Sunday, June 9, 2024

Wedding Traditions New & Old: Part Two

__By Tiffany Amber Stockton__

In May, a few wedding traditions received the spotlight focus. May and June remain the most popular months of the year for weddings, and along with them, the anniversaries celebrating that special day, so let's look at some more traditions and how they got started.


I often find it fascinating to see which traditions make it into modern-day wedding ceremonies. It's also fun learning about other customs or family honors included in the planning or actual event in some way. A key area where you might find this lies with the wedding party itself.

For ancient Romans, having a bridal party meant adhering to Roman law. It required 10 male witnesses to vouch for a couple, while a bride’s female companions would prepare and escort her to the ceremony.

In many cultures, bridesmaids acted as incognito bodyguards for a bride. They would dress or style their hair in similar fashion to the bride to prevent kidnappers and thieves from making off with a bride’s dowry or the bride herself.

As for groomsmen? Beyond helping the groom get ready, some of their historical roles included safeguarding the bride, preventing others from intervening in the wedding, or even kidnapping an unwilling or unwitting woman and forcibly bringing her to the groom. Yes, that did happen!

Once the bride stood with the groom, they would speak their vows and exchange rings. Of course, a groom receiving and wearing a ring didn't step into the socially acceptable ring until around the time of WWII. A brief attempt to popularize the men's engagement ring occurred in the 1920's, but cultural norms about masculinity and marriage struck down that ad campaign rather quickly.

Women, on the other hand, have worn engagement and wedding rings for centuries. They served as a gesture of betrothal or visible sign that a woman had entered into a marriage contract. Post-Depression, many couples could afford the cost of two rings, and they represented a romantic link between married couples separated during the war. Today, both bride and groom give and receive a ring.

Following the ceremony, attendees most commonly celebrate by showering newlywed couples with rice. Tossing grains has its roots in many cultures, with the kinds used differing by region. Ancient Romans thought wheat the best signifier of fertility, with rice taking up that role throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Lentils, oats, peas, and other grains are popular alternatives throughout the world. Oh, and that theory about a bird's stomach exploding from expanding rice after consumption? Yeah. It's an urban legend. :)

Finally, we come to the cake. The earliest known wedding cakes baked by ancient Romans were made of wheat or barley, while cakes in Medieval England consisted of stacked spiced buns. Hmm, can you imagine how that tasted? Certainly not the decadent and sweet flavors seen today, and likely not ideal for smashing. *winks* However, infinitely healthier!

The multi-tiered wedding cake didn't appear until the early 1900s. Wedding etiquette of the time suggested happy couples who quickly started a family could save money by using their remaining wedding cake as a christening cake. The popularity of home refrigerators and freezers in the 1930s and '40s helped this tradition along. Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) followed that advice and served a tier of her wedding cake at Prince Charles’s christening in 1948.


* What fond memories or memorable moments do you have from your wedding? If you haven't had one yet, what would you *like* to see happen?

* Did you save a tier from your wedding cake and freeze/preserve it in some way? If you did, how did it taste when eaten the second time around?

* So many people today are dismissing marriage and its sacred covenant. They're even reducing the intimacy shared to nothing more than self-serving physical pleasure. What can we do to help restore the sanctity of marriage?

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Come back on the 9th of each month for my next foray into historical tidbits to share.

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Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also a professional copywriter/copyeditor. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children, one dog, and three cats in southeastern Kentucky. In the 20+ years she's been a professional writer, she has sold twenty-six (26) books so far and is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.


  1. We saved the top layer of our wedding cake to serve on our first anniversary. That was the tradition. Apparently, we didn't package it carefully enough because it tasted like cardboard and freezer. That was so disappointing. It would have been wiser to eat it on our one month anniversary. Thanks for sharing all these fun facts.

  2. Thank you for posting today! I was surprised at the reason for saving the top tier of the cake! I think we did, and ate it, because that was the tradition but I don't specifically remember, and I can't imagine that it tasted good because we only had a refrigerator, not a separate freezer.