THE "ENGAGEMENT RING"
In 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas I decreed that an engagement ring become a
required statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that engagement rings
had to be made of gold which signified a financial sacrifice on the part
of the prospective husband.
THE DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING
The diamond engagement ring originated with King Maximillian who presented
Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in 1477 as a token of his love.
The Venetians Popularized the custom during the 15th. century. Since the
diamond was the hardest and most enduring substance in nature it followed
that the engagement and marriage would endure forever.
THE "WEDDING RING"
Rings were used as currency in the Middle East prior to the advent of
coinage and were a sign of a persons wealth. In ancient times the wedding
ring was thought to protected the bride from "evil spirits". Ancient Roman
wedding rings were made of iron.
In early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and
commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped
hands. Very early rings had a carved key through which a woman was thought
to be able to open her husband's heart.
THE "RING FINGER"
In 3rd. century Greece the ring finger was the index finger. In India it
was the thumb. The western tradition began with the Greeks who believed
that the third finger was connected directly to the heart by a route that
was called "the vein of love."
THE WEDDING CAKE
In the 1st. century B.C. in Rome, the cake was thrown at the bride or
broken over her head as one of the many fertility symbols which then were
a part of the marriage ceremony.
THE GROOM'S CAKE
The tradition of a "Groom's Cake" comes from England and Ireland. There,
the traditional groom's cake is a fruit cake with white icing. The groom's
cake is usually served along with the traditional wedding cake. Today
groom's cakes are very often chocolate instead of the traditional fruit
The term originates from the sixteenth century. At that time a small piece
of bread would be placed in a goblet of wine. The goblet would be passed
from guest to guest until it reached the person being honored who would
drain the goblet and eat the morsel of bread in the bottom. This tradition
is practiced at weddings today - usually in the form of one or more
champagne "toasts". The best man has the honor of giving the first toast.
Usually the bride and groom remain seated for the toasts while all the
guests are usually standing to honor them. The couple may then make a few
remarks thanking their families, wedding party members, and guests. They
may also "toast" each other or share a "toast" together. Often special
glass or silver goblets are used by the bride and groom.
THE BEST MAN TRADITION
Among the Germanic Goths of northern Europe in 200 A.D., a man usually
married a woman from within his own community. However, when there were
fewer women, the prospective bridegroom would capture his bride from a
neighboring village. The bridegroom was accompanied by his strongest
friend (or best friend), who helped him capture his bride.
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS TO THE GROOMS LEFT
After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left to
protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against sudden
After "kidnapping" his bride, the groom would take her and go into hiding.
By the time the bride's family tracked them down them, the bride would
probably already be pregnant! A "bride price" would then be negotiated.
An earlier source is the early Jewish custom of the bride and groom
spending a week together alone immediately after the marriage feast. The
earliest reference to this practice is Jacob's marriages to Leah and
THE TERM "WEDDING"
Although some brides were kidnapped, marriage by purchase was the
preferred method of obtaining a wife. The "bride price" could be land,
social status, political alliances, or cash. The Anglo-Saxon word "wed"
meant that the groom would vow to marry the woman, but it also referred to
the bride price (money or barter) to be paid by the groom to the bride's
father. The root of the word "wedding" literally means to gamble or wager!
As civilizations developed, political, military, and economic ties became
very important to prominent families and clans. Arranged marriages were a
means of cementing ties between families, middle class family businesses,
and countries. A man's daughters, who were considered to be his property
in those days, provided a means of securing needed alliances with other
families. Thus dowries were introduced as a means attracting and securing
the most beneficial family alliances possible.
THE TERM "TO TIE THE KNOT"
The term "tie the knot" also goes back Roman times. the bride would wear a
girdle that was tied in many knots which the groom had the "duty" of
Bridal showers were meant to strengthen the ties between the bride and her
friends, provide her moral support, and help her prepare for her marriage.
Gift giving at showers dates from the 1890's.
In Sparta, during the height of Greek civilization, soldiers were the
first to hold stag parties. The groom would have a party for his friends
the night before he was to marry. He would bid farewell to his
bachelorhood and pledge his continued allegiance to his comrades.
THE BRIDAL PARTY
This term has many origins from different cultures. In Anglo-Saxon times,
the groom had the help of "bridesmen" or "brideknights" to help him
capture and/or escort his bride. Later they would make sure that the bride
got to the church and to the groom's home afterwards. The women who
accompanied and assisted the bride were called "bridesmaids" or "brideswomen".
In early times, for Christians, Sunday was the original day of choice for
weddings because it was not a work day. The Puritan revolution in England
during the 17th century changed all that - because the Puritans thought it
improper to be festive on the Sabbath. Saturday is the most popular day
for wedding now.
