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Where in the world do wedding traditions come from?


When planning a wedding, many couples incorporate "traditions" into the ceremony & reception but often they don't even know where the tradition comes from or what it symbolizes. Here are a few traditions & their origins, some of which could be incorporated into your wedding. Don't feel that you have to incorporate all of them, just include ones that have the most meaning & appeal to you. It is a good idea to explain to your guests why you have incorporated a particular tradition, that way they get to share in the significance too.

  • The word “wed” is derived from the ancient Greek word for “pledge.”Wedding traditions
  • The word "bride" comes from old English, being a name for 'cook', which explains a lot! While "groom" originated from 'male child' . It would be logical to think that "bridegroom" meant 'male cook' but it doesn't. Instead, bridegroom is a Germanic word meaning exactly what it appears to mean - simply, the man who is marrying the bride.
  • The kiss dates back to the earliest days of civilization in the Middle East.  A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts, etc.  In Ancient Rome a kiss was used to legally seal contracts, hence the obvious use of the custom at the end of the wedding ceremony to "seal" the marriage vows.
  • The term "tie the knot" also goes back to Roman times.  The bride would wear a girdle tied with many knots, which the groom had the duty of untying.
  • Western European tradition of a Best Man began in olden days when it was sometimes necessary for a man to kidnap his bride from a neighbouring village. He needed his strongest friend (his Best Man) to help with the kidnapping and to stand by him at the wedding ceremony to fight off any relatives that might try to take her back.
  • It was in England that many of our most enduring Western European wedding traditions began. The ancient rhyme about something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue is now an important part of most Western European weddings, even though many brides and grooms no longer know the significance of the rhyme. Something old is symbolic of continuity. The old item was often a piece of lace or a grandmother’s scarf or an old piece of jewellery. Something new signifies hope for the future and can be anything from a piece of clothing to the wedding band itself. Something borrowed is symbolic of future happiness and is often provided by a happily married friend of the bride. And finally, something blue. In ancient times blue was the color of purity and often both the bride and the groom wore a band of blue cloth around the bottom of their wedding attire.
  • It was the knights of yore who gave us the Western European tradition of the groom wearing a buttonhole flower. It was customary for a knight to wear a flower or a colourful handkerchief belonging to their lady fair, when they entered a tournament. The tradition later evolved into the groom wearing a flower from his bride’s wedding bouquet. Wedding rings
  • It was in Italy, the land of love, that gold wedding rings first became popular, and it was also in Italy that the tradition of the wedding cake was first begun when, in the first century BC, a cake or bread was broken over the bride’s head to ensure fertility.
  • During the Tudor period in England, it became customary for the wedding party to throw old shoes at the bride and groom’s carriage; if the carriage was struck by a shoe it was considered a symbol of good fortune to follow. From this old Western European wedding custom was born the tradition of  tying shoes to the back of the groom and bride’s car. Modern wedding dresses
  • Wearing a white wedding gown? Prior to the 16th century this most important Western European Wedding tradition was not common. To this day a traditional Irish bride often wears a blue wedding dress, rather than a white one. This is because blue symbolized purity in ancient times. It wasn’t until the year 1499 that a white wedding dress began to symbolize virginity and purity when Ann of Brittany popularized the white wedding dress and the tradition became part of Western European wedding culture.
  • Traditional English wedding cake is a fruitcake, usually made with raisins, ground almonds, cherries and marzipan. The top layer of the wedding cake is called the "christening cake" which the couple saves for the baptism of their first child.
  • The fruitcake is served at the wedding reception along with another traditional cake -- the groom's cake -- which originated during the Tudor period. It was once English custom for this to be a fruitcake as well, but today, the groom's cake is likely to be chocolateTraditional wedding cakes.
  • Cutting the wedding cake together, still a predominant ritual at weddings, symbolizes the couple's unity, their shared future, and their life together as one.
  • The three tiered cake is believed to have been inspired by the spire of Saint Bride's Church in London, England.
  • An old Irish tradition calls for the wedding couple to walk to the church together before exchanging their wedding vows. As they walk down the main street to the chapel, onlookers would not only throw rice to bless the marriage, but larger items as well, such as pots and pans (That's a bit much if you ask me!!).
  • English lavender, an ancient symbol of love, loyalty, devotion and even luck is often mixed with the bride’s wedding flowers to help ensure a happy and long-lasting union.
  • Another tradition is for the bride to braid her hair for her wedding day. Braided hair is an ancient symbol of feminine power and luck. Another symbol of luck is to be married on St. Patrick's Day, considered the luckiest wedding anniversary date in Ireland. Wedding veils
  • Greek brides wore traditional wedding veils of yellow or red, which represented fire. These brightly coloured veils were supposed to protect the bride from evil spirits and demons.
  • Traditionally brides have been thought to be particularly vulnerable to evil spirits. Many wedding customs and traditions originated as an attempt to fight away such evil. The veil was worn with the belief that it would disguise the bride and fool the evil spirits. It was not until 1800 in Britain that the veil came to symbolize modesty and chastity. Today, the veil remains the ultimate symbol of virginity.
  • In ancient Greece, diamonds were considered teardrops of the Gods, and it was believed that a diamond reflected the flames of love.
  • A bride's engagement ring and wedding ring are traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand (the finger next to your little finger). Although there is no precise evidence to explain the origin of this tradition, there are two strongly held beliefs. The first, dating back to the 17th century, is that during a Christian wedding the priest arrived at the fourth finger (counting the thumb) after touching the three fingers on the left hand '...in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost'. The second belief refers to an Egyptian belief that the ring finger follows the vena amoris, that is, the vein of love that runs directly to the heart.
  • The origin of throwing confetti over newly weds predated Christ, since it originates from the ancient Pagan rite of showering the happy couple with grain to wish upon them a 'fruitful' union. Pagans believed that the fertility of the seeds would be transferred to the couple on whom they fell. The throwing of rice has the same symbolic meaning. The word confetti has the same root as the word 'confectionery' in Italian and was used to describe 'sweetmeats' that is, grain and nuts coated in sugar that were thrown over newly weds for the same Pagan reason. In recent years, small pieces of coloured paper have replaced sweetmeats, grain and nuts as an inexpensive substitute, but the use of the word confetti has remained.
  • To practice writing your new name prior to the wedding (and what bride doesn't do this?) is believed to tempt fate and thus, is also believed to result in bad luck during the marriage!

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