Common Wedding Traditions and Practices: Explained

Have you ever wondered why they throw garters at weddings? Or why brides must seemingly wear white all the time? Or what about the rationale behind having a best man? Today we’re taking eight common wedding traditions and practices and finding out how they really started.

Why do bridesmaids wear the same dresses? No, it's not actually so that the bride has the power to make herself look good by forcing her bridesmaids to wear something hideous—it's actually the opposite! This is another tradition we can thank the ancient Romans for. During that time, the bride wore the same dress as all the other women. Back then, any happy occasion was thought to attract evil spirits, and the idea behind dressing the same was that it would confuse the evil spirits just long enough for the couple to say their vows. Bridesmaids back then were like your personal protection squad!

Why is there a groomsman? When you say best man, I automatically think of bachelor party. Or at least the fun stuff, right? But actually, during the Medieval times, it wasn't so much fun. Back then, men used to capture women and claim them as their brides. So when a man was getting married, he would usually choose his strongest and most trusted friend to help him fight resistance from the bride's family. Best men these days have it easy!

Why do brides and grooms cut and feed the cake to each other? This is another tradition from ancient Rome! Back then, they didn't have cakes yet but the groom would usually take a loaf of bread and break it over his bride's head while the guests would usually try to pick up a crumb or two for good luck. This symbolized the end of the bride's virginity, her fertility, and her husband's authority. Today, instead of wasting all that good food, the bride and groom cut and feed the cake to each other as a symbol of their commitment to support and provide for one another. We also don't have to fight for crumbs anymore! Thank goodness!

Why do fathers give away the bride? This tradition goes back to the time of arranged marriages when daughters were seen as properties of their fathers. During those times, the fathers would usually give their daughters away—for a price, handing over their 'properties' to other men. Yikes! Today, the symbolism has evolved to mean that the father has given his blessing to the marriage. Oh, how far we've come!

Why is there a garter toss? The tradition of the garter toss dates back to the Dark Ages. At that time, the garter symbolized the bride's virginity. When the celebration ended, the guests would accompany the bride and groom to their bedroom (o....kay...) and the garter was taken so that the rest of the guests would have proof of the consummation. Today, it usually represents how the groom is claiming his bride, leaving his single life, and embracing his new married one. (Hooray for evolution and modern times!) The garter is also seen as a good luck charm for all the other single men.

Why do people throw rice/flowers at the end of the wedding? People like throwing stuff at weddings, don't they? First the bouquet, then the garter, and now rice or flowers? Apparently, this tradition goes waaay back to the time of the ancient Romans. The guests would throw rice at the bride and groom to wish them a full, fertile, and prosperous life as a married couple. If they didn't have rice, they threw oats, seeds, or any crop to symbolize the growth of the couple and their marriage together. Today, people all over the world throw a variety of different things such as confetti, flower petals, raisins, figs, nuts, candies, and even eggs!

Why do brides wear veils? Yet another tradition we got from the Romans! Besides their bridesmaids' protection, veils were also worn to ward off evil such as demons and witches. The thought was that if you couldn't see the bride's face, the evil spirits couldn't curse her. Another reason the veil was worn was because it served as an obstacle. Yes, that's right, an obstacle. Veils back then were thick and heavy and meant to prevent the bride from running away from her groom. They had arranged marriages back then and probably a lot more runaway brides.

Why do brides wear white? When we think of brides or gowns, we automatically think white. But in the early 1800s, the bridal color was actually red! White dresses were a big no-no because they were associated with mourning. Case in point: When Mary, Queen of Scots chose to wear white, she was widely slammed and even blamed for her husband's untimely death. It was only when Queen Victoria rebelled against the norm and wore a white dress on her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 that the color white became an instant hit. That queen's got some spunk!

Regardless of how they started or where they came from, wedding traditions and practices are something we all enjoy. Whether it be watching an emotional father give his daughter away or throwing flower petals as the couple exit the church or even getting a slice of yummy cake at the reception, we couldn’t be more grateful for the history that made these traditions what they are today.

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