The wedding ceremony is steeped in tradition from the finger we wear our wedding ring and engagement ring on to our first dance. We have all heard of these traditions, many of which are the building blocks of wedding celebrations today, but do you really know why we perform these traditions and where they come from? Find out the meaning behind the tradition and decide if which of these traditions, if any, have a place in your big day.
Why does the person proposing get down on one knee?
The act of getting down on one knee during a marriage proposal is a longstanding tradition in many Western cultures, including English culture. While there isn't a definitive historical origin for this tradition, it is believed to have roots in mediaeval Europe.
During the mediaeval era, knighthood and chivalry were highly regarded, and knights were expected to kneel before their lords as a sign of respect and loyalty. This act of kneeling symbolised submission and devotion. It is likely that this tradition gradually evolved into the act of a man getting down on one knee when proposing marriage.
Over time, the gesture of getting down on one knee came to represent the sincerity and commitment of the proposer. By assuming a position of humility and vulnerability, the person proposing is expressing their deep love and respect for their partner and their desire to spend the rest of their lives together.
Where does Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue come from?
The tradition of "Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue" is a popular wedding custom that originated in England. It is believed to have been passed down through generations and is said to bring good luck and blessings to the bride on her wedding day.
Each element in this phrase holds a specific symbolic meaning:
Something old: This represents continuity with the bride's past and her family's traditions. It is often an item that has sentimental value, such as a piece of jewellery, a family heirloom, or a special accessory.
Something new: This symbolises optimism, hope, and the bride's future with her spouse. It signifies the new life she is embarking upon and often takes the form of a new item, such as her wedding gown, shoes, or a gift from her soon-to-be spouse, lab grown diamond earrings are a great option.
Something borrowed: This represents borrowing happiness and good fortune from a happily married woman. The borrowed item is typically loaned by a family member or close friend who is happily married, and it is believed to bring luck and blessings to the bride's own marriage.
Something blue: Blue is associated with love, purity, and fidelity. The colour blue has long been considered symbolic of these qualities, and having something blue in the bride's attire or accessories is believed to bring luck and fidelity to her marriage. It can be a blue ribbon, a piece of jewellery, or even a blue garter.
The tradition concludes with the phrase "and a silver sixpence in her shoe," which is sometimes added. It refers to placing a silver coin, usually a sixpence, in the bride's shoe to bring wealth and financial prosperity to the couple.
While this tradition is deeply rooted in English culture, it has also gained popularity in various parts of the world and is followed by brides as a way to add sentiment and tradition to their wedding day.
Why do couples not look at each other before the altar?
The tradition of the couple not seeing each other before the wedding ceremony has its roots in ancient traditions and superstitions. While it is not universally practised, it has been a common custom in various cultures for centuries. Here are a few possible origins of this tradition:
Arranged Marriages: In many cultures where arranged marriages were common, the couple would not see each other before the wedding. The idea was that if they saw each other beforehand, they might develop personal feelings or preferences that could interfere with the practical considerations of the union.
Superstitions and Bad Luck: There is a belief that it is bad luck for the couple to see each other before the wedding ceremony. This superstition dates back to ancient times when people believed in evil spirits or jealous suitors who might try to curse or harm the couple if they caught sight of each other.
Protecting the Bride's Purity: In more patriarchal societies, the bride's family would keep her hidden before the ceremony to ensure her purity and prevent any last-minute changes of heart by either party.
Why does the bride get given away?
The tradition of the bride being "given away" during a wedding ceremony has historical roots and symbolic significance. It primarily originated in patriarchal societies, where women were considered the property of their fathers or families until they were transferred to the ownership of their husbands through marriage. Here are some reasons behind this tradition:
Transfer of Responsibility: Historically, the act of "giving away" the bride represented the transfer of responsibility for her from her father or family to the groom. It symbolised that the bride was transitioning from being under her father's care to becoming a member of her husband's family and under his protection.
Symbol of Blessing and Approval: The father or person who walks the bride down the aisle is often seen as giving his blessing and approval to the marriage. It signifies his support and trust in the groom as the person who will now take care of his daughter.
Traditional Etiquette: The custom of the bride being escorted down the aisle by a significant person, typically her father or a close family member, has been a long-standing tradition in Western wedding ceremonies. It is a formal and ceremonial gesture that adds to the symbolism and pageantry of the occasion.
In modern times, this tradition is often viewed more as a symbolic gesture rather than an actual transfer of ownership, emphasising the importance of familial support and the unity of the couple's families.
