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Wedding Traditions

Wedding Dress:

Prior to the 19th century, it was fashionable to wear a colorful outfit that could be adopted for later wear.

For American Indian, traditional bridal dresses were woven in symbolic colors: white for the east; blue for the south; yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north.

About 1820 white became popular for formal occasions, Queen Victoria popularized white at her own wedding in 1840, and it became the official color for brides.

Today, in various cultures, a bride is "a Queen for a Day" and white is a symbol of a joyful celebration.

Wedding Veil:

Veil creates a very romantic moment as the groom lifts it to kiss his bride looking into her face for the first time as her husband! Nellie Custis, Martha Washington’s daughter, made veils popular in the U.S.

In most cultures, the lifting of the veil is a symbol the consummation of the marriage, just as the two become one through their words spoken in wedding vows, so these words are a sign of the physical oneness that they will consummate later on.

In the Westernworld, St. Paul's words concerning how marriage symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church may underlie part of the tradition of veiling in the marriage ceremony.

In some cultures with arranged marriages, veils hid the bride's face until after the ceremony was over; tradition changed to include blusher after Jacob was tricked into marrying his beloved Rachel's sister, Leah, who was disguised under the full veiling.

Why the Bride Stands to the Groom's Left:

The groom placed his bride on his left to protect her, leaving his right hand free to wield a sword in case of sudden attack. The best man would stand on the groom's right as his right hand man.

Giving Away the Bride:

Young women were considered to be the property of their fathers. When it came time for the daughter to marry, the father was transferring ownership of his daughter to the groom.

Today, it is seen as a blessing and support of the marriage, and often both parents "give away the bride."

White Aisle Runner:

The white aisle runner represented walking on holy ground.

The wedding kiss:

The kiss a symbol of the newlywed's faith and love, respect and obedience to mutual benefits, also represents the couple sharing and joining their souls. Also, from Roman traditions, the kiss "seals" a couple's agreement to join in a life-long commitment.

Best Man:

There are legends of prospective bridegrooms kidnapping their brides from neighboring villages. His strongest friend or "best man" would come along to help in the capture.

Maid of Honor:

Historically, a wedding only had a bride and a groom in the wedding party. The maid of honor became an integral part when more planning and preparation was put into a wedding. A bride would ask her closest friend for advice and assistance, which developed into the role of the maid of honor, who was traditionally an unmarried female and had the title of "chief attendant."

Ushers Or Groomsmen:

Back in the days of "marriage by capture," a young man often brought along some of his strong-armed friends to help fend offs his ladylove's brothers. These were the first ushers or groomsmen.

Bevy Of Bridesmaids:

In the old days of marriage by capture, a maiden was guarded by her family to prevent seizure, and in later centuries this little drama was enacted as a sort of game at country weddings. The bridegroom, gaily attired, coming for his bride, was confronted by a bevy of maidens all dressed exactly alike. His part of the play was to detect his true love, "forsaking all others," and bear her away to church.

Flower Girl:

The wedding tradition of a flower girl is symbolic in nature. The young girl, usually in a white dress, represents purity. She walks down the aisle in front of the bride, dropping flower petals, which symbolize fertility. The petals are usually red roses Red is a vibrant color which represents deep passion and love. Symbolically, the flower girl represents the loss of purity to passion, love and fertility.

Ring Bearer

This small attendant used to carry the bride's train in formal weddings at Westminster, but trains went out of fashion as skirts grew shorter, so the bride's little nephew was given the wedding ring to carry.

Groom not to see the Bride before the Ceremony:

Back when marriages were arranged, the marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their prospective spouse. If seen ahead of time, an unattractive bride might be left at the altar!

Today, many brides prefer to stay in hiding in order in their wedding finery to surprise their waiting-at-the-altar grooms with their breath-taking beauty!

Bouquet & Boutonniere

Flowers symbolize fertility, purity, new life, and never ending love. In Victorian times each type of flower had a special meaning; daisies symbolize loyalty, violets modesty, and red rose true love.

The groom's boutonniere, worn on his lapel, usually matches one of the flowers in his bride's bouquet. This tradition goes back to medieval times when a knight wore the colors of his lady in tournaments.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue …and a Six Pence in Your Shoe:

The tradition of items that are "old", "new", "borrowed" and "blue" comes from Victorian England.

  • Something old: continuity (family jewelry or family photo).
  • Something new: optimism, hope and future happiness for the bride and groom (wedding gown or wedding ring).
  • Something borrowed: happiness shared from happily married couple and symbolizes that friends and family will be there when help is needed.
  • Something blue: fidelity, love, purity (the garter).
  • Lucky sixpence in shoe: symbolizes prosperity.
  • The sixpence first became known as a lucky coin when introduced by Edward VI of England in 1551 and later became part of bridal wedding traditions in the Victorian era.

