Wedding Lore and Traditions
Have you ever wondered why the bride stands to the left of the groom, or why the wedding ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand? The origins and meaning behind some of our most cherished wedding traditions may surprise you. There are, of course, multiple explanations for each piece of wedding lore, and few can be definitively traced back to their roots. Below are some of the more common and popular stories behind these traditions.
Tossing the Bouquet
Tossing the bouquet is a tradition that stems from England. Women used to try to rip pieces of the bride's dress and flowers in order to obtain some of her good luck. To escape from the crowd the bride would toss her bouquet and run away. Today the bouquet is tossed to single women with the belief that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.
Giving Away the Bride
The tradition of the father giving away his daughter has its roots in the days of arranged marriages. Daughters in those times were considered their father's property. It was the father's right to give his child to the groom, usually for a price. Today a father giving away his daughter is a symbol of his blessing of the marriage.
The Wedding Ring
The wedding ring has been worn on the third finger of the left hand since Roman times. The Romans believed that the vein in that finger runs directly to the heart. The wedding ring is a never-ending circle, which symbolizes everlasting love.
The Best Man
In ancient times, men sometimes captured women to make them their brides. A man would take along his strongest and most trusted friend to help him fight resistance from the woman's family. This friend, therefore, was considered the best man among his friends. In Anglo-Saxon England, the best man accompanied the groom up the aisle to help defend the bride.
Bride on Groom's Left
Because grooms in Anglo-Saxon England often had to defend their brides, the bride would stand to the left of her groom so that his sword arm was free.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Sixpence in Your Shoe
"Something old" represents the bride's link to her family and the past. The bride may choose to wear a piece of family jewelry or her mother or grandmother's wedding gown. "Something new" represents hope for good fortune and success in the future. The bride often chooses the wedding gown to represent the new item. "Something borrowed" usually comes from a happily married woman and is thought to lend some of her good fortune and joy to the new bride. "Something blue" is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity of the bride. A sixpence in her shoe is to wish the bride wealth in her future life.
The Tiered Wedding Cake
The origin of the tiered wedding cake also lies in Anglo-Saxon times. Guests would bring small cakes to the wedding and stack them on top of each other. Later, a clever French baker created a cake in the shape of the small cakes and covered it in frosting. It is now known as the tiered cake.
Flowers are incorporated into the wedding ceremony as a symbol of fertility. The first bouquets consisted of herbs and, later, orange blossoms.
The Bridal Veil
The bridal veil has long been a symbol of youth, modesty, and virginity and was used to ward off evil.
The bridal party is a tradition that has been established for many centuries. For a long time the purpose of the bridal party was to fool evil spirits. The bride's friends dressed similarly to her in order to confuse any virulent presences that might be lurking about. Today bridesmaids are there to support the bride in the stressful times during the wedding.