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Odd Origins of 15 Popular Wedding Traditions


Few rights of passage are as tradition-clad as the time-honored wedding; from wearing something old, new, borrowed and blue to carrying the bride across the threshold ... it's a wonder so many of us make it through the day unscathed.

wedding traditions

Is the bride's white dress just a matter of fashion ... not purity?

But did you ever wonder how all of these traditions got started? We did too, and so we've uncovered the origins of these 15 popular traditions here.

1. Wearing White

The bride wears white to show her purity and innocence, right? Wrong. Prior to the late 1800s, women simply wore the nicest dresses they owned, regardless of color or style. It wasn't until Queen Victoria wore a "pale" gown in 1840 that the white wedding dress became all the rage.

In biblical days, blue actually represented purity, so couples would wear blue bands at the bottom of their wedding clothes.

2. Wearing Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue

This stems from a Victorian-age English custom. Specifically:

  • Something old tied the bride to her family and past

  • Something new represents her new life

  • Something borrowed was to be borrowed from someone with a good marriage to pass on the good fortune

  • Something blue was meant to signify faithfulness, loyalty and purity

An additional part of the saying also included "and a sixpence in her shoe," which was meant to bring the bride wealth.

3. Saving the Top of the Wedding Cake

Come your first anniversary, the newlyweds are supposed to enjoy the top tier, right? Well, back in the day newly married couples soon became new parents as well. Instead of baking two cakes -- one for the wedding and one for the baby's christening -- the tradition arose to bake one large cake and save a bit of it for when the baby was born.

4. Giving Away the Bride

As the father walks his daughter down the aisle, he's essentially "giving her away" to the groom. This custom arose from pre-women's lib days when fathers really did use their daughters to pay off debts, buy their way into a higher social circle or as a peace offering to an opposing tribe.

5. The Bachelor Party

Once known as the "bachelor dinner," this custom is said to have originated in the fifth century in Sparta, where military men would feast the night before a friend's wedding.

6. The Best Man

Back when men actually needed to capture their bride-to-be from her family, the best man was there to assist and help fight off any angry relatives.

best man

At one point in time, the best man was there to help the groom steal the bride away from her family.

7. Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids and maids of honor came about to help the bride in the days before her wedding. On the wedding day, these women were supposed to wear dresses similar to the bride's to help ward off evil spirits. If any appeared, they wouldn't know which one was the bride.

8. The Bouquet

At one time, brides carried bunches of garlic and herbs that were intended to ward off evil spirits. Over time, the herbs gave way to flowers symbolizing fertility and everlasting love.

9. Shoes Tied to the Bumper

Tying shoes to the bumper of the getaway car goes back to the days when the bride's shoes signified her authority. Her shoes were taken as she left the wedding and given to the groom by her father. This signified that the groom now had possession over the woman, and she couldn't run away.

10. Carrying the Bride Across the Threshold

The groom used to carry the bride across the bridal threshold because it was considered proper for the bride to be hesitant to give herself away. Prior to this, when grooms still captured their brides, the woman would be dragged or carried into his room.

11. Engagement Rings and Ring Finger

In medieval times, grooms would pay for a bride's hand in marriage using precious stones. The ring finger (fourth finger on the left hand) came to be because ancient Romans believed that finger's vein went directly to the heart.

12. Wearing a Veil

The veil is meant to symbolize the bride's virginity and modesty.

13. Wedding Rings

In ancient times, the groom would wrap the bride's ankles with grass to keep here spirit within her. Eventually, this evolved into the wedding ring.

14. The Bride's Garter

Many generations ago, it was required that witnesses be present while the couple consummated the marriage. The witnesses would then emerge with the bride's garter as proof that they saw the event.

15. The Honeymoon

During ancient Teutonic weddings, which were only held under a full moon, the bride and groom would drink honey wine. They would drink the wine for a full 30-day moon cycle.

Recommended Reading

10 Top Tactics to Keep a Marriage Strong or Help Make It Strong Again

The Myth of the Seven-Year Itch -- and Why it's Actually a FOUR-Year Itch

Sources June 27, 2008

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