A lot of times people throw around phrases like “tying the knot” or “something old, something new” yet the history behind these phrases is often not acknowledged. What exactly is the importance of matching bridesmaid dresses or why is white the most traditional color for a wedding dress? We looked into some of these ideas to get a better grasp on the symbolism and meanings behind wedding traditions. So if you are looking to impress your friends or family with these tidbits, or if you want to know more about the origins of our wedding traditions, we have summarized the history of some interesting traditions below.
1. Why white? Often thought to represent purity and virginity, white also represents a color that was thought to ward off evil spirits. It wasn’t always the white dress that was worn for wedding days. In fact, white was not the standard color for a wedding dress until the late 18th century. Prior to then, brides wore their “best dresses”. The Ancient Romans wore yellow dresses for their wedding days and the royals previously wore silver wedding dresses until the 1800’s when Queen Victoria made white popular for a wedding day dress. If you decide to wear other than white or your “best dress”, then we suggest you go for it as white was not always the color of choice!
2. Throwing the bouquet? The bouquet is often thrown during a wedding to the unmarried female guests but the tradition behind this is quite interesting. The bride’s bouquet (and anything else worn by the bride) is considered good luck so if you caught the bouquet, you would receive some of the happiness intrinsic in the bride’s belongings. Also, according to older tradition, the throwing of the bouquet into the crowd was to serve as a distraction so that the bride could escape.
3. Shall we kiss? When the bride and groom kiss during the wedding, the kissing serves as an exchanging of spirits. More than just affection, the kiss symbolizes a connection of the souls.
4. Penny in your Shoe? A European tradition holds that the bride should put a penny in her shoe to bring good luck and fortune. In addition to wearing it on your wedding day, it is a fun idea to take this penny and make it into a piece of jewelry or frame it at home so that the good fortune is always around!
5. Which ring finger? The wedding ring was formerly the index finger prior to the 5th century. It was later believed that the ring finger contained the “vein of love” with a direct connection to the heart. This brings a whole new meaning to looking at your ring finger with adoration of your lovely ring, doesn’t it?
6. That famous “Something Rhyme”! We’ve all heard it before – Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. The phrase originated in Europe and the significance is that it would ward off evil spirits if followed on your wedding day. “Something Old” signifies continuity from single life to married life, whereas “Something New ” signifies the transition to marriage and adulthood. The idea of borrowing something from another happily married couple was to bring good fortune to the new couple. The “Something Blue” symbolized purity and fidelity.
7. Tying the Knot? The commonly used phrase “tying the knot” comes from the ancient days of the Roman empire when the bride would wear a girdle that was tied in knots. The groom would untie the knots prior to the consummation of their marriage.
8. The story behind the bridal shower. The idea of a bridal shower is simple – to shower the new couple with gifts for their new life together. The history behind this idea comes from a story back during the time when marriages were arranged. A poor Dutchman fell in love with a girl but her father refused to provide the dowry for them to get married. According to this story, their friends showered them with enough gifts to start a household together. Another story from the end of the 19th Century is that a bride’s friends placed gifts inside her parasol and opened it over the bride’s head to “shower” her with gifts.
9. Matching bridesmaid dresses? The simple story behind having your bridesmaid dresses similar is that the evil spirits would be confused if everyone was dressed alike. If the bridesmaids and the bride looked similar, it would confuse and keep away the evil spirits. The same idea is true for confusing and keeping away the bride’s jealous ex-lovers.
10. Armed Backup for the Groom? One little known historical tidbit is that the best man was originally the armed backup for the groom in case the groom needed to kidnap the bride away from disapproving parents. When choosing the best man, keep in mind these historic duties and his skill with a sword!