Friday, June 7, 2013

Wedding Traditions, Why Do We Do That? By Debbie Lynne Costello

I'm giving away a new two-disc set of LifeWay Women Devotions by Beth Moore, Kelly Minter, Priscilla Shirer and more. Be sure to read on down to find out how to be entered. 

I scanned this picture from one of my 1895 Harper's Magazines.
Tis the season for weddings! I think the history nut in me is always looking for that historical tidbit. So when my beautiful niece (pictures below) married last week, the wedding got me to thinking. Where did all these traditions come from anyway? As I researched I discovered that not everyone agrees on where some of these traditions come from. So I may never know all of them, but I wanted to share with you the ones I did discover.

The wedding ring...something every young girl dreams of wearing someday and something every young man wants to make sure he has the perfect one for his wife-to-be.  Although I did see mention of prehistoric times, the ancient Romans seemed to be the first to use the wedding ring. Reeds, leather, ivory, iron, and gold were some of the early materials used. Gold became popular in medieval times and was sometimes fashioned with gems. Ruby and  sapphire were both popular, but diamond was the favorite. They placed the ring on the same finger we place it on today, the 'ring finger' on the left hand, because they believed the heart was on the left side. They also believed that the third finger held the 'Vena Amoris or the 'Vein of Love' which went directly to the heart. Okay all you romantics say 'awe'. 

The bridal bouquet. It seems we can't get married without one these days even if it is just wildflowers. I know when I was a little girl and we pretended to be brides, we may not have had a wedding dress, or a ring, or even a groom, but we always had a bouquet! The bouquets in ancient times were filled with herbs and spices. These were believed to be strong smelling and would ward off evil spirits and would protect from illness and bad luck.

Which brings us to the throwing of the bridal bouquet. The bride was considered lucky on her wedding day and because of that everyone wanted a piece of her luck. If a person could get a fragment of the bride's dress they would obtain some of that good fortune. The brides dress would end in tatters. The bride began throwing her bouquet for the crowd as she made her escape.

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of giving the bride away came from? Think arranged marriages. Daughters were considered the property of their father. When a young woman married, her father actually 'gave' her to the man marrying her and from that moment on she became the property of her husband. Hey ladies, we've come a long way baby!


My niece asked me to find out about the tradition of keeping the small cake that sits on top of the wedding cake and the couple eats on there anniversary. But in the process I discovered that the wedding cake came out of medieval times. The cakes were stacked as high as possible and if the bride and groom could still kiss over them they would have a prosperous life. In the 17th century in England they baked a glass ring into the bride pie and who ever found the ring would be the next to marry. It was also considered rude not to eat a piece of the bride pie. The tradition of the bridal pie and glass ring have disappeared but I thought it an interesting tidbit you'd enjoy.  There are many different traditions for the bridal cake, depending on country and time period. So I will stop here, but not before saying I didn't find where the saving of the top cake for the first anniversary came from. But it did occur to me that it couldn't be a tradition terribly old since the cake has to be frozen in order to preserve it. 


Superstition brings on many a tradition. Bridesmaids came about to fool evil spirits. Centuries ago the bride's friends would dress like the bride to confuse malicious spirits that might be prowling around. So I was wondering what if there was an identical twin dressed as her bride-to-be sister...couldn't she have fun? ;o) 
 





Throwing of rice came about in ancient times. People brought rice or grain to shower on the newlyweds to wish them a fruitful and prosperous union. We don't throw rice much these days because of people slipping and getting injured, and I understand that even birdseed has been banned from some wedding places! Poor birds! Today flower petals, herbs, biodegradable confetti, and reusable pom poms are given to guests to throw. I'm trying to figure out what these things might represent. Anyone want to take a stab at it?

I can't end this post without the one little rhyme we all know which tells the bride what she needs to have for her wedding day.

Something old,
Something new,
Something borrowed,
Something blue,
And a sixpence in your shoe.

This rhyming tradition comes from the later half of the 19th century. The something old is the brides connection to past friends and family. The something new represents optimism for the future. Something borrowed is for happiness for the bride. The idea is that she would borrow happiness from a happily wedded woman. Something blue is a symbol of love, fidelity, and purity. The sixpence is a wish for prosperity and good fortune.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about the wedding traditions. The next time your at a wedding you can lean over to your husband and say, "Do you know why they do that?" 


