As a Vancouver wedding planner for the last 7 years, I still get a good laugh when I tell my brides about the history and reasoning of each wedding tradition that we have today. The history of these wedding traditions are shocking to say the least! As I’m doing the research and writing this blog post, I can’t help but think to myself how ridiculous some of these traditions are! I’m glad we treat women fairly, don’t tear up their dress or kidnap them before their wedding.
I invite you to join me for a laugh as we go over 12 of our modern wedding traditions and where these traditions came from!
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of bridesmaids came from? No, they are not there to make the bride stand out and no they are not there to just support the bride in every way. It is actually quite the opposite! When a bride and groom gets married, they are supposed to be “sacred beings”. Bridesmaids are dressed very similar to the bride and is suppose to to ward off evil by confusing evil spirits to whom the bride is. They are also meant to confuse her exes as well.
In the early Roman times, bridesmaids are supposed to walk in a protective formation to protect the bride while she walks to her groom’s village. Luckily for us, bridesmaids only duty is to look pretty and hold a bouquet.
The Wedding Cake:
Everyone loves a piece of beautifully designed wedding cake, but where did this tradition come from? Originally, there wasn’t even a cake to begin with. It was bread! The groom would take a bite of the bread and crumb the rest of it over the bride’s head. Guests would then take the crumbs as a token of good luck. Eventually, this evolved to the bride pushing the cake through her ring and her guests would take that piece and put it under their pillow as good luck. Why can’t we just enjoy a piece of cake?
This might still apply in today’s society… no, I didn’t think so. The groomsmen’s duty was to ensure that the bride didn’t escape or stolen. They were not the groom’s closest friends, instead they were guards who was sometimes tasked with kidnaping the bride if the bride’s parents were not approving the marriage. The “best” in best man did not refer to your “best” friend. “Best” referred to the most capable of your groomsmen who would fight off enemies with a weapon during the ceremony.
Make sure the best man remember to bring a weapon and… the ring.
The honeymoon for most couples are a way to relax and enjoy each other’s company after months (sometimes years) of wedding planning. However, just as the groomsmen were sometimes tasked with kidnaping the bride, the honeymoon was the grooms way of hiding the bride from her tribe for a month or two. It was quite literally an escape.
The Wedding Dress:
I’m sure you’re guessing that the white wedding dress symbolizes purity, the colour of the virgin bride. Well, not exactly… The original wedding dress was actually red (same colour as chinese traditional brides). It was only in the 1840’s when Queen Victoria wore a white wedding dress when she married Prince Albert. Queen Victoria went against the norms when she opt into a white, lacey dress. At the time, the colour white represented wealth and not purity. However, in Japanese culture, the white wedding kimono represents purity.
The Bridal Bouquet
In Ancient Greek traditions, the bridal bouquet was not for the purpose of beauty at all. It was cluster of herbs and spices for the purpose of warding off evil spirits and thought to have magical powers. Once married, the husband and wife are seen as sacred beings, so it is believed that during the marriage ceremony is their most vulnerable state.
The Bouquet and Garter Toss
It might be the most annoying part of the reception for people in the single’s club because we believe that the person who catches the bouquet is destined to be married next. This was not why the original bouquet and garter toss came to be. Back then, the bride and groom didn’t wait for their honeymoon to consummate their marriage, they did it right after the bouquet and garter toss. The toss of the bouquet was to distract their guests while they go off and do the deed and the garter is to symbolize that the groom made it official and the guests would eagerly wait outside their bedchambers to for proof.
In the Medieval Times, the townspeople would rip pieces of the brides dress at an attempt to gain an item of good fortune. This was a time where people believed in evil spirits and mythical creatures. At an attempt to escape the hordes of townspeople attempting to rip up her dress, she would throw her bouquet at them!
I personally love the detail of having a veil on my brides. It is the one accessory that adds so much elegance and beauty to her dress. However, in ancient times, especially in Rome and Greece, the veil was worn to repel the “evil eye”. It was also used in some cultures by the father to confuse the groom to marry her daughter who was… more beautiful on the inside than the outside. It must have been pretty hard for the groom to cancel the wedding when he has been pronounced “Husband” and “Wife”.
The Wedding Ring
Probably one of the most important element of the ceremony is the exchange in wedding rings. Traditionally, the ring was only given to the bride. The wedding ring symbolizes collateral for the father and the groom’s ownership of the bride. They say in the fourth finger, a specific vein leads to the heart so that it why the ring is always on the fourth finger (this myth has been debunked since). Due to women’s rights, men eventually got a ring as well as the validity of the original meaning faded.
Glad the exchange of rings today has a celebratory meaning behind it.
Father walking down the aisle
Referring back to the previous point. The father walking the bride down the aisle dates back to arranged marriages where the father “gives away” her daughter to the the groom. This ritual symbolizes the transfer of ownership of the bride from the father to the groom. Traditionally, the father would use their daughter as collateral or to settle a debt. Young women were also used to elevate one’s status by marrying them off to wealthy and/or powerful families.
Today, the modern bride looks forward to walking down with their father simply to honour them.
The First Look
The tradition of the bride and groom not allowed to see each other before their wedding also originated from the days of arranged marriages. “The First Look” literally means the first look where the bride and groom has never seen each other before. The reason for this is that people believed that if the bride and groom saw each other before the wedding day, they would have enough time to cancel the wedding. The first look happens near the end of the ceremony where they have become husband and wife.
Today, the husband looks forward to revealing this wife’s face under the veil and kissing his her.
The “Kiss of Peace”
Traditionally in Roman Catholic Marriage Ceremonies, the priest would give the groom a kiss called the “Kiss of Peace” and the groom would then pass on the kiss to the bride. This kissing ritual is a blessing of peace for the marriage inside of the house of God (church). Now we know where the phrase “You may kiss the bride” comes from.
More Reading: 5 Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner in Vancouver
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