From wearing a wedding veil and a white wedding gown, to asking your best friends to be your bridesmaids and tossing your garter, cutting the cake and exchanging wedding rings, your wedding day is steeped in tradition. Check out a few of our favorites – and never look at a wedding ceremony the same way again!
Tradition: Wearing a White Wedding Dress
Modern brides might describe their wedding dress as “cream” or “ivory,” but in most cases, it’s some variation on white. While colorful wedding gowns—blush, pink, ombre and even black — have definitely been called out as en emerging trend, traditional brides have stayed true to the color white ever since Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert in 1840. Before that, according to Hanne Blank, author of Virgin, the Untouched History, most brides wore whatever was nicest piece of clothing in their closet, while nobility wore luxurious gowns embroidered with metallic thread. Victoria ditched the nobility’s traditional silver gown for a white satin one, and “unintentionally kick-started the tradition of the white wedding dress: how better to feel like a queen [...] on one’s wedding day, than to dress like one?”
The color white is associated with innocence and purity, which is what most brides want to convey on their wedding day. But it has not always been the color of choice. Black or colored wedding gowns were the custom for European and American brides for many years.
Tradition: Having Bridesmaids
While they’re invaluable for moral support, throwing awesome bachelorette parties, and helping you get in and out of your dress, bridesmaids used to have a far more serious role in the wedding: protecting the bride from evil spirits. Bridesmaids were originally directed to dress just like the bride, and this, says Blank, was “intended to confuse evil spirits or those who wished to harm the bride.” (No matter how much you love them, or how many demons they saved you from, could you imagine taking your bridesmaids along on your very private, very intimate honeymoon? Nineteenth century couples did just that, according to historian Ginger Strand, taking along their whole wedding party on a “bridal tour”!)
Tradition: Wearing a Wedding Veil
Similarly, wedding veils were supposed to help guard the bride against demons and witches — if they couldn’t see her, they couldn’t curse her.
Tradition: Tossing the Garter
If the idea of showing some leg in front of your extended family is embarrassing, think about how tough brides from from more conservative times had it. In Marriage Customs of the World, George Monger explains how “bridal garters were prized as love tokens with magical properties,” and because of this, male wedding guests would try to pull them off and then pin to their hats for good luck. In Wedding Customs Then and Now, published in 1919, Carl Holliday advises women to “fasten it loosely to the bottom of her dress [or] find her clothes in rags after the struggle.” Somehow, having your husband take it off doesn’t seem so bad anymore!
Tradition: Wedding Rings
The wedding ring is symbolic of its circular shape, with no beginning or end. To give a ring is a sign of eternal and unending love. Many believe that the tradition of the wedding ring began back in Egypt around 4800 years ago. Brides would wear braided or twisted papyrus or more expensive materials, depending on how wealthy the groom was. Now, rings are generally made with white/yellow gold or other metals. It was only given the bride until around WWII ended, when the American jewelry industry led a successful marketing campaign to push dual ring ceremonies. Dual ring ceremonies now make up over 80% of US weddings and the jewelry industry is pushing this custom more global.
Tradition: Cutting the Cake
The wedding cake is symbolic of fertility and was solely delegated to the bride, to distribute it to guests, following the ceremony. As weddings began to grow in size, so did the size of the wedding cake. Additionally, with the new style of new multi-tier cakes that featured hardened icing, it was impossible for the bride to this on her own. The groom began helping with this project, (also symbolically making this the first task that they do together as husband and wife.) The tradition of the sharing the first slice of cake also represented their commitment to provide for each other forever.
No matter what customs you plan to use for your wedding, it’s important to make your wedding your own, and to love it. If you’d like to find out more about Mexican wedding traditions, see our blog post here.