While researching and planning a wedding you will uncover a fair few traditions which can be incorporated into the running order of your big day. While some traditions are rather unusual (such as throwing peas at the newlyweds and jumping over a broom!), some are so ingrained within our vision of the perfect wedding that we don’t spend any time researching when and where the tradition originated. Well, I’ve done the hard work for you! Take a look below to find out a bit of background on our favourite wedding traditions…
The tradition of exchanging wedding rings as part of your marriage ceremony is so popular and widely followed that many of us believe that a ring-less ceremony just wouldn’t be complete. But where did this lovely tradition of sealing your marriage with a symbol of unity and infinity come from? Well, some believe that rings were first given as a love token by the ancient Egyptians around 4800 years ago, however these rings were made from braided reeds and did not last forever, as our gold bands do today. Eventually the Egyptians began to craft their rings out of bone, leather and ivory and, as it is often considered today, the quality of the material from which the ring was made was a direct statement of the wealth of the giver.
The Romans were next in adopting the tradition of giving rings; however their rings tended to represent ownership rather than love and devotion. A Roman man would offer the women he wished to marry a ring, and if she accepted and agreed to be his wife she would then be his property. Roman rings were often made of metal and were rather more robust looking than modern wedding rings. The Romans (rather romantically) believed that a vein called the ‘vein of love’ ran straight from the ring finger to the heart. Modern medical knowledge has proven that this is of course rubbish, however it’s a sweet idea and I like to pretend it’s true.
The next stage of the evolution of the wedding ring happened when the Christians adopted the use of a ring during wedding ceremonies. These rings tended to be rather ornately decorated with important symbols and engravings, and it wasn’t until around the 13th Century when wedding rings started to become simpler and to look similar to the bands we wear today.
In Ancient Rome a kiss symbolised the legal sealing of a contract, and by extension we now kiss at the end of the marriage ceremony to ‘seal the deal’. When the bride and groom kiss it marks the point in their lives where they are moving from being single into a new stage where they will be bonded together as a married couple.
I love this tradition and think it’s so romantic to have a little kiss on the lips once you’ve said your vows…
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in her Shoe:
The next five traditional items come from the Old English verse ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe’. No one is quite sure where this phrase first appeared, however it’s clear that it cannot claim its origins any further back than the 17th Century as this is when the silver sixpence was first minted. I love this verse and the tradition which has grown up around it is all about weaving good luck and a happy marriage for the bride and her groom.
Most often it is the responsibility of the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom and the maid of honour to arrange for the ‘four somethings’ and the silver sixpence to be presented to the bride on the morning of her wedding, however you could always arrange to procure these items yourself. Having a quick chat with your mother or maid of honour is always a good idea to make sure that someone is taking responsibility for collecting these gifts for you to wear or carry with you down the aisle.
As with many of our modern wedding rituals, the tradition of wearing a bridal veil originated in Ancient Rome where women would cover their hair and face so that they could be ‘un-veiled’ to their husband during the marriage ceremony. Throughout history the veil has been used as a status symbol which indicated that the woman wearing the veil as a noble woman, and of course veils are used for religious and cultural purposes to this day. It is also thought that during the 19th Century the veil became a symbol of purity and modesty as it represented the long and flowing hair of a young and virginal maiden.
The bridal bouquet:
The bridal bouquet is inextricably linked to fertility and beauty, and in that order. In times past the bridal bouquet was created as a way of demonstrating the fertility of the bride, which was of great importance to her would be husband. Bouquets were also designed to look attractive by incorporating beautiful blooms and even some magical herbs to protect the bride by warding off evil spirits! These days we choose the flowers in our bouquet primarily according to what they look like, rather than for their ability to keep us safe from nasty ghouls. That being said, it is becoming increasingly popular to choose some of your blooms according to their folkloric attributes, and we have been doing this for some time already, whether consciously or subconsciously! The number one floral element in many bouquets is the rose which is the archetypal flower of love and affection.
So why do brides toss their bouquets at their female guests I hear you ask? Well the answer to this is really rather amusing! The origin of this tradition comes from medieval times when bridal gowns did not cost nearly as much as they do today. After the wedding ceremony the single women present at the wedding would chase the bride and try to tear pieces of the gown off her to keep as a good luck and fertility charm! As time passed and more effort and money was put into the creation of bridal gowns, many brides started to toss other items into the crowd to prevent female guests from trying to tear at the gown. These items included the garter and the bouquet. I can just imagine a medieval bride chucking her bouquet over her shoulder and running as fast as she can in the opposite direct to escape the mob. Poor thing!
The garter is another old tradition whose roots we cannot accurately identify, although it is thought that the garter represents good luck and good fortune for the new couple. As I mentioned above the garter was another item which the bride would toss into the crowd in order to keep them away from her dress, however it soon became necessary for the groom to remove his bride’s garter to prevent over-enthusiastic male guests from attempting to remove it from her person themselves!