Wedding Traditions and Their Origins
Oh, how far we’ve come…
The Bridal Veil
In ancient times, besides symbolizing ‘maidenly modesty’, the bridal veil was also supposed to ward off evil spirits. Quite possibly, it was also meant to ensure that the groom did not see the bride before the ceremony, just in case he didn’t like what he saw. Remember that in old times, most marriages were arranged (sometimes for social and political considerations) and in many cases the bride and groom didn’t get to see each other before the wedding. Hence the bridal veil was quite possibly also intended to avoid disappointing the groom just before the ceremony, in case it resulted in an embarrassing reaction. The veil would be lifted once the ceremony was over, and of course by then it would be too late. Today the veil is merely ornamental and only serves to make the bridal dress more special.
The Bridal Bouquet
Originally, the bridal bouquet was not made of flowers but of herbs and spices. The aroma from the bouquet was supposed to ward off evil spirits. In all probability, these herbs were also possibly supposed to guard the bride from disease. As times changed, the herbs and spices were replaced with better looking (and better smelling) flowers.
The tossing of the bridal bouquet originates from the old belief that a piece of the bride’s dress and flowers would bring good luck. And since it never hurts to have a little bit of luck on your side, women present at the wedding would almost physically assault the bride and rip pieces of her gown away. So rather than risk being manhandled and have her wedding gown torn to shreds, the bride would throw the bouquet at crowd and run for her life. The custom persists to this day, although fortunately the bride in no longer assaulted. She merely throws her bouquet at her single friends and it is believed that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.
Something Old, Something New
All of us have heard this rhyme and nearly every bride (however much she may scoff at superstition) will try and find something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to wear on her wedding day. The ‘something old’ was usually any highly valued item belonging to the bride’s family and symbolized her ties with her family and her past. ‘Something new’ represented the new gown or jewelry that was symbolic of her new future. ‘Something borrowed’ was usually an item belonging to a happily married woman which was given to the bride in the hope that some of the marital happiness would pass on to the new bride. Blue was the symbol of fidelity and true love, hence ‘something blue’. In addition, it is also the custom to place a coin inside the bride’s shoe – this was supposed to bring wealth and prosperity to the married couple.