‘Here comes the bride, all dressed in white’ – most of us are familiar with the traditions that make up a wedding. From the bridal party to throwing the bouquet, there are a few things we’ve come to expect. But where did these traditions come from? Every ritual has a historic beginning so we’ve broken down 7 of the most common wedding traditions and how they began.
These days a bountiful bouquet is just another accessory in the bridal fashions of the day. However, once upon a time it had a much more significant purpose. In Ancient Greece the bride would carry a bundle of herbs, spices and even garlic to ward off evil spirits who were rumoured to want to ruin her day.
The white dress
Not all women could afford a bespoke wedding dress. For much of history their wedding dress would simply be the nicest one in their wardrobe and could be in any colour. That is until Queen Victoria chose white for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. It was a decision bemoaned by the royals who were keen to cover Victoria in jewels, robes and coloured garb befitting a Queen. However, she stuck to her principles and debuted one of the first famous white wedding gowns. A popular women’s magazine solidified the choice a few years later with a glowing review for white dresses as an emblem of innocence, purity and girlhood on your wedding day.
If you thought your bridesmaids were around just to lend a helping hand on the day, think again. The real reason was to prevent malevolent spirits (or exes) from knowing which woman was to be married. A group of other women in matching dresses formed a protective shield around the bride and served to confuse anyone on the outside as to who was the ideal target.
Something old, something new
You can thank the Victorian era for this pretty little ditty as well. The something old would typically be a family heirloom to provide a loving connection on the day. Something new signified the bride’s entry into a new family. Something borrowed should come from a happily married couple, to pass on their good luck. While something blue was thought to ensure loyalty (aka ‘true blue’). But there’s one last line that no longer makes the song today; ‘a sixpence in my shoe’. As a sign of luck many brides tucked a coin into their wedding shoe.
Giving away the bride
Marriage didn’t always hold the lovey-dovey expectations we have today. Many couples didn’t have a choice in who they were marrying and the whole affair was arranged by their parents or family to ensure a prosperous future. As fathers traditionally ‘owned’ their daughters until marriage, the walk together down the aisle was a symbol of the father transferring ownership to her new spouse.
It’s back luck for the couple to see each other before the wedding
How do you prevent being left at the altar? By not knowing who you’re marrying until you’re on the main stage! In the days of arranged marriages it was considered bad luck for the couple to meet before their nuptials, just in case one of them decide there’s a better option down the road.
Throwing the bouquet or garter
There are few things luckier than a bride on her wedding day, at least that’s what superstition would have you believe. In Medieval times the eager wedding guests would rush the altar desperate for a piece of the new wife’s wedding dress so they could have their own luck. In a bid to hold off the hoards the bride would through the only item she was carrying – her bouquet.
It was also common to consummate the marriage straight away. Throwing the bouquet served as a distraction for the couple to escape alone to their bedchambers. Upon returning the groom would throw the garter to the waiting crowds to offer up some extra luck from the bride and to prove what they’d been doing while alone.
Shocking? Yes. Silly? At times. But these are the true stories behind all those traditions we still practice today. The next wedding you attend may be viewed with different eyes.
Julia Hammond is an Australian lifestyle blogger with a natural curiosity that helps her in answering some of life’s less common questions. Currently she publishes weekly content for the online retailer MyDeal.com.au and spends her spare time planning travel adventures and brainstorming article ideas.