The Rings: The ancient Romans believed that a vein led directly from the third finger of the left hand to the heart. So, that is why your wedding band goes on that finger. Engagement rings- or diamonds specifically, are a 20th century phenomenon, capitalized on by DeBeers - A Diamond Is Forever. Until the 1930's, a diamond ring was not typically the choice for a betrothal. Though diamonds were popular among the very wealthy from the time of the Renaissance, it was not until DeBeers concocted this marketing plan and the availability of diamonds was far more widespread. Until then, it was more typical for a bride to be to be given a gold ring as a promise to marry or, in the early Colonial times, a thimble, as jewelry was shunned by the Puritans.
The Bouquet: Though you will most likely be carrying a lush, aromatic cluster of your favorite flower on your wedding day, this is not what you would have carried in ancient times. The bridal bouquet was carried for survival- literally! A bride would carry a bunch of garlic and dill to protect her from getting the plague on her way to the altar. Later, herbs would be carried as a symbol of renewal and to ward off evil spirits. Flowers were introduced by Queen Victoria. As for throwing the bouquet- this tradition grew out of the fact that during medieval times, it was customary for the guests to chase after the couple after the ceremony in order to assure that the marriage was consummated. The wedding guests would tear at the bride's dress for a piece of it as good luck for their own marriage. So, in an effort to escape the crowds, the bride would throw her garlic and herbs at the crowd, in hopes that they would chase after that instead of her. In another related tidbit, the garter toss grew out of this same notion. It was customary for the guests to invade the bed chamber of the couple and toss their tockings around. It was said that whomever wound up with these things, was the next to be married.
|Photo Courtesy BG Productions|
Of Maids and Men: Bridesmaids originated as bait for the evil spirits that were said to be after the bride. The brides friends were dressed identically to the bride and sent forth to fool the evil spirits as to who the REAL bride was. The Victorians had all the girls dressed in white with short veils. It was not until much later that the "bridesmaid dress" was born. In ancient times, the Best Man was the lucky guy who got to accompany the groom when he went to "kidnap" his bride. If any harm came to the groom, the best man would defend him- to the death, if necessary.
And The Bride Wore White: Well, not always! White wedding gowns did not become popular until Queen Victoria married her beloved Albert. Until then, the bride wore her Sunday best- even if it was black. There was no designated wedding gown. The veil, was more like a shroud- to protect the bride from those evil spirits lurking at the wedding site. It was also a means of keeping an unsuspecting groom from seeing his "arranged" betrothed before it was an accomplished fact that they were married. The length of the veil denoted the wealth of the family. The longer the veil, the bigger the dowry.
Wedding Cake: The wedding cake is another tradition that was born our of superstition. In ancient times, it was bread and not cake that was used. The bread was broken into tiny pieces and strewn over the bride's head to ensure that she understood that the groom was in charge and to bring good fortune to the couple. Later, guests would bring small cakes or sweet rolls to the wedding banquet. These cakes were stacked as high as possible to see if the couple could kiss over them without knocking them down. A prosperous life was their good fortune if they succeeded. In the early 1700's a clever baker took the idea of a stacked cake and is credited with producing the first real wedding cake. Other fun facts about wedding cakes- Royal Icing was coined when Queen Victoria had her cake iced in white. Eating the crumbs was considered good luck and if you didn't eat a piece of the wedding cake, it was considered rude. Saving the cake top for a year- that came from the superstition that saving the wedding cake ( which at that time was made with candied fruits and laced with wine) would ensure that you would not have marital trouble later on. And, cutting the cake as a couple- that was a practical thing, When all those stacked cakes got to be too heavy for the bride to cut alone, the groom had to help with the process.
Ladies On The Left: This is one of my favorites and something I tell EVERY bridal party at rehearsal. In medieval times, it was probable that the men would have to defend their ladies against marauders. So, they needed their right arm and hand free to draw their swords. Thus, when you are part of a wedding party or getting married- ladies take the left arm of the men.
Something Old, Something New...: This is something that most brides still enjoy doing. Something old, a family treasure, worn to honor your past. Something new, worn to welcome your future with your new husband. Something borrowed, traditionally from someone who is happily married so that her luck will rub off on your new marriage. And, something blue, the symbol of fidelity and true love. And, that penny in your shoe-to bring prosperity to your union and good luck. Often, it was made into a piece of jewelry after the wedding.
So, now you know. And, as you plan your happily ever after, think about the fun of knowing where some of these traditions came from. Happy Planning!