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Wedding Traditions

 

Ever wonder why the bride, groom, wedding party and guests do the things they do at the wedding?  For instance, why is the traditional color of the bride's gown white?  Why is the bride supposed to wear "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?  Below are explanations for some of the traditions that are carried out at weddings today.


 

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General Wedding Traditions

Afro-American Wedding Traditions

Cajun Wedding Traditions

Irish Wedding Traditions

Greek Wedding Traditions

Jewish Wedding Traditions

Polish Wedding Traditions

Hispanic Wedding Traditions

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General Wedding Traditions

 

The White Wedding

White has been the symbol of celebration since Roman times, but the tradition of the bride's gown being white, as opposed to other colors, did not gain popularity until Queen Victoria decided to be married in a white gown.  In at least some Asian cultures, red--not white--is considered to be the color of celebration; white is the color of mourning.

 

Throwing Rice

Rice in many cultures, Western and Asian, is a symbol of wealth, fertility or bounty.  Regardless of culture, the throwing of rice symbolizes the well-wishes of the couple's family and guests after the ceremony.

Today, for safety and/or environmental reasons, many churches don't allow throwing rice, birdseed or flower petals.  That has caused the new tradition of blowing bubbles.

 

The Couple's First Kiss

Since Roman times, a kiss has been used to bind a legal agreement or to seal a bethrothal.  In Christian ceremonies, the tradition was transformed to mark the union of man and woman in marriage.

It was also believed in Medieval times that when two people kissed, a part of their souls were left inside the other during the exchange of breath, and that was also symbolic of the union of two people.

Occurring at the end of a ceremony, the kiss meant a public announcement of the newly-married status of the couple, as well as a public acknowledgement of their commitment to each other.

The Bride's Bouquet

Originally, the bride carried a bouquet of herbs designed to ward off evil spirits and encourage good ones.  For instance, Rosemary signified rememberence, dill invoked lust, and was meant to be eaten by the bride.

Flowers that were said to have different significances were added to the bride's bouquet as time progressed.  Today, a bride often uses the significance of individual flowers in choosing the flowers for her bouquet.

 

Today a bride will often choose the flowers for her bouquet based on the traditional meaning of the flower.  Below is a summary of the meaning between the giver and receiver of the most popular flowers.

Bridal Rose - Happiness in love

Daffodil - Warm regards - given between friends

Fern - Sincerity of intentions

Forget-me-not - True love

Honeysuckle - Represents the bonds of Love

Iris - Messages

Ivy - Friendship

Lavender - Luck

Lilac - First Emotions of Love

Lilly of the Valley - Return of Happiness

Magnolia - Perseverance

Pansy- Thinking of You

Peppermint- Warm Feelings

Red Rose- Desire and Love, the traditional Valentine's Day flower

Rosemary- Remembrance

Sweet Alyssum- Worth Beyond Beauty

Sweet Basil- Good Wishes

Sweet Pea- Delicate Pleasures

Violet- Faithfulness

White Daisy- Innocence

Yarrow- Everlasting Love

Yellow Rose - Unfaithfulness

 

Tossing the Bouquet

The tossing of the bouquet to unmarried guests at the wedding has come to mean the transfer of luck in marriage from the bride, or being the next to marry.  Although traditions vary widely, it is typically blindly thrown to unmarried female guests before the departure of the couple on their honeymoon.

It is also a mark of transition of the bride from unmarried to a married woman.

Originally, the bouquet was given to a friend selected by the bride for good luck or protection.

 

The Bridal Garter

 

The garter toss is thought to be an early English custom that evolved from "flinging the stocking."  Guests would follow the couple to their bedroom on their wedding night, steal their stockings while they were "distracted," then fling them at the couple.  It was thought that the first person to hit either the bride or the groom on the head would be the next to marry.

Later, brides tossed a garter at the wedding reception, but later the custom changed to the groom's removing the garter himself and tossing to his male guests because brides were often forced to fight off drunken male guests who tried to remove the garter themselves!

The Ring Finger

Since at least the time of the Egyptians, the wedding and engagement rings were placed on the second finger of the left hand, and is still placed there in many European countries.

