Did You Know?
Marriage and the Wedding Ceremony date back to tribal times. Some of the customs
and traditions are based on these times and you may find some of the following trivia of interest.
Something old, something new....
Everyone knows "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue", but few are aware of the last line - "and a silver sixpence in your shoe".
Something Old... This refers to the Bride's old life and her family. Though she is leaving them behind by wearing something old, she is showing that she still remembers them.
Something New... Wearing something new represents the hopeful success and good fortune in the Bride's new life.
Something Borrowed... Borrowing an item already worn by a happy Bride is believed
to pass on the good luck.
Something Blue... Blue is a sign of purity (Japanese normally marry in blue).
This follows the long tradition of Brides being pure on their wedding day and their commitment to their future husbands.
And A Silver Sixpence... Though possibly uncomfortable, this represents wealth -
not just financial wealth, but spiritual wealth, happiness and good luck through married life.
The Bride's bouquet
The Bride's bouquet comes from the old tradition of strong smells warding off evil spirits and bringing good fortune. During the plague in England, people wore pouches of flower petals around their necks to (they thought) stop them catching the plague - thought to be carried by strong smells!
The throwing of the bouquet is 'the Bride spreading her good fortune and luck' -
Whoever catches it will be blessed with good luck and be the next to marry.
Traditions concerning the service
The traditional seating arrangements in Church go back to the days when a father would offer his daughter to the member of another tribe as a peace offering, hopefully uniting the two.
The tribes were kept apart just in case anyone didn't agree and tried to kill a member of the other tribe!!
A father 'giving his daughter away' goes back to times when a daughter was considered to be her father's property. When she married he was 'handing ownership over to the husband'.
'The Kiss' shows acceptance of the marriage contract - in ancient times, before hand shakes and written contracts, a kiss (usually on the check) was a sign of bonding and acceptance of a contract.
The tradition of getting engaged dates back to when a Groom would choose a hard working girl, grab her, and ride off with her before her father could stop him. Heartbreaking for the father who had spent time and money rearing a good worker for the family! Over time the situation evolved whereby the father was entitled to demand payment for his valuable asset - he would give the groom a set time to pay, hence engagement.
The ring arrived as part payment, and demonstrated the groom's willingness to pay.
The tradition of women proposing on February 29th date back to when the date was not recognised as such and so had no legal status. This 'loop hole' date was chosen by
women who felt they had been 'left on the shelf' too long.
As part of the engagement celebrations, it is traditional for the Bride to hold a Bridal Shower (no water involved), where her friends give her presents - usually household items.
This dates back to when a Father of the Bride would present a dowry to the Groom. However, if he did not agree with the situation, he would withhold the dowry making his daughter a less attractive proposition - so the Bride's friends would collect gifts to make up the dowry on her behalf.
Honeymoon derives from honey the base for mead which the Bride would drink as it was believed to increase fertility and moon where it was believed that to marry on a full moon would bring good fortune to both families.
Bride's Maids - or decoys!
Bride's Maids date back to when the Bride would have 'bride's maids' who would wear exactly the same clothes as the Bride - evil spirits would get confused ensuring only good luck prevailed for the Bride!
In later times the Groom's friends dressed the same as him, the Bride's friends the same as her - this confused any potentially jealous suitors who might kidnap the Bride, or worse - kill the Groom!
The 'Best' Man
In the times when a Groom would kidnap his Bride, incurring the wrath of her father and family, the Best Man (the Groom's most trusted friend) was there to help in any fight.
When it came to the ceremony, he was there just in case the father or family decided to take the Bride back.
Throwing confetti (relatively modern) or rice, dates back to when the newly married couple were showered with rice and grain to represent fertility and continuity.
Tying shoes to bumpers is relatively new, but had origins in the past - shoes are a symbol of fertility (apparently!), and also a sign of the passing of responsibilities from father to husband. This gave authority for the husband to keep his wife in check and protected.
Wedding cake has several origins - one dates back to when most marriages took place after harvest. The cake represented fertility and good luck, with the handing out of pieces of cake representing the passing on of good luck.
Horseshoes (not real ones!) and other symbols of good luck are often used to decorate the cake.
