Nowadays there are so many different versions of wedding traditions. Some are deep-rooted in religion, history, and culture, some could be family traditions, and others were simply created for convenience, style copycatting, or from marketing. Here are a few modern wedding traditions with a glimpse into the symbolism and how they became commonplace today.
White Wedding Gowns: The color white is associated with innocence and purity, which is what most brides want to convey on their wedding day. But it has not always been the color of choice. Black or colored wedding gowns were the custom for European and American brides for many years. It was not until Queen Victoria wore a white lace wedding gown when she married Prince Albert in 1840. The style was quickly copied by elite and wealthy brides and by the time WWII hit, it had spread across countries and to the middle classes.
Wedding Veil: Veils in general have a large amount of significance within religion and history. So naturally, that plays into the modern wedding veil which is symbolic of modesty and virginity. The lifting of the veil is representative of the groom taking possession of his new bride and is likened to the “consummation of their marriage.” It also shows that the groom is marrying the bride for her inner beauty and then he and the guests are presented with her loveliness during the ceremony. One of the more popular theories for the veil ceremony comes from the old testament, when Jacob believed he was marrying Rachel, but her father tricked him into marrying her sister Leah, by veiling her face. This is why the groom lifts the veil during the ceremony – to ensure he marries the right girl.
The Bouquet & Garter Toss: In medieval Europe is was good luck to take an article of clothing from a new bride. At the time, it was tradition to tear pieces right off her wedding dress. But, as dresses became more expensive, brides began throwing other items instead. The bouquet of flowers is symbolic of fertility, and since they are perishable, she throws the bouquet over her shoulder, to her unmarried female wedding guests. Whoever catches the bouquet is supposedly next in line to be married. The removing of the garter is symbolic of the groom “deflowering” his bride. And, like the bouquet toss, the groom throws the garter to the unmarried male guests to help them become lucky in love.
Wedding Rings: The wedding ring is symbolic of its circular shape, with no beginning or end. To give a ring is a sign of eternal and unending love. Many believe that the tradition of the wedding ring began back in Egypt around 4800 years ago. Brides would wear braided or twisted papyrus or more expensive materials, depending on how wealthy the groom was. Now, rings are generally made with white/yellow gold or other metals. It was only given the bride until around WWII ended, when the American jewelry industry led a successful marketing campaign to push dual ring ceremonies. Dual ring ceremonies now make up over 80% of US weddings and the jewelry industry is pushing this custom more global.
Cutting the Cake: The wedding cake is symbolic of fertility and was solely delegated to the bride, to distribute it to guests, following the ceremony. As weddings began to grow in size, so did the size of the wedding cake. Additionally, with the new style of new multi-tier cakes that featured hardened icing, it was impossible for the bride to this on her own. The groom began helping with this project, (also symbolically making this the first task that they do together as husband and wife.) The tradition of the sharing the first slice of cake also represented their commitment to provide for each other forever.
No matter what customs you plan to use for your wedding, it’s important to make your wedding your own, and to love it.