Friday, May 28, 2010

Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.

Have you ever wondered why a bride is supposed to wear white? Why the married couple exchanges rings? Or maybe why they throw rice? There are tons of wedding  traditions that we cherish but often do not know where they originated. Well, in honor of my husband who LOVES to read wikipedia articles on everything, here are some explanations to some classic traditions we know and love.

The White Bridal Gown

During 16th century, Queen Victoria decided that white would be the symbol of purity and virginity for brides. I think Vicky must have been sporting a sweet tan at the time, because why else would she have chosen this to be the color of the millennium? Before that, wedding gowns were often made with bright colors. Also, white was a color of celebration for Ancient Romans, but this is not as widely recognized as a precipitating factor. The veil? Yeah, that was to ward off evil spirits…who presumably couldn't cast spells through tulle.

Wedding Party

Oh, those wacky ancient frat boys. Apparently, and this is a hoot, a group of clansmen used to sneak into the family dwelling of a young girl and kidnap her, making her the bride of whoever happened to have killed the most wooly mammoths that week or something. Groomsmen are a relic of this romantic custom. I am left only to assume that bridesmaids served the historical purpose of allowing the bride to dress her friends in pink taffeta and take pictures of them, providing her with a little comic relief after having been stolen from her family's home by a group of smelly Neanderthals.

Father/Daughter Processional

As most people know, this tradition is left over from a time when women were considered property, the guardianship of which was transferred from the bride's father to her husband. Personally, I think it can still be a special father-daughter ritual with a more updated meaning, although many brides today choose to have both parents walk them down the aisle, neither, or somebody else entirely.

Exchanging Rings

This ritual goes back many moons, to a time even before celebrities wore knuckle-busting pink diamond engagement rings. The circular band is a symbol of everlasting love, which the Egyptians started the custom of wearing on the 3rd finger of the left hand because they believed that the blood flowed directly between there and the heart.
Bouquet Toss

Nope, it hasn't always served simply to shine the spotlight on the single girls so that the groom's buddies knew where to direct their ever-so-subtle advances. Apparently it used to be good luck to try to take a piece of the bridal bouquet or even clothing from the bride after the wedding, so the bouquet toss was designed to placate potential troublemakers. It's a similar story with the garter toss, only the groomsmen actually took bridal undergarments out of her dressing quarters for luck. At least, from the accounts that I've read, they didn't actually remove the underthings off of the bride's person…although I'm sure this was dependent upon whether or not there was an open bar at the reception.

The 'Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe' Jingle

This saying comes from Victorian times, although some of the components are much older. Something old (often a piece of jewelry, or the bride's mother's or grandmother's wedding dress) usually signified ties with family and friends before marriage, which they hoped would remain strong as she entered this new stage of life. Something new signified wealth financial prosperity for the bridal couple. Something borrowed (think handkerchief or jewelry here, NOT underpants…save these for the 'new' or 'blue' categories, ladies) usually came from another bride in a happy marriage, and was supposed to beget that happiness to the new couple. Something blue originated from the fact that blue was an ancient biblical symbol of loyalty and purity, and brides used to wear blue ribbons in hair to signify these qualities. The silver sixpence coin in the shoe is usually replaced by a penny these days (the sixpence is fairly hard to come by lately; you'll notice that you hardly ever get one with your change at the 7-11). This was another symbol of wealth, intended to attract fortune to the marriage. But a measly penny? Come on now…I think if you really want to end up rolling in the dough you might as well up the ante, here: Just tape a Benjamin to your bum, underneath those fancy blue skivvies.
Sharing the first piece of wedding cake 

A wedding tradition with Roman roots. The Romans believed that by eating the wedding cake together a special bond was created between the couple. The wheat used to bake the cake was symbolic of fertility and a "fruitful union", while the cake's sweetness was thought to bring sweetness to all areas of the couple's new life.

The ceremonial kiss 

The kiss  concludes the wedding ceremony is said to represent the couple sharing and joining their souls. In Roman times the kiss "sealed" the couple's agreement to join in a life-long commitment.

The boutonniere

This originates in medieval times when a knight wore his lady's colors (through flowers) as a statement of his love. Flowers and bouquets have long been used in weddings. In addition to adorning the bride with flowers to promote good luck and good health flower meanings allow the bride to express her feelings for the groom. Orange blossoms signify purity, daisies loyalty, violets modesty and red roses signify true love.

Placing the wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand

This has two possible origins; ancient Egypt or 17th century Europe. The Egyptians believed the "vein of love" ran directly from the ring finger to the heart, therefore the ring was placed there to denote eternal love. During a 17th century wedding ceremony the groom would slide the wedding ring part way up the bride's thumb, index finger and middle finger as the priest said "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". As the ring finger was the first free finger, the ring was placed there.

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