Brides have always worn white, right? Not so. In ancient times brides wore bright colored wedding dresses to signify their joy. White for western brides didn’t become fashionable until Queen Victoria wore it at her wedding to signify her status. White dresses never did signify purity until the Christian churches put that label on them. So feel free to add a little color to your wedding outfit.
Wedding bands made of hemp or braided grass were the earliest rings. They eventually fell out of favor, replaced by durable metals until about the 15th century when diamonds came upon the scene, to signify a valuable strong commitment, a tradition which most modern couples choose to keep.
When grooms would “capture” their brides and or were afraid of evil spirits they would cover the woman’s head to keep her from being recognized.
Bridesmaids’ dresses are all identical. Where did this practice originate? Long ago the brides friends wore the same exact outfit as the bride to confuse the evil spirits who wanted to destroy her happiness. It also helped to prevent the bride from being kidnapped by a rival suitor.
The receiving line developed from the ancient belief, that on their wedding day, the bride and groom brought good luck to everyone they touched. Modern couples often pass on this and prefer to “make the rounds” greeting their guests during the wedding dinner.
In ancient Rome a marriage was not legal until the couple kissed. The kiss was considered a legal bond necessary to seal all contracts. This is thought to be the origin of the present day custom of banging a spoon against a glass until the newlyweds kiss.
Will you have your dad walk you down the aisle? Do you know where this custom originated? Long ago, a woman was considered her father’s property until she married, and their she was her husband’s property. At the wedding the Dad would literally “give her away,” transferring ownership to the husband. Now brides often have their fathers or both parents accompany them, and have the officiant ask “Who supports this couple in marriage?” The parents answer “We do.”
There is no need to explain what the honeymoon is. But do you know where the term originated? In ancient Ireland, when a couple married, the parents would make sure they had a supply of a drink made from fermented honey called mead, that would last for a full cycle of the moon. It was believed they would be blessed with a son within a year.
Back when a bride could be forced by a captor to marry, the groom would have to carry her against her will into her new home. The Romans thought that it was bad luck, for a bride to trip over the threshold so to prevent that, the groom carried her.
During the Middle Ages the length of a bride’s train indicated her rank in court. The longer her train the closer she was to the King and Queen and the greater her influence with them.
During the 18th and 19th centuries gloves were the traditional wedding favor for guests.
Here are a few more unusual traditions from around the world. The Greek bride tucks a sugar cube in her glove to “sweeten the union.” According to Hindu beliefs rain on your wedding day is good luck.; Some western cultures believe rain is unlucky.
In Holland it is traditional to plant a tree outside the newlyweds home as a symbol of fertility. Finnish brides traditionally carried a pillowcase door to door, collecting gifts. An older married man went with her, symbolizing a long marriage.
Korean brides wear red and yellow outfits for their weddings. Danish brides and grooms used to confound the evil spirits by cross-dressing. Egyptian parents traditionally do all the cooking for a week, so that the couple can relax.
In many cultures including Hindu, Egyptian and Celtic, the hand of a bride and groom are tied together as a symbol of their new bond and commitment to the marriage. This is the origin of the expression “Tying then knot”.
In Roman mythology the god Juno rules over childbirth, marriage and the hearth. This is believed to be the reason for the popularity of June weddings.
African-American weddings often hold to the tradition of “jumping the broom”. Slaves in the United States were not allowed to marry, so they would exhibit their love by jumping over a broom to the beat of drums. It now is symbol of the couple’s intention to set up a home together.
Japanese couples become man and wife when they take the first of nine sips of sake. In Irish tradition once the bride and groom were in the church, the guests would lock the doors to make sure the groom couldn’t back out. It was also important that a male not a female be the first to wish joy to the newly married bride.
There is an old English rhyme that brides have been obeying for years. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The actual rhyme also included this line “and a sixpence in your shoe”. Relatives usually offer the something old, like great grandmother’s antique cameo, or your mom’s gown. These items provide continuity from generation to generation.
The “new” symbolizes home for the future and can include your gown or veil , a strand of pearls, bouquet of silk flowers, or a new coin to tuck in your shoe. The choices here are endless.
Borrowed happiness is symbolized by the something borrowed. It should be something that brought happiness to the owner. Some possibilities are your mother in law’s ruby brooch, your dad’s silk handkerchief, or your parents’ wedding song.
The blue something symbolizes fidelity, love and good fortune. Often, there is a blue ribbon on the garter. Other ideas are blue flowers, delphiniums, or irises in your bouquet, sapphire earrings and necklace, or even your lingerie.
You may want to consider incorporating some of these ideas into your wedding plans. There are books and magazines that you can search for traditions from your own ethnic or religious traditions. Perhaps you like something you’ve heard about from another culture that you can adapt for your wedding. If you will have children at your reception you might want to borrow the Puerto Rican idea of pinatas, even the adults might enjoy that one.
By: Martin Smith