Loud Noises:

Loud noises were believed to chase away evil spirits, so during the ceremony guests would make loud noises to keep the spirits away. Today, it's traditional for the bridal party to honk their car horns while leaving the ceremony.

Bridal Showers:

Evolved from Holland when a father disapproved of his daughter's choice and the villagers gathered to "shower" her with the dowry her father refused.

Today, bridal showers strengthen the ties between the bride and her friends, provide her moral support, and help her prepare for her marriage.

Love Knots

Bows or love knots symbolize eternity; some brides hang ribbons from her bouquet and tie several knots on each one and/or have Hand fasting ceremony in which the couple’s clasped hands are tied together by a cord or ribbon.

Rain on Your Wedding Day:

While most brides don't want it to rain on their special day, it's good to know that, if it does, it symbolizes good luck, abundance, and fertility!

Rice Throwing:

Rice is a symbol of fertility and a wish for prosperity and a full pantry.

Birdseed, flower petals, confetti, and bubbles are often used today instead of rice.

Garter and Bridal Bouquet Toss:

Since a piece of the bride's clothing or belonging was thought to bring good luck, brides began throwing their garter belts and their bouquets to their guests.

Blue Garter:

This seems to stem from the noblest Order of the Garter, the oldest order of knighthood in Europe. Its regalia included a collar, a star and an actual blue velvet garter. Since queens and princesses are the only women invested with the Order, and a bride is "a queen for a day", she may enjoy royal prerogatives by wearing a blue garter below her left knee.

Dancing & Games:

Ancient wedding dances were communal and symbolic of life giving and beginnings. The first dance of the bride and groom leading to their dancing with the guests was to give them strength from the community.

Diamond Engagement Ring:

An engagement ring symbolizes the promise of marriage, sealed with the giving and accepting of a ring. Diamonds are the most enduring gems and so symbolize an engagement and marriage that would endure forever.

Diamond in time became associated with sweethearts, and its mysterious inner fire was likened to the equally mysterious fires of passion. The diamond as an engagement ring began in 1477 with Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy.

Wedding Rings:

A ring, circular shape with no beginning or end is a symbol of everlasting love and commitment in marriage; grew out of the ancient tradition of using circlets of grass to decorate a bride's wrists and ankles.

Although not required to validate marriage under a civil law, rings were required in 16th century by the Council of Trent.

Why Fourth Finger, Left Hand?

Engagement rings and wedding bands are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because the ancient Egyptians thought the "vein of love' ran from this finger directly to the heart. Wearing the wedding ring on this finger then speaks of eternal love.

The "ring" finger has sometimes been on the left hand, sometimes on the right, according to country and custom. Among English-speaking persons, it has been on the left since the edict of Edward VI in 1549.

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold:

Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first time through the front door. Since tripping or stumbling was considered bad luck, the groom would carry the bride over the threshold.

Wedding Reception

Marriage feasts have been in existence nearly as long as marriage ceremonies. The early Greeks held a splendid wedding feast for every couple. And it was a very special occasion indeed – because although women were not usually included in other Greek banquets, they were invited to wedding feasts.

Wedding Toast:

Many years ago, in Greece, the people would perform what was called a libation. They would stand up and while holding a cup full of wine in one hand, look up into the sky, and pray with arms and cup raised, then drink the wine, a prayer summarized in the words 'long life!' or 'to your health!

Today, at a wedding reception:

  • The father of the bride, in his role as host, regularly offers the first toast, thanking the guests for attending, offering tasteful remembrances of the bride's childhood, and wishing the newlyweds a happy life together.
  • The best man usually proposes a toast in the form of best wishes and congratulations to the newlyweds.
  • The maid of honor may follow suit, appropriately tailoring her comments to the bride.
  • The groom may offer the final toast, thanking the bride's parents for hosting the wedding, the wedding party and the guests for their participation.

Wedding Cake:

Sharing the first piece of wedding cake is a Roman wedding tradition based on the belief that eating the wedding cake together would create a special bond between the couple. The wheat used to bake the cake was symbol of wealth, happiness and fertility, and sweetness of the cake was believed to bring sweetness to the couple's new life and guests eat pieces of cake for good luck.They cut the cake together, his hand over hers, symbolizing unity, their shared future, and their life together as one.

Since the late 19th century, couples often save the top tier of their wedding cake to enjoy on their first month wedding anniversary. The idea behind this tradition is for the couple to remember the happy memories from their wedding day as they celebrate their first month together.

The Groom's Cake is a gift from the bride to the groom and is usually "masculine" in design. It should be the groom's favorite flavor of cake, and may be decorated according to his hobbies or interests. It is generally served along-side the wedding cake, or it can be boxed up and sent home with the guests as favors.


There are several legends about the origin of the honeymoon, but one legend is after kidnapping his bride, a groom would take her and go into hiding where her relatives couldn't find them; they hid for 30 days, while the moon went through all its phases, in the meantime they drank a brew made from honey. 

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