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Origins of Wedding Traditions


The origins and history behind many wedding traditions, in comparision to today's culture, is quite bizzare. Before you head off to another summertime wedding, or jump over your own broom, why not take a moment to reflect on the history of many of today's wedding traditions?

Wedding history is rich with traditions, but most of them are far from the romantic notions of today. Many of them are based around protecting the couple from evil or from the gaining of wealth or social status.

The White Dress
Brides didn't always wear white! In the olden days, brides wore the best thing they had in their closet and it could have been any color, including black. To convince the groom that she comes from a wealthy family (back then it was all about the money!), a bride and her family would pile on her anything that illustrated wealth - furs, silk, velvet, jewels, feathers, etc.

It wasn't until Queen Victoria wore white for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, that brides near and far decided to copy her style. And so the white wedding gown was born!

And speaking about dresses, let's talk about the bridal party next.

The Bridesmaids & Their Dresses
Historically, bridesmaid dresses were not picked by brides looking to torture their friends into buying expensive dresses that they will never use again. The dress was actually selected to trick the evil spirits and jealous ex-boyfriends. Bridesmaids were to wear a dress similar to the bride so that during the walk to church, no harm would come to the bride-to-be.

The idea was to get a group of women together in their Sunday best, so no one (not spirits, not evildoers, or ex's) would realize one of the women was getting married.

The Groomsmen & Their Attire
Ditto for the men in penguin suits, it was believed that if the groomsmen were all dressed similar to the groom, it would save him from ill-fate too. However, the historical reason for a "Best Man" and Groomsmen is to whisk away a potentially runaway bride or to protect a bride from those who may object to the nuptials. The "Best" title is because this member of the bridal party was the most apt at using a sword or other weapon. The best man would also historically stand guard outside the "honeymoon" room on the evening of the wedding, to ensure that the bride would not leave and others would not get in.

So now that we have the entire wedding party assembled for the ceremony, let's discuss the traditions during and after the ceremony.

The Father Giving Away The Daughter
Back in the day, families used their daughters as money. Fathers would arrange marriages to buy their way into a higher social class, perhaps form an alliance with neighboring royalty or landowner, pay off a debt, or even as a peace offering to a rival. Fathers would walk their daughter down the aisle, so they would not run away!

So the next time you see a Father walking their daughter down the aisle, just remember this tradition started because of money, not necessarily love.

The Kiss & The Veil
There are two different schools of thought on how the tradition of the veil started. First, it is believed that the veil would ward off evil sprits and protect the bride. The second belief is that the veil would protect an ugly bride from a groom who may object to her looks. It was only until they "sealed the deal" that the groom was allowed to look at his bride.

The Garter & Bouquet Toss
If we lived in the centuries before, immediately after we said "I Do" couples would be rushed off to a room to consummate the marriage. Often people would grab at the bride's dress as the couple walked away, hoping for a piece of it - for good fortune. Thus the tradition of tossing the bouquet began - it would be tossed as a diversion - and whoever caught it would be "blessed" by good luck. And just before the couple consummated the marriage, the groom would toss the bride's undergarments outside to prove they were about to make it official.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Although we've touched on this tradition before in a whole article: Wedding Traditions: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue we'll re-cap it for you.

Something Old: ties the bride to her past and to her family.
Something New: ties the bride to her new life.
Something Borrowed: borrowing something from a successfully married woman ensure luck in the new marriage.
Something Blue: stands for love, modesty, fidelity, good luck, purity and loyalty.
And A Sixpence In Her Shoe: represents wealth and financial security.

Saving The Wedding Cake
Back in the days, you got married and usually started a family shortly thereafter. To save on costs, rather than baking another cake for the Baptism of the first born, couples would save the top tier (or a portion of the cake) for the birth of their first baby (usually within a year's time or less of the wedding). Thus, saving a piece of cake for the first anniversary was born.

2008 Erica Tevis, Little Things Favors

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