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.
“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
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
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
the bride over the threshold.