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Written by Kate Thompson Last updated: August 15, 2012
If you’re planning to wear a white wedding dress and veil and carry something old, new, borrowed and blue, then like most brides, you’re following tradition. Most us feel comfortable doing what is expected, and it’s what our mothers and grandmothers did, so it makes us feel all warm inside to carry on some traditions. Cultural and historical wedding traditions vary from country to country and some have been around for hundreds of years. Here are some of the best known traditions, their origins, and how they apply today.
Image courtesy of JK Photography
The tradition of throwing confetti over the bride and groom comes from Italy. Before paper confetti, there were flowers, petals, grain or rice thrown at the happy couple, to bestow prosperity and fertility. These days confetti comes in all shapes and sizes, colours and textures, and you can still buy natural petals, which remain the most popular type, and certainly the most Vicar- and venue-friendly! Many modern brides make confetti their DIY wedding project by drying their favourite flower petals before the wedding.
The bride traditionally chose a group of her closest female friends or family to surround her and protect to her from evil spirits on her wedding day. Modern bridesmaids are at times more interested in the drinking of spirits at the hen night they organized for the bride!
Usually the brother or close friend of the groom, it is the duty of the best man to carry the wedding ring(s) and to present them, when asked, to the minister/registrar. The best man is also in charge of organising the groom’s stag night,
Wearing white on your wedding day is meant to symbolise a bride’s virginity and it was Queen Victoria who made it the traditional colour for British wedding dresses when she chose to wear white on her wedding day to Prince Albert in 1840. Before that date, brides would simply choose their favourite colour or wear their best Sunday dress. It is considered unlucky for the groom to see his bride in her dress before the ceremony so keep your dress a secret, girls!
The veil is meant to symbolise the modesty and chastity of the bride and was originally worn by Roman brides before becoming popular in this country during the 19th century. These days brides often choose to wear a veil but not have it down over their face, wearing it pinned to their hair instead, and flowing elegantly down their back.
Brides and their bridesmaids have always held floral bouquets, for their scent as much as their delicate beauty. The flower in the groom’s buttonhole goes back to the days when a knight would wear his Lady’s colours to display his love. These days the groom’s buttonhole usually matches the colour of the overall wedding theme. The bride throws her bouquet backwards over her shoulder for the group of unmarried girls to catch. It is said that the girl who catches it will be the next to marry.
This is another tradition that originated with the Romans, though they shared a cake during the wedding ceremony itself – they couldn’t wait for the reception! Their cakes were flat and round, containing fruit and nuts to symbolise fertility. The shape of the modern three-tiered iced cake is generally thought to be inspired by the shape of the tiered spire at the aptly named St Bride’s Church in the City of London. If you have a fruit cake, traditionally you would keep the top tier for the christening of your first child. Don’t keep a sponge cake, it won’t last!
This is thought to originate from long ago, when a man captured his bride! The couple would hide from the bride’s parents before marrying and remain hidden for a further cycle of the moon after the wedding, celebrating their union by drinking honey wine.
‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a lucky silver sixpence in your shoe’ is another sweet Victorian tradition that is now a rhyme we all know. Your ‘something old’ could be your grandmother’s ring, ‘something new’ could be your dress or tiara, ‘borrowed and blue’ could be family heirlooms and the lucky silver sixpence you can order from Confetti with our best wishes of good luck and everlasting love on your wedding day and for a long and happy marriage from that day forth!
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