THE TRADITIONAL WHITE WEDDING DRESS
In 1499, Ann of Brittany popularized the white wedding gown. Prior to that
time, a woman simply wore her best dress or a new dress without regard to
the basic color.
SOMETHING "OLD", "NEW", "BORROWED", AND "BLUE"
The tradition of carrying carrying one or more items that are "old",
"new", "borrowed" and "blue" also comes from English. There is an old
English rhyme describing the practice which also mentions a sixpence in
the brides shoe. Something old, signifying continuity, could be a piece of
lace, jewelry, or a grandmother's handkerchief. Something new, signifying
optimism in the future, could be an article of clothing or the wedding
rings. Something borrowed, signifying future happiness, could be
handkerchief from a happily married relative or friend. Something blue,
signifying modesty, fidelity and love, comes from early Jewish history. In
early Biblical times, blue not white symbolized purity. Both the bride and
groom usually wore a band of blue material around the bottom of their
wedding attire, hence the tradition of "something blue". Originally the
sixpence was presented to the bride by her future husband as a token of
his love. Today, very often, it is the bride's father who places a coin in
the brides shoe prior to leaving home for the church.
From the earliest times, brides have adorned their hair with flowers and
carried bunches of flowers. Traditionally, each type of flower had a
special meaning and significance in and of itself. Flowers were often
thrown at the couple after the ceremony. However today, most brides pick
their flowers for color and personal appeal not based on the traditional
meaning of particular flowers.
The groom's flower, worn on his lapel, usually matches one of the flowers
in his bride's bouquet. This tradition goes back to medieval times when
knights wore the colors of their lady in tournaments.
THE GARTER AND BRIDAL BOUQUET TOSS
In parts of Europe during the 14th contrary, having a piece of the bride's
clothing was thought to bring good luck. Guests would literally destroy
the brides dress by ripping off pieces of fabric. In order to prevent
this, brides began throwing various items to the guests - the garter belt
being one of the items.
In order to avoid this problem, it became customary in the 14th century
for the bride to toss her garter to the men. Sometimes the men would get
drunk, become impatient, and try to remove the garter ahead of time.
Therefore, the custom evolved for the groom to remove and toss the garter.
With that change the bride started to toss the bridal bouquet to the unwed
girls of marriageable age.
WHY IT BECAME "BAD LUCK" FOR THE GROOM TO SEE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Until relatively recently, brides were considered the property of their
father. Their futures and husbands were arranged without their consent.
The marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a
prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever
seen their prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom
saw his future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the
day of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar.
To prevent this from happening, it became "bad luck" for the groom to see
the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.
THE WEDDING VEIL
Brightly colored veils were worn in ancient times in many parts of the
world and were considered a protection against evil spirits Greek and
Roman brides for yellow or red veils (representing fire) to ward off evil
spirits and demons. At one time, Roman brides were completely covered with
a red veil for protection.
In early European history, with the advent of arranged marriages veils
served another purpose - to prevent the groom from seeing the brides' face
till after the ceremony was over. Brides began to wear opaque yellow
veils. Not only could the groom not see in, the bride could not see out!
Therefore, the father of the bride had to escort her down the aisle and
literally give the bride to the groom.
Nellie Custis, the daughter of Martha Washington, is credited with wearing
the first lace veil.
Today, prior to a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is the groom who ritually
"veils the bride". This reason for this tradition goes back to the
marriage of Jacob to Leah (the older sister) when he thought he was
marrying Rachel (the younger sister) whom he loved.
THE BRIDAL KISS
T he kiss dates back to the earliest days of civilization in the Middle
East. A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts, etc. In
Ancient Rome a kiss was still being used as the legal bold to seal
contracts. Hence the obvious use of the custom at the end of the wedding
ceremony to "seal" the marriage vows.
Rice has been used as a symbol of fertility and as a wish for a "full
pantry" in various parts of the world from ancient to modern times. In the
past, rice was not the only thing thrown at the bride and groom as the
left the wedding. Wheat, instead of rice, was thrown in France, figs and
dates were thrown in Northern Africa, and a combination of coins, dried
fruit, and candy was thrown in Italy. In some European countries eggs are
Since rice is harmful to the birds that eat it, birdseed has replaced it
for most weddings. Flower petals, confetti, baubles, and balloons are
often used today instead of rice.
TYING OLD SHOES TO THE CAR
This tradition originated in England during the Tudor period. At that
time, guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom as they left in
their carriage. It was considered good luck if their carriage was hit.
Today, more often than not, it is beverage cans that are tied to a couples
car instead of shoes. It should also be noted that the English consider it
good luck if it rains on their wedding day!
THE GROOM CARRYING THE BRIDE OVER THE THRESHOLD
Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first time through
the front door. If she tripped or stumbled while entering it was
considered to be very bad luck. Hence the tradition of the groom carrying
the bride over the threshold.