Wedding Traditions and Where They Come From

As you have been planning and preparing for your wedding, have you started to wonder about the various wedding traditions we follow and where they originated? Wonder why wedding dresses are white, why we exchange wedding rings and why we carry flowers down the aisle? Many of these traditions date back further than you may think.

White Dresses

It's very popular today for women to wear a white, or nearly white, wedding dress, but for most of history women did not wear a special dress. They simply wore the best dress they owned.

In ancient Greece, white robes were worn as a symbol of joy, youth and purity. White wasn't worn again until 1499 and wasn't popular in modern times until Queen Victoria.

The veil worn with a bride's dress goes back to the days of arranged marriages. In most cases, the groom was not allowed to see to his bride until after he had married her and lifted her veil. In ancient Roman times, the veil was floor length and eventually was used as the bride's burial shroud.

Wedding Rings

Wedding rings originated first as ropes of bondages a groom attached to his bride's ankles and wrists believing it would keep her spirit within her and keep her alive longer. As the centuries passed, this eventually evolved into the wedding ring and was a tradition adopted by grooms as well.

Rings are worn on the third finger of the left hand because it was thought to be a vein directly to the heart.


Before brides carried flowers, they carried garlic and herbs to ward off evil spirits. This eventually was replaced with flowers, the colors of which have different meanings. Grooms have worn boutonnieres since the Middle Ages as a sign of their love.


In Roman times, the cake was broken over the bride's head as a symbol of fertility. In the Middle Ages, cakes were stacked high and the couple had to kiss over them without knocking over the stack for good luck. It wasn't until the 1660s, that wedding cake was meant to be eaten.

Giving Away the Bride

Giving the bride away originated when women were considered property. The bride's father was giving the groom's family his new property. Later, this changed to symbolize a woman moving from the authority of her father to the authority of her husband. Today, it symbolizes the bride's family approves of the groom.


Throwing rice symbolizes giving the newly married couple fertility.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue is a Victorian tradition. Something old symbolized the bride's life with her birth family. Something new symbolizes her life with her husband's family. Something borrowed symbolizes happiness. Something blue symbolizes fidelity.

Garters are thrown at the reception is a tradition that dates back to ancient times. It was once the tradition that there needed to be witnesses on the wedding night to ensure the marriage was consummated. Eventually, grooms threw the garter out the window as a sign of the consummation. By the Middle Ages, drunken men sometimes tried to take the garter off the bride at the reception.

Carrying a bride across the threshold dates back to ancient times when brides were kidnapped and forced to married. In modern times, women were supposed to be hesitant about consummating her marriage so the groom carried her in as a means of persuasion.

As you can see, these traditions have been going on, in many cases, for centuries. And no doubt they will be going on for centuries to come. Knowing these traditions can make your wedding experience a richer one.

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