Wedding Traditions

Some of our most cherished wedding traditions are so ancient that few of us know how they originated. The bachelor party, the garter, the bridal bouquet, the best man, each of these wedding customs has a rich history.

Keep reading to learn more about wedding traditions.

Origins of Wedding Customs

Many modern wedding traditions and customs have interesting historical roots reaching back to early times. Here”s how some of the most popular and well-known wedding traditions got started:

  • The Bachelor Party: The classic “stag party” came to being in fifth century Sparta, when military comrades took to toasting each other on the eve of the wedding. Today, it has evolved into a groom”s final night of freedom. The tradition is an evening of revelry that often includes drinking and going to strip clubs.
  • The Bridal Gown: As recently as the 18th century, most brides wore simple robes when they went down the aisle. This was to signify to the groom that she had nothingincluding no debtthat might burden him. It was Britain”s Queen Victoria who set a new trend by wearing a pure white gown to her wedding in 1840.
  • The Engagement Ring: This custom is a delightful remnant of the “marriage by purchase” era. The groom originally offered the engagement ring as a partial payment for the bride. It was (and still is) a measure of the groom”s commitment. The diamond became the gem of choice because a diamond”s hardness is representative of enduring love.
  • The Honeymoon: According to northern European tradition, a special wedding wine was made from mead and honey. The newlywed couple drank this sweet concoction for a month after marriage. In those days, a month was measured by one complete cycle of the moon, hence the term “honeymoon.”
  • The Wedding Cake: In Roman times, loaves of wheat bread were broken over the bride”s head as part of a blessing for long life and many children. In medieval England, wedding guests brought small cakes, which were offered as gifts. These cakes were piled as high as possible. If the bride and groom could kiss each other over the pile of cakes, they would be granted a life of prosperity. In time, those piles of small cakes evolved into the tiered, iced wedding cake.
  • The Wedding Party: A long time ago, groups of men used to raid neighboring villages and kidnap women. These women would then be forced to marry their captors.Today”s best man and ushers are symbolic of what was, in days of yore, a veritable army of raiders.Bridesmaids were once charged with the task of decorating the wedding feast while the maid of honor was responsible for tending to all the bride”s needs in the hectic moments just prior to the wedding.
  • Wedding Flowers: In ancient times, women garbed themselves in garlic, herbs and grains to drive away evil spirits that might interfere with the wedding celebration. These items evolved into flowers, symbols of fertility and love.Naturally, wedding flowers vary by region throughout the world. In the continental United States, most brides carry a bouquet. In Hawaii, wedding parties drape themselves in leis. In India, brides wear sweeping floral headdresses.
  • Wedding Rhyme: This well-known rhyme refers to the bride and what she”s supposed to wear on her wedding day:
    • Something Old: a link to the bride”s family and her past
    • Something New: for a good future and success in her new life
    • Something Borrowed: signifying love and support of family and friends in times of need
    • Something Blue: for faithfulness and loyalty
    • and a Sixpence in her Shoe: a blessing for wealth and good fortune.
  • Wedding Rings: The wedding ring is the oldest of all wedding traditions and got its start in ancient Egypt. It served first as a symbol of agreement, because the unbroken circle stands for eternity. The first rings were made of braided grass, hay, leather, bone or ivory. The Egyptians began the practice of wearing the ring on the fourth finger (often dubbed the “ring finger”) of the left hand, as they believed this finger contained a vein that connected directly to the heart.In modern times, especially among Roman Catholics and Europeans, the wedding ring is just as often worn on the right hand.Several superstitions apply to wedding rings. For instance, it”s bad luck to shop for one on a Friday and neither bride nor groom should wear their rings before the ceremony takes place.