It came from the belief that there was a vein in that finger that ran directly to the heart.

Today, some religious orders for women still place a ring on the second finger of the left hand, to symbolize a marriage to God.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

All four are is a European superstition to ward off evil spirits.

 

Something Old:  Symbolizes the continuity of transition from two single people to a married couple.

 

Something New: Represents a transition to adulthood upon marriage.

 

Something Borrowed:  Something the bride carried that had been borrowed from a happily married couple, hoping that their good fortune would be shared.

 

Something Blue: Blue was often the border color of the Bride's dress, and symbolized purity, constancy and fidelity.

The Unity Candle

When the Unity Candle is lit by the wedding couple, it symbolizes the merger of two lives into one. 

When the Unity Candle is lit by a member of the couple's families (in many cases the mothers of the Bride and Groom, it symbolizes the joining of two families as well as the unity of the couple in marriage. 

Regardless of who lights the candle, It is also considered a transfer of commitment from the families of the couple to a new commitment of the couple to establish a new family.

 

The Wedding Favors

Favors given at the reception are meant as thank you gifts to each guest for taking part in the couple's special day.  It is a way for the bride to share her good fortune, by sending a gift home with the guest to enjoy.

Although the contents of the wedding favor varies from culture to culture, the most common favors are candies, porcelain boxes, tulle bags, or cookies made especially for the occasion.

 

Jumping the Broom

This custom originated when there was slavery in the United States; but was not unique to African-Americans.  Cajuns and other peoples who lived in isolated areas had Jumping the Broom ceremonies, which were considered legally binding until a member of the government or clergy could perform a proper marriage ceremony. African-Americans, however, did not have a legal status as citizens, and therefore didn't have the right to enter into a legal agreement such as marriage.

 

A tradition of "jumping the broom" developed to mark the commitment of two people to each other.  The tradition became so accepted that both slaves and their owners would not only accept the practice, they would participate in the celebration.

 

Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold

There appear to be at least three different opinions as to the origin of this custom.  The first explanation is that it's the groom's attempt to ward off evil spirits that may be living under the threshold.

In Roman times, the bride was carried over the threshold for the first time because if she tripped it was considered a sign of future bad fortune for the couple and their marriage.

A third explanation is that in some early marriages, the groom and his groomsmen, who were often called bridesmen or bridesknights would kidnap a woman from another tribe.  The groom and his assistants would then fight off the female's family with his sword in his right hand, while the groom would hold his intended bride with his left, also explaining why the bride stands on the groom's left side.

 

The Honeymoon

A new bride who had either had her marriage arranged, or she was kidnapped was secluded with her new husband for a one month cycle (moon) in the hopes of making her pregnant, which would prevent the marriage from being annulled forever.  The bride and her husband would partake of Meade (a potent alcoholic drink made of honey), sometimes heavily, during that one month period of seclusion.  Thus comes the term honeymoon.

 

A Lucky Penny in Her Shoe

This is thought to be a European tradition to bring the Bride good luck, protection against want, and fortune.  After the wedding day, the lucky penny was often turned into a piece of jewelry, such as a charm, ring, or necklace.

 

The Money or Dollar Dance

In many cultures, a dowry is only collected after a marriage is consummated, so the couple start out their lives penniless.  The money or dollar dance was designed to give them some money to live on and perhaps pay some wedding expenses before they left the reception.  In other cultures, the dowry was only paid when their first child was born, making things like the money dance even more necessary.  The dance was not limited to money.  Guests would often also give livestock, cooking pots and utensils, and bedding as well.

 

The Loud Send-Off:  Honking Horns, Typing Shoes to the Car

The honking of horns after a wedding ceremony has its roots in the belief that loud noises will ward off evil spirits, and was originally done on behalf of the bride as she traveled to the ceremony.  In some cultures, bells were rung or firecrackers were set off.

Shoes represent the transfer of the bride as property from her father to the groom, as does escorting the bride down the aisle.

The ringing of a church bell after a ceremony is designed to announce a marriage.

  

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