Wedding Traditions and Where They Come From

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Ever heard of the bride’s pie?  The probable answer is no.  We spend so much time planning our wedding.  We make sure we have all the bits and bobs we need to play out the list of set pieces that make up our wedding traditions. We choose the right time and compare our plans to the way others have completed these wedding traditions.  Have you ever thought about the origin of these wedding habits? Why are they still standing after hundreds if not thousands of years while others have faded away?

Why Are the Months of May and June Popular Wedding Dates?

Who doesn’t love the fresh blast of spring, when winter has lost its grip on the world around us? But why is it the ideal wedding season? Is it because it’s a time of rebirth and transformation, and a perfect symbol for the new life the happy family is about to start? We all know the romanticized side of weddings, but some of these traditions were actually born for very practical reasons.

Every bride wants to look perfect on her wedding day. Our ancestors are no exception.  Before hygiene practices became part of our daily routine, people used to take one bath a year, in May.  This meant that in May and June, people were freshly clean, and body odor hadn’t built up yet.

The Bouquets and Buttonholes

We spend hours selecting the perfect flowers for our big day. We use them as an expression of our own personality and create the perfect theme for our special day. The habit of carrying a bouquet is not from the traditional wedding ceremony.  Bouquets were, in fact, everyday accessories for the European nobility.  They were meant to mask the unpleasant body odor and other smells.  So, flowers had practical uses, and at the same time, they were a symbol of wealth.  Their popularity grew in time, and they even formed a language of their own that has endured until the present day. And at some point, bouquets and buttonholes were adopted by the common people as well, for the same reasons.

Why Do We Toss the Bouquet?

Now that you know why brides carry a bouquet, let’s find out why they toss them. Back in the days, getting married was considered a stroke of luck. The bride was seen as blessed, so touching any part of her meant you would be lucky too. If you walked away with something that used to be hers, that luck would follow you.

But there was the danger of people taking this too literally. So, to avoid any harm on the dress or even the bride herself, people came up with the tossing of the bouquet. It became the bride’s way of sharing her blessings with the guests. It later evolved into a way of predicting who was the next to get married. Of course, most of us agree there’s no guarantee the prediction will come true. But it’s still a lovely souvenir of the day.

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The White Wedding Dress

The white dress has started to lose its popularity in the past few years. Brides sometimes add touches of different colors or even give up white altogether. This may not be the end of an era but is definitely a significant change in wedding traditions.

The white dress only gained popularity after 1840. That’s when Queen Victoria chose white as the color of her wedding dress. It was a bold and even scandalous move for that time, a royal figure breaking away from tradition. White had been the symbol for mourning, not purity, as we now believe. Up to that point, red had been the symbol of romance, as it remains to this day, actually.

The Wedding Party

If you think the idea of carrying a bouquet to hide body odor is sketchy, the reason they had the best man will shock you.  Brides were often kidnapped on their wedding day.  The best man and groomsmen were the best swordsmen of the village sworn to protect the bride.

The origin of the bridesmaids is a bit cloudy. It seems the tradition was to dress them exactly like the bride to hide her identity, preventing her from being kidnapped. Another theory is that it was a way to hide her from evil spirits who wished to bestow unhappiness on the day and the future of the new couple.

Today, however, we assign these roles to the people we are closest to, making them an important part of our special day.

Wrapping the Bride In Purity

Nowadays, an accessory used to complete the bride’s outfit, a veil was a symbol of purity. Wrapping her like that was meant to show she was pure and innocent and a gift to her husband.  But a more practical reason appeared in the times of arranged marriages.  Marrying for love is a relatively new concept.  Arranged marriages were far more common, and often the bride and groom never saw each other before the wedding day.  Fearing the bride may not be attractive enough for the groom, her face was only revealed to him after they exchanged wedding vows.

Giving Away the Bride

The father walks his daughter down the aisle handing her to her new husband.  Now a loving gesture to show that the bride’s parents bless the union, the origins of this tradition are less than sweet. The word ‘wed’ meant to pledge, and ‘wedding’ was connected to endowment.

Marriages were often arranged to the mutual benefit of both families. The bride’s family offered dowry, or both families increased their wealth by the union. Sometimes the goal of the marriage was to stop feuds. In any case, this agreement was a contract. And placing the bride’s hand in the groom’s was a symbol. It meant the ownership went from the father to the husband. The bride then took her place to the left of the groom, so he could keep his right hand free for the sword, to keep kidnappers away. So, the romance wasn’t exactly a priority.

