The institution of marriage has been around for such a long time, it’s no wonder there are so many traditions associated with weddings. From the classic white wedding dress to the sillier things, like the garter toss, brides have many different rituals and observances to include on their big day.
There are so many things that are just expected that not everyone might stop to think about why these practices are so popular. Today we are highlighting the origins of “something borrowed, something blue,” and other traditions that you may be curious about in planning your own wedding day!
Arguably, the most well-known symbol of a wedding is a woman in a white dress. The Western tradition of brides wearing white on their wedding day is a relatively new one. The white wedding dress was popularized by Queen Victoria on her wedding day in 1840. Since then, it has become a symbol of purity for brides.
Before that, blue was a color that many brides would choose for their gowns, if they were wealthy enough to be able to get a specific dress for their wedding day. However, most women would just wear their best dress on their wedding day, and make it special with tokens of good luck from family and friends.
The old rhyme “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” is a classic example of bridal good luck charms. Brides often choose an heirloom as their “something old” to connect them to their family, “something new” to represent their new life, “something borrowed” to remind them of the support of their family and friends, and then the somewhat mysterious “something blue”. While blue was considered a color of purity for a very long time, which may have had some influence on the rhyme, the “something blue” is actually thought to have originated with the Order of the Garter, one of the oldest and highest orders of knighthood. Chivalry was their main duty, and blue was their color, so the “something blue” likely originated as a reference to that order, as a symbol of protection and good fortune to women in their married life. These good luck charms are very well-known and are carried down the aisle by many, many brides.
Another thing that brides carry down the aisle is, of course, the bouquet! Brides carry for a couple of different reasons. Long ago, various herbs were carried in a bouquet to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the newlyweds. In some places, brides would walk down the aisle with a wreath or garland of wildflowers in place of the herbs. In Victorian times, the language of flowers was a very popular concept. Different flowers came to represent different things- for example, red roses symbolize true love, even to this day. Bouquets were chosen based on the symbolism behind the flowers.
Traditionally, brides toss their bouquets to female guests during their reception, and whoever catches the bouquet is said to be the next to get married. This practice has origins in France, where it was considered lucky to have a piece of the bride’s dress. However, people would actually try and rip apart the dress, so the bouquet toss became a much safer alternative! Likewise, the garter toss for the men also evolved from this idea, and the garter was said to bring luck to whoever caught it.
A lot of these traditions are meant to bring luck to the couple, but some traditions are important in a different way. Have you ever wondered why couples kiss at the end of the wedding ceremony? It’s not just a sign of affection! In Roman times, a kiss sealed a contract and was representative of a legal bond. This is where we get the term “sealed with a kiss”! In a wedding ceremony, the kiss acts as a symbolic sealing of the marriage contract in addition to being a sign of a couple’s love for each other.
The tradition of the bride-to-be receiving an engagement ring also harkens back to the Romans. In ancient times, rings were not used exclusively as a marriage symbol, but also as a symbol of friendship. Rings are worn on what we call the “ring finger” because it was widely believed that the vein in that finger was the only one that leads directly to the heart- a very romantic notion!
The most wonderful thing about these fascinating traditions is the fact that brides can choose to incorporate as many or as few as they want into their own wedding. Though they are expected, many brides choose to forego the things they don’t like and add their own unique twists to the things that they do want to include! Learning the extra meaning behind these traditions is fun and informative and can add another level of depth and meaning to a wedding ceremony.