If you’re planning a wedding, you know every detail is important — the dress, the cake, even the honeymoon. But do you know why? The event specialists at Crystal Gardens Banquet Center researched the origins behind some of the most notable wedding traditions that many brides and grooms still follow today – some of these may surprise you!
ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND WEDDING BANDS
Wedding bands are a tradition dating back to Ancient Egypt, where wedded couples exchanged rings made out of braided reeds. They were worn on the left hand ring finger, which has a vein that runs directly to the heart, later named “Vena amoris.” Just before the turn of the 18th century, diamonds were discovered in South Africa and they became a staple accent in jewelry. Now, more than 80 percent of American brides have diamond engagement rings.
Bridal fashion has transformed dramatically throughout history, but gowns today still reflect some styles and traditions of the past. Before the mid-1800s, most wedding dresses were actually red. Brides didn’t start wearing white until around 1840 when Queen Victoria of England was married to Prince Albert and opted for a white, lacy dress. The color white, at the time, represented wealth, purity, and virginity. The Queen’s bold choice is the reason white wedding gowns have become the classic look for brides today.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, AND SOMETHING BLUE
This tradition started as a Victorian-era rhyme. In that time, “something old” and “something blue” were carried to protect the bride against the Evil Eye, which was believed to bring infertility. “Something borrowed” was meant to bring good luck — usually by borrowing the undergarments from someone with a happy marriage and healthy kids. “Something new” was meant to bring a prosperous future.
These special items have taken on slightly different symbolic meanings today, but still represent their origins. According to The Knot, “something old” stands for continuity; “something new” shows optimism for the future; “something borrowed” symbolizes borrowed happiness; and “something blue” represents purity, love, and fidelity.
Bridal bouquets stem back to Ancient Rome, where brides wore flower garlands because it was believed they signified new beginnings, fidelity, and fertility. In the Middle Ages, brides didn’t carry flowers, but instead strong-smelling herbs and spices, which were thought to ward off evil spirits, bad luck, and ill health. Much like the history of the white dress, the modern version of the floral bridal bouquet began its history with Queen Victoria of England in 1840 when she carried a tiny bunch of wildflowers down the aisle.
BRIDESMAIDS AND GROOMSMEN
Today, it’s an honor to serve as a bridesmaid or groomsman in a wedding. But before these titles had a deep emotional connection, it was simply the law. According to the Roman ritual “confarreatio”, 10 witnesses were required to be present at a wedding for the marriage to be legal. Bridesmaids were meant to confuse evil spirits as to who the actual bride was — this is how same-color bridesmaids dresses emerged! The idea of groomsmen originated many centuries ago, when men had to capture women in order to marry them, and needed to pick the most capable man to help him — hence, “the best man.”
The modern wedding cake has grown from several different ethnic traditions. One of the first began in Ancient Rome, where marriage ceremonies ended with a scone-like wheat or barley cake broken over the bride’s head for luck and fertility. The new husband and wife would eat a few crumbs together as one of their first unified acts as a married couple. The English started the tradition of stacking various baked goods as high as possible, and the bride and groom would attempt to kiss without knocking them down, which was said to bring them good luck.
In the 17th century, “Bride’s Pie” was served at weddings — a pastry crust filled with an assortment of seafood, meat, and other ingredients. By the 19th century, these pies were replaced by cakes, which were usually pound cakes with white icing. When Queen Victoria used white icing on her wedding cake, it gained a new name: royal icing.
Today when we hear “honeymoon,” we think sandy beaches, adventures abroad, and romantic weekend getaways. Centuries ago, cultures represented calendar time with moon cycles. Newlywed couples would drink mead (a honey-based alcoholic drink) during the first moon of their marriage — hence the term “honeymoon.”
While the meanings of these traditions have evolved, they still hold a significance in celebrating marriage. If you’re looking for more wedding planning resources, read more of our blogs. Or contact us today to start putting together your dream wedding! You can reach our event coordinators by email or phone at 877-545-1002.