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The History of Wedding Traditions

Weddings have been influenced by different cultures, history and religion for centuries, to create varying traditions in each culture. Until the nineteenth century, weddings were less about love than the security the groom's family would provide to the family of the bride when the couple married. In most cases brides were chosen according to their economic worth, with the groom or bride being given a dowry to establish a new house.

Today, most wedding ceremonies involve special wedding clothes and an exchange of marriage vows by the couple within a ceremony that incorporates music, poetry, prayers or readings from religious texts or texts that have meaning to the couple getting married. Wedding traditions across many cultures also include the presentation of a gift and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure.



The Wedding

A lot of the customs we observe today in modern weddings echo those from the past. In the Middle Ages, weddings where family affairs involving the local community. The bride was the property of her father, so he had to agree to give her away to her new husband in exchange for her value in money, property or goods, including precious stones. A forerunner to engagement rings perhaps. Both partners had to state their consent to be married, but witnesses and clergy were not always necessary at a marriage ceremony. If you said you were married, that was all you needed to do in the eyes of the law. It was not official church policy until the Council of Trent in mid sixteenth century that a priest was responsible for performing the wedding and the ceremony moved from the house of the bride to the church.

Wedding Attire

For a long time, brides would wear their best dress at the wedding. Later, blue was the common colour for the dress, symbolising purity. This may be where the 'something blue' tradition dates back to. White dresses only became popular in the 1840s when Queen Victoria got married in a white gown. Bridesmaids used to wear dresses much like the bride's gown, while ushers dressed in clothing that was similar to the groom's attire. This tradition was said to ward off evil spirits who might attempt to harm the newly-weds, by confusing them as to which two people were bride and groom.
wedding attire

The best man

In the past, men who had decided upon a wife often had to forcefully take her with him if her family did not approve of him. The future bridegroom would be accompanied by a male companion, the best man he knew, to help with the kidnap. This best man would remain at the groom's side throughout the marriage ceremony and later outside the newly-wed's home to protect the groom from possible attack by the bride's family in an attempt to recapture her.

The Bachelor Party

Also known as the bachelor dinner or stag party, this celebration in honor of the groom began in the fifth century military stronghold of Sparta in Greece where military comrades would feast and toast one another on the eve of a friend's wedding. Today, the bachelor party is still regarded as the groom's last taste of freedom.

Giving Away The Bride

Whilst in history the bride was property 'sold' to the groom at a bride price or with a dowry, today the custom is seen as an outward approval of the groom by the parents or family of the bride. The custom has been revised in modern times so that the person 'giving away' the bride may be their mother, brother or other significant member of the family or brides may choose to walk down the aisle alone.

The Bouquet

Originally, the bouquet formed part of the wreaths and garlands worn by both the bride and groom. Flower girls carried sheaves of wheat, a symbol of growth, fertility, and renewal. The bouquet was considered a symbol of happiness and was made from herbs that held symbolic meaning. Garlic had the power to cast off evil spirits; sage was the herb of wisdom and dill for lust. Over time, these were replaced with flowers, symbolizing fertility (ivy), love (roses) and purity (lilies).

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