Wedding Customs and Traditions

We are mostly all familiar with wedding customs, but do you know where these customs and traditions came from or why they happen? Below are just a few explored wedding customs and traditions.

The Traditional White Wedding Dress

If you thought the wearing of a white wedding dress symbolised purity and virginity, you maybe wrong. This wedding custom was started by Queen Victoria when she married Price Albert on 10th February 1840.

Before this, brides wore their best dress to get married in, but Queen Victoria started a new tradition which was based on fashion and English industry support, not on religious virtues or purity.

Wanting to support English industry, Queen Victoria wore a cream stain dress decorated with Honiton lace. The style and colour was copied around the world as women aspired to look like the young, attractive queen. Celebrity culture was even a thing back then.

Wearing a white wedding dress became a sign of status and wealth and only brides with money could wear a white silk gown, to get married in clean places that were removed from the dirt and grime of life during the mid-19th century Industrial Age. A white or cream dress was difficult to keep clean and reserved for those with servants to do this for them.

Wearing a Wedding Veil

Veils first became popular in Roman times when a red sheet, called a ‘flammeum’, was used to cover the bride from head to toe. This was supposed to make the bride look like she was on fire and in turn was meant to scare off evil spirits looking to ruin the day.

Over time, the veil became a way to disguise the bride from evil spirits and her husband who wasn’t supposed to see his new wife until the marriage was done. When the groom unveiled the bride, it was to symbolise that ownership has changed hands; from her father to her husband as in those times women were regarded as male possessions.

In other traditions the wearing of a veil was done so to weigh the bride down and prevent her from running away.

Wedding Bouquets

June has always been a popular month for a wedding, but in the past, this wasn’t because of the summer weather. It was because June was the most popular month people took their annual bath in May. Brides originally carried flowers for one reason, to mask their smell. Carrying a fragrant bouquet hid the body odour smell of the bride.

It wasn’t until the Victorian age wedding bouquets became a common inclusion during weddings.  The symbolism of flowers was hugely popular then and brides would be able to show their sentiments and values through their choice in flowers.

Flowers at weddings symbolised various things such as new beginnings, fertility, happiness, and fidelity. Additions that were commonplace were things such dill which was thought to be an aphrodisiac, rosemary to represent loyalty, wheat for fertility, ivy for an unbreakable bond, and thistle, thyme, heather, or basil for protection.

In ancient times, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, carried fragrant herbs and spices to ward off bad luck during weddings, although the displays weren’t quite as grand as they are nowadays.

Wedding Customs and Traditions

Wedding Rings

The first wedding rings can be traced back to The Ancient Egyptians and were made from braided reeds and hemp. They were placed on the ring finger because it was believed a vein of love went straight from there and to you heart. The Egyptians also saw the circle as a symbol of endless love and would show the promises made were forever.

However, a slightly less romantic origin is that of ancient Rome. Unlike the exchange of rings in today’s ceremonies, rings were not exchanged between partners as they got married. Roman men would present a ring to the bride’s father as a symbol of purchase. This changed by the second century and the bride was given a gold ring by the groom that she wore in public to show the trust placed in her and his property.

A wedding ring was also given as an insurance policy should the husband die. If this happened the ring could be sold enabling the wife to support herself and her children for a while.

Signing a Wedding Certificate

The tradition actually comes from the Jewish faith and is called The Ketubah. It is a marital contract between the couple. It is read aloud by the witnesses, then signed by the couple and displayed in their home.

It shows the date, the name of the bride and groom and so much more. It outlines what the couple owes each other during their marriage. In traditional communities, it lays out what the groom is obligated to provide his bride and lists both financial responsibilities and responsibilities within the relationship. It also states what happens in the case of a divorce or untimely death. However, in more modern communities, the bride and groom determine what they will give each other, similar to vows.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue

You maybe familiar with the rhyme but what does it mean?

‘Something old’ represents the tie between the bride’s past and her family. It can be anything that has ties to the bride’s past. This can be anything at all that has meaning to the bride and her family on the wedding day.

‘Something new’ represents the new chapter in the bride’s life and the future she will spend with her spouse.

‘Something borrowed’ usually comes from a friend or family member who is happily married. The reason for this is that the sense of happiness will transfer over to the bride and stay with the couple for years to come, and that they can always seek support from her family and friends.

‘Something blue’ because blue is the colour of purity, faithfulness, and modesty.

Don’t Forget the Six Pence in Your Shoe!

No longer part of the above wedding rhyme,‘A sixpence in your shoe’ symbolised lasting wealth for the couple. It was also to give a daughter some money of her own as women would pass from the care of their father to their new husband meaning they were without any financial assets of their own. Giving a bride a coin meant she had some money of her own if she needed it.

Although six pence coins are no longer legal currency, they can still be brought online or substituted with another modern coin.

Weddings have changed, but many still follow and include these and other wedding customs and traditions regardless of their wedding choices. Did/will you?