10 Classic Wedding Traditions & The Surprising History Behind Them

10.22.2014

Categories: Weddings

Every wedding is unique. Here at A Thyme to Cook we strive to make sure of that. However, for every little couple-specific touch, there are those tried and true wedding traditions that we see often.

Have you ever wondered where some of these traditions are based? Tossing the bouquet, bridesmaids’ dresses or having a long train – we have a list of ten popular wedding day events and the stories behind them.

1. BEST MAN

The groom’s right-hand man on the big day comes from a time when the groom really needed backup. In ancient times, a prospective groom would invade neighboring villages and literally ‘take’ the woman he wanted for his bride.

Not wanting to go it alone, the future husband of the year would bring the biggest, strongest, ‘best’ man he could find to help fight off the family of his new bride.

In other history, it was popular to attack Brides for luck (more on this below). The Best Man was tasked with escorting the bride down the aisle to protect her.

And we all thought it was just to throw the bachelor party and make a toast!

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2. BOUQUET TOSS

All the single ladies get into a group and the ones really hoping to get hitched next throw elbows to catch the Bride’s bouquet. It’s fun and everyone has a good laugh. It wasn’t always that way…

As we mentioned earlier, in Medieval Times people believed that having a memento from the bride on her wedding day would give them good luck. This was a time where faith, belief in evil spirits and the power of granted wishes were prevalent – as was the need for obtaining mystical good luck.

Townspeople would attack Brides hoping to get a ripped piece of dress, a locket of hair or a shred of her bridal bouquet. In an attempt to get away, Brides would throw their bouquets at the attacking hoards and run!

We’re not sure if this is where “Runaway Bride” comes from…



3. CLINKING GLASSES TO KISS

This tradition always starts out as cute. If someone in the reception area clinks their glass, the happy newlyweds plant one on each other.

About 10 times later, it loses some of the luster and later in the evening, someone better get the Bride and Groom some more Chapstick.

It’s cute, it’s fun – and it used to save lives!

Once again, we travel to Medieval Times. “Back in the day” it was a common practice to poison your guests’ beverage goblets if you didn’t like them.

Hosts (with the most) would prove that the wine was fine by clinking glasses with a guest, taking a sip and then sharing a cordial kiss of greeting.

Providing no one died, the rest of the party could feel comfortable that the wine was safe.

Of course, after the third hour of the tipsy girl clinking her glass, you may wish you still had a little poison laying around…

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4. HONEYMOON

Aruba, Jamaica, ohhhh I wanna take ya…

You planned for months and months. The wedding day FLEW by in a flash. The cake has been eaten and the Electric Slide has been slid. It’s time to get away and relax. Time for your honeymoon.

The early stories trace back to Norse tradition. Remember that ancient time classic of literally stealing a woman to be your bride? Sometimes, the families would try to get her back.

To avoid losing his new bride, the groom would take her into hiding for 30 days (the cycle of the moon), to let things cool off. Friends would bring by food and honey wine for the couple to survive on, thus the HONEY-MOON.

Having drinks, with little umbrellas in them, on the beach sounds like a much better deal.

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5. LIKE-DRESSED BRIDESMAIDS

It’s always fun to ‘say yes to the dress’, especially if you’re picking out the same dress for others. There they stand, your Bridesmaids, all matching in a dress that you’re sure they will want to wear again sometime.

Sure, they are stylish. Sure, they will look fantastic in the photographs. But, did you know the purpose of the uniformed Bridesmaids was to keep evil spirits away?

As much as people believed in the power of good luck, they believed in the misfortune of curses and evil spirits.

If a Bride was sought-after by those pesky spirits, it was the plan to dress all of the Bride’s friends and family alike, to confuse and dumbfound the evil ones. The maids would even wear dresses matching the Bride.

Expert Note: It is no longer appropriate to wear the same dress as the Bride. We’re just saying.


6. SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE

We all say it. A lot of us do it. We make sure we have something of each category on our wedding day.

But why? Good luck, of course!

Something Old is a remembrance to the Bride’s past and her family ties.

Something New represents a great future and a new life starting.

Something Borrowed is traditionally a token from a married female family member. Earlier we mentioned how people wanted a piece of the bride’s dress, flowers or hair for luck – that’s where this comes from.

Something Blue is the tricky one. Fables list blue as a color of love and fidelity. Who knew? Sounds more like a good reason to get a little blue box from Tiffany’s!

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7. TIERED WEDDING CAKE

These days we see bite-sized sweets, cupcakes, donuts, cookies & milk and all kinds of desserts at weddings. However, the Granddaddy of all wedding sweets is the tiered wedding cake. Fun to eat, and really fun to watch the Bride and Groom slice and smash into each others’ face.

Before you could find a bakery on every corner – LONG before – pretty much before there were corners, guests would bring cakes to the wedding for the Bride and Groom and stack the cakes on top of each other – creating a tiered effect.

Eventually the local town baker just made the cakes look this way.

Bonus History: Many Brides and Grooms freeze their top cake tier to thaw and enjoy on their first wedding anniversary. This stems from the early days when couples would have their first baby before their first anniversary. The top of the wedding cake was saved to use for the Christening cake for the new bundle of joy.



8. WEARING A VEIL

To many Brides, the style of the veil is almost as important as the dress itself.

Many people are aware that the initial idea of the veil was to ward away those pesky evil spirits (assuming the wall of like-dressed Bridesmaids didn’t fool the spirits). People believed that a young bride, full of purity and virtue, would be extremely vulnerable to enchantment.

Our favorite alternate history of the veil comes from ancient ceremonies of arranged marriages. To avoid embarrassment for the families who brokered the deal, the Bride’s face remained hidden until after the vows. No one wanted the groom running off before he said “I Do”.

Bonus History: The same goes for the tradition of not seeing your betrothed on the day of the wedding.

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9. WEARING A WHITE WEDDING DRESS

Sure, sure, we all know that the white wedding dress is a symbol of purity, innocence and youth.

However, for centuries most brides would dress in brilliant colors and dresses dyed any number of hues.

Why did it change? Simple – a celebrity wore a white dress.

Not just any celebrity – it was Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, when she married Prince Albert in 1840. She broke tradition and wore a white dress, made of heavy silk satin. She was quite the trend-setter.

Bonus History: Curious where the long trains on wedding dresses came from? In the days of the Royal Court, the higher your rank in the Court, the longer your train on your wedding dress.

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10. WEDDING RINGS

With this ring, I thee wed…

Why a ring? Why the fourth finger? Why the left hand?

Ask the Romans. They believed that the left ‘ring finger’ has a vein that goes directly to your heart. That finger holds the symbol of your love for that reason.

As for the ring itself – it’s a circle. There is no end – together forever.

For all of you about to get married, or looking back fondly on your own wedding, we wish this for you.

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