 
I'm giving away a new two-disc set of LifeWay Women Devotions with Beth Moore, Kelly Minter, and Priscilla Shirer and more. Tell me some wedding traditions you know of or maybe one you'd like to know the meaning of to be entered.  I'll draw the winner on June 14th. Don't forget to leave your email address to be entered. 



Debbie Lynne Costello is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She attended Heritage University, where she studied Journalism and worked in the editing department.

Her stories are set mostly in Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA during the late 19th century.

She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She spent thirteen years coaching cheerleading and trying to make a difference in young girls’ lives. In her spare time, she sews, paints, knits, camps (in a fifth wheel) and plays with the grandbaby.


46 comments:

  1. Wedding lore tells us that hundreds of years ago, kidnappers often absconded with the bride in order to steal her dowry. So, in order that the groom might keep his sword arm free, the bride stood on the other side - the left. Today, in spite of the fact that the groom rarely wears a sword, nor needs to fend off attackers, you'll almost always see the bride standing on the groom's left. It's also traditional for wedding guests to follow suit - the bride's guests and family sit on the left, while the groom's family and guests sit on the right.

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  2. I had heard that about the sword but didn't realize that is why the families sit on certain sides. How interesting. At my niece's wedding she broke tradition and had a sign that said "As two families are becoming one, we ask that you pick a seat and not a side." Thanks for coming by Gail and thanks for the fun tidbit. Good luck!

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  3. Thanks for some interesting information. I love weddings and reading about the old traditions and where they originated. I've been to both traditional ones and some that were truly unconventional. The one thing I've noticed in all of them is that when a young couple is in love, the setting for the wedding doesn't really matter nor how much money is spent. It should be all about the couple.

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    1. That is for sure, Martha. My parents were married at the justice of the peace and 58 years later they are still married. Hubby and I have been married 33 wonderful years and we had a small wedding with almost all close family. So size and tradition doesn't matter. You just need to be in love and dedicated to your spouse-to-be.

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  4. I love learning about wedding traditions, even though when I got married I refused to do many of them. I have heard of the bride stealing also - it was big in my parent's generation. They had a big car chase and everything - so dangerous! I wonder where the bride and groom feeding each other a piece of came has come from.
    Great post! I imagine it was fun to learn about all the different traditions.
    Susan P
    farmygirl at hotmail dot com

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    1. The feeding of the cake is a more modern tradition coming about in the 20th century from what I could find. This symbolized the promise of caring and providing for each other. Thanks for the great question, Susan!

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  5. Debbie,
    I would like to know when the tradition of feeding the wedding guests was started. Does it go back to Biblical times? When I married we had the traditional cake, punch, nuts, and mints. Weddings now have buffets, sit down dinners, bbq's , etc.
    Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Janet, you are correct, the feeding of the guests goes back all the way to biblical times. Thanks for coming by and good luck!

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  6. These were great wedding traditions. Thanks for sharing. The only thing I can add is that I have heard they stopped throwing rice since discovering the birds would eat it and their stomachs would explode as the rice expanded. Not certain that its true or if it is urban legend. :)

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    1. Hey Kathy, I did read that when I was researching, but what I found was it is an urban legend. Many migrating ducks and geese rely on the flooded rice fields to fatten up and gain strength for their return flight north to nesting grounds. The USA rice federation(yep there really is such a thing) says that even small song birds will not be harmed if they eat rice.

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  7. I loved this Debbie! It was fun to learn about the origins of these wedding traditions.
    Blessings,
    Carrie

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  8. Fun info, Debbie. I went to a very different wedding on June 1st that was outdoors. The bride wore a lovely dress that came down to her shins, and below that, she wore cowboy boots. :) The backdrop for the ceremony was bales of hay with pots of flowers and an ornate iron trellis. Very unique and creative. When the bride and groom left, they hopped on a tractor, her sitting on one of his legs, and rode away to the tune of the Lone Ranger theme while guests blew hundreds of bubbles. It was a fun, out-of-the-box wedding.

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    1. Vickie for a minute there I thought you were at my niece's wedding. LOL. She wore cowboy boots as well as her bridesmaids. Now Cristie Lynne's dress was long but the bridesmaids were shorter. Hers was out doors and with some fun decorations. They were sent off with the Chinese Lanterns. It was a beautiful wedding.

