Wedding Traditions Through The Ages
Weddings comprise of lots of weird and wonderful wedding traditions. Many of these traditions have become so normalised that we don't even question their existence. But today, we're unpacking the most common wedding traditions to find their origin.
Join us as we explore the history of weddings!
Looking at wedding dresses through the ages alone, offers an interesting narrative in itself. From the flapper age in the 1920s that encouraged embroidered lace to the Depression period of simplicity to the knee raised dresses of the Swingin' Sixties - the wedding dress has become significant of the cultural changes of the time.
Now, interestingly, the bride's dress combines all of these elements throughout history. Wedding dresses can be a big wedding gown with a big puffy skirt (similar to the dress Queen Victoria wore in 1840), a white dress that's slim and simple or, even not a wedding dress but rather a wedding suit. Women are breaking expectations and choosing the outfit they want, rather than what society expects.
Although the bride's wedding attire has changed through the ages, one tradition still remains in Western culture. That is, the colour! Still the white gown continues to be the most popular choice for the bride. Representing virginity and purity, it's a tradition that has persisted through ancient times, to now.
Something borrowed, old, new and blue
You may have heard of the marriage tradition where the bride chooses something borrowed, something old, something new and something blue to wear on her wedding day. These have been known in Western societies to be wedding good-luck charms for the new marriage.
Still today, the tradition persists. Even those who aren't religious have been known to wear these charms to promote good fortune.
It's known that these charms were to ward off evil spirits and encourage luck for the bride and groom.
To accompany the white wedding dress one must have a white wedding veil! This is an age old tradition that still holds an important place in modern weddings today.
There are many stories from historians on where the veil was first spotted. Whilst some historians share a tale of a bride wrapped head to toe in order to cast off evil spirits, other historians report Queen Victoria to be the first to walk down the aisle with a long cascading wedding veil. Either way, the veil has proven to continue in popularity.
Perhaps you don't believe in wearing to ward off evil spirits, but many brides choose to wear the veil for fashion purposes. Queen Victoria was a trend setter after all!
Brides maids are members of the bridal party, often from the bride's family or friendship circle. The brides maids are there to be support for the wedding date, helping with the wedding planning. With the principle brides maid being called the maid of honour. Similarly, the groom chooses groomsmen with the best man being his number 1.
The history of brides maids goes back to the Bible where both Leah and Rachel came to Jacob with maids. This sparked the tradition amongst religious societies, rising in popularity from wedding traditions of Western monarchies.
Traditionally, the bride maids and groomsmen wore white, similar to the bride. This was made popular by the trendsetters Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Queen Victoria walked down the aisle with her long cascading veil, puffy dress and her bridesmaids by her side. The bridesmaids wore an outfit very similar to the Queen.
Wedding guests awed over the wedding between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, popularising many trends we are familiar with in Western culture.
The bridal bouquet is a beautiful addition to the bride's dress and overall wedding theme. Carried as the bride walks down the aisle during the wedding ceremony and often matching the wedding day decor, the bride bouquet is the finishing touch for every wedding.
The bridal bouquet has ties back to several different wedding traditions however, it most noticeably became popular in Victorian Times. During this period, carrying flowers became symbolic of virginity as well as holding a romantic meaning. Often the flowers would match the white wedding dress to further emphasise the virginal aesthetic. The bouquet of flowers began as simple posies and then quickly grew to expensive and lavish flowers we are familiar with today.
An important tradition during the wedding party was (and still is) the bride throwing her flowers (the garter toss) into the crowd of women wedding guests. The woman who grabs the bouquet is said to be given the good luck of being the next woman to be married. We're unsure about how 'lucky' the good luck is in finding a husband however, we do love a bouquet of flowers...
Wedding rings, arguably one of the most important wedding traditions, have become the big indicator for whether the groom and bride have in fact married. Situated on the left hand, it's the sign to single men and single women that you're taken.
There are always two wedding rings, the engagement ring and the wedding ring. The engagement ring was to be exchanged with the promise to marry. With the wedding ring to be exchanged on the wedding day.
The husband is commonly expected to get down on one knee and ask his future wife with her hand in marriage. Then the woman responds either saying "I do" or "I don't." Assuming she says yes, the man slides the wedding ring onto the finger, with the ring worn on the right hand.
Like many traditions, the wedding ring has roots in the Bible when Jesus was presented with a ring to represent a vow of devotion. Now, the bride and groom do the ring exchange when they have said their own vows to each other. This is an important moment of the wedding day, that often results in a few tears amongst guests at the wedding ceremony.
Everyone loves a delicious wedding cake (especially us). In fact, it turns out the wedding cake can be traced as far back as the Roman and Medieval times.
During the Middle Ages, wedding cakes were seen as the perfect opportunity to impress wedding guests. During the Middle Ages, the marriage ceremony put the cake on a pedestal. Made from spiced buns, scones, and biscuits, it was more-so a spread of desserts than a single cake.
These days, the wedding cake has taken different shapes and forms. For more traditional weddings, the tradition is a white wedding cake, tiered and with a bride and groom on the top tier! Or, a more nuanced wedding cake might throw tradition out the window and instead opt for chocolate mousse, fresh fruit or any dessert that tickles your fancy.
Your wedding day
With so many wedding traditions, it can be confusing deciding what you should choose for your big day. If you want our advice, we suggest doing whatever will make you the happiest on your wedding day *cough* not your family cough. After all, you two are the ones getting married!
Talk with your partner on how they imagine their big day. Discuss how you would like to marry and which traditions are meaningful to you. From here, you can begin the planning process and bring your ideas to reality.
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