Today in modern times, we seem to have the wedding traditions down to a science. We know it all – the white dress, the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the flowers, the big cake – everything. A wedding here in WNY isn’t that much different from a wedding out in California or Texas. But did you ever take a second to stop and think why weddings are the way they are? As it turns out, centuries of folklore and tradition have crafted today’s wedding into quite the spectacle that it is today. And the story behind these cultural icons may surprise you – read on to learn more about why such established wedding traditions are the way they are!
The Wedding Ring. This is a sweet tradition to start off with. Did you ever wonder why we wear our wedding rings on the third finger of our left hands? Well, ancient Romans believed that a vein ran directly from this finger to the heart – what better location for the ring, a never-ending circular symbol of love- to rest upon.
The Bridesmaids. These girls have always been just a group of your best friends to help you plan and share your big day, right? Wrong. Centuries ago, it was believed that the bride had to be protected from evil spirits milling about the ceremony that would try to sabotage the marriage to her groom. The bridesmaids were created to serve as a decoy to distract these bad spirits – they would dress similar to the bride so it would be hard to pick out which woman they should attack. This is very strange to think about today!
The Best Man. This attendant has an interesting history as well. Back in ancient history, sometimes a groom would steal his bride unwillingly from her family. The groom would select a literal “best man” – his biggest, strongest friend – to stand by his side and be ready to fight off anyone who might come chasing after the stolen woman. This is why the bride stands to the left of the groom, too – the right side (his sword arm) needed to remain free.
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. This is one of the more fascinating traditions in bridal history. Each of these items is intended to serve as a unique token for the bride. “Something old” represents the bride’s connection to her family, while “something new” refers to wishes for joy in the future. “Something borrowed” is supposed to be from a woman who is happily married, and “something blue” is a symbol of love and purity.
The Bridal Veil. Purity is a common theme in wedding history – the bridal veil serves as a symbol of the purity of the bride on her wedding day and, of course, as a protection from evil spirits.
From the sounds of things, it seems like brides today have it made – the days when weddings were an occasion to ward of vengeful family members and evil spirits are long gone. Now, what most associate with weddings are the feelings of joy and celebration as loved ones join together to wish a couple a happy life. It’s nice to know where these long-standing wedding symbols have come from – but even nicer to know that what they mean today is totally up to the new bride and groom.