Why do we wear our ring on our wedding finger?
The tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the "wedding finger" or the fourth finger of the left hand has cultural and historical roots that date back centuries. This is also the finger that people wear their ethical engagement rings on. Here are a few explanations for this tradition:
The Vein of Love: Ancient Romans believed that a vein, known as the "vena amoris" or the "vein of love," ran directly from the fourth finger of the left hand to the heart. They believed that by wearing the wedding ring on this finger, it would symbolically connect the hearts of the couple.
Christian Symbolism: In Christian traditions, the wedding ring is often placed on the fourth finger during the wedding ceremony. The priest or officiant blesses the ring, and it is then placed on this finger, which is believed to be directly connected to the heart. This symbolises the love and commitment shared by the couple in the context of their faith.
Cultural and Historical Practices: The tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand varies across different cultures and historical periods. In Western cultures, this tradition has been influenced by ancient Roman customs and Christian symbolism. In some Eastern European cultures, such as Russia, Poland, and Greece, the wedding ring is traditionally worn on the right hand.
Why do we throw confetti at a wedding?
Symbol of Fertility and Prosperity: In ancient times, it was customary to throw grains, rice, or flower petals over the couple as a symbol of fertility and abundance. The act of showering the couple with confetti or petals was believed to bring blessings of fertility, a happy marriage, and prosperity.
Wards off Evil Spirits: In some cultures, the tradition of throwing confetti or similar items at weddings was believed to ward off evil spirits or negative energies. The noise and flurry of confetti were thought to scare away any malevolent forces that could potentially affect the couple's happiness.
Why do brides wear veils?
Symbol of Modesty and Purity: One interpretation suggests that veils were initially worn to symbolise the bride's modesty and purity. Veils were used to cover the bride's face and often her entire body, representing her innocence and demureness before marriage.
Warding off Evil Spirits: Another belief is that veils were worn to protect the bride from evil spirits or ill intentions. It was thought that by covering her face, the bride could hide her identity and confuse any malevolent spirits or jealous suitors who might try to harm her or curse the marriage.
Another reason brides traditionally wore veils was to ensure her husband had committed to the marriage before seeing what she looked like… Perhaps a little less romantic!
Why are wedding dresses white?
The tradition of wearing white wedding dresses can be traced back to the mid-19th century in Western cultures, particularly in Europe and North America. The popularity of white wedding dresses can be attributed to several factors:
Symbolism of Purity: In Western cultures, white is often associated with purity, innocence, and virginity. The white wedding dress symbolises the bride's purity and her commitment to enter into marriage with a clean slate. This tradition became particularly popular after Queen Victoria of England wore a white wedding dress for her marriage in 1840.
Influence of Royal Fashion: Queen Victoria's choice of a white wedding dress had a significant impact on popularising the trend. Before her wedding, brides would wear dresses of various colours, including black and red. However, Queen Victoria's white gown became an iconic fashion statement, and many brides began to emulate her style.
Industrial Revolution and Availability of White Fabric: During the Industrial Revolution, advancements in textile manufacturing made white fabrics more accessible and affordable. Previously, white fabrics were expensive and difficult to maintain, making them impractical for everyday wear. However, with improved production techniques, white fabrics became more affordable.
Why do couples do a first dance?
The tradition of the first dance at weddings can be traced back to various historical and cultural influences. While it is challenging to pinpoint its exact origin, here are a few possible explanations for the tradition:
European Court Dances: In European royal courts during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, formal dances were an integral part of social gatherings and celebrations. These dances often included a "first dance" or "opening dance" performed by the couple or honoured guests. Over time, this practice made its way into weddings as a way to honour and emulate the elegance and sophistication of the aristocracy.
Waltz and Viennese Balls: The popularity of the waltz in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in Vienna, Austria, played a role in the tradition of the first dance. Waltzes were romantic and graceful, and they became a staple at formal balls and social events. The first dance allowed the couple to showcase their dancing skills and set the tone for the evening's festivities.
Why does the bride stand to the left of the groom at the altar?
The tradition of the bride standing to the left of the groom at the altar during the wedding ceremony has historical and practical origins.
Protection and Defense: In ancient times, it was believed that the groom's right hand was his sword hand, which he used to defend his bride and fight off any potential suitors or threats. By standing to the groom's left, the bride allowed his right hand to remain free for any necessary defence.
So there we go, the good, the bad and the downright ugly origins of some of our most known and practised wedding traditions. Although these are the believed origins of the traditions, many have evolved culturally and with the times and the most important thing is if they mean something to you.