Have you ever wondered why we do some of the things we do on our wedding days? Why we cut a tiered cake or throw bits of paper over the happy couple? How come we never question why we wear a big white dress or why grooms tend to stand on the right of the aisle in heterosexual weddings? Isn’t it odd that these weird wedding traditions that never get questioned at all? Well if you’ve never wondered about them, read on to find out some of the strange beginnings of our very commonplace traditions…
Why do brides wear white?
This has actually only been popular since Queen Victoria who was a bit of a minx and refused to wear a coloured dress. Until she got married, brides got married in all sorts of colours (apparently red was the most popular) and white was mostly reserved for funerals. Of course, the stubborn wotsit bucked the trend and married in a fluffy white gown with a garland of orange flowers on her head. As it often does, fashion followed the royals and here we are 150 odd years later all tying the knot in white…
What’s the deal with a veil?
There are actually two schools of thought on this. In times of arranged marriage it was mainly to hide the bride until the marriage was complete and there was no backing out if you didn’t like the look of your bride to be! But some cultures (ancient Greeks and Romans) believe it veiled you from evil spirits.
Why do we throw rice over the happy couple?
Rice, the precursor to modern confetti, was actually a pagan symbol of fertility hence its long-lasting presence at weddings. We’ve moved over to shredded paper, modern confetti or petals now which I think most couples are happy about. They also throw almonds on the continent a lot apparently – ouch!
The origin of the wedding bouquet
Brides would carry a wedding bouquet of strongly scented flowers into which herbs were added to mask body odour (back in the days before frequent bathing and deodorant!) and ward off, yep, you guessed it those pesky evil spirits!
Why do we have bridesmaids?
Are bridesmaids just there to help you nip for a wee? Nope! They used to dress identically to the bride to act as decoys for these evil spirits that apparently show up everywhere as well as any forlorn suitors that might want to try and dash off with the bride before vows could be exchanged
Why does the bride stand on the left?
Did you know that in heterosexual marriages the bride always stands to the left of the groom when marrying so that the groom has his sword arm free to fend off attackers? The romantic element in ceremonies tries to cover this up by saying it’s so she’s closer to his heart, but nope, it’s the sword thing. And his best man is always on his right hand side so that he can be his second to jump into this fight that might break out.
Why do bride’s throw their bouquet?
The tradition of throwing flowers is one of the oldest wedding ones around. People used to try and rip bits off the bride’s dress to get some of the couple’s luck for themselves, so when it would come to that bit of the day the bride would lob her bouquet at the revellers as a diversion tactic. That has now translated into meaning good luck for the single guest that catches said bouquet. Probably a better tradition as I can’t imagine the dress ripping tradition would go down that well with many modern brides!
Something old, something new…
We’ve all heard the rhyme. And lots of brides have a little blue bow sewn into their dresses. I admit that my grandmother gave me all four things on my own wedding day, but I never even thought about the origins of the rhyme.
The old is a link to your past, the new is a link to your future, the borrowed should be from a happily married friend and get this… the something blue wards off the ‘evil eye’ which was a curse passed through a malicious glare that could make a bride infertile. Nice eh?
The silver sixpence in your shoe is the hope for future fortunes but you’re supposed to walk on it all day. I can’t stand even a tiny bit of fluff in my shoe so that’s a no from me!
Why does the groom carry the bride over the threshold?
Again with these evil spirits… when the groom carries the bride over the threshold the groom makes it harder for the evil spirits to catch her. Alternatively, some reports say it’s because brides in arranged marriages wouldn’t willingly go into their new homes. I think I prefer the evil spirit version!
The garter toss tradition
Not so popular in the UK but the old garter toss tradition? In a creepy turn of events it used to be that the waiting guests would hang out in a crowd waiting for the garter to be presented by the groom to prove that the marriage had been consummated. Ick.
The cutting of the cake…
The reason that cakes are in tiers is because guests used to bring small cakes and stack them in front of the couple to wish them luck. At some point this translated into the couple getting their own cake designed in this way, who knows how these things evolve! But originally the cake also used to only be cut by the bride alone as it would ensure that the marriage would be blessed with children.
What about sugared almonds?
Sugared almonds are not something you see a lot at weddings now but traditionally you would gift five white sugared almonds to each guest as they represent the couples’ wishes for their future together; love, health, happiness, fertility and a long life together.
A sombre warning!
Apparently if you drop your wedding ring in a church you are doomed to die first – isn’t that a happy thought!
And one last bizarre ditty
Obviously now with the working week and our weddings including friends and family from far afield (plus our love of a late night party!) it makes sense that most people want to get their nuptials in on a Saturday but this little rhyme would indicate that Saturday was not always the traitional day for weddings:
“Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday’s the best of all.
Thursday brings crosses,
And Friday losses,
But Saturday – no luck at all.”
And the time of day should traditionally be “while the minute hand of the clock is ascending towards heaven (ie upwards) and never during lent or you will repent.”
Aren’t traditions a funny thing? We just go along with them often not knowing the origins of a lot of the things we do.
Do any of these back stories make you think that you’d double think some of these wedding traditions for your own day at all? Or is tradition, however we came to be here, the most important element?
Or are you going to be the next Queen Victoria and buck a massive trend?
Either way, I love celebrating all the laughter filled moments of weddings no matter how traditional, or not, the day may be. If you’re having a super traditional day, or a crazy out there day, I’d love to see if I could be a good fit for it!