Top Wedding Traditions and Where They Came From


The acts of becoming engaged and later married are steeped in traditions. For the majority of couples that are lucky enough to get as far as the commitment stage, they have no problem with following the many traditions society expects, but do they know what they are all about? Every tradition has a different origin and story. It seems sensible to know why you are doing a certain action and how it came to be, before including it in your big day. Some traditions may not be what you thought they were…

Throwing the bouquet

Tradition: When the wedding ceremony is over and before the bride and groom set off on their honeymoon, the bride should throw her wedding bouquet of flowers over her head and behind her for one of the people (normally women) in the congregation to catch. This is supposed to mean that the lady that catches it, will be the next bride to be married.

Origin: It seems that the idea of the bride holding plants goes way back to Ancient Greece and Rome too, and back then it was more focused on herbs and spices that ward off bad luck and spirits. From the 19th century brides in England, for example, began to use a more diverse set of flowers, with each flower particularly chosen to symbolize something. For example, a white carnation symbolizes pure love and innocence.

Women used to believe that the bride must have good luck around her on her special day, so they would try to touch any part of the bride they could. Sounds quite intrusive! Eventually, it seemed that as a way to calm these eager girls down and still give them something of the bride, the bouquet began to be thrown out to them.

So, this tradition still seems pretty harmless, and if you are going to have a bouquet at your wedding, consider the meaning of your flowers, for the message you will send out to your single ladies.

Giving a ring and wearing white

Tradition: On proposing, one partner is given a ring by another to symbolize the intent to marry, and at the wedding two rings are exchanged as a show of commitment.

Origin: So, the exchange of wedding rings has a nicer back story than the engagement ring. In ancient Egypt, couples exchanged wedding rings made of plaited reeds at their ceremony, as a circle was meant to symbolize eternity. Later, in Rome, the Romans began to give the ladies an engagement rings as a symbol of their contractual obligation to marry, and the man having ownership over that woman. The Romans used varied materials for the rings and the use of diamonds did not become popular until many centuries later.

The engagement ring is still a symbol of intent to marry but hopefully not so much of ownership now… if it is, you should rethink that marriage proposal! In this century, you can also opt to have a ring of different shapes, materials and custom made with special words or features from jewelers like Chapter 79, so, the meaning of the ring is obvious to your intended!

Tradition: A white dress is thought now to be a symbol of a bride’s innocence and purity, and up to a few years ago it would be thought of as the symbol of her virginity. Brides that are older and are not virgins would be expected to wear another color to avoid embarrassment.

Origin: In fact, the color white was more associated with grief and was not popular with brides for centuries, most opting for red or brown. The reason that white became popular and misconceived to be a symbol of purity, was more about the huge number of women that wanted to follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, when she decided to wear a simple white gown to marry Prince Albert, who she was famously deeply in love with. It was also a good way to show that you had wealth, as buying a white dress would mean that you can afford to purchase garments that you are unlikely to be able to use again.

So when it comes to wearing white, you probably need to just decide if you like white and want to stick with the tradition, because it really is just a fashion choice!

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

Tradition: For weddings to involve a set of ladies to help the bride prepare and support her in her big day, and a set of men to support the groom. Each group has a leading person, the maid of honor and the best man. The men and women also have a responsibility to provide the couple with individual parties to send them off into marriage.

Origin: The origin of bridesmaids and groomsmen seems a little complex and in some cases a bit dark. Romans required there to be ten witnesses to a wedding so the people there served an actual function at that time. The men and women were also expected to dress like the bride and groom, so to confuse evil spirits and anyone that might want to ruin the wedding. In the Bible there are also references to weddings where the women had female maids present to escort them. There is also history though of the best man and the other groomsmen having the task of kidnapping women to be brides and keeping them hostage at the weddings until the ceremony is over.

Thankfully, times have moved on and the roles of bridesmaids and groomsmen are not so vital, or violent! It is a personal choice to have a set of bridesmaids or groomsmen, and many people are opting not to have any at all. For many people, it is all just too much hassle!

There are plenty more traditions within family life that are riddled with strange origins. Whilst some of them could be harmless fun, if you are going to incorporate one into your major life events or your home, you should be asking yourself, if you agree with the meaning behind it first!