Tips for Bride’s..
Wedding Traditions


Why Should You Only Be Engaged Once?

      At one time it was thought that to be engaged more than once meant certain damnation. The groom-to-be often avoided making the proposal himself, but instead sent friends to represent his interests to his intended bride or her family. On their way to make this visit, these representatives would observe certain things which they would interpret as omens for the future couple. A monk, a blind man, or a pregnant woman were among the bad omens, signaling that the representatives should give up their mission. Nanny goats, a pigeon, or a wolf were among those bringing good fortune. One warning for brides-to-be was to avoid suitors whose surnames began with the same letter as their own.

Why A Proposal?

      In the 19th century, declaration of love was tantamount to proposal; arranged marriages did not include proposals not did marriage by capture. Asking the bride’s father for her comes from the era of arranged marriages.

Why An Engagement?

      The engagement is a means to an end– marriage. Indeed, the full term is “engaged to be married.” At one time, however, the engagement was as important as the wedding itself. Anglo-Saxons were used to stealing away their brides-to-be. Romance, wooing and engagements were not in the picture. But the families of the women insisted on being reimbursed for what was, after all, a working member of the family. The engagement itself signified the intended transfer of ownership from father to husband and also provided a period during which the “bride’s price” could be agreed.


      Several centuries later the situation was in reverse and fathers were paying future sons-in-law, or their families, a “dowry” to marry off their daughters. The engagement was again a time for agreeing on the payment, or dowry, and also a time for collecting an extravagant trousseau, at least for rich brides.

Why An Engagement Party?

      Once marked by a party called a “flouncing”, the couple met with their future in-laws to make the engagement official. Neither of the couple could be seen talking to another man or woman after this point and should the engagement be broken, the one breaking it forfeited half of his or her worldly goods.

Why Announce The Engagement?

      Publishing banns to make sure no legal objections exist to prevent the marriage. Engagement was symbolized by a ring, a kiss, or sharing of food or drink.

Why A Betrothal Ring?

      The troth or promise ring is older than the wedding band. Its earliest form was probably plaited sweet grass, which came from the custom of securing the bride’s wrists and ankles with rushes during the age of marriage by capture. When restraint became more symbolical than physical, a grass ring was given to her, succeeded by rings of metal as man became more accomplished in the crafts. The Romans and Egyptians, with their love of precious metal and stones, initiated the production of platinum, silver and gold rings. Jeweled rings were the next step and the diamond is mentioned specifically from about the fourth century AD, and frequently from the fifteenth century on.

Why An Engagement Ring?

      Before coinage, gold rings were circulated as currency. By giving a gold ring to his bride, a man showed he trusted her with his property. Under Roman law, the ring was a sign of security, protecting the interests of the bride-to-be. In Elizabethan times, an interlocking set of three rings was used and worn during the engagement period by the bride, the groom and the witness at the wedding. The three rings would be placed on the bride’s finger during the wedding ceremony. Diamond rings became popular in the 19th century.

Why A Diamond?

      The diamond was called the Venus stone by the ancients to compare its shining beauty with the planet Venus in the evening sky. Like this goddess, who was dedicated to love, the diamond in time became associated with sweethearts, and its mysterious inner fire was likened to the equally mysterious fires of passion. The Greeks called is “adamas”- eternal or unchanging, a declaration as to the depths of their emotions, let us hope. But more probably the ancient name came from the character of the stone–the hardest substance in nature.


      According to history, the diamond as an engagement ring began in 1477 with Maximilllian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy. Max took the advice and proposed, slipping a diamond ring on her third finger, left hand side. Mary said “Yes” and a tradition was born.


      Today, when many traditions are toppling, the diamond ring tradition is stronger than ever. It is followed by four our of five engaged couples- for whom the individual expression of their love is still captured in that tiny, sparkling gem.

Why A Wedding Band?

