Here are some fun facts about where some of our wedding traditions come from.
For ancient Greeks and Romans, the bouquet was a pungent mix of garlic and herbs or grains. The garlic was supposed to ward off evil spirits and the herbs or grains were to insure a fruitful union. In ancient Poland, it was believed that sprinkling sugar on the bride’s bouquet kept her temper sweet.
The wedding cake has always played an important part in the wedding. Ancient Romans broke a cake over the bride’s head to symbolize fertility or abundance. Many other cultures dropped wheat, flour or cake on the bride’s head, and then ate the crumbs for good luck. The early British baked baskets of dry crackers and every guest took one home after the wedding. In medieval times, guests brought small cakes and piled them on a table. The bride and groom then attempted to kiss over the cakes. Eventually, a young baker decided to put all the cakes together and cover them with frosting, thus the tiered wedding cake was born.
Traditionally, brides did not wear white wedding gowns. Through the 18th century, most brides just wore their Sunday best to their wedding. Red was a favorite during the Middle Ages in Europe. Other colors were worn for symbolic reasons: blue meant constancy and green meant youth. As years passed, white was worn as a symbol of purity. Today, white merely symbolizes the wedding and is worn by any bride, no matter if it is their second marriage.
The first weddings comprised of a groom taking his bride by capture. He would take her somewhere hidden away so her relatives and villagers couldn’t find them. There they stayed for one moon phase and drank mead, a wine make from honey, to make them more amorous. Thus, the word “honeymoon” was born. Today, the honeymoon is the time when the couple can get away for awhile.
The first kiss a bride and groom share at the close of the ceremony has carried special significance through the centuries. Many cultures believed that the couple exchanged spirits with their breath and part of their souls were exchanged as well.
The wedding ring has traditionally been worn on the third finger of the left hand because it was believed that a vein in this finger ran directly to the heart. The third finger of the left hand has become the customary wedding-ring finger for all English-speaking cultures.
One of the oldest wedding traditions, the custom of throwing rice, originated with the ancient Hindus and Chinese. In these cultures, rice is the symbol of fruitfulness and prosperity. Tossing it after the ceremony was believed to bestow fertility upon the bride and groom. Eating rice and other grains was thought to guarantee health, wealth and happiness for the newlyweds. Today, rice tossing is being replaced by the more ecologically friendly birdseed tossing, because uncooked rice is damaging to birds who eat it off the church lawn.
Mystique and romance has surrounded the veil for more than one thousand years. Originally, the veil is thought to have been used to hide the bride from abductors, just as the similar dress of her bridesmaids was meant to do. But a more romantic interpretation evolved later which believed that concealment (as the bride’s face beneath a veil) rendered what was hidden more valuable. Another early interpretation of the veil was that it symbolized youth and virginity.
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