You've selected your rings with pride. You've set your wedding date with anticipation. Now, as you plan the many details that will shape your wedding day, you encounter the traditions and customs that brides and grooms have observed for centuries. Because rituals such as these are society's unwritten permission to express the primitive emotions of joy, sexuality and even fear, you may find the origins of these customs and traditions fascinating.
THE BRIDAL PARTY
In ancient times, people lived in small communities that offered limited choices for eligible mates. So marriage-by-capture from other small communities became a popular way to obtain a wife. The would-be groom brought along his strongest male friends to kidnap the bride of his choice. She surrounded herself with female friends for protection. Today, these friends have become the groomsmen and bridal attendants.
After, capturing his bride, the groom would send one friend to the bride's family to handle the financial arrangements of the marriage. Today, this chosen friend has become the best man.
THE ENGAGEMENT RING
As civilization changed, marriage-by-capture evolved into a business arrangement. The groom presented an engagement ring at the betrothal as a sign of commitment to compensate the bride's family for her hand in marriage. Today, the engagement ring signifies the couple's commitment.
HONKING CAR HORNS
In ancient times, loud noises were thought to chase away evil spirits. During the ceremony, guests would make loud noises to keep the spirits away. Today, it's tradition for the bridal party to sound car horns while leaving the ceremony.
The family of the bride would give her dowry to present to her husband. From this old tradition has grown the custom of a new wardrobe for the bride.
The earliest wedding gifts were not for the bride and groom, but rather for the father of the kidnapped bride in the ancient mode of marriage-by-capture.
THE WEDDING RINGS
A romantic 19th century reason for wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand was that people believed the vein of this finger led straight to the heart. The ring's circular shape has always represented eternal love.
Ancient wedding nights were public parties. Male attendants helped the bride and groom undress, and the young men would fight over the bridal garters. The groomsmen lucky enough to get the bride's garters then wore them in their hat bands
Stocking throwing was another custom. After the bride and groom were undressed, they would sit in bed and the groomsmen and bridesmaids would toss the stocking at them. The person who landed a stocking on the bride or groom would be next to marry. Today, these customs are replaced with the throwing of garters and the bridal bouquet.
THE WEDDING CAKE
Eating the same food represents a separation from the past and a union of the young couple. Today, a wedding isn't complete without a cake-cutting ceremony.
Passing portions of the wedding cake through the wedding ring might be messy, but it was said to bring good luck in finding a mate when eaten by bachelors and spinsters at the wedding.
DECORATING WITH FLOWERS
An abundance of flowers and food at the wedding celebration symbolizes the fruitfulness that the families and friends wish for the bride and groom.
THE WEDDING GOWN
White wedding gowns were made popular by Queen Victoria, who broke a long tradition of royal brides marrying in silver. Before this time, wedding dresses came in all colors and were designed to be worn by the bride after the wedding at parties and social functions.
BRIDAL VEIL AND HEADPIECE
A woman's face, covered by a veil, used to indicate that she was spoken for. The bride also wore a veil as a disguise so that evil spirits believed to be lurking at the ceremony would not recognize her and do her harm.