The Evolution of the Wedding Cake

The wedding cake is a symbol that has evolved in time.  It started with the Romans who broke bread over the bride’s head.  The bread was made from wheat and barley, and breaking it over the bride’s head was a tradition meant to bestow fertility on the couple.

Later on, a special bread was made for the groom. He would eat half of it breaking it into crumbs over his bride’s head to symbolize fertility. The crumbs were then given to the guests, sharing the blessings and the good fortune with them.

The wedding bread evolved into the bride’s pie.  A sweet or savory pie was embedded in a glass ring, and the lady who found the ring would be the next to get married.  It later changed into a stack of buns, and it was considered a sign of good fortune if the couple were able to kiss over them.

Sugar was a sign of wealth, so the buns, bread, and bride’s pie eventually turned into the traditional wedding cake. The layers are reminiscent of the buns. The white wedding cake represents the bride’s purity and traditionally she would cut it, and give it to the guests herself. The crumbs were passed through her ring and the recipient would place it under their pillow so they would dream of the person they would marry. That lead to cakes being offered as party gifts so each guest could take away a part of the wedding.

Cakes joined flowers as a symbol of wealth and as such became larger.  The groom helped the bride and cut the ever-growing cakes.  The sharing of the first piece between bride and groom is a symbolic representation of the couple and their pledge to provide for each other.

The wedding cake was part of the new family, which included the future children of the happy couple. The top of the cake would be kept and used in the Christening, usually within a year of marriage. The tradition of freezing the top of the cake to keep it for the Christening has faded in time as the date of the wedding and Christening grew further and further apart. Couples still freeze it, but they eat it on the first wedding anniversary, as a reminder of the happy day.

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The First Dance

The first dance used to open the party, halfway through the ceremony, once all the other protocols had been completed. It was then as it is now, a symbol of the couple coming together for a new and happy life.

The wedding ceremony is said to have derived from the queen’s coronation ceremony.  It followed the tradition where kings and queens opened balls through the Walz.  Brides and Grooms would open the wedding party by having the first dance together, and the daddy-daughter dance was pushed further back.

The Daddy Daughter Dance

The daddy-daughter dance used to take place before the bride and groom had their first dance. It was the father’s farewell to his daughter and a symbol of giving the bride away to her husband.  The bride and groom would then embark on their first dance. The symbolism of the father-daughter dance still holds. It is now paired with the mother-son dance, and they take place after the bride and groom’s first dance.

Tossing the Bouquet and the Garter

These are part of the tradition of sharing the bride’s blessing by touching or getting a piece of her even if it meant ripping her dress to shreds. To save the dress and the bride, the throwing of the bouquet and the garter were introduced. Guests knew they would be able to catch things belonging to the bride, so that took away the temptation of ripping the bride’s dress.

The Origin of the Honeymoon

Ever wonder why we call it a honeymoon? A strange choice of words for us today, honey and moon. The honey comes from mead made from honey.  The father of the bride gifted the groom all the mead he required for one month, starting from a full moon and continuing to the next full moon, after the wedding.  This period was called the honeymoon, and the term has passed the test of time.

The Long-Forgotten Tradition of the Throwing of the Coins

It’s a sweet gesture that has long been forgotten. Once the wedding ceremony was over, the couple left the church to get into the car, and the groom used to throw all his coins from his purse into the gathering crowds.  This was a symbol that the groom’s bachelor days were over.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In What Order Should These Traditional Events Take Place?

Times are changing, so you can embark on any of these traditions when you want to or do away with the ones you do not want to follow. 

Traditionally the bride and groom enter the venue followed by toasts and speeches.  Dinner or the meal is served.  After the meal is finished, the bride and groom have their first dance, followed by the daddy-daughter and the mother-son dance.  The cutting of the cake and the throwing of the bouquet and garter happen later on during the party.  Nowadays many couples only opt for their dance and the cutting of the cake.

Options for Brides In The Midst Of The Covid-19 Pandemic

We cannot put our lives on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Lives and weddings need to continue.  Innovative wedding dress designers are creating beautiful masks that blend with wedding dresses.  Available in an array of colors, they will keep your bridesmaids safe as well.

Why Are Wedding Bells Used as Symbols In Weddings?

Church bells were used to announce that an event had occurred and to ward off evil spirits that intended to destroy a couple’s happiness.  Bells that were rung before and after the ceremony are now surviving as part of wedding decorations or gifts.

Wedding Traditions Will Evolve

Love them or hate them, wedding traditions will be a part of the human experience.  Wedding habits continue to evolve and grow as time passes, and our ideas about love and life change.  This is not about forgetting our past but rather adapting for the future and giving each of us the freedom to be creative.

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