      Wedding bands symbolizing eternal love by their lack of beginning or end, grew out of the ancient tradition of using circlets of grass to decorate a bride’s wrists and ankles. Although nor required to validate marriage under a civil law, rings were required in 16th century by the Council of Trent. Circular shape symbolizes eternity.

Why Third Finger, Left Hand?

      The ancients believed that a special vein, which they called a “vena amoris” or vein of love, ran from the finger directly to the heart. By putting on a fitted ring, the affections were bound in and could never flow out the finger tips. Also, this finger–although no the smallest on the hand–is the weakest and most dependent on the others for help in lifting and holding. It seemed to symbolize the young wife supported by the strength of her husband. The “ring” finger has sometimes been on the left hand, sometimes on the right, according to country and custom. Among English-speaking persons, it has been on the left since the edict of Edward VI in 1549.

Why A Bridal Shower?

      This tradition evolved form Holland when a father disapproved of his daughter’s choice and the villagers gathered to “shower” her with the dowry her father refused.

Why A White Gown?

      White is the ceremonial symbol of purity and virtue and hence of maidenhood. It has been so since Biblical times. But white has not always been the fashion for wedding gowns. Prior to the 19th century, it was fashionable to wear a colorful outfit that could be adopted for later wear.


      A typical early American bride wore the best she should afford– and potentially re-use– in the prevailing fashion of the day. It might be a white linen shift over a petticoat or two, a blue and white Calico smock or something in pink, a fashion color, with velvet or trim. Colonial brides also wore pastel brocades and even cherry red satin, but the rites were most often performed at home than in a church. Nellie Custis revised the wearing of white at her marriage to George Washington’s favorite nephew on the ex-president’s last birthday, February 22, 1799, and white has now been the fashion for some 200 years. However, candlelight or ivory shades are equally popular with today’s brides.


      About 1820 white became popular for formal occasions, although pastels were in vogue until the end of the century. When Queen Victoria popularized white at her own wedding in 1840, it became the official color for brides, because it was considered a symbol of Biblical purity. Although fashions have changed, white is still symbolic of brides and the word “white” has come to symbolize happiness and joy.

Why A Bridal Veil?

      We think of the veil as being oriental because the Eastern bridegroom often did not see his bride’s face until after the ceremony. Actually, the veil is older than the harem and rises from the mists of mythology. Ishtar, ancient Goddess of Love, came from the depths to me her betrothed, the vapors of the earth and sea covering her “like a veil”.


      Folklore has it that the tradition of the veil changed to include a blusher after Jacob was tricked into marrying his beloved Rachel’s sister, Leah, who was distinguished under the full veiling. It seems there is much to be said for inspecting the bride before it is too late!


      The invention of the wide loom and silk tulle in the 19th century gave women a sheer covering that enhanced their beauty. The wedding veil symbolizes modesty, privacy, youth and virginity. That way of thinking still has a foothold on bridal etiquette, as only a first-time bride wears a veil.


      Now, the blusher, like the veil, is optional. However, wearing a veil does create a very romantic moment as the groom lifts it to kiss his bride for the first time as her husband.

Why A Blue Garter?

      We all know that something blue is lucky for the bride, but why a blue garter? This seems to stem from the most noble Order of the Garter, the oldest order of knighthood in Europe. Its regalia includes a collar, a star and an actual blue velvet garter. Since queens and princesses are the only women invested with the Order, and a bride is a “queen for the day”, she may enjoy royal prerogatives by wearing a blue garter below her left knee.

Why A Trousseau?

      Once upon a time, the bride’s family began preparing for her marriage when she was born. They collected embroidered and crafted items to store in a striking piece of furniture known as a “marriage” or “hope” chest.


      A century ago in Italy the bride’s belongings were carried in a street procession to her marriage and everyone saw the contents. Today, the bride’s family might purchase the hope chest.


      In some communities today, a “trousseau tea” is held before the wedding. This “ladies only” social gathering is a way to show off all the bride’s new things– not just gifts, but lingerie, clothing items, personal items– everything but the wedding costume. If the bride is planning to display her gifts at her home, we suggest that you advise her not to leave them unattended during the wedding and reception, unless she has temporary insurance.

