All over the world, the ceremony of marriage is surrounded by a wealth of superstitions and traditions, many dating back hundreds of years. Today, even if you are having a contemporary wedding, you’re likely to be adopting some of these traditions and perhaps adding your own twist to them. Most of us don’t even consider the background to these traditions, or question why we are embracing them for ourselves.
1. The Rings
Ever wondered why you wear your wedding and engagement rings on the fourth finger of your left hand? It was once thought that the ‘vena amoris’ (the ‘vein of love’) ran directly from this finger to the heart. In actual fact, all the fingers in the hand have a similar vein structure but still, it’s a lovely idea! When it comes to stones, about 70% of us wear a traditional diamond engagement ring, largely thanks to the De Beers slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’ which launched in 1947 and prompted rocketing sales in diamond engagement rings.
Image Courtesy of Hayley Baxter Photography at Sandhole Oak Barn
2. The Dress
Many of us choose a white wedding dress thanks to Queen Victoria who started the trend by wearing white herself. Before that, brides simply wore their best dress. People often assume that white was chosen as a symbol of purity when, in actual fact, blue was a colour generally associated with purity and the Virgin Mary. As for the veil, the Ancient Greeks and Romans thought a veil would protect the bride from evil spirits… and we still wear them today.
Image Courtesy of Leanne Jade Photography at Upwaltham Barns
3. The Ceremony
Traditionally, during the ceremony, the bride stands to the left of the groom. Ever wondered why? This is, of course, so that the groom can keep his right hand (in which he holds his sword) free to fight off other suitors!
Image Courtesy of Rafea Brook Photography
4. The Cake
The traditional tiered wedding cake is thought to be modelled on the design of St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street, but the cake itself is rather a quirky tradition. In Ancient Rome, bread was broken over the bride’s head to bring good fortune to the newly weds. In years to come, cakes were considered a sign of fertility and, in the 17th century, two cakes were – one for the bride and one for the groom. The tradition of the wedding cake is surrounded by superstition. It is said that a single bridesmaid who sleeps with a piece of wedding cake under her pillow will dream of her future husband!
Image Courtesy of Fairclough Photography at Curradine Barns
5. The Bouquet
While there are many different views on the origin of the tradition, it is generally thought that a bride carried a bouquet of flowers in order to smell a little sweeter on her big day. During the 15th century, it’s highly probably that people took one bath a year in May and then married in June while they were still relatively clean! A few flowers would mask the smell of any body odour.
Image Courtesy of Rebecca Wedding Photography at Wasing Park
5 traditions from around the world
1. In Congo… the bride and groom are not allowed to smile for the duration of their wedding day. Their solemn faces must display how serious they are about marriage.
2. In Cuba… the money dance is a popular tradition. Every man who dances with the new bride must pin some money to her wedding dress.
3. In Germany… the newly-married couple overcome their first obstacle by sawing through a log together using a large, long saw. It’s all about teamwork!
4. In India … when the groom enters for the wedding ceremony, he takes off his shoes. The eldest unmarried girls from the bride’s family then run off with them. After a game of hide and seek, the girls finally ransom the shoes off to the groom. This is called the ‘Joota Chupai’.
5. In Fiji… when a man asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, he must present his father-in-law-to-be with a whale’s tooth.
Looking to add a touch of tradition to your wedding? We look at 8 Ideas For Something Old to give you some inspiration.