Weddings are a huge industry and one of the oldest traditions in human history. Many cultures around the world hold different wedding traditions close to their hearts. In this article, Everyday Bride explores the 14 most common wedding traditions and their origins.
- “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”
- Wearing a bridal veil
- The couple not seeing each other on the wedding day
- Throwing rice on the couple as they exit
- The groom carrying the bride over the threshold
- Tossing the garter
- Bridal showers
- “Tying the knot.”
- Flower girls and ring bearers
- The couple kissing at the clink of a glass
- The traditional June wedding
- Matching bridesmaid dresses
- The bride’s father giving her away
While each culture has unique traditions stemming from its own ancestries and history, these traditions are still commonplace for modern American couples.
“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue”
It’s likely that you’ve heard the old saying “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” before. It’s common practice for couples to get an item to represent each of these descriptors.
This saying originates from an Old English rhyme. The rhyme states that these are the four good-luck objects brides need for their wedding day. Here is a breakdown of each type of item.
Something old is meant to represent the past lives of the couple.
Something new symbolizes the wonderfully happy future in store for the soon-to-be-wed couple.
The bride should borrow an item from a happily wed couple to bring good luck to her own impending union.
Blue traditionally represents love and prosperous lives. Using something blue in your wedding is meant to bring long lives full of love to the couple’s union.
Wearing a Bridal Veil
This tradition stems from a tradition in ancient Rome. Brides back then wore veils covering their faces to prevent recognition by evil spirits. The Romans believed spirits commonly attended weddings in an attempt to curse the couple.
While many modern brides in today’s wedding scene still choose to wear a veil as a face covering while they walk down the aisle, most now choose to wear them as an accessory on their big days.
The Couple Not Seeing Each Other on the Wedding Day
It’s commonly regarded as bad luck for couples to see each other on their wedding day. As such, couples often sleep apart the night before their wedding and take steps to ensure they don’t see each other before the ceremony. This tradition dates back to when parents arranged the majority of weddings. The parents did not allow the couple to meet before the altar due to a fear of the couple not finding each other attractive and calling off the wedding.
Throwing Rice on the Couple as They Exit
While rice is no longer commonly thrown on the couple as they exit their wedding ceremony, it is still traditional to shower the bride and groom as they exit. Rice symbolized fertility and financial prosperity a long while ago, so it was thrown at the newlyweds to grace their exit with thoughts of fruitful families in their future.
Here are a few things that are safer for the environment than rice but still hold the same sentiment.
- Blowing bubbles
- Ringing bells
- Throwing dried lavender
- Throwing biodegradable confetti
The Groom Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold
Now a romantic tradition that’s been upheld as a fun “sweeping her off her feet” moment for newlyweds, this tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold into their hotel room once symbolized something else.
It used to be considered unladylike for a bride to willingly leave her father’s home, so the new husband would lift her and force her through the doorway. It was also thought to symbolize the groom protecting the bride from evil spirits as they crossed the first threshold into their lives together as a married couple.
Tossing the Garter
A tradition that originates in France, it is traditional for the groom to remove the garter from the bride’s leg and throw it into a crowd of single men who attended the wedding. Whoever catches the garter is meant to be the next man to get married.
The garter used to be thrown at the crowd of guests to distract them while the couple snuck out of their reception to get to their honeymoon.
While many people think bridal showers are a new thing, they are actually quite traditional. They date back to the early 1500s, when dowries were still a prominent part of marital commitments. Bridal showers traditionally were meant to help raise funds for the dowry money or “bridal price.”
Today, bridal showers no longer raise money to “buy the bride” but are instead intended to shower the bride with well wishes and gifts during her engagement.
“Tying the Knot”
Even today, when a couple announces their engagement, many people call it “tying the knot,” but few people know where the saying stems from or what it truly means. In many traditional weddings across cultures, including in Celtic and Hindu weddings, the bride and grooms’ hands were tied together.
The tying of the hands symbolized the newly founded commitment to one another and their eternal bond as a newly married couple.
Flower Girls and Ring Bearers
Flower girls are young girls who walk down the aisle before the bride and throw out flower petals to leave a beautiful trail. This tradition stems from the ancient Roman era, in which young girls carried wheat down the aisle. Wheat was thought to bring on good fortune to newlyweds.
Ring bearers are a mainly American tradition that features a small boy who carries a pillow with the wedding bands for the bride and groom. This tradition represents dreams coming true for the couple, along with innocence and new beginnings.
The Couple Kissing at the Clink of a Glass
Much like many of the other wedding traditions, this one comes with a more sinister backstory. While today it is a fun way to get the newlyweds to share a smooch, in Medieval times, wines were often spiked with poison. Tapping the glasses was through to ward off poisons and evil spirits before anyone took a sip.
The Traditional June Wedding
Back in the Middle Ages, bathing was not a daily nor weekly occurrence. For lower classes, a bath once a year was quite regular. That bath usually came in May—making June the best month to host a grand wedding, as you could enjoy the festivities with the smells that might come by August.
Due to the lovely weather that usually accompanies June, that tradition remained popular even as access to clean running water and soap became more widespread and common.
Today, the honeymoon is an opportunity for couples to share some alone time on luxurious and relaxing vacations after their nuptials. A very long time ago, honeymoons were quite a bit more somber than they are today.
This tradition dates back to when marriage by kidnapping was common. The groom would take the bride to a secret location and marry her. He would then keep her there until her family gave up the search or she became pregnant, at which point the family would no longer oppose to the union.
Matching Bridesmaid Dresses
While brides are now beginning to request that their bridal party wear coordinating outfits rather than matching ensembles, it was once traditional that all the bridesmaids would dress the same on their bride’s wedding day. There is a reason for the matching.
Back in the Roman era, matching outfits were thought to bring good luck. Back in those days, it was also believed that evil spirits commonly attended weddings in an attempt to curse the couple. The bridesmaids dressed the same as the bride to try to deceive the spirits and confuse them enough to prevent the curse.
The Bride’s Father Giving Her Away
Still a common practice at weddings today, many brides choose to have their fathers or another prominent parental force in their lives walk them down the aisle and give them away to their future spouse.
This tradition was once much less voluntary and sentimental for brides, as it signified an actual transactional arrangement. Back before the women’s and civil rights movements, daughters were considered their fathers’ property until they were exchanged to their husbands for a “bride price” or dowry.
These are the 14 most common wedding traditions and their origins. There are countless traditions you can engage in during your wedding day. Wedding traditions get passed down through centuries, cultures, and even individual family lines. Traditions can be fun to incorporate into your big day—but remember, it’s your wedding! You can follow the traditions you love and leave the others at the door. You may even be inclined to start a new wedding tradition of your own.