Why A Bevy Of Bridesmaids?

      In the old days of marriage by capture, a maiden was guarded by her family to prevent seizure, and in later centuries this little drama was enacted as a sort of game at country weddings. The bridegroom, gaily attired, coming for his bride, was confronted by a bevy of maidens all dressed exactly alike. His part of the play was to detect his true love, “forsaking all others,” and bear her away to the church. As recently as Victorian times, brides’ maidens often wore white dresses and even short bridal veils, looking like brides themselves. The best friend was designated first bridesmaid. Maid of honor and matron of honor as modern designations in line with our smaller wedding parties of today. It was once required that 10 witnesses be present at a marriage ceremony to outsmart the jealous demons. Bridesmaids dressed similarly to the bride, and ushers’ attire resembled the groom’s. This was an attempt to confuse the spirits who wanted to harm the couple. If the spirits could not tell the bride and groom apart from attendants, they would not be able to carry out their plans.

Why Ushers Or Groomsmen?

      Back in the days of “marriage by capture,” a young man often brought along some of his strong-armed friends to help fend off his ladylove’s brothers. These were the first ushers or groomsmen.

Why A Ringbearer?

      This small attendant, usually a relative of the bride, is typically American and unkown in Europe, although he is the successor of the English page boy who still carries the bride’s train in formal weddings at Westminster. Children, especially youths, have always been considered propitious in the wedding party, and in France they carried lighted tapers at the bride’s side. Charles Frederick Worth, who dressed most of the queens of Europe form his house in Paris, is said to have originated the court train, suspended from the shoulders, for the wedding gown. This gave the little train bearer a definite job to do. But alas, court trains went out of fashion as skirts grew shorter, so the bride’s little nephew was given the wedding ring to carry.

Why A Bouquet?

      Symbolizes life, growth, fertility. Herbs ward off evil spirits. Flowers with different meanings are assembled into a bouquet.

Why Orange Blossoms?

      There are cycles of favor for bridal flowers just as with other bridal fashions. We had the era of rosemary, then myrtle, and more recently the orange blossom has enjoyed a full century of popularity. Carried from Spain to France many years ago, and then to America, the orange blossom tradition became so strong that brides wore the flowerlets molded in wax when they couldn’t get fresh blossoms. The meaning is significant: the orange tree is one of the very few in all nature that bears its flowers and its fruit at the same time– a symbol of the young and fruitful spouse. Because the tree from which orange blossoms come is an evergreen, they are also thought to symbolize the everlasting nature of the newlywed’s love for eachother.

Why “Something Old– Something New”?

      Something Old: Continuity


      Something New: Optimism and Hope


      Something Borrowed: Happiness shared from happily married couple


      Something Blue: Fidelity, Love and Purity


      A Lucky Sixpence In Shoe: Ensure a life of fortune. The sixpence first became known as a lucky coin when introduced by Edward VI of England in 1551 and later became part of bridal wedding traditions in the Victorian era. Small bags with a bit of bread and cloth and wood and coin to protect against shortages of food, clothing, shelter and money. A lump of sugar to bring sweetness all the married life.

Why A Coin In The Shoe?

      Ancient custom to appease Diana, goddess of chastity and unmarried maidens, so that the bride could lose her virginity and bear children.

Why The Groom Can’t See The Bride On Their Wedding Day

      The bad luck omen of the groom seeing the bride on their wedding day is a holdover from primitive seclusion rites, which stipulated that nobody should see a betrothed girl before she has passed fully into womanhood.

Why The Wedding Kiss?

      Part of the ceremony since Roman times when it was the only legal bond– if one of the engaged pair died before the wedding, the other could keep the gifts only if then had already kissed. The wedding kiss is no longer a required part of the wedding ceremony.


      The wedding kiss is a symbol of the newlywed’s faith and love, respect and obedience to mutual benefits. It grew out of the feudal practice of kissing the lord’s ring.


