At this point in my wedding photography career, I’ve seen countless traditions. Bridal bouquets, garters, cake cutting, first dances, etc. are a major part of many American weddings. I’m sure you’ve seen them all too. They can be a ton of fun! Or seem kinda odd. It didn’t take many wedding clients for me to start wondering why the heck do we do some of these things. So I started researching. Here’s for anyone else that has to know the “why.”
1. The Veil
This one has a couple different origin stories. One is that the veil is meant to hide the bride’s face so that the groom wouldn’t back out of the marriage (most marriages were arranged at the time). The other origin story is that the veil is used to keep evil spirits away from the bride before she is married.
2. The Bridesmaids
Today your bridesmaids are probably your closest friends and family members dressed in your wedding colors. That scene used to be a lot different. The bridesmaids used to dress similarly to the bride because their sole responsibility was to distract and confuse evil spirits that may want to cause harm (or even kidnap) the bride on her wedding day.
3. The Garter Toss
This tradition is traced back to England and France. Wedding guests used to attempt to steal pieces of the bride’s dress on her wedding day because it was believed to be good luck (and bride’s think that modern day weddings are stressful lol). So being the true gentleman he was, the groom would throw a piece of his bride’s dress to appease their guests and give the poor bride a break.
4. The Father Giving Away His Daughter
The Romans are to thank for this one! It’s called “giving away” your daughter because that was exactly what they used to do. Weddings were much more of a business transaction between two families than a celebration of love back in the day. The father of the bride would literally give his daughter to the man she was marrying often times in exchange for money or land.
5. The White Wedding Dress
You know how psyched we all got to watch the royal wedding? Yeah, we’ve always been like that. The white wedding dress was made popular by Queen Victoria in 1840. Before that, most brides picked the most expensive dress that they already owned to wear as their wedding dress. However, the Queen wore a white wedding dress because it was her favorite color lace. Her popularity and status along with the association of the color white and purity set the pace for wedding dresses for over 150 years now.
6. The Bouquet (and Toss)
Another one from the French!
Did you know that the bouquet toss was actually started to replace the garter toss? Yup. It was considered the more “civilized” option to throwing part of the bride’s attire to the wedding guests.
7. The First Look Being “Bad Luck”
We have arranged marriages to thank for this old superstition. People used to worry that if the bride and groom saw each other before the ceremony that one or both of them may call the wedding off. Yikes.
8. The First Kiss
Priests would give a holy “kiss of peace” to the groom during Catholic ceremonies. Then the priest would say, “You may now kiss the bride.” (Sound familiar?) When the groom kissed the bride, the marriage would be blessed by the church.
9. The Wedding Cake
This one had me cracking up. Turns out, in ancient times wedding guests would have broke a small cake all over the brides head. This was done to “symbolize” fertility. The really funny part? The guests would then pick up the crumbs from the floor and take them home for good luck (I’ve also heard some variations of them putting the crumbs under their pillows which had me ROLLING).
10. The Old Saying “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue…”
Here’s the breakdown:
Something old: represents the bride’s past and her family
Something new: symbolizes the start of a bride’s new family
Something borrowed: supposed to come from a happily married couple so that their “good luck” can be passed on to the newlyweds
Something blue: come’s from the phrase “true blue” and is supposed to represent loyalty
A sixpence in my shoe: for extra good luck 😉
Traditional or Non-traditional?
So what will your wedding look like? Have you always imagined your wedding day full of these American cultural traditions? Maybe some of them sound a little too outrageous but others are important to you. Or… maybe you want to create your own traditions for your wedding day. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR day (ya know, and the person that you’re going to say “I do” to). So if the traditions are important to you, embrace them. If they’re not, do your own thing.