Wedding rules, traditions and superstitions explained
Rules, traditions and superstitions, have played a huge part in weddings across the globe for hundreds of years. But do you actually know where it comes from and it means?
The exact origin of this tradition is unknown, but the act of getting down on one knee is called genuflection, and in the Middle Ages, men would bend down in front of the women they adored. What’s more, in religion, kneeling in front of someone is a sign of respect, loyalty and obedience.
In Middle English, the word “hen” means female bird, which is why a hen party is exclusively for women. The term “hen party” dates back to the 1800s when it was used to refer to a gathering of women.
The idea itself is said to come from Ancient Greek wedding traditions, where wedding celebrations were split into three parts with the first being an all-female feasting dinner called the Gamos.
Hen and stag parties are now something which most brides and grooms choose to throw before they tie the knot.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” is an age-old Victorian rhyme. Something old represents the link with the bride’s family and the past. Many brides choose to wear a piece of family jewellery or their mother or grandmother’s wedding dress. Something new represents good fortune and success in the bride’s new life. The wedding dress often symbolises the new item, or perhaps the bride’s shoes. Something borrowed reminds the bride that her family and friends will be there for her when help is needed. The borrowed object might be something small, such as lace handkerchief or a hair pin. The something blue symbolises faithfulness and loyalty. The tradition dates back to biblical times when blue represented purity. Often, the bride’s garter has a blue ribbon on it, making that the blue item.
A “silver sixpence in your shoe” is said to bring the couple wealth and happiness during their life together, and was originally a sign that the bride’s father had sent the couple well wishes.
Couples weren’t allowed to see each other before the ceremony for fear they’d pull out of the marriage! This tradition dates back to the days of arranged marriages, when marriage was more of a business arrangement than something done for love. Today, most people just choose not to see their spouse to build up excitement and give them a surprise when they walk down the aisle looking so beautiful.
A tradition which dates back to the days when marriage was more of a business arrangement. Brides would quite literally be handed over to “a new owner”, usually in exchange for money or dowry. Nowadays, it is totally up to the brides who gives them away.
The bride stands to the left of the groom during the wedding ceremony so that the groom can protect her with his left arm and use his sword with the right. Traditionally, the groom would need to fight anyone who was trying to steal his wife – mostly members of her own family, since it was common for them to think she’d be “stolen”.
Many believe the tradition of the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand began with the Romans, who thought a vein ran straight from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart. This vein was called “The Vena Amoris” – (the Vein of Love). Others believe it began simply because the left hand is generally least used and so a more practical choice for adornment.
Others believe it began simply because the left hand is generally least used and so a more practical choice for adornment. The Egyptians used the middle finger of the left hand, while ancient Gauls and Britons favoured the little finger. Roman Catholics preferred to use the right hand for betrothal and wedding rings until the middle of the 18th century.
It is supposedly unlucky for a bride to try on her wedding ring before marriage and it is said that whichever of the couple drops the ring in church shall be the first to die. It is also said to be unlucky to remove a wedding ring before seven years of marriage.
It has always been tradition for cake to play a part in a wedding, but originally, guests would bring small cakes and place them in front of the couple. They would then kiss over the pile of cakes to guarantee future prosperity.
The cutting of the cake is a focal point at any reception today, a tradition rooted in history when the first cut was made by the bride to ensure the marriage would be blessed by children.
Brides would traditionally wear white on their wedding day as white has connotations of purity. White is also closely linked to wealth (because apparently, only the wealthy could afford to wear it).
The wedding veil hides the bride’s beauty and wards off evil spirits. Another explanation is that during the times of arranged marriages the bride’s face would be covered until the groom had committed to the marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, the bouquet wasn’t traditionally carried down the aisle just to look pretty, but to mask the bride’s odour. Rumour has it, the scents of fragrant flowers were used to ward off evil spirits as were bouquets made of herbs and garlic. Traditionally, the bride also throws her bouquet, and this is a still a very popular feature of weddings today. It stems from a French 14th century tradition, where the groom would throw the bride’s garter into the crowd. It is said that whoever catches the bouquet will be next to be married.
The tradition of giving guests something to remember the day by in the form of favours has been around for hundreds of years. Today, the tradition has evolved to lots of couples choosing to give each guest five sugar coated almonds to symbolise health, wealth, fertility, happiness and long-life.
Traditionally, rice was thrown at the newly married couple to encourage fertility, but it was the Victorians who first used shredded paper. Today, biodegradable confetti are really popular.
In Medieval Europe, people believed wicked spirits were trying to attack a bride on her wedding day, especially through the soles of her feet. Carrying the bride over the threshold protects her from any evil spirits that may be lurking in the new home.
Hindu tradition thinks it's good luck if the skies pour down upon you on the day you're exchanging vows. In some cultures, rain also symbolizes fertility and cleansing.
Bells are traditionally chimed at Irish weddings to keep evil spirits away and to ensure a harmonious family life. Some Irish brides even carry small bells in their bouquets as a reminder of their sacred wedding vows, and they are a common gift for newlyweds.
Crying on Your Wedding Day is supposed to be good luck for the bride because it symbolizes that she has shed all her tears and will not have any to shed during her marriage.