make it fashionable. Before that, brides often just wore their best dress. The white itself symbolizes purity and chastity and traces back much further, including Rome where a bride would wear a white tunic marking a transition from a single woman to a married matron.

 

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4. Why do brides wear a wedding veil?

This tradition dates back to Ancient Rome when brides would veil their faces to hide themselves from any evil spirits that might ruin their wedding day. Evil spirits were a notable concern back in the day, so a pungent herb bouquet and a veil were ways to keep unwanted, otherworldly guests away.

5. Why do brides wear a ring on their “ring finger”?

 

Before we knew what the heart was actually for, it was believed by Ancient Egyptians, Romans and a number of other cultures to be the organ that produced feelings of love and sentiment. Therefore the ring finger, which had a vein connecting to the heart, was considered the “vein of love” and a fitting place to put a wedding ring.

 

6. Why do women wear wearing rings?  And did men always wear them?

 

Ring exchanges date back as far as the Ancient Egyptians.  Like we reference today, the rings signify unity and timelessness.  However marriages used to be less romantic in that regard as most unions were intended to proclaim ownership of the husband and usually joining of houses and land.  Even the engagement ring, believed to transpire first in Rome, was meant to declare the intent of possession.  Nowadays the meaning of rings is widely a symbol of love and mutual commitment to one another.

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While women have been wearing rings for thousands of years, it was not very common for men to wear them until the first World War.  The men brought rings as a way of remembering their wife back home.  The tradition became even more popular following World War II.

 

7. Why do fathers give the bride away?

 

Probably the one with the least flattering origin.  In days of yore, daughters were more of a, shall we say, commodity.  So giving the bride away was a transfer of ownership of "property", an antiquated notion that was part of the dowry exchange.  Luckily that's a not what it means today.  Today the tradition of 'giving away' has evolved into a much deeper sentiment of father letting his daughter go for her to become part of a new relationship-- one from which he (and her mother) are more removed.

 

 

8. Why do they call it "tying the knot"?

 

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This tradition is widely attributed to Celtic and Hindu traditions which would involve literally tying the bride and groom's hands together in a ceremony referred to often as "hast melap" or the joining of hands.  This involved a cloth that would wrap around the hands and wrists to join the couple and initiate their union, finished with a knot at the end.

 

9.  When did bachelor parties become a thing?

 

These parties began in the 5th century with the Spartans throwing one last shindig for their mate as a free man.  This involved a feast and a toast for the groom.  The Vegas style shenanigans as we know them today gained in popularity in the 50's and 60's, which shortly after gave way to Bachelorette parties in the same vein.

10. Why do we have a wedding cake?

 

One more tradition dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome-- the groom would break bread over the wife's head, a symbol that her virginity was at an end and bless her with fertility.  It became even more popular in the Middle Ages when the couple would have to kiss over stacks of cake without toppling them over.

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Photo by Shutterfreek

Traditions have changed and varied over time, some with more staying power than others, but overall we love keeping the fun and commitment ties alive-- sharing them with those attending our wedding as well as these before us.

 

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