- The word wedding comes from the Anglo-Saxon wedd, meaning a pledge.
- In olden days, a man "plighting his troth" meant entering a legal agreement, which is where we get the term "betrothal."
- Before the 1500s, couples in Europe could marry themselves, no need for a church wedding. In 1564 the Council of Trent declared marriage was a sacrament that weddings would become the province of priests and churches.
- Arranged marriages are still customary in some cultures even today. The Hindus of India is one.
- Most marriage still occur in the month of June, followed by August. The tradition started with Roman brides because June is named after the Roman god Juno, the Goddess of Love and Marriage.
- Amish weddings are permitted only after the harvest and normally take place during the week, not the weekend.
- In Kenya, artist paint the hands and nails of a new bride. The paint stays on for one year to show the status of a newly married woman.
- The small tissues that are often enclosed in wedding invitations started back in the old raised printing press days, when it was necessary to include small pieces of rice paper to keep the printing from smearing. With today’s modern printing methods the tissue is no longer needed, but they are include because of tradition.
- Another ancient practice is the firing of rifles and other weaponry into the air as the couple pass to salute the bride; of course over the past centuries this has occasionally been observed with devastating results. Honking the horns of the cars in the procession from the church replaces the firing of guns.
- The tradition of brides carrying flowers started centuries ago. At first the brides often carried stalks of wheat, corn or fruit to symbolize her bringing a fertile body to the union and a promise of an abundance of children.
- In traditional Danish weddings two pieces of ribbon are tied during the ceremony as a symbol of the union of man and woman. This is where we got the phrase, "To tie the knot." Literally tying some type of ceremonial knot at a wedding ceremony can be found across cultures.
- Over 40 different cultures around the world, including Navaho Indians face east for the ceremony, as east is believed to be the direction of the future.
- In Christian ceremonies the bride stands on the grooms left. This was started when it may have been necessary for the groom to reach for his sword with his right hand in order to keep someone from riding up and stealing his bride during the wedding.
- The wedding cake dates back to ancient Rome, when couples shared cakes of wheat flour with their guest as a symbol of their unity.
- The first tiered wedding cake was made by a London baker who duplicated the spires of a nearby church. The church name was St. Brides!
- In Switzerland a pine tree is planted at the home of the newly wed couple as a sign of fertility and good luck.
- In the United States, approximately 70% of Americans agree that a bride should change her last name. However there is no law that says the bride must take the grooms last name. Source
- Flower girls traditionally threw flower petals in the bride’s path to lead her to a sweet, plentiful future.
- Because eyebrows are considered intensely alluring in the Orient, historically the bride’s eyebrows were shaved entirely, rendering her powerless to attract a man.
- In Biblical times, shoes were seen as a badge of authority because they lifted a person off the ground, differentiating them from barefoot slaves and serfs. They were used to seal a bargain and fathers would give his son-in-law a pair on the wedding day as symbol of transferring authority.
- In a Jewish wedding, the groom stomps on a glass which is wrapped in a cloth while people clap and shout congratulations (“Mazel tov!”). The broken glass symbolizes the frailty of human happiness or perhaps the destruction of the Israelite temple in A.D. 70.
- Queen Victoria’s wedding cake was three yards wide and weighed 300 pounds.
- Queen Elizabeth II had 12 wedding cakes. The one she cut at her wedding was nine feet tall and weighed 500 pounds.
- “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride” dates to about the sixteenth century. It was believed that if young maiden who had been a bridesmaid three times was unable to catch the eye of unmarried males, then she never would. But, if she served seven times as a bridesmaid, the spell was broken and the woman was thought to be a sure bet for marriage.
The Dowry System
- In many African tribes, a man cannot marry until he, his father, or uncles have paid a brideswealth in money, livestock or other valuables to the girl’s family.
- The dowry system, in which a bride was expected to bring valuables to the marriage, was observed in many cultures. It was originally intended as compensation for the burden undertaken by the new groom of supporting a wife.
