Ever wonder why the bride, groom, wedding party and guests do the things they do at the wedding? For instance, why is the traditional color of the bride's
gown white? Why is the bride supposed to wear "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue? Below are explanations for some
of the traditions that are carried out at weddings today.
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General Wedding Traditions
The White Wedding
White has been the symbol of celebration since Roman times, but the tradition of the bride's gown being white, as opposed to other colors, did not gain popularity until Queen Victoria decided to be married in a white gown. In at least
some Asian cultures, red--not white--is considered to be the color of celebration; white is the color of mourning.
Rice in many cultures, Western and Asian, is a symbol of wealth, fertility or bounty. Regardless of culture, the throwing of rice symbolizes the well-wishes of the couple's family and guests after the ceremony.
Today, for safety and/or environmental reasons, many churches don't allow throwing rice, birdseed or flower petals. That has caused the new tradition of blowing bubbles.
The Couple's First Kiss
Since Roman times, a kiss has been used to bind a legal agreement or to seal a bethrothal. In Christian ceremonies, the tradition was transformed to
mark the union of man and woman in marriage.
It was also believed in Medieval times that when two people kissed, a part of their souls were left inside the other during the exchange of breath, and that was
also symbolic of the union of two people.
Occurring at the end of a ceremony, the kiss meant a public announcement of the newly-married status of the couple, as well as a public acknowledgement of
their commitment to each other.
The Bride's Bouquet
Originally, the bride carried a bouquet of herbs designed to ward off evil spirits and encourage good ones. For instance, Rosemary signified
rememberence, dill invoked lust, and was meant to be eaten by the bride.
Flowers that were said to have different significances were added to the bride's bouquet as time progressed. Today, a bride often uses the significance
of individual flowers in choosing the flowers for her bouquet.
Today a bride will often choose the flowers for her bouquet based on the traditional meaning of the flower. Below is a summary of
the meaning between the giver and receiver of the most popular flowers.
Bridal Rose - Happiness in love
Daffodil - Warm regards - given between friends
Fern - Sincerity of intentions
Forget-me-not - True love
Honeysuckle - Represents the bonds of Love
Iris - Messages
Ivy - Friendship
Lavender - Luck
Lilac - First Emotions of Love
Lilly of the Valley - Return of Happiness
Magnolia - Perseverance
Pansy- Thinking of You
Peppermint- Warm Feelings
Red Rose- Desire and Love, the traditional Valentine's Day flower
Sweet Alyssum- Worth Beyond Beauty
Sweet Basil- Good Wishes
Sweet Pea- Delicate Pleasures
White Daisy- Innocence
Yarrow- Everlasting Love
Yellow Rose - Unfaithfulness
Tossing the Bouquet
The tossing of the bouquet to unmarried guests at the wedding has come to mean the transfer of luck in marriage from the bride, or being the next to marry.
Although traditions vary widely, it is typically blindly thrown to unmarried female guests before the departure of the couple on their honeymoon.
It is also a mark of transition of the bride from unmarried to a married woman.
Originally, the bouquet was given to a friend selected by the bride for good luck or protection.
The Bridal Garter
The garter toss is thought to be an early English custom that evolved from "flinging the stocking." Guests would follow the couple to
their bedroom on their wedding night, steal their stockings while they were "distracted," then fling them at the couple. It was thought that the first
person to hit either the bride or the groom on the head would be the next to marry.
Later, brides tossed a garter at the wedding reception, but later the custom changed to the groom's removing the garter himself and tossing
to his male guests because brides were often forced to fight off drunken male guests who tried to remove the garter themselves!
The Ring Finger
Since at least the time of the Egyptians, the wedding and engagement rings were placed on the second finger of the left hand, and is still placed there in many
It came from the belief that there was a vein in that finger that ran directly to the heart.
Today, some religious orders for women still place a ring on the second finger of the left hand, to symbolize a marriage to God.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
All four are is a European superstition to ward off evil spirits.
Something Old: Symbolizes the continuity of transition from two single people to a married couple.
Something New: Represents a transition to adulthood upon marriage.
Something Borrowed: Something the bride carried that had been borrowed from a happily married couple, hoping that their good fortune would be shared.
Something Blue: Blue was often the border color of the Bride's dress, and symbolized purity, constancy and fidelity.
The Unity Candle
When the Unity Candle is lit by the wedding couple, it symbolizes the merger of two lives into one.
When the Unity Candle is lit by a member of the couple's families (in many cases the mothers of the Bride and Groom, it symbolizes the joining of two families
as well as the unity of the couple in marriage.
Regardless of who lights the candle, It is also considered a transfer of commitment from the families of the couple to a new commitment of the couple
to establish a new family.
The Wedding Favors
Favors given at the reception are meant as thank you gifts to each guest for taking part in the couple's special day. It is a way for the bride to share her
good fortune, by sending a gift home with the guest to enjoy.
Although the contents of the wedding favor varies from culture to culture, the most common favors are candies, porcelain boxes, tulle bags, or cookies made
especially for the occasion.
Jumping the Broom
This custom originated when there was slavery in the United States; but was not unique to African-Americans. Cajuns and other peoples who lived in
isolated areas had Jumping the Broom ceremonies, which were considered legally binding until a member of the government or clergy could perform a proper
marriage ceremony. African-Americans, however, did not have a legal status as citizens, and therefore didn't have the right to enter into a
legal agreement such as marriage.
A tradition of "jumping the broom" developed to mark the commitment of two people to each other. The tradition became so accepted that both slaves
and their owners would not only accept the practice, they would participate in the celebration.
Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold
There appear to be at least three different opinions as to the origin of this custom. The first explanation is that it's the groom's attempt to ward off evil
spirits that may be living under the threshold.
In Roman times, the bride was carried over the threshold for the first time because if she tripped it was considered a sign of future bad fortune for the
couple and their marriage.
A third explanation is that in some early marriages, the groom and his groomsmen, who were often called bridesmen or bridesknights would kidnap a
woman from another tribe. The groom and his assistants would then fight off the female's family with his sword in his right hand, while the groom
would hold his intended bride with his left, also explaining why the bride stands on the groom's left side.
new bride who had either had her marriage arranged, or she was kidnapped was
secluded with her new husband for a one month cycle (moon) in the hopes of
making her pregnant, which would prevent the marriage from being annulled
forever. The bride and her husband would partake of Meade (a potent
alcoholic drink made of honey), sometimes heavily, during that one month
period of seclusion. Thus comes the term honeymoon.
A Lucky Penny in Her Shoe
is thought to be a European tradition to bring the Bride good luck, protection
against want, and fortune. After the wedding day, the lucky penny was
often turned into a piece of jewelry, such as a charm, ring, or necklace.
The Money or Dollar Dance
In many cultures, a dowry is only collected
after a marriage is consummated, so the couple start out their lives
penniless. The money or dollar dance was designed to give them some
money to live on and perhaps pay some wedding expenses before they left the
reception. In other cultures, the dowry was only paid when their first
child was born, making things like the money dance even more necessary.
The dance was not limited to money. Guests would often also give
livestock, cooking pots and utensils, and bedding as well.
The Loud Send-Off: Honking Horns,
Typing Shoes to the Car
honking of horns after a wedding ceremony has its roots in the belief that
loud noises will ward off evil spirits, and was originally done on behalf of
the bride as she traveled to the ceremony. In some cultures, bells were
rung or firecrackers were set off.
represent the transfer of the bride as property from her father to the groom,
as does escorting the bride down the aisle.
ringing of a church bell after a ceremony is designed to announce a marriage.