The act of marriage is in itself a tradition which stems back thousands of years. It is meant to unite two people for life, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. We have all heard the wedding vows, and the meaning behind these words is very powerful. Entire other posts can be written about vows….
But what other traditions have become an integral part of every wedding ceremony, and what is the meaning behind them?
- Let’s look at the ever so intimate yet public act of the removal and tossing of the garter belt…
This tradition dates back to the Dark Ages when wedding guests needed proof of the consummation of the marriage. So, not only were the bride and groom required to consummate their unity in front of “witnesses”, the groom was also required to provide proof by showing guests a piece of the bride’s under garment…. Only this would make the marriage official. The tradition changed over time, in our modern eyes, regressing, before it evolved. There was a time in history when guests would literally tear pieces of garment off the bride to “help” the groom on his way to the bedroom.
Thankfully, today, the removal and tossing of the garter belt has become a symbolic gesture. Surely, a tradition male guests except to participate in, but one that is now limited to a fun time, perhaps after having toasted the couple with a few drinks!
- The bouquet toss is in a way associated with the tossing of the garter.
These two actions are today also meant to pass on the “luck” of being touched by love. Historically, the bride would toss the bouquet to distract the guests from tearing at her dress… ha, how times have changed! In time, guests believed touching the bride would bring luck and good fortune, but often left the bride feeling uncomfortable.
The tradition of the bouquet-tossing today is meant to transfer that “luck” to an unmarried guest. It is expected and without a doubt the most highly awaited moment of the night for the ladies!
But where did the tradition of carrying a pretty smelling bouquet stem from? Well, we have all studied