Traditions & Customs
The tradition of wearing a ring to show a persons marital status dates back to Roman times and is undoubtedly the most symbolic piece of jewellery anyone will ever wear. Wedding rings are traditionally made of precious metals like gold to express the true value of a relationship. The unbroken circular band symbolises the eternal commitment from one person to another and the lasting nature of marriage. Originally a ring bearer carried the ring on a cushion, it was shown to the bride at the altar to illustrate the grooms sincerity. Today the rings are paid for by the groom and are usually carried by the best man until required during the ceremony.
Back in the days when the groom kidnapped his bride, the best man was appointed by the groom for protection and to ensure he and his bride arrived safely at the church. As it was not unusual for the bride's family to try and snatch her back, it was necessary for the best man to be on hand if a confrontation ensued between the groom and unhappy members of the bride's family.
Confetti - means 'confectionery' in Italian and relates to the sugar coated grains that were thrown over the newlyweds. The tradition of throwing confetti dates back to a pagan wedding ritual when the couple were showered with rice and grain to promote fertility, prosperity and continuity for the couple.
In recent times the rice and grains have been replaced by coloured paper or flower petals. A great modern alternative to confetti is the blowing of special non-stain wedding bubbles.
Historically it was the custom to shower the bride with small cakes (like confetti) or even break the cake over the brides head! An old English custom included the placement of a ring inside the cake, with the lucky guest who found it being ensured happiness. The wedding cake containing fruit and nuts was originally produced to symbolise fertility. The wedding cake was developed over time into a tower of several cakes placed on top of one another. Originally the bride and groom would stand on opposite sides of the cake and attempt to kiss. If the kiss was carried out without toppling the cake, good fortune could be expected. This tradition has been continued and modified into today's multi-tiered cake with the kissing couple on top.
The top tier of the cake is often kept for the christening of the couple's first born.
The most widely known superstition concerning the dress is for the groom not to see it prior to the wedding. Today, most brides marry in white to signify virginity, happiness and joy, although historically they would have wed in their preferred colour, usually wearing their favourite dress.
Originally worn by brides in Roman times, it was later adopted in Britain as it was thought to signify chastity. The lifting of the veil symbolised to the groom that his bride was still pure.
.. something new, something borrowed, something blue,
and a silver sixpence in your shoe - the less known final line of the rhyme, slightly uncomfortable but symbolised happiness and spiritual and financial wealth.
The bride wears something old as a symbol of her old life that she is leaving behind. Something new refers to the new hope in her new life. A borrowed item (usually a garter) from a happily married woman is believed to pass on good luck to the newlyweds. Blue symbolises purity, faithfulness and her commitment to her new husband.
Flowers are an important part of any wedding, traditional or otherwise and have been used for decoration at weddings for centuries. Many people choose their flowers according to their symbolic meaning. For example azelias represent first love, snowdrops symbolise hope and lavender signifies devotion.
Other floral symbolic meanings include:
Bridal Rose: Happiness.
White Carnation: Innocence.
White Chrysanthemum: Truth.
Clover: Good luck.
White Lily: Virginity.
Pink Rose: Perfection.
Stephanotis: Happiness in marriage.
Purple Violet: Faithfulness.
After the ceremony it is traditional for the bride to throw her bouquet over her shoulder towards unmarried female guests. The catcher of the bouquet is believed to be the next to marry and will be blessed with good luck. In a similar way the groom may throw the brides garter in to a crowd of unmarried male guests. The groom often co-ordinates his buttonhole with a flower that appears in the bride's bouquet as a way of expressing the love for his bride.
In days gone by, prior to a handshake and written contract, a kiss was the couples way of publicly accepting the contract of marriage.
It was believed that whoever made the first purchase after tying the knot would rule the marriage. For this reason brides often give a coin to the chief bridesmaid in return for a pin.
The word honeymoon has its roots in the Norse word 'hjunottsmanathr' and originates from a time when the groom kidnapped the bride before taking her into hiding for a period of time. They would spend the nights under the moon in seclusion together where they would drink mead made from fermented honey.
Traditionally, although the destination of the honeymoon would be decided by both the bride and groom, any arrangements would be the responsibility of the groom. Nowadays it is more likely that the couple will share the planning of their honeymoon.
There are a number of explanations behind the origins of this well known tradition. Carrying the bride over the threshold symbolises the bride being carried into her new life and leaving her old one behind. Perhaps its origins symbolise a re-enactment of the groom's kidnapping of his bride.