When it comes to planning your wedding, there are just certain things that immediately come to mind: A white dress. Bridesmaids. Flowers.
But did you ever stop and think about the fact that many of the key elements to a wedding are not arbitrary, but traditions with deep roots? Some are even borderline strange if you think about it. For example, why in the world does the bride throw her bouquet of flowers at a group of unwed ladies? Or why exactly is the groom supposed to carry his bride across the threshold after the wedding? Some of these things have just become wedding staples that we never thought to question. But, we dug deep into 10 of the most popular wedding traditions to uncover the meaning behind them – or at least the fun urban legends and superstitions surrounding them.
It’s up to you which of these wedding traditions you choose to keep or bypass for your own special day, but don’t come crying to us if your marriage is plagued with bad luck because you chose not to wear a wedding veil to shield you from bad karma …
1. The engagement ring
Did you ever wonder why the man gives the woman a ring when he asks for her hand, but the guy doesn’t get a band of gold in return to show the female population that he is off the market?
You probably aren’t going to like what we dug up. According to this BRIDES magazine story, the origin of the engagement ring was a symbol of ownership. (Gasp!) The story says that Roman law recognized it not as a sign of ownership but as a kind of security or down payment paid to the bride-to-be.
We don’t necessarily like that view any better.
And you’ll never guess who decided that an engagement ring absolutely had to have a diamond in it … De Beers. Yes, that De Beers. The diamond company hired an ad agency in the late ‘30s to create the comparison between the size of the diamond and the level of love the man felt for his bride-to-be.
2. Something old, new, borrowed and blue
This one is a little less scandalous. It stems from an Old English rhyme: “Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe.” The first four items have become synonymous with good luck charms a bride needs to carry with her on her wedding day. The sixpence is largely only included in British customs.
Each of the items carries unique symbolism for the bride-to-be. Something old is said to represent the bride’s past, while the something new speaks to the couple’s happy future. The bride is supposed to get her something borrowed from someone happily married so some of that love and longevity will be shared. Something blue represents fidelity and love.
3. Not seeing each other before the wedding
How many couples spend the bulk of their wedding morning texting each other from separate, secret locations? You’ve even seen the cute wedding photos where the bride-to-be and groom-to-be are standing on opposite sides of a doorway so they can be photographed together without actually seeing each other.
But why? That’s just weird.
Our research turned up that this dates back to the time of arranged marriages. It was believed the bride and groom didn’t need to see each other before the ceremony in case they didn’t like what they saw. The origin of the veil? Yep … to keep the groom from seeing his new wife until it was too late to back out.
Today, it’s widely accepted to just be bad luck, although many couples risk it and have a “first look” to take advantage of some alone time before the big event begins as well as to do some photography before the ceremony.
4. The wedding cake
Serving a fancy cake at nuptials is a custom that dates back to medieval times, although it has gotten much fancier in modern times, with tiers and toppers and layers. Made from wheat, cakes were originally a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Thank goodness the tradition of throwing the cake at the bride hasn’t survived the times, because that’s how it used to go down. Thankfully, now, we just cut and serve it like normal people.
5. The bouquet
The origin of the bride carrying a bouquet dates back to ancient times, but that bouquet wasn’t always made of flowers. Initially, it was aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs and spices thought to ward off evil spirits. But if we are meant to ward off evil spirits, what do a bunch of roses, daisies or carnations from today’s weddings do? Not much more than just look (and smell) pretty. In many cases, they match the bridesmaids and the rest of the wedding theme.
It’s also widely thought that during the 15th century, the bouquet helped mask the bride’s body odor. I guess if that’s still a factor today, then the roses and other yummy smelling flowers still have a purpose beyond just looking pretty.
Is it just me, or does this word immediately conjure up one of the best movies of all times? I think it’s a must-watch for anyone – married or not.
But I digress.
The origin of the bride walking down the aisle with a pack of her besties has a bit of a gruesome twist to it. It wasn’t to dress up wedding photos at all, but to confuse evil spirits or those who wished to harm the bride. Initially, bridesmaids all wore the same thing as the bride, so if there were any evil spirits lurking around, they had a one-in-eight chance of picking the right lady to haunt. Think of it as the earliest form of the body double. Although today, brides aren’t wary of evil spirits like they once were, the pack of ladies still stands next to their bride, and I bet if anyone did try anything funny, the ladies would tackle them. At least they would have in the movie.
7. The garter toss
OK … this one is hilarious. We found out that in days long ago, the bride and groom had to prove they consummated the marriage. Onlookers were involved in this process and would obtain a garment of clothing, often a garter, as proof! (Can you even imagine?)
This story goes on to say that having any article of the couple’s undergarments was considered good luck. To keep things from spiraling out of control in the bedroom as those in attendance snatched at items to keep for good luck, the groom began tossing the garter out of the room to keep the peace. Thankfully, now, the tradition has the groom removing the garter and throwing to a crowd of single men right at the reception to provide a little privacy in the boudoir on the wedding night.
8. Throwing the bouquet
A bit like the back story of the garter, hundreds of years ago, wedding attendees wanted a piece of the bride. Literally. In order to deter guests from touching her for good luck, according to this story, the bride would toss her bouquet into the crowd to distract people.
But through the years, this tradition has evolved into the bride wanting to share a bit of her married vibes with her single friends. Legend has it whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to marry.
9. Throwing rice as the newlyweds depart
Originally, throwing rice at a newly married couple was meant to symbolize rain, which was synonymous with prosperity, fertility and good fortune. Then, it was widely accepted that rice was actually harmful to birds that might swoop down and eat it the next day, which prompted all sorts of replacements such as throwing bird seed, blowing bubbles or even lighting sparklers.
But according to snopes.com, this is not true. The rumor-debunking website says ornithologists (aka bird experts) say that they have never heard of or seen birds dying after consuming rice thrown at weddings.
10. Carrying the bride over the threshold
This one dates back to medieval Europe, where it was believed that a bride could attract evil spirits through the soles of her feet. To avoid bringing those evil suckers into the couple’s new home, the groom would carry her over the doorway.
In today’s times, it’s just a sweet gesture of the new husband taking care of his lady. Evil spirits and all.
Check out some of the South’s most amazing weddings and beautiful brides in our Southern weddings section!