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  9. How appropiate to talk of wedding lore in June, thanks Debbie
    I learned a few things too. I like the old fashioned ones better then what is done today. too much money spent and not much time in a wedding ceremony today.
    I married my first husband twice and first was in blind preachers office and second in a blind Judges office...do you think this had anything to do with it not lasting,still divorded him a second time.
    Thank God found a better fella years later and remarried now with a blended family.
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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    1. Hey Paula. I must agree, weddings have gotten extravagant. They either put the parents in debt or the bride and groom. When we married, my parents told us we could have $2000 for our wedding. We could have a larger wedding or a smaller one and keep the cash. Hubby and I chose to keep the cash and used it to buy furniture for our house at auctions.

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  10. Hi Debbie, I have several wedding photos in my family history collection & none of them wore the long white gown. I found that tossing rice on the happy couple was to insure a bountiful harvest and for them to have many children to work the land. The tradition continues today, but many people now blow bubbles or use bird seed where its permitted. It states, like you & others said, that it's a myth that the rice harms birds. Thanks for writing a great post! Karen Jennings, kutterjennings04@gmail.com

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  11. Hey Karen, thanks for coming by. A lot of 40's wedding dresses weren't full length. It's really neat that you have a collection of your family's wedding pictures. How fun!

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  12. What an interesting post and comments! I learned a lot about weddings today. Also loved the pictures. When my husband and I got married five years ago we were told that rice wasn't used anymore and we opted to go with another new tradition - bubbles. Everyone was given a little bottle with the wand to blow bubbles with when we departed. I liked it and was glad I didn't get hit with rice. And considering what people spend on wedding dresses these days, I'm glad the tradition of taking bits of the dress went away!

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    1. LOL! Boy isn't that the truth, Marilyn. Wedding dresses run into the thousands and this just for normal folks not the rich and famous!

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  13. What a great post! Always enjoy learning where traditions come from! Last year, my son and daughter-in-law had an outdoor wedding and they decided to take pictures before. It was a good thing they because it started raining but they had gotten some great pics! (They actually had the wedding out IN the rain... quite fun and memorable but that's another story.) :) I'm curious though about the tradition of not seeing the bride until the wedding. Any ideas?

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    1. I read two different versions of why. One said it is a newer tradition so I'll share the other. It goes back to the time of arranged marriages.The wedding was for all practical purposes a business deal between two families. The father wanted his daughter to marry a well-off and landed man.But what would happen if the groom didn't think the woman was attractive? He could call off the wedding which would be a total embarrassment to the bride's family. Keeping the bride and groom apart until the wedding ceremony kept the groom from changing his mind due to an unattractive bride. Folklore has it that the veil was much the same purpose. It kept the groom from seeing the bride until the very last minute when it was too late.

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    2. I also wanted to add that some thought it good luck if it rained on your wedding day. :o) So your son was a lucky man.

      I forgot to say that it wasn't always the case to not see the bride. Because in some cultures it was tradition for the bride and groom to walk together to the church. I believe it was called the wedding walk....I think...but don't hold me to that. ;o)

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  14. Enjoyable & informative post - was wondering about the tradition of tying cans etc. to the back of the getaway car, also the groom's cake. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

    bonnieroof60@yahoo.com

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    1. Two answers keep coming up on this and could both be correct. One is that the noise scared evil spirits away. People centuries ago had a real fear of evil spirits and everything I've read shows that they were especially concerned about them at weddings. The other thing I read was old shoes, not cans. In Tudor England it was said to be good luck to throw your shoe and hit the couple's carriage as it rolled away.

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  15. "And a sixpence in your shoe. ... The sixpence is a wish for prosperity and good fortune."

    That is what I was going to ask, but it was answered for me! The wedding veil covering the bride's face until it was lifted for the first bridal kiss.
    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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  16. Hey Kathleen! Thanks for coming by. So good to see you here. Yes, a sixpence for good fortune! Good luck in the drawing.

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  17. So interesting...I've heard of some but not all...thanks for the reminder! =) truckredford(at)Gmail(Dot)Com

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Eliza. Good to see you! Good luck!

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  18. For the most part, I like traditions, but I have to say that I did not know about the background of most of these wedding traditions. If I had, I probably wouldn't have used many of them! Warding off evil spirits with herbs, confusing evil spirits with bridesmaids....I realize that we no longer think this way, but sad to think where these traditions came from.
    One thing we did differently at our own wedding relates back to what you said about wedding rings and the Vena Amoris. We had decided that we were going to have the engagement ring on first, with the wedding ring on last, sealing the promise made by the engagement. My mother didn't like that at all, and she mentioned the Vena Amoris, which, at the time, I had never heard of, but thought was ridiculous! :D However, I still love today, 18 years later, to look down at my hand and be able to say, "he kept his promise to marry me!" It reminds me how that the Holy Spirit of Promise is our seal - or "engagement ring" - that tells us that God will one day fully redeem us when He takes us to Heaven. And God always keeps His promises!
    I just love traditions, or making traditions, that have real meaning, and point to our Lord!