- Bridal showers date back to the dowry system as a way for the bride to gain a dowry.
The tradition of wearing wedding rings on the third finger has three sources:
- One started in the Egyptian belief that the ring finger follows the vena amoris, the vein of love that runs directly to the heart, means that wearing the rings on this finger goes straight to the heart.
- The second is metaphorical, while every other finger can be extended to its full length and straightness alone, the ring finger can only be fully extended in the company of an adjacent finger.
- The third dates back to the 17th century where during a Christian wedding the priest arrived at the forth 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'.
Before the late 18th century, diamonds were so rare and scarce, that only the very rich could afford to give them as engagement rings. The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) and offered her a diamond to seal his vow.
Wedding rings are made of gold because it was believed that it was the most pure of all metals and therefore symbolic of the union of marriage. Seventeen tons of gold are made into wedding rings each year in the United States!
In some cultures, the engagement ring is worn on the right ring finger until the wedding day, when it’s moved to the left ring finger together with the wedding ring (put on by the groom).
Pope Innocent III (1160/1-1216) declared that a waiting period should be observed between betrothal and marriage, this was the start of separate engagement and wedding rings.
Puritans banned wedding rings because they thought they were “frivolous” jewelry or relics of Popery
Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue:
Old as a guarantee that the love and affection she enjoyed before her marriage will endure. Usually, the bride wears a piece of family jewelry or maybe her mother's or grandmother's wedding dress.
New for success in her new life. Wearing something new represents good fortune and success in the bride's new life. The bride's wedding dress is usually chosen, if purchased new, but it can be any other new item of the bride's wedding attire.
Borrowed as a symbol that friends may always be helpful when needed. Something borrowed could be an item of bridal clothing, a handkerchief or an item of jewellery.
Blue to designate her loyalty and devotion to her groom. This has evolved from wearing blue clothing to just wearing a blue band around the bottom of the bride's dress and to modern times where the bride wears a blue or blue-trimmed garter.
Note: in England the above saying had one more line: ‘a sixpense in your shoe." Brides put money in their shoe as a sign of good fortune.
The tradition of the Bride carrying or wearing "something old" on their wedding day is to symbolize continuity with the past.
The Best Man
- The tradition of the best man started to keep the groom from going back for anything once he started for the church or wedding ceremony. Turning around and going back for any reason was considered a very bad omen for the wedding. The best man was to prevent that from happening.
- In several ancient societies where men would often gain a bride through kidnapping, the best man’s job was to assist the groom in grabbing the girl, then guarding and would stand on the bride’s right side so his right hand (or his sword hand) would be free to fight/defend.
- Groomsmen were basically henchmen. Originally made part of the wedding party by the groom in order to keep too many uninvited people from joining in the celebration and the wedding party getting big, rowdy and uncontrollable. Today, they are simply symbolic.
What is Good Luck and What is Bad Luck
- According to Greek culture, tucking a lump of sugar into the wedding gown will sweeten the union.
- Hope you do not suffer from Arachnophobia, because the English believe that a spider found in a wedding dress is good luck.
- Placing a silver coin in the bride's left shoe is a symbol of wealth. This is not just to bring the bride financial wealth but also a wealth of happiness and joy throughout her married life.
- In Irish weddings it is good luck if a happily married woman puts the veil on you, but bad luck to put it on yourself.
- It's lucky to be awakened by birds singing on your wedding morning.
- It's good luck to have your birthstone in your engagement ring, even if that stone is otherwise thought to be an unlucky gem.
- In English tradition, Wednesday is considered the "best day" to marry. You Marry on Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all, Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses and Saturday no day at all.
- If it rains on your wedding day it is actually considered good luck, according to Hindu tradition.
- If you are having a traditional Egyptian wedding get ready to be pinched, it is considered good luck to pinch the bride.
The earrings you wear on your wedding day will bring you luck & happiness ever after.