During the service, the Groom stand on the right of the Bride. This goes back to the days of swords - should any man challenge the Groom to his right to his Bride, he was free to draw his sword with his right hand whilst protecting or holding his Bride with his left.
Carrying his Bride over the threshold dates back to when it was though a new Bride was vulnerable to evil spirits and bad luck - he would carry her over the threshold so leaving the evil spirits and bad luck on the outside.
It is also though to be symbolic of leaving her old life behind, being carried into a new one.
Another view is that a Bride did not want to seem to eager to give away her purity, so the Groom would have to carry her in an act of gentle persuasion.
Traditions from Around The World
1. Moroccan brides start their wedding day by having a ceremonial purification milk bath before having their hands and feet intricately painted with henna.
2. In Estonia, the classic tradition of whichever woman catches the bride's bouquet being the next one to marry is adapted for men. The groom is blindfolded, then spun round. The single man whose head he puts his top hat on will be the next to get hitched.
3. Japanese brides change their outfit several times during the day.
(The perfect excuse to hit the shops.)
4. Italians cut up the groom's tie, then sell the pieces to help fund their honeymoon.
5. An Anglo-Saxon groom would tap the heel of his bride's shoe to symbolise his authority over her.
6. In Ireland women braid lavender into their hair for luck.
7. Latvian brides are 'kidnapped', and the groom has to pay a ransom (a song or a round of drinks) to get her back.
8. The phrase 'tie the knot' comes from the Romans - the bride wore a girdle with lots of knots, which the groom had the fun of untying.
9. At Finnish weddings, the groom's mother balances a china plate on top of her head when the newly-weds begin their first dance. The number of pieces it breaks into when it falls predicts how many children the couple will have.
10. In a Russian Orthodox wedding, the bride and groom race each other to the carpet they stand on to make their vows. Whoever wins will be head of the household.
11. In Austria the bride and groom also compete for the head of household title. The first person to buy something after the ceremony wins. Many brides win by purchasing something small - such as a pin - from their bridesmaid.
12. If you want your party to go with a swing, take a tip from ancient Azerbaijan - their wedding celebrations lasted for up to seven days.
13. Before a Swedish wedding, the bride's mother gives her a gold coin to place in her right shoe, while her father gives her a silver coin for her left shoe.
This symbolises a wealthy future.
14. A Jewish custom is to break a glass during the wedding, so that the bond between husband and wife will never be broken.
15. Another Jewish tradition is that the wedding ring should be completely plain, with no jewels or markings. This symbolises eternal love - there's nothing to mark the beginning from the end.
16. In Greece guests pin money to the couple as they have their first dance.
17. A French custom is for children to stretch white ribbons across the route to the
church. The bride cuts them on her way through.
18. German couples hang objects on a 'bride's tree'. A teapot, for instance, represents hospitality.
19. Also in Germany, friends and family collect pictures of the couple, and stories about them, to make a wedding scrapbook. This is then sold at the reception to help pay for the honeymoon.
20. Chinese bridesmaids give the groom a hard time before he's allowed to see the bride.
(Your friends will probably enjoy this.)
21. In Mexico guests form a heart shape around the couple as they have their first dance.
22. 'Confetti' has the same root as the Italian word for 'confectionery' - in pagan times the married couple would be showered with grain and nuts coated in sugar.
23. A Native American custom, when a younger brother or sister marries before older ones, is for the others to perform a dance in a pig trough.
24. Rather than being carried over the threshold, the newly married Moroccan bride walks around the outside of her house three times to mark her becoming the mistress of her new home.
25. Astrology plays an important part of a Hindu wedding and astrological charts are consulted to choose a wedding day that's considered auspicious.
26. In Britain it's lucky for a chimney sweep to come to the wedding and kiss the bride.
The tradition stems from when King George III reigned. The King's horses ran out of control and a chimney sweep stepped in to save him. The King proclaimed, by Royal Decree, all sweeps were good luck bearers and should be treated with respect. Chimney sweeps are also linked with early pagan wedding rituals where the colour black symbolises fertility.
27. Part of a traditional Sudanese wedding involves the Maid of Honour burning seven broom sticks to symbolise the discarding of bad habits before starting married life.
28. Finally, at Venezuelan weddings, it's traditional for the newly weds to sneak away from their reception without saying good bye to anyone. This is thought to bring them good luck.