      Another story goes, the priest first kissed the groom after the ceremony. Then the groom kissed the bride, the priest kissed his assistants and his assistants kissed the guests. No longer is the tradition carried this far, but now you know there is historic precedent for a bride-groom kiss at the very last.

Why The Bride’s Handkerchief?

      Early farmers thought a bride’s wedding tears were lucky and brought them rain for their crops. Later on in history, a crying bride meant she would never shed another tear about her marriage.

Why A Bachelor Dinner?

      It dates back to the Spartan groom, who always invited his close friends to a supper on the eve of his wedding to celebrate and reminisce about his past. Traditionally, it was also held to raise money for the bridegroom so he would be able to continue to drink with his buddies after his wife took control of the finances. Mainly, however, it was a mourning for the passing of a man’s bachelor status.

Why A Rehearsal Dinner?

      Parties were held on the wedding eve to chase away the evil spirits. The more noise the better.

Why A Wedding Reception?

      The fact is that marriage feasts have been in existence nearly as long as marriage ceremonies. The early Greeks held a splendid wedding feast for every couple. And it was a very special occasion indeed–because although women were not usually included in other Greek banquets, they were invited to wedding feasts.

Why Serve Goose At A Wedding Feast?

      According to folklore, goose was served at weddings because the gander, always faithful to his original mate, became the symbol of marriage and fidelity. By serving goose, it was believed that the main dish would symbolize things hoped for and dreamed for in the marriage.

Why A Wedding Cake?

      The tradition of the wedding cake has ancient roots. The Roman wedding ceremony included a simple cake made from salt, water and wheat flour. The cake culture may also be connected to the fertility rituals of many cultures. One custom, similar to that of throwing confetti, involved showering the bride with many small cakes after the wedding. Sometimes the cakes were even broken over the bride’s head.


      In Shakespeare’s time, sheaves of wheat were carried in the wedding procession and sometimes the bride wore weathers in her veil because this graceful grain is a symbol of fertility. In a later era, the wheat was ground to flour and little hearth-baked cakes were broken and eaten by the bride and groom. Gradually these loaves became more elaborate. The bridesmaids carried them to the church to be blessed, which led to the belief that the very crumbs under one’s pillow would induce dreams of romance.


      At Elizabethan weddings, the bride and groom would kiss over a stack of small sweet buns. At 17th century French chef frosted the little cakes with white sugar to hold them together. White wedding cakes appeared in the United States around the civil war, replacing the British dark fruitcake.


      Elaborately decorated wedding cakes date from Victorian times. One customs in England involved throwing a plate holding a piece of cake, out the window as the bride entered her father’s home after the wedding. If the plate remained unbroken on landing, the bride was destined to be unhappy or wretched. If the plate broke– and it usually did– she was sure to be happy. England also has the tradition of placing a ring in the wedding cake. The guests were invited to cut themselves slices of cake. The one who found the ring was said to be ensured happiness for a year.


      The bride and groom feed each other a taste of cake to symbolize the sharing of life’s bounty. A small bit of icing on his face foretells a “rich and sweet life”; his face smeared with icing, “trouble”; and if a child under five snitches frosting, their first born will be that sex.

Why A Wedding Toast?

      What about the origin of “toasting”? As drink goes, wine has always been central to the wedding, even mentioned in the Bible. The first recorded toast was given at a Saxony feast in 450A.D. by a woman who became a bride herself before the end of the evening.


      British King Vortigern was so moved by the sentiment– a simple “Lord King, be of health,” offered by Rowena, daughter of the Saxony leader Hengist, that he proceeded to make passionate love to her. Intoxicated by the drink, possible love and definitely greed, he then bargained with Hengist for her hand. A deal was arranged whereby Hengist received the province of Kent in exchange for her hand. Vortigern and Rowena were married that same evening. From that time forth, “to life, to health, to love,” has been a part of the toasting tradition, as glass touches glass and a chorus of clinks heralds a festive time for all.