A bride is traditionally carried over the threshold for one of three reasons;
1. To symbolize her reluctance to leave her father’s home.
2.Too protect her from evil spirits hovering over the threshold of a house. so the groom carries the bride across the threshold to bravely protect her.
3. In Roman times it was believed that if the bride stumbled when entering the newlywed's home for the first time, it would bring bad luck.
The Wedding Veil
- The bridal veil predates the wedding dress by almost 2,000 years. Ancient Greeks and Romans thought the veil protected the bride from evil spirits. Brides have worn veils ever since.
- One early tradition comes from the days when a groom would throw a blanket over the head of the woman he was going to marry and carted her off.
- In some arranged marriages, the bride's face was covered until the groom was committed to her at the ceremony so he could not refuse to marry her if he didn't like her looks. Therefore, the father of the bride gave the bride away to the groom, who then lifted the veil to see her for the first time.
- The bride’s veil traditionally symbolized her youth and virginity.
- The modern white veil became popular during the Victorian era as a symbol of purity and modesty.
- A white veil also connoted that a bride was wealthy enough to wear white.
- These various origins have all evolved into the tradition that the veil covers the bride's face throughout the ceremony until the minister pronounces the couple man and wife and the groom then lifts the veil to kiss his new wife.
Before white wedding dresses became customary, the color of a dress was thought to be superstitious. Here is the color code:
- Married in white, you have chosen alright
- Married in green, ashamed to be seen
- Married in blue, love ever true
- Married in pink, it’s you he will always think
- Married in grey, you will go far away
- Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead
- Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow
- Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back
- The bride's white gown has become so traditional that many cannot imagine anything else.
- The color blue thought to be symbolic of virtue and innocence of a first love, has been associated with weddings much longer than white.
- Anne of Brittany made the white wedding dress popular in 1499. In the 19th century colored bridal dresses were quite common at country weddings.
- Before the white dress, a woman just wore her best dress. In biblical days, blue (not white) represented purity, and the bride and groom would wear a blue band around the bottom of their wedding attire.
- Traditional Chinese brides often wear red, which symbolizes joy and love. White denotes hope and is usually reserved for funerals.
- Oriental wedding dresses often display embroidered cranes, which are symbols of life-long fidelity.
- The traditional wedding costume of a Navaho Indian bride is a dress woven in four colors, symbolic of the four directions of the compass.
- In many cultures, a yellow wedding dress has traditionally been seen as a sign of a wife’s intention to cheat on her husband or of jealousy.
Throwing the Rice or Confetti
The origin of throwing rice or confetti over newlyweds predated Christ. It originates from the ancient Pagan rite of showering the newlywed 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.
In some countries, the bride might even carry or wear sheaves of grain
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.
Despite the longevity of this tradition, it is on the verge of extinction because many modern churches and wedding locations discourage rice throwing because rice can be fatal for birds who eat it and confetti because of the mess it makes..
Throwing the Bouquet
- In ancient times Guests would tear off part of the bride’s gown as tokens of good luck, leading to the tradition of the bride throwing both her garter and her bouquet.
- The tradition of the bride throwing the bouquet started in France in 1300.
- The woman who catches the flowers is supposedly the next to marry.
- The same is supposedly true when the bride tosses her garter to the unmarried men.
Leap Year Proposal
The right of every women to propose on 29th February each leap year, goes back many hundreds of years to when the leap year day had no recognition in English law (the day was 'lept over' and ignored, hence the term 'leap year').
It was considered, therefore, that as the day had no legal status, it was reasonable to assume that traditions also had no status.
Consequently, women who were concerned about being 'left on the shelf' took advantage of this anomaly and proposed to the man they wished to marry.
It was also thought that since the leap year day corrected the discrepancy between the calendar year of 365 days and the time taken for the Earth to complete one orbit of the sun (365 days and 6 hours), it was an opportunity for women to correct a tradition that was one-sided and unjust.