A Brief History of the Most Common Wedding Traditions

garter toss wedding traditions

There are many things associated with weddings that everyone knows about and includes in their weddings without thinking twice. For example, the wedding bouquet, the garter toss and the bridal veil are all typically included in weddings today, but do you really know why or what they represent? Some of these wedding traditions date back centuries and are included in many ceremonies without question. In our brief history of the most common wedding traditions we discuss the history behind these customs and how they came to be.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

This rhyme is one of the most well-known wedding customs that is used in weddings and perpetuated in television and movies. It dates back to Victorian times and each section of the saying represents a different aspect of the wedding. Something old represents the bride’s family and the past, so many brides wear an old family heirloom such as jewelry or clothing as part of their wedding day attire. Something new signifies the future and good fortune in the bride’s new life. The wedding gown is commonly selected as the something new. Something borrowed is typically borrowed from friends or family members to symbolize borrowed happiness. Something blue stands for fidelity, purity and love and can be creatively incorporated into the bride’s attire in many different ways.

something old new borrowed blue

Photo Credit: Merle Shop


Garter Toss

The garter is a type of garment that the bride wears on her leg underneath her wedding dress and is removed by the groom at the end of the reception. The origins of this ritual come from a wedding superstition from the Middle Ages that taking an article of the bride’s clothing would bring good luck. Over time this tradition developed into the groom removing the garter from the bride himself and then tossing it into the crowd of single men to protect the bride from a horde of people.

garter toss wedding traditions

Photo Credit: Freeways to Farms


Bridal Veil

The veil isn’t just another accessory to make the bride look beautiful and dainty. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that wearing a veil would protect the bride from evil spirits who would attend the wedding to try to curse the newlyweds. What began as a protective article of clothing became a status symbol in the Victorian era when brides would start to wear more elaborate veils to signify their wealth.

bridal veil wedding traditions

Photo Credit: The Chic Buzz


Wedding Bouquet

The wedding flower industry is a multibillion dollar industry, with bridal bouquets, bridesmaids bouquets, groom and groomsmen boutonnieres, centerpieces and décor to fulfill. But did you know that this pretty bunch of flowers once started as a bundle of garlic, dill and other herbs? This aromatic bunch was believed to be used to drive evil spirits away. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wed, the herbs were replaced with fresh flowers. Over time flowers became the more popular choice for bouquets and today the variety of combinations of flowers is endless.

herb wedding bouquet

Photo Credit: Wedding Chicks


White Wedding Dress

Traditionally, brides did not necessarily wear white wedding dresses. Instead, they wore whatever their best dress was at the time. It was not until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding in 1840 in which she wore a white gown that it became the norm. Many believe that white represents purity, but in fact in biblical times blue was the color that represented purity (as in the “something blue”). Today, the traditional wedding gown is some shade of white and we can thank Queen Victoria for that.

Queen Victoria white wedding dress

Photo Credit: Mirror


Matching Bridesmaid Dresses

Matching bridesmaid dresses can be a bridesmaid’s worst nightmare, due to the fact that it’s tough to find a style and color of dress that is flattering on all shapes and body types. However, this custom goes back to the ancient Romans. They believed that evil spirits would attempt to curse the bride and groom on their wedding day and by having the bridesmaids dress in matching dresses it would confuse the spirits into not knowing who the actual bride was. This would protect the bride and groom from being cursed and bring luck to the marriage.

matching bridesmaid dresses wedding traditions

Photo Credit: Vponsale


Giving Away The Bride

The bride’s father traditionally walks his daughter down the aisle to give her away to her new husband. What is now seen as an emotional and touching moment actually comes from a time when daughters were considered property. The father would use his daughter as a form of currency to pay off debts or buy his way into a higher social status. It was also viewed as a transaction between the father and groom of transferring ownership of the bride. Naturally this viewpoint has disappeared over time and today the father giving his daughter away is symbolic of the parents’ blessing of the marriage. In today’s modern times, it is not necessarily the father who walks the bride down the aisle, but any significant family member or loved one.

giving away the bride

Photo Credit: SA Weddings

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