From the ceremony to the reception, weddings are fantastic occasions that bring people together to celebrate a couple’s union. But why do we adhere to certain traditions over the course of that memorable day? Keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled a list that sheds some light on 20 of those customs.
20. The Veil of Protection
More often than not, our eyes are immediately drawn to the bride’s wedding dress when she walks down the aisle. After all, that’s the first time most of us will be seeing her in the gown. But the veil plays a significant role in rounding off the look, as the woman shrouds her face before reaching the altar.
However, the veil hasn’t always been seen as a nice add-on to the wedding dress. In fact, it was originally utilized as a form of protection for the bride, to fend off harmful forces. Furthermore, Roman and Greek cultures believed that the material would guard her from the devil’s “evil eye.”
19. The Gathering under the Chuppah
As many of you will no doubt know, Jewish weddings are slightly different to Christian ceremonies. Unsurprisingly, the participants adhere to their own set of traditions, like the walk to the chuppah. In that instance, the groom heads along the aisle with his mom and dad, before his wife-to-be does the same.
When the happy couple reach the chuppah, their respective folks stay with them for the rest of the service. And if that wasn’t enough, certain relatives have also been known to symbolically keep the aforementioned altars in place, meaning they’re up there, too. While it might become a little crowded as a result, this act signifies the family’s love for the bride and groom.
18. The Traditional Seating Plan
When the time comes to map out a wedding reception, the seating plan is arguably the most complex job. After all, you don’t want to upset anyone by placing them on the wrong table. Keeping that in mind, the seating situation for the ceremony itself is a lot easier, as you just have to choose a side.
If you’re with the bride, though, why do you sit on the left? Well, this tradition dates back to the distant past, when the groom needed to carry a sword. Should anyone have objected to the marriage back then, he would subsequently pull the weapon out with his right hand, ready to fend them off.
17. The Bridal Bouquet
It’s fair to say that no bride is complete without her bouquet of flowers. But in Ancient Greece, the women didn’t hold blooms at their wedding ceremonies. Instead, they were handed a selection of spices and herbs to protect themselves from malicious forces, which mirrors the superstition behind the bridal veil.
If you think that’s bizarre, here’s something else to consider. The tossing of the bouquet is a light-hearted tradition today, but it had steamier implications in the past. Indeed, once the flowers were airborne, the bride and groom would take advantage of the distraction to consummate their union at the ceremony.
16. The Hora
After the intimacy of a wedding ceremony, people are invited to let their hair down at the reception a short time later. As the night progresses, guests often find themselves dancing around without a care in the world. However, Jewish celebrations include a more ordered routine at the start of the evening.
Known as the hora, this routine starts when the crowd comes together on the dance floor. As they join hands, the people then show off their moves while arranged in a circular formation, before the bride and groom join the fray. The happy couple are usually hoisted up in their seats by the dancers. It’s a fun tradition that serves to relax everyone.
15. The Wedding Ring
Wedding rings are a symbol of a husband and wife’s union, while also serving as a reminder of their special day. But a long time ago, the piece of jewelry had a somewhat different meaning. When the groom wanted to tie the knot with his partner, the ring was essentially a payment to her dad.
That’s obviously not the case anymore, yet the tradition of exchanging rings has continued. And if you’re wondering why the wedding ring is positioned on the fourth finger, here’s the explanation. Although it’s been proven false now, that digit was said in the past to house a vein that connected straight to your heart.
14. The Silver Sixpence
Alongside the dress and the veil, the bride will no doubt be looking for the perfect pair of shoes to go with them. Given how long weddings can be, they’ll want to select some pumps that will comfortably carry them through to the end. Once the choice has been made, though, she might find a surprise waiting for her.
Of course, we’re referring to the silver sixpence in the shoe. This heartwarming custom was usually instigated by the father of the bride, with the old coin symbolizing his hopes for their future. The gesture is supposed to give the duo good luck going forward, both financially and emotionally.
13. The Father of the Bride
If you’re a dad with a young daughter, you can’t help but think of the day when you’ll walk her down the aisle. It’s often one of the nicest moments of the entire ceremony and marks an important point in both their lives. But in years gone by, the father of the bride’s job wasn’t as sentimental as it is now.
During a period when arranged weddings were the norm, the father would try to ensure that his kid joined a clan with plenty of money. In turn, that benefited his social standing. And there were other instances where his daughter’s “ownership” could even be used as a means to pay off an old debt.
12. The Mirror
This is an interesting one. Before heading out for a date or a night on the town, we normally take a look at ourselves in the mirror. After all, it gives us one last chance to make any adjustments to our appearance. But for brides at weddings, they’re advised to avoid their reflection ahead of the ceremony.
So even though it’s the biggest day of the bride’s life, she can’t admire her full appearance in the mirror. If she does, she apparently runs the risk of suffering misfortune, which no one wants at their wedding. It’s a strange tradition, but it could help put lingering nerves to rest before heading to the altar.
11. The Seven Blessings
Going back to Jewish weddings, the bride and groom participate in a tradition named Sheva B’rachot. Otherwise known as the seven blessings, this process kicks off with a prayer over a goblet of wine, ahead of some additional readings. The blessings themselves are recited in both English and Hebrew.
Each blessing covers different points such as celebration, joy, companionship and love – but that’s not all. Indeed, while the rabbi oversees the readings, the guests are encouraged to recite them as well. Much like with the gathering under the chuppah, this helps those in attendance to feel involved in the wedding ceremony.