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    1. What a beautiful testimony, Bethany! And so sweet. I, like you, love traditions, but I prefer a positive reason behind them rather than something like keeping away evil spirits! The good news is though we still have bridesmaids they don't dress like the bride anymore. They are more like maids for the bride now. :o)

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    2. I love that about your wedding rings!

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  19. Really interesting! I hadn't ever stopped to wonder about why or how these things came to be. patterly{at}gmail{dot}com

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    1. Thank you for coming by Patty. It's so easy to just do things because that is the way it is always done and never ask why. So it is fun to find out a little history behind what we do.

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  20. This was fascinating! I'm wondering about the garter? shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. LOL! I did avoid this one, but since you asked this is what I discovered during my research. There were 2 tradition I found. One was like the dress it was considered good luck. Sometimes when the men would get drunk they would try to take it off so the groom began taking it off and throwing it. One comes from ancient times when in order to prove the marriage was consummated people like family and friends would come into the room with the couple. The "witnesses" would retrieve the garter as "proof" of the consummation. Yikes!

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  21. I've heard that the groom carried his bride over the threshhold to introduce her to the gods (demons) of his home so they wouldn't kill her. Have any of you heard that?

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    1. Yes! I have read that or something similar. I read that the bride often didn't want to leave her family and was dragged away but when she entered the groom's home he would carry her across the threshold so the evil spirits couldn't enter her. Now you got me on why carrying or dragging made a difference but apparently they thought it did. ;o) The other reason I read was that it represented the bride being stolen away as often happened in days past.

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  22. I don't know if this counts, but at the bridal shower, there is a tradition to make a "bouquet" out of all the ribbons and bows that came on the packages. I was told that determined how many children the married couple would someday have (or maybe just that they would have children).

    Thank you for this chance to enter and possibly win.

    clSwalwell(at)gmail(dot)com

    In Him,

    Cheri :)

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  23. Diane couldn't post so sent this to me to post.

    I enjoyed your wedding traditions. I also see you write
    about Charleston and Savannah. My hubby performed a wedding at
    one of the older churches in Charleston. We lived close to the
    city, when living in HHI. I loved doing my research about the
    charming city and we'd visit often. So much history~
    Blessings,
    Diane
    www.DianeDeanWhite.com

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  24. What a wonderful post! I find all of this history so fascinating. Congratulations to your niece and her new husband!

    I understand that the the tradition of saving the top tier of the wedding cake came from the 19th century when tiered cakes were made. The top tier was often left over so it was put away for the christening, which was hoped to soon follow. Christenings were also a grand occasion with cakes served so the wedding cake and christening cake were often linked. 3 tiers were soon designated as the bottom for the reception, the middle for distribution, and the top for the christening. As the time between the weddings and the christenings widened, the two events became disassociated, and the reason for saving the top tier changed. Thus the 1st anniversary top tier.

    In the 18th century, newlywed couples would try to keep the cake until their first anniversary to prevent them from marriage problems in the future. This is one of the reasons why cakes in the 18th century were made of fruits and blended with wine. In fact, wedding cakes were often fruit cakes, later replaced by a type of pound cake, not the white & fluffy we have now. Fruit cakes were continued to be used as the top tier until the 1940's, especially in pre-freezer days when these fruit cakes could keep up until a year.

    Blessings to you and your family!

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    1. Wow! That is really interesting. I had looked into it but hadn't run across this information. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing!

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  25. Traditions in other countries are not the same, either. In Indonesia, and many other parts of the world, the wedding ring is worn on the right hand, not the left. My friends in Indonesia had many discussions about this with me, because of course, I wasn't doing what they thought I should! LOL--

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    1. LOL. That is funny Krysti. But that is interesting that they wear them on the right hand. Thanks for sharing.

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  26. The winner of the devotional is Carla Olson Gade! Congratulations.

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  27. This blog post is really interesting.
    It's fun to know different wedding traditions around the world and thanks to you, I have now more info regarding weddings ;-0

    Cheers and more power to your blogging ;-)

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