      Once it literally involved scorched bread. In the days when wine was regularly decanted, it left much more of a sediment than our modern bottles do. So the French cleverly placed a piece of toast in the bottom of the cup to absorb the dregs.


      A competent toaster drank everything to get to the toast at the bottom because decorum dictated that one drain the glass. So good wishes were often accompanied with the dictum, “Bottoms up!”. Today the good wishes remain but happily the actual soggy toast has disappeared. And, clinking of glasses after a toast scares away the devil who is repelled by the noise.

Why Wedding Favors?

      To share joy of day with guests, dating back to Elizabethan times.

Why Sugar-Coated Almonds?

      In many cultures, almonds symbolize wishes for a happy and fertile marriage. The candy-covered nuts were often in elaborately-decorated small boxes and containers, looking for all the world like little gems. At any rate, it’s a continental custom you may want to suggest to your American brides. What a sweet thought!

Why Dancing And Games?

      Ancient wedding dances were communal and symbolic of life giving and beginnings. The first dance of the bride and groom leading to their dancing with the guests was to give them strength from the community before they retired to the bed chamber.

Why An Old Shoe?

      In India, when a couple were honeymooning in a house, the bride’s red slippers were thrown across the peaked roof as a discreet reminder that visitors were not especially welcome. Our custom of throwing old shoes after the departing newlyweds stems from this ancient sign-language. Old shoes tied to the honeymooner’s car were once considered symbols of authority and possession. The bride’s father would contribute one of the bride’s shoes to the groom, thus symbolizing the transference of authority over to the husband.

Why Throw The Garter?

      Guests invaded the bridal chamber and threw the bride and groom’s stockings. The one whose throw landed on the bride or groom’s nose was the next to marry. By the 14th century, the groom was throwing the bride’s garter to prevent their being rushed at the altar.

Why Toss The Bride’s Bouquet?

      Traditionally, the woman catching the bouquet will be the next to wed.

Why Decorate The Car?

      Traditionally, the guests escorted the couple to the bed chamber and tucked them into bed reminding them of their responsibility of the community to create a family.


      Old Shoes: As part of the dowry, a bride’s slipper was given to the groom who nailed it to the wall above the bed as a symbol of his authority over the new bride.


      Tin Cans: To protect the couple form evil spirits while they traveled.

Why Throw Rice?

      It is thought to have come from the Orient, where rice is a household symbol that signifies a full pantry. Thus, wedding guests through the ages have thrown rice to demonstrate their wishes for he prosperity of the new bride and groom.


      While nearly all cultures have showered the wedding couple with symbolic food to ensure fertility, for many years it was rice that was used in America. Today, however, this sport is considered dangerous as someone could slip and fall when walking on the grains. Environmentalists say that rice can harm birds, being hard for them to digest. However, there is also a biodegradable rice now on the market, making it possible to again use rice.


      We suggest that you use birdseed, confetti or bubbles. Tie the birdseed into the rounds of net. Coordinate the ribbon used to tie the packets with your color scheme. Or, packages of confetti can be passed out. For a different effect, non-staining bubble soap is available and the small bottles can be personalized with the couple’s names. What a pretty sight it is to walk beneath a canopy of bubbles on camera– a beautiful sight.

Why A Honeymoon?

      Long ago it was a period when the groom, having bought or captured his bride, disappeared with her so that h family could not rescue her. The couple hid for a month (moon) and partook of a honeyed wine, called meade, which was thought to have aphrodisiac properties. By the sixteenth century, honeymoon referred less to a time period and more to a feeling. Newlyweds were in the “honey,” or full phase, of their love.

Why The Groom Carries The Bride Over The Threshold?

      The Romans believed that the threshold was the sacred place of their goddess Vesta and that if the new husband did not carry his bride feet-first into their new home, the couple would risk Vesta’s displeasure. And even today in some parts of India, the fear of evil spirits is so great that the groom himself is carried over the threshold before he turns and lifts his bride across after him!