Did you ever wonder how our wedding traditions became traditional? Some of the origins and symbolism of time-honored customs may surprise you! This is a look at the history of many favorite wedding traditions.
These days brides fret over designing the perfect bridal bouquet. They want the flowers to match the wedding colors, suit the style of their gown, and maybe even have accents to match their crystal bridal jewelry. But what is now considered simply a decorative accessory actually has a less frivolous past. In the beginnings, brides carried bouquets of powerfully scented herbs to frighten away evil spirits. Over time, the custom expanded to include bouquets of flowers with strong scents…to hide the aroma of body odor back in the days when bathing was an annual event!
As for tossing the bouquet, it did not originate as a way to determine which woman would be the next to marry. Brides were considered to be extremely lucky on their wedding days, and guests would often tear at their dresses to get a little piece of that luck to hold on to. In self defense, brides started tossing their bouquets to fortune-seeking guests to protect themselves and their dresses. This is also the origin of the garter toss, incidentally. And while the person to catch the bouquet may not have been pronounced the most likely to marry next, female guests were told to sleep with a piece of wedding cake under their pillows the night of the wedding. They were supposed to see their future husband in their dreams that night.
People today see the white wedding dress as a symbol of purity and perhaps even virginity (at least in theory). The custom is not as old as one might think, however, dating only back to the 1840s and the marriage of Queen Victoria. When Queen Victoria donned a white dress for her wedding, she was actually breaking with royal wedding tradition, which stated that royal brides should wear silver dresses. Pictures of the queen’s white wedding gown spread throughout Europe and America, setting the new standard for bridal elegance. Brides clamored to wear elegant silk gowns to show off their status, along with pearl and diamond bridal jewelry (the bridal jewelry was usually a wedding gift from the groom). Prior to that, brides simply wed wearing their best dress. Blue was rather popular because it has symbolized fidelity since Biblical times. And in other cultural traditions, white is not considered the best color for a bride; in Chinese custom, for instance, red is the lucky wedding color.
One of the most romantic moments of a marriage ceremony is when the bride and groom share their first kiss. The origins of this tradition, however, are not purely related to a show of love. Back in Roman times, contracts were literally sealed with a kiss. This way of formalizing a contract became a way to seal the contract implied by a marital union as well. Remember that marriages were often arranged as to strengthen the bonds between families, not because the couple was in love, so it was very much a business arrangement. In fact, many couples did not even meet before the wedding – which is one of the original reasons why brides wore veils. They did not want the groom to back out at the last minute if he didn’t like what he saw when he finally met his future wife!
Today, people generally include traditions in their wedding celebrations for the simple reason that they are traditional. It adds to the fun and sentiment of a wedding to include some of the same customs as your parents and grandparents did when they got married. At the same time, couples should also feel free to add their own personal touches to their weddings; who knows – perhaps they can even start a new tradition.