Wednesday 11 October 2017

The Modern Bride's Guide To Traditional Wedding Customs

Although, as time passes by, weddings are becoming more and more personalised and modern, there are still matrimonial traditions that we hang onto. But when it comes to your own big day, which traditions will you hold steady to, and which will you buck? We've sorted out sentimental from obsolete, and sweet from scary.


Then: One of the most well-known traditions in the wedding world is the 'bouquet toss', where the bride will take her bouquet and blindly toss it over her shoulder to the single women present at the wedding—whoever catches the flowers will be the next to marry, or so says tradition.

Now: Although most brides and groom still participate in this one as a fun part of their day, the modern bride has begun leaning away from giving away one of her most sentimental accessories from her wedding. Now there are options to have a second 'tossing bouquet' for the bride, in order to keep her original flowers.


Then: Similarly to the bouquet, the garter (a lace band of fabric that sits on the upper thigh) is also meant to be tossed—here to the single men of the party (or sometimes, to the partner of whomever catches the bouquet). This stems from a tradition where men and women at the wedding would rush at the bride and rip her wedding dress—retaining part of the dress was a sign of good luck.

Now: Like the bouquet, garter tosses are still common practice in the modern world—although they are not so violent as in the past and not as popular as the bouquet. Some women find they aren't comfortable with the removal process and choose to skip it altogether.


Then: Way back when, brides were 'given away' (literally) on their wedding days as they were still considered to be the 'property' of their fathers. In exchange for a dowry, they were then 'handed' to their new family at the wedding.

Now: Fortunately the 'giving away' tradition has morphed itself in a more family-friendly ordeal, with the process taking on a sentimental meaning rather than a literal one. Some brides still like to incorporate their fathers in this way, whilst some like to involve their mothers as well. It is now also common practice for the bride to walk down the aisle on her own.


Then: Kinda like the whole 'giving away' the bride thing, carrying the bride over the threshold is also a relic of a time past when brides were not always so keen on the marriage gig and therefore had to be forcefully taken into the house. Ancient Romans also believed that bad spirits lurked in the doorways of newlyweds' houses as a last-ditch effort to curse them, so the groom carried the bride over the threshold so that the spirits didn't enter her through her feet (fun!).

Now: If done at all, this one is just a fun tradition to add into the day (and it shows off how strong your new husband is—bonus).


Then: It's a very common superstition that it is bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding. This is a remnant of a time when marriages were more on the arranged side and were counted more as business deals then acts of love. If a family was marrying off their daughter in exchange for lands, goods or titles, not seeing the bride before the wedding took away the chance of the groom backing out if he considered her not attractive enough (yeesh).

Now: Thankfully (and hopefully), nowadays most grooms are familiar with what their wives-to-be look like before they marry them, so the original function of this tradition is defunct. However, some couples choose to incorporate it as they still believe in the bad luck superstition, or they believe it makes seeing the bride walking down the aisle more emotional and memorable.


Then: Up until the 1800s, it was common practice for the bride to wear a coloured wedding dress—reds, blues and yellows were particularly popular. However, after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 wearing a white court dress, the popularity of white dresses rose. Thereafter they became associated with purity and virginity and were then standard.

Now: Since Queen Victoria's historic dress, the white dress has cemented itself as the go-to for wedding dresses. However coloured dresses are rising in popularity in modern times.


Then: In the past bridesmaids were included in the wedding ceremony for two reasons, one being to confuse both vengeful spirits and jealous suitors (what's the difference, are we right?) by dressing in similar dresses and donning veils in likeness to the bride. Thus, if a suitor and/or angry spirit turned up, they wouldn't know which was the bride. Second, traditionally 10 witnesses were required to validate the marriage, bridesmaids and groomsmen were necessary for this.

Now: Nowadays the practice is a lot less scary. Bridesmaids are there for emotional and practical support and are usually family members or close friends. (The matching bridesmaid dresses tradition is still alive, however, although not for the confusion reason).


Then: Back when 'marriage by capture' (AKA kidnapping) was still popular, groomsmen were not chosen for their emotional attachments to the groom, but for their strength. If the bride protested to the marriage, the groomsmen were there to physically fight off her family, allowing the groom to escape with his bride.

Now: It's a lot less sinister nowadays, and more about mateship then kidnapping.


Then: Like both the 'not seeing the bride before the wedding' tradition and the 'using bridesmaids to confuse people' tradition, the veil was used to hide the bride's face for both modesty, purity and for not-making-the-groom-run-away purposes. In some ancient cases, the white veil over the bride's face represented her 'purity', and was only lifted by the groom when they went to consummate the marriage.

Now: Now bridal veils have a much less ominous purpose and are usually just accessories. Lifting the veil usually occurs at the beginning of the ceremony and is done by either the groom or the bride herself.


Then: Although it's not known for sure, the superstition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" is thought to have been to assist brides in warding off the Evil Eye—the Evil Eye's purpose being to curse the bride's fertility. The 'old' and 'new' counterparts were to confuse the Evil Eye, whereas the 'borrowed' item was meant to be an undergarment from a woman who had already had a child—therefore protecting the bride against barrenness. The 'blue' part is usually thought to be a good luck charm.

Now: Thankfully now this tradition is just a fun addition to the day.


Then: In the olden days showering the newlyweds with rice (as well as oats, grains and dried corn) was to wish them prosperity, good luck and fortune.

Now: Now it's just good fun—rice is often overlooked for nicer and prettier alternatives like flower petals, streamers, confetti or sprinkles.

*culled from

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