The Origin of Wedding Traditions
Have you ever wondered where many of our wedding traditions began? Why exactly do you need to save the cake top for a year? Often, we follow these traditions without really knowing or understanding where they originated. And as the world gets smaller, we are all seeing and experiencing traditions from other cultures. Let’s take a deep dive into American habits and how different cultures incorporate their practices into the wedding.
Dress & Veil
Queen Victoria started the Western world’s white wedding dress trend in 1840—before then, brides often wore their best dress.
But why white? The reason is layered. Knowing that people would talk about her dress worldwide, Queen Victoria chose to wear a dress trimmed with handmade lace from Beer’s small village to support the declining lace trade and give the industry a boon. White, she reasoned, was the best way to show off the lacemakers’ artistry.
It caught on because it looked like money. At the time, most women exchanged vows in dresses they already owned, and there was only one group of people who could afford to own anything white: the upper class. There weren’t dry cleaners and laundromats around in the late 19th-century, so it took money to maintain a white outfit.
For most American brides, a beautiful white wedding gown is a seemingly timeless tradition that is often the center point of little girls’ wedding fantasies. In 2018, about 83% of brides wore white dresses on their big day, according to Brides Magazine’s survey. Now we know why!
The tradition of wearing a wedding veil dates back to ancient Rome, where a bride would walk down the aisle wearing one over her face to disguise herself from any evil spirits looking to ruin her wedding day. Spirits were quite the concern back then! These days, wedding veils come in many styles and lengths, the most popular four types being:
Blusher: A shorter veil style that grazes the bustline. It can be worn over the face during the ceremony and then pulled back the rest of the day.
Mantilla: a regal Old World-style veil, comprised of a circle of tulle and lace worn draped over the head, framing the face.
Fingertip: A popular style, this medium-length veil grazes your fingertips and is worn with just about every type of wedding dress.
Cathedral: With lengths ranging from 9 to 25 feet, this is the veil for you if you’re going for major drama.
Cultural traditions from around the globe
In India, Mehndi, otherwise known as Henna, is a paste associated with positive spirits and good luck. Indian wedding tradition calls for a Mehndi ceremony to be held the night before the wedding to wish the bride good health and prosperity as she makes her journey on to the marriage.
Besides lending color to the hands, mehndi is a potent medicinal herb. Weddings are stressful, and often, stress causes headaches and fevers. As the wedding day approaches, the excitement mixed with nervous anticipation can take its toll on the bride and groom. The mehndi application can help with too much stress because it cools the body and keeps the nerves from becoming tense. Mehndi is applied on the bride’s hands and feet because these areas house nerve endings in the body.
The bride’s family either calls a Mehndi/Henna Artist to come to their home or a family relative to create designs for the bride and her guests. You may find that individual artists include animals, nature elements, Hindu Gods, or even the Bride and Groom represented with names or figures. After applying the Mehndi, the bride must wait for the Henna to stain her hands and feet to create lasting designs. It is commonly believed among Indian tradition that the darker the Bride’s Mehndi’s color, the more her husband will love her.
Jumping the Broom
In its contemporary usage, couples jump over brooms as a signifier of sweeping away the old to make way for a new beginning. The broom has become one of the most popular traditions at African-American weddings. History tells us that the roots of this ritual began deep in the heart of Africa.
It is believed that broom jumping comes from an African Tribal Marriage Ritual of placing sticks on the ground representing the couple’s new home together. In this ritual, the broom’s spray represents the scattering of people, and the handle embodies the almighty who holds everyone together.
Today “Broom Jumping” is a ritual handed down from generation to generation to remind us of a time when African Americans’ vows were not legally sanctioned. During slavery, the legitimacy of marriage was symbolized by jumping over the broom and into domesticity bonds. This small ritual was a legal and binding act connecting both the homeland’s heritage and giving legitimacy, dignity, and strength to unions.
At modern-day ceremonies, this tradition can be performed at the wedding, after the minister pronounces the couple man and wife, or at the reception, just after the bridal party enters the reception area.
A tea ceremony is the quintessential Chinese wedding tradition. This time-honored exchange was created to show respect for the family. Historically, after a bride and groom exchanged vows, the couple would serve tea to the groom’s family (the bride would have served tea privately to her own family that morning). Today, many couples choose to honor both the bride and groom’s families by hosting tea ceremonies for both parents’ sets.
El Lazo (wedding lasso)
An enduring Mexican wedding ritual, symbolizing everlasting love and unity, involves el Lazo, or a wedding lasso. The lasso is more of a string of flowers and rosary beads placed around the couple’s shoulders—first the bride, then the groom—after the wedding vows to form a figure eight as the priest or deacon blesses the couple’s marriage. This Mexican wedding tradition is closely tied to Catholicism as the significance of creating the number eight with the lasso also representing new beginnings in the Bible. Couples wear this lasso for the remainder of the mass until the priest removes it.
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you may have seen Jordan Almonds on display. What exactly are these little candies? In short, Jordan Almonds are sugar almond candies, commonly given out as party favors as a common wedding tradition. These candies date back to 1350 in literary references. More testimonies show up later in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance Age, as ancient Romans used the almond candies to celebrate various occasions, from weddings to births. Because the candies come in all sorts of colors, their color may represent a particular meaning in some traditions. For example, you will often see white ones at weddings, green candies to symbolize an engagement, and even red ones to celebrate graduations.
These fancy, sugar-coated candies are rich in flavor and cultural meaning, particularly at Italian and Greek weddings. Fresh almonds have a bittersweet taste, which represents life; the sugar-coating is added in hopes that the newlyweds’ life will be more sweet than bitter. Even the shape of the candy has meaning. Some believe the egg shape is an aphrodisiac, while others think it’s a sign of fertility.
These time-honored practices help thread the old and new. They help connect us to our past and give hope for the future. Traditions change and adapt as the years go by, but looking at them and understanding the more profound meeting behind them, gives us a greater appreciation today for weddings we are celebrating.
About the author: Milestone Events Group is Northern California’s most experienced Wine Country Wedding Experts & largest event management company providing site selection services to multiple locations throughout Sonoma County. Over the past 7 years Milestone has helped hundreds of couples simplify the venue selection process by providing clarity, predictability and ultimately confidence for clients who work with them to evaluate wineries, ranches, and other locations for their private events.
After the venue selection process is complete, Milestone is also available to help produce events in a stress reduced and highly professional manner. www.MilestoneEventsGroup.com