Almost every wedding has the following symbols. Have you ever wondered what started these traditions?
Wedding ring. The unending circle of a ring was thought to symbolize eternity; a wedding ring held the hope that love would last forever. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed that a vein in the third finger travels straight to the heart. Medieval Christian grooms were said to place the ring part-way on the thumb, then index finger, then middle finger of the bride while saying the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The next finger was the “ring” finger — and the groom left it there, presumably while saying, “I do.”
White gown. Until the late 19th century, American brides wore formal dresses during their weddings. Black was the color of choice. Queen Victoria popularized the wearing of white gowns in England, when she broke cultural norms and donned one at her wedding. At that time, white outfits were reserved for funerals and grieving. (They still are for Eastern cultures.) Some fashion historians say white represents purity and virginity but, by all accounts, wearing white first symbolized unabashed joy. Americans fell in love with white bridal gowns sometime during the early to mid 20th century.
Bride’s veil. At least three reasons are given for why brides wear veils during the wedding ceremony. Superstition led some to believe a veil would protect a bride from evil spirits. It’s also thought that brides wore veils to hide their faces from grooms during arranged unions. Today, the veil symbolizes a bride’s modesty.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Wearing something old, usually given to the bride by a relative married for many years, was thought to guarantee a lifelong marriage. The “new” represented the beginning of married life. A borrowed item imparted the happiness of the giver to the wearer. The bride showed her modesty by wearing something blue.
Flowers. Flowers and herbs were important features in the pagan ceremonies which joined men and women long ago. Each variety, herb and color had its own significance. We further the tradition today when the bride carries a bouquet down the aisle or decorates the wedding and reception areas with floral arrangements.
Cake. In ancient times, the breaking of cake, like the breaking of bread, was seen as a fertility rite when performed during a joining ceremony. The practice of layering several cakes, one on top of the other, just to the tipping point, began much later. The bride and groom were expected to attempt a kiss above the precariously-perched cake. Their success in kissing without toppling the layers would result in a lifetime of good fortune.
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