Wedding Traditions

Wedding traditions trace their meanings back years

Have you ever attended a wedding and wondered why we follow some wedding traditions? Most of the traditions we use today originated many centuries ago. Here are a few of the most common traditions we use today.

The “wedding ring”: In ancient times the wedding ring was thought to protect the bride from “evil spirits”. Ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron. In early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped hands.

The “ring finger”: In third century Greece the ring finger was the index finger. In India it was the thumb. The western tradition began with the Greeks who believed that the third finger was connected directly with the heart by a route that was called “the vein of love”.

The “wedding cake”: In the first century BC in Rome, the cake was thrown at the bride or broken over her head as one of many fertility symbols that then were a part of the marriage ceremony.

The best man tradition: Among the Germanic Goths of northern Europe in 200 AD, a man usually married a woman from within his own community. However, when there were fewer women, the prospective bridegroom would capture his bride from a neighboring village. The bridegroom was accompanied by his strongest friend, (or best friend), who helped him capture his bride.

Why the bride stands to the left of the groom: After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left to protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against sudden attack.

The “honeymoon”: After “kidnapping” his bride, the groom would take her and go into hiding. By the time the bride’s family would have tracked them down, the bride would probably already be pregnant! A “bride price” would then be negotiated. An earlier source is the Jewish custom of the bride and groom spending a week together alone immediately after the marriage feast.

The term “to tie the knot”: Comes from Roman times, the bride would wear a girdle that was tied in many knots that the groom has the duty of untying.

Something “old”, “new”, “borrowed” and “blue”: The tradition of carrying one or more items that are old, new, borrowed and blue comes from the English. There is an old English rhyme describing the practice that also mentions a sixpence in the bride’s shoe.

Something old signifying continuity in the future, could be a piece of lace, jewelry or a grandmother’s handkerchief.

Something new signifying optimism in the future, could be an article of clothing or the wedding rings.

Something borrowed, signifying future happiness, could be a handkerchief from a happily married relative or friend.

Something blue, signifying modesty, fidelity and love, comes from early Jewish history. In early biblical times, blue, not white symbolized purity. Both the bride and groom usually wore a band of blue material around the bottom of their wedding attire, hence the tradition of something blue. Originally the sixpence was presented to the bride by her future husband as a token of his love. Today, very often it is the bride’s father who places a coin in the bride’s shoe prior to leaving home for the church.

The bridal kiss:
A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts, and etc. back in the earliest days of civilization in the Middle East. In ancient Rome a kiss was still being used as the legal bond to seal contracts. Hence the obvious use of the custom at the end of the wedding ceremony to “seal” the marriage vows.

Throwing rice: Rice has been used as a symbol of fertility and as a wish for a “full pantry” in various parts of the world from ancient to modern times. In the past, rice was not the only thing thrown at the bride and groom as they left the wedding. Wheat was thrown in France, figs and dates were thrown in Northern Africa, and a combination of coins, dried fruit and candy was thrown in Italy. In some European countries even eggs were thrown. Since rice is harmful for birds to eat, birdseed has replaced it for most weddings. Flower petals, confetti, bubbles and balloons are often used today instead of rice.

The groom carrying the bride over the threshold: Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first time through the front door. If she tripped or stumbled while entering it was considered to be very bad luck. Hence the tradition of the groom carrying
the bride over the threshold.