Origins of Wedding Traditions
By Allison De Meulder
Wedding traditions originate from all across the world. Throughout history, cultures, married couples and their families have created their own traditions. Some of these traditions have faded with the passing of time, but many traditions have continued on for generations. Modern weddings have traditions from different points in history and distant lands weaved into the wedding and reception. These time-honored traditions have lived on because they create meaningful weddings that people remember. People want to pass these ideas on to their children and grandchildren.
Wedding Dress and Wedding Ring
The wedding dress is one of the most popular wedding traditions since the beginning of time. The dress is important because the bride is usually one of the main focal points in any wedding. Specific wedding dress traditions vary between cultures, but the fact that there is always a special dress remains. Some cultures believe that the wedding dress should be a white dress to symbolize purity. This is a common tradition these days also. It is rare to see a colored wedding dress. Women do wear off-white or creamy colored dress often though.
People also believe that the groom should not see the bride in her dress before the ceremony. This creates more surprise and excitement for both the bride and groom. The length of the dress is also important. Most people have kept the dress long and modest throughout generations. The wedding veil served as a piece of protection for Roman brides. In some cultures the veil also symbolized purity and modesty.
Wedding rings also hold great significance in many cultures. Wedding rings go back as far as Egyptian times. Egyptians would give rings to their true love to symbolize their undying devotion, and love. The wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the right or left hand, depending on the culture. In Spain people wear their wedding rings on the right, but Catalan people wear the rings on the left. Germany, Poland and Serbia all wear wedding rings on the right hand and the United States, Italy and Japan prefer the left.
Something Old, New, Borrowed and Something Blue
Something old, new, borrowed and blue are traditions that people have not forgotten about. The family of the bride often comes together to give her something new such as a brand new necklace, and something old like an older hair piece. Something borrowed could be anything such as a ring, garter belt or ankle bracelet. Something blue is often hidden, or built into the bouquet or bride's hair piece. The rhyme for this originated in the Victorian era.
Sometimes these little items are gathered together right before the bridal ceremony. However, some families plan in advance and give the bride these items ahead of time. Every family is different, but this custom has remained as a time-honored tradition. Many of the same items are passed on to different brides within the family.
The Romans, Native Americans and other cultures feasted on various types of wedding cakes. The Romans began eating cake right away during the reception, but this cake wasn't the elaborate treat we all enjoy today. Roman wedding cakes were very plain because they were made with flour, water, salt and a few other basic ingredients. In time, wedding cakes became more delicious. Other cultures embraced the wedding cake and added treats such as fruit and nuts to make it more appealing. Wedding cakes symbolized breaking the bride's virginal state. In some areas wedding cakes represented a man taking dominance over a woman. People also thought the wedding cake would bring fertility and fortune to the couple.
Cutting the wedding cake is a tradition that has lived on for hundreds of years. These days cutting the wedding cake is a pivotal moment during the reception. Wedding cakes are elegant, decorative pieces that say a lot about the bride and groom's taste preferences and personalities. Some couples even have two wedding cakes: one cake for the groom and one for the bride. Guests enjoy watching the bride and groom interact as they make a slice into such a beautiful work of art. Couples often hold the knife together and make the cut at the same time to symbolize their lifelong commitment to one another.
The actual shape of the cake is another tradition that has been molded throughout history. The three tier shape has been a favored style for many generations. This shape was inspired by the Saint Bride's Church, found in the City of London. Most couples like to freeze the top tier for future anniversary celebrations or the christening of their first child.
The honeymoon is one of the most favored wedding traditions today. The word "honeymoon" is a term that represents a man capturing his bride. Historical references state couples would hide from the bride's parents before they got married. They would then stay hidden together throughout the cycle of the moon after the wedding. Married couples would eat, and enjoy each other's company while drinking honey wine on their honeymoon.
Chinese Wedding Traditions
Chinese people have their own wedding traditions that have set them apart for thousands of years. Many of these traditions have not crossed cultural boundaries. They have remained within the Chinese culture. The family of the bride and groom prepare signed, formal documents of approval and acceptance before the ceremony. Both parents also exchange credentials and talk about their intentions. They basically take the time to really get to know each other before the wedding.
After the couple is approved by both families, everyone in the family takes the time to agree on money and other items to give the bride and groom. The groom's family presents betrothal gifts such as money, bridal cakes, sugar, meat, tobacco, wine, and special tea presents. The Bride's family would then give others types of gifts such as clothing and additional food. Some of the gifts such as the wedding cakes would go to family and friends.
For the ceremony, the bride wears traditional Chinese dress which consists of a colorful gown and a large hair accessory that sits on the top of her head. She also wears a veil that covers her face. The hair piece looks similar to a wedding bouquet, but the bride wears it on her head. The bridal outfit is typically red and gold with red silk shoes and a long red, silk sash.
The preparations are extensive, but the actual wedding ceremony is simple. The bride and groom bow to each other and then get married. In some areas the bride and groom drink wine from the same glass or eat a sugar creation made to look like a rooster. After getting married, the couple is brought to a bridal chamber. They sit on the bed together and enjoy drinking wine. Later on both families prepare separate wedding feasts for the bride and groom, but an initial feast is also given to the groom's family soon after the wedding.