Sunday, July 12, 2020

Wedding Traditions, Victorian and Otherwise

By Kathy Kovach
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wedding, 1840

Today, July 12, is our 45th wedding anniversary. And they said we were too young. We were only a year younger than twenty-year-old Queen Victoria when she married her cousin Prince Albert. Our wedding didn’t spark any new traditions, but the royal wedding on February 10, 1840 must have been so revered that happy couples have emulated it ever since.

The expected customs my husband and I observed in 1975 included:

  • The diamond engagement ring, considered luxurious in days gone by, became popular after several diamond mines were found in South Africa in the late 1800s, and the gems flooded the market. De Beers mining company hired the ad agency, N.W. Ayer and Son, in 1939 to help them rebound from lost sales due to the lower prices of the now highly accessible commodity. By 1948, the slogan “A Diamond Is Forever” was on the hearts of many an engaged couple, and still is today.
  • I wouldn’t allow my hubby-to-be to see me before the wedding. Amazing how a tradition fraught with superstition could affect a Christian couple. Although, I suspect this peculiarity had more to do with arranged marriages. Like the face-covering veil, the chosen groom wasn’t allowed to
    Queen Victoria veil
    see the other half of the transaction until he’d said, “I do.” By then, it was too late to back out if he found his intended. . .um. . .less than desirable.
  • Of course, there was the garter tossing and bouquet throwing. The garter tradition has, shall we say, a risque connotation that has become white-washed through the years. It had to do with proof of consummation, but we’ll leave it at that. Tossing the bouquet had practical roots. English brides in the Middle Ages threw flowers to single women who would otherwise rip them from her bouquet along with pieces of clothing. After all, if one could obtain something from the bride then it should surely rub off and spur on that special guy to pop the question already. Hence, brides began casting their well-thought-out bouquet into the well-dressed mob in order to make a clean get-away.
  • We saved the top of our wedding cake for the first anniversary. It was yummy, by the way. But I didn’t know until researching this article that the tradition had a practical as well as sentimental purpose. During the 1800s multi-tiered wedding cakes became fashionable and the top was saved for the christening party of the first child. If we do the math, it was probably more like nine months into the marriage that the cake was consumed. But eventually, it became what it is now, a special treat to commemorate a year together.

The young Queen Victoria set many a tradition when she married her beloved Prince Albert.
  • Let’s start with the white wedding gown. Before the infamous couple walked down the aisle, women wore color. Often their Sunday best. The wealthy might have a special gown made, most likely in red, but white was rarely considered the hue of choice. The queen set a fashion style that is
    still honored to this day. She opted for white in order to show off the beautiful lace. This was to help the English lace industry that had been struggling. Also included were orange blossoms adorning the delicate satin.
  • Instead of her crown, she opted for a simple flowered wreath of orange blossoms, continuing the theme, and held a bouquet containing myrtle, an aromatic evergreen steeped in ancient Greek mythology denoting love. The queen took sprigs from her bouquet and planted four bushes along the east fa├žade of Fulham Palace. Royal brides have continued with this tradition, always including sprays of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s garden in their bouquets.
  • What we know of a traditional wedding cake also is inspired by Queen Victoria. Prior to the royal wedding, savory cakes and pies were served along with sweet confections. The queen’s cake was a three-tiered, dense,
    three-hundred-pound plum cake with white icing and was served at the Wedding Breakfast after the ceremony. Brides forever afterward have emulated the rich and tasty custom. For a good description of the opulent cake, go here.

My wedding didn't set any trends, but it was romantic, nevertheless. I had no idea, though, how much rich tradition was steeped in our ceremony, thanks to a young queen and her prince.

Kovach wedding, 1975

MissAdventure Brides Romance Collection
Seven daring damsels don’t let the norms of their eras hold them back. Along the way these women attract the attention of men who admire their bravery and determination, but will they let love grow out of the adventures? Includes:
"Riders of the Painted Star" by Kathleen E. Kovach
1936 Arizona
Zadie Fitzpatrick, an artist from New York, is commissioned to go on location in Arizona to paint illustrations for an author of western novels and falls for the male model.

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband Jim raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado she's a grandmother, though much too young for that. Kathleen is a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. Happy anniversary! Thanks for sharing about wedding traditions. Most of this was new information to me and very interesting.

    1. Thank you. I'm always surprised when I research.

  2. Happy Anniversary, and thanks for sharing special details about your wedding!

  3. I loved this, Kathy! And happy anniversary!

  4. Loved this telling about wedding traditions. The book also.looks very good.