10. The First Look
More often than not, the bride and groom are separated from one another ahead of their wedding day. As a result of that, they don’t see each other again until they reach the altar to exchange their vows. Why is this a tradition? Is there a particular reason behind it?
Once again, these days it’s all about luck, as we’ll soon find out. But the idea in fact stemmed from arranged weddings, where couples didn’t know what their partner looked like. If they did catch a glimpse prior to the nuptials, though, that gave them a chance to cancel them. Superstitions are a funny thing, aren’t they?
9. The Threshold
Like a lot of other entries in this list, carrying the bride over the threshold is a symbolic action. On paper, it’s a nice moment shared between newlyweds to cap off what’s often an incredibly long day. However, the tradition does have a deeper meaning to it that dates back to the distant past.
Back then, it was seen as unbecoming of a bride to showcase her desire to move out of her family’s house. So, her new husband was tasked with carrying her away I stead. And in addition to that, the action was also interpreted as a way for the groom to shield his wife from malicious forces.
8. The Confetti
After the bride and groom have exchanged their vows, the guests usually make their way outside the church. Then, they wait for the happy pair to emerge together, at which time they shower them in confetti from all sides. And in previous years, rice was used for this tradition.
While it’s a really fun moment for the couple’s friends and family, there’s more to it than that. Indeed, this isn’t just a way to celebrate the conclusion of the wedding service. The confetti was seen as giving onlookers a chance to lavish the newlyweds with wishes of fertility, wealth and good luck going forward.
7. The Wedding Cake
Arguably the centerpiece of the reception, the wedding cake is an eye-catching sight that attracts plenty of attention from guests. Cutting it is a tradition that most couples want to adhere to now, marking the second half of the ceremony. However, these cakes haven’t always been commonplace at weddings, as we’re about to discover.
Prior to the introduction of wedding cakes, in fact, the groom engaged in a custom whereby he took a mouthful of bread. From there, he’d sprinkle the remaining crumbs above his wife, believing that would bring the couple good fortune. At that stage, the friends and family looked to gather up what was left to improve their own luck.
6. The Bridesmaids
The role of a bridesmaid is fairly straightforward today, as they just need to assist the bride-to-be. But if you go back in time, the job was far more involved that you might suspect. To begin with, the bridesmaids were tasked to protect their friend from unwelcome spirits, so they all tried to dress in the same outfits in order to make it harder to identify the bride.
If that wasn’t enough, the bridesmaids from Ancient Rome had some other issues to deal with. Instead of worrying about evil ghosts, they needed to focus on the threat posed by the bride’s ex-lovers. When someone decided to attack, the group had to fight them off before they reached the bride.
5. Breaking the Glass
Once the bride and groom have exchanged their vows at a Jewish wedding ceremony, the latter is required to pull off one final task. Of course, we’re talking about the breaking of the glass. The item in question is usually placed into a bag, which the man then cracks with the sole of his foot.
The action can be interpreted in a couple of different ways, in fact, which we’ll get into now. For instance, certain people claim that the glass symbolizes the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, some believe that it highlights the ups and downs of married life. Regardless of your views, though, it’s still one of the biggest moments of the ceremony.
4. Mazel Tov!
As the bride and groom finalize their coupling at the altar, some guests might feel the urge to cheer or clap from their seats. At Jewish weddings, that kind of support is broadly encouraged following the breaking of the glass. But instead of a random cry, you’re more likely to hear a very specific phrase.
The phrase in question is “mazel tov,” and it’s often bellowed throughout the crowd. It’s just another way for people to congratulate the happy couple, as well as bid them luck going forward. No Jewish wedding would be complete without yelling those two words with a smile on your face.
3. The Best Man
Remember what we said about bridesmaids? Well, the best man role was just as complex in the past. Back then, this individual was responsible for keeping the wedding on track, which included preventing the bride from running off. They were even known to abduct the bride if her folks didn’t green-light the ceremony.
As for the name, the best man earned his moniker thanks to his strength and prowess with a weapon. Yes, you read that right. Not only did they have to watch the bride, but they also needed to be ready to fend off anyone who interrupted the wedding. And you believed organizing a bachelor party was tough.
2. The White Wedding Dress
As we touched upon earlier, our eyes are always drawn to the bride’s wedding dress when she walks down the aisle with her dad. In most cases, she’ll be rocking a traditional white gown for the ceremony. However, before the 19th century that color wasn’t associated with weddings.
In fact, you were more likely to see a bride wearing a red wedding dress before that time. White was an illustration of great riches back then, so it wasn’t used for gowns. But this eventually changed when Queen Victoria tied the knot in 1840, as she decided to wear a white outfit. Other women then followed suit, leading to the creation of the tradition we continue to this day.
1. The Honeymoon
Off the back of all the stresses and strains that come with putting a wedding together, the honeymoon often comes as a welcome relief for newlyweds. For a few weeks, they can finally relax and enjoy themselves as husband and wife. But just like many of the other entries on this list, the tradition has an eventful past.
If a groom had to rely on his best man to abduct the bride ahead of the wedding, then he needed to have an escape-route mapped out. So it’s believed that the original honeymoons offered such men the chance of a getaway, so they could keep their new wives out of sight. That’s some way to end your wedding.