Wedding Traditions and History
Wedding Traditions and History
Compiled and Edited by Mary Hartford
Planning your wedding? Haven't been to one
lately? Whether you want to stick with tradition or break every one,
here is a guide to basic wedding traditions and some of the origins for
is a relationship that plays a key role in the definition of many
families. In modern times, the term marriage is generally reserved for
a state sanctioned union. The phrase "legally married" can be used to
emphasize this point. In the United States there are two methods of
receiving state sanction of a marriage: common law marriage and
obtaining a marriage license.
For centuries Marriage or Holy
Matrimony has been a sacrament in the Catholic Church, as well as other
Orthodoxies, where it is defined as a relationship between man and
woman. Marriage of some kind is found in most societies, and typically
married people form either a nuclear household, which is often
subsequently extended biologically, through children, or part of an
extended family network. Alternatively, people may choose to be
"childfree". Finally, they may be childless due to infertility, and
possibly seek treatment or consider adoption. The term wedlock is a
synonym for marriage, and is mainly used in the phrase "out of wedlock"
to describe a child born of parents who were not married.
White Wedding: History and traditions
white wedding is a term for a traditional formal or semi-formal wedding
in British and American as well as Canadian traditions. Brides in many
other countries are adopting this traditional white dress. This term
refers to the white color of the wedding dress, which became popular
in the Victorian era and came to symbolize purity of heart and the
innocence of childhood. Later attribution suggested that the color
white symbolized virginity.
The tradition of wearing white at
weddings began due to the choice of color of the wedding dress of
Queen Victoria at her wedding to Prince Albert. Queen Victoria was not
the first royal bride to wear a white wedding gown, but the first of
the modern era. White had been a traditional color of royal mourning,
and until that convention had completely died, white could not have
been a suitable choice for a royal wedding. Victoria's choice
popularized the white gown as no other had before her. Previously,
brides wore their best clothes or the most expensive new clothes they
could afford. Gold or gold-threaded dresses became popular with royal
brides; the rank-and-file wore dresses that reflected their station.
White was one of many choices, pastel shades were also popular.
the mid-twentieth century, many brides in the United Kingdom did not
wear a traditional wedding dress, merely a specially bought ordinary
dress. This was also the case in pre-20th Century America where working
and frontier brides often opted for a formal look that was practical
and could be used again on special occasions.
choice of the style of wedding was limited by the condition of the
bride (unmarried, divorced, virginal etc.); the groom's status was
immaterial outside of wearing a formal uniform if he is a member of the
military or police. Some couples, wanting to avoid a perceived sexist
connotation implied in the white dress have the groom dressed in a
white tuxedo to give some parity. By extension, other variations are
sometimes included to further this spirit such as the Mother of the
Groom accompanying her son in the procession to the altar.
weddings almost always take place in churches and people generally seek
to be married in the most prestigious or picturesque church they can
find. This often leads to the often bemoaned phenomenon of such
churches attracting the unexpected attendance of unmarried couples who
are in the early stages of planning their wedding and wish to be
married there, but would not otherwise set foot in church. As a
consequence, some church require that the couple either be parishioners
or pledge to join and participate in the parish. In the United States,
such weddings may also be held at the family's residence or in a
After World War I, as full-scale formal weddings began
to be desired by the mothers of brides who did not have a permanent
social secretary, the position of the "wedding planner" who could
coordinate the printer, florist, caterer, seamstress, began to assume
importance. Bride's Magazine began to be published 1934, and its
rival Modern Bride in 1949. Now a whole industry surrounds the provision
of such weddings. The groom may be a mere detail: the new editor of
Modern Bride began her inaugural column, without irony: "I really did
have the wedding of my dreams, the wedding that had been floating
around my head for years before I met my husband."
The full white
wedding experience means that an organist, a choir, flower
arrangements, flowers for lapels and commemorative wedding leaflets
with the Order of Service need to be arranged and purchased. Also the
hymns need to be selected and a reading from the Bible chosen. (Note: A
less religious or non denominational form uses well known classical and
Weddings: Legal and Religious Requirements
a wedding to take place preparations have to be undertaken dependent on
the denomination of the Church involved. Roman Catholics must undergo a
lengthy preparation with the Church, as well as meet any local
requirements for a civil marriage. In the United States, a marriage
license must be obtained prior to the ceremony; some jurisdictions have
a waiting period. In the United States, states have laws which
authorize a religious figure to grant a marriage, and the signing of a
register has no legal effect. In most cases, the marriage is made legal
by the signing and registration of the marriage license.
potential marriage mates will need to be confirmed in or converted to
the religion or denomination of the church. At the very least the
vicar, minister or priest will want to interview the couple and
possibly have them attend marriage classes of some sort.
marriage license is permission from a legal authority for the marriage
of two people to be performed. The requirements differ depending on the
time and place: licenses to marry have been granted since the Middle
Ages. Valid marriages can occur without a license (for example, by
obtaining pardon for having married without license, or by cohabitation
and representation as husband and wife in jurisdictions permitting
Every state in the United States issues
marriage licenses. After the marriage ceremony, both spouses and the
officiant sign the marriage license (some states require a witness).
The officiant or couple then files for a certified copy of the marriage
license and a marriage certificate with the government.
The requirements for getting a marriage license varies from state to state.
The Wedding Ceremony
the guests arrive for a wedding the ushers' duty is to hand out the
correct mix of books, flowers and leaflets and ensure the guests are
seated in the correct places. Traditionally, the side on which people
sit depends on whether they are friends or family of the bride or of
the groom. The front rows are generally reserved for close family or
friends, with the very first seats reserved for the bridal party.
However, in many ceremonies the bridal party will remain standing at
the altar during the ceremony along with the bride and groom.
The groom and his best man wait inside the church for the arrival of the bride and her entourage.
entourage generally arrives in elegant cars or in horse-drawn coaches,
specially hired for the occasion. The bride's entourage normally
consists of the bride, the bride's father and all the various
bridesmaids, maids of honor, flower girls and page boys that are
intended to attend her.
The following is a typical processional order:
1. The ushers and/or groomsmen escort the grandparents of the bride and groom to their seats.
2. The ushers and/or groomsmen escort the mother of the groom and mother of the bride to their seats.
3. The bridesmaids enter, escorted by the groomsmen.
4. The maid or matron of honor enters, either by herself or escorted by the best man.
5. The ringbearer enters.
6. The flower girl enters. (In some ceremonies, the ringbearer will accompany the flower girl.)
The bride then proceeds down the aisle, escorted by her father, to the accompaniment of music, and the ceremony starts.
areas where this is required, after the wedding ceremony itself ends,
the bride, groom, vicar and two witnesses generally go off to a side
room to sign the state-issued marriage license, which is the civil
ceremony aspect of the ritual. Without the signing of the register or
the marriage license, no legally valid marriage existed.
guests file out to throw confetti or rice over the newly-married couple
for good luck. Although the use of rice is traditional, some discourage
it, owing to a belief that birds may ingest it and experience extreme
discomfort as a result of rice expanding in their gizzards. This does
not seem to be the case (indeed, many species of birds live exclusively
on rice); however, hence birdseed has emerged as an alternative to rice.
Finally, a photographic session ensues of the couple leaving the church.
Wedding Dress in Western culture
modern tradition, the color of western-culture wedding dresses is
white. Used in this sense, 'white' or 'wedding white' includes creamy
shades such as eggshell, ecru and ivory. The popularity of this color
can be traced back to 1840 and the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert
of Saxe-Coburg. The Queen chose to wear a white gown for the event. The
official wedding portrait photograph was widely published and many
brides opted for a similar dress in honor of that choice. The tradition
continues today. Prior to the Victorian era a bride was married in any
color except black (the color of mourning) or red (which was connected
The term Bridal Gown originates from the word
'al' which means 'party' combined with Bride is Bridal i.e. Brides
Party Gown. Originally in the Middle Ages wedding parties were simply
bride is the female participant in a wedding ceremony. The term bride
comes from the Teutonic word for a cook. She is typically attended by
one or more bridesmaids or maids of honor. Her male partner is the
bridegroom or "groom."
Before a bride can be formally called "wife"
or Mrs. (the surname of the bridegroom), she must finish the formal
wedding procedure. In some cultures, successful sexual intercourse
between the bride and bridegroom is a required step to complete (or
consummate) the wedding ceremony.
In North America, the typical
attire for a bride is a formal dress. For first marriages, a white
dress is traditional. Etiquette prescribes that a white dress may not
be worn for subsequent marriages (a direct symbolism of virginity), but
this guideline is often ignored, brides wearing white dresses for any
number of marriages. In addition to the gown, the bride normally also
wears a veil and carries a bouquet of flowers. In some areas, a garter
may be worn to be removed by the groom at a later time after the
Traditional weddings require, in addition to the bride and groom:
a close male friend or relative of the groom, given a place of honor.
Maid of honor
Maid of Honor (Bridesmaid) attends the bride at a wedding or marriage
ceremony. a close female friend or relative of the bride, given a place
of honor. If she is married, she is instead called the "matron of honor."
USA, the bride might have several bridesmaids, but this is the position
held by the bride's chief attendant, typically her closest friend or
sister. If married, the title Matron of Honor is used.
person is usually responsible for helping the bride to dress and
prepare for the ceremony, to carry the groom's wedding ring to hand to
the bride during the ceremony, and similar tasks.
groomsman is one of the male attendants to the bridegroom in a wedding
ceremony. Usually the groom selects his closest friends and/or
relatives to serve as a groomsmen, and it is considered an honor to be
selected. From his groomsmen, the groom chooses one to serve as best
In a typical American white wedding, the duties of a groomsman typically include some or all of the following:
· helping the best man plan the bachelor party for the groom
· ushering guests to their seats before the ceremony
· escorting the bridesmaids down the aisle during the ceremony and reception
· giving speeches and toasts (however, this duty is usually performed by the best man)
· dancing with bridesmaids and other single female guests at the reception
groom may also designate other male friends and relatives to act as
ushers, whose main task is ushering guests to their seats before the
Bridesmaids - one or more female attendants who support the bride.
Flower girl - a young girl who scatters flowers in front of the bridal party.
Ringbearer - an attendant, often a young boy, who carries the wedding rings.
Ushers - helpers, usually men, who assist with the organization.
- young girl typically between the ages of 8 and 16 who is too old to
be a flowergirl, but the bride wants to be a part of the wedding.
these positions are filled by close friends of the bride and groom;
being asked to serve in these capacities is seen as a great honor.
Mother and Father of the Bride- Father of the bride "gives her away" to her groom.
Mother and Father of the Groom- Get to pay for the Rehearsal dinner.
guests are generally sent invitations to which they are expected to
reply. The guests are generally invited to both the wedding and the
wedding reception afterwards, although sometimes reception places are
limited. Often certain people are invited due to perceived family
obligations, as to not receive an "invite" can be considered an insult.
wedding reception is a party held after the completion of a marriage
ceremony. Some sort of post-marriage party is traditional in most
societies around the world, but with considerable variety on the
In most Western countries, following a meal with copious
quantities of food and alcohol (traditionally paid for by the bride's
family and known as the Wedding breakfast) speeches are made by members
of the wedding party wishing the couple well in the future.
Traditionally, the speaking parties include bride's father, the best
man (who usually slips in a few hopefully good-natured jokes at the
couple's expense), and then finally the groom. In the modern U.S.,
speeches are more often given by the best man and the maid of honor.
the speeches, the bride and groom begin their First Dance, which used
to be called the "bridal waltz" (in most contemporary weddings a recent
romantic pop song is played and the bride and groom's dance is rarely
an actual waltz). Different dance styles are now used, depending on the
nature of this pop song.
The wedding reception dance party may
involve a certain sequence of special dances. For example, after the
First Dance, the groom may escort his bride to her father for a special
Following the various special dances, the
guests are invited to join in the dancing. The party continues with
toasts and various celebrations until the bride and groom leave in a
car "decorated" by the couple's friends.
Wedding traditions vary considerably between countries, and even between regions of the same countries. Some traditions include:
The money dance or dollar dance,
at which guests pay a small amount of money to dance with the bride or
groom. In some cultures, the money is pinned to a special apron worn by
the bride. In others, the money is collected by friends, who sometimes
give a shot of alcohol to each guest as they pay. This tradition is
common in the U.S. Midwest, but considered tacky in other regions.
Tossing of the bride's bouquet and garter.
The bride tosses her bouquet over her shoulder to a group of all the
single women present. Whoever catches it is supposed to be the next to
get married. Similarly, the groom tosses the bride's garter to the
single men, often after removing it from her leg, to the amusement of
the guests. Sometimes the man who catches the garter is supposed to put
it on the leg of the woman who catches the bouquet. Sometimes the
garter is sold in a raffle instead of being tossed. In some regions of
the U.S., this is considered tacky.
Clinking of the glasses:
Guests will often clink their glasses during dinner to ask the
newlyweds to stand up and kiss. Some couples pass out bells for guests
to ring instead of clinking glasses.
At some point the married
couple will become the object of a shivaree, a good-natured hazing of
the newly-married couple. While this is most familiar in the form of
tying tin cans to the bumper of the couple's car, or spraying shaving
cream on the windows, some of the pranks can be far more malicious.
wedding cake is the traditional cake served to the guests at a wedding
breakfast, after a wedding. It is usually a large cake, multi-layered
or tiered, and heavily decorated, often with icing over a layer of
marzipan, topped with a small statue of a bride and groom. Other common
motifs include doves, gold rings and horseshoes, the latter symbolizing
good luck. Achieving a dense, strong cake that can support the
decorations while remaining edible can be considered the epitome of the
baker's art and skill.
Tradition generally requires that bride and
groom together perform the first cut of the cake, often with a
ceremonial knife, or even a sword. An older, archaic tradition had the
bride serve all portions to the groom's family, as a symbolic transfer
of her household labor from her family to the groom's family.
may also dictate that the bride and groom feed the first bites of this
cake to each other. Again, this may symbolize the new family unit
formed and the replacement of the old parent-child union.
Other guests may then partake of the cake; portions may be taken home or shipped to people who missed the festivities.
A portion may be stored, and eaten by the couple at their first wedding anniversary, or at the christening of their first child.
origins of the tradition of the wedding cake are hard to determine.
Sweets are traditional at many celebrations for most if not all
cultures worldwide. Ancient Roman records detail sweets distributed at
weddings. Medieval and Renaissance resources also mention large cakes
at weddings. Such cakes may have been fruitcake.
A large cake can
take a long time to make, and without modern refrigeration, a heavy fat
and sugar frosting may have prevented spoilage by limiting moisture
exposure. Another possibility is the use of sugar and fat required
satisfying the need for conspicuous consumption for the families
involved in the wedding.
Henry VIII of England enacted a law
specifying the quantity of sugar a cake may have, possibly to control
or tax this prevailing convention. During World War II, sugar was
rationed in the UK, so icing could not be made, and cakes were reduced
in size. To overcome cakes were often served inside a box, which had
been decorated with plaster of Paris, to resemble a larger, traditional
toast is someone or something in honor of which people usually have a
drink, or the drink or honor itself, or the act of indicating that
honor. For example, a person could be the toast of the town, for whom
someone proposes a toast, after which everyone toasts the honoree.
act of toasting consists of three parts: The verbal toast, the
agreement, and the symbolic drink. In the verbal part, one person
states a reason for the toast. This can be as simple as "Here's to good
friends," or as complex as an anecdote followed by a statement of good
will (for example, "Wishing both of you a marriage that lasts
forever"). Everyone else present signifies agreement by lifting their
drinks into the air, often accompanied by shouted or murmured sounds of
agreement such as "Hear! Hear!", and often followed by touching one's
drinkware (the glass, the mug, and so on) against those of everyone else
within reach. The symbolic drink is simply a matter of imbibing some of
the drink to confirm the agreement; this can be a quick sip or a long
draught, with no particular emphasis indicated either way.
situations in which toasts take place involve alcoholic beverages,
usually champagne for particularly special occasions, but there is no
requirement that the beverages contain alcohol. Often, drinks are mixed
among participants, such as when some people drink sparkling cider
instead of champagne.
At a western-style wedding reception, the
best man usually proposes a toast (that is, he toasts the couple) in
the form of best wishes and congratulations to the newlyweds, after
which everyone raises a glass (usually of champagne) in agreement and
then sips from the glass.
final tradition is the newly married couple to set off for their
honeymoon. A honeymoon is the traditional trip taken by newlyweds to
celebrate their marriage, and presumably, consummate it. Today,
honeymoons are often celebrated in secluded, exotic, warm, or other
places that are thought to be special and romantic.
Origins of the word honeymoon
The Oxford English Dictionary offers no etymology at all, but dates the word back to the 16th century: "The
first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and
pleasure" (Samuel Johnson); originally having no reference to the
period of a month, but comparing the mutual affection of newly-married
persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full than it begins to
wane; now, usually, the holiday spent together by a newly-married
couple, before settling down at home
One of the oldest citations in
the OED indicates that, while today honeymoon has a positive meaning,
the word was actually a sardonic reference to the inevitable waning of
love like a phase of the moon. This, the first literary reference to
the honeymoon was penned in 1552, in Richard Huloet's Abecedarium
Anglico Latinum. Huleot writes:
mone, a terme proverbially applied to such as be newe maried, whiche
wyll not fall out at the fyrste, but thone loveth the other at the
beginnynge excedyngly, the likelyhode of theyr exceadynge love
appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people cal the hony mone."
origin of the word "honeymoon" is this: It was a common practice for
newlyweds to drink honey wine (mead) for one month (one moon phase) to
assure the birth of a son, thus a "honeymoon".
(Some of the above article was copied from Wikipedia.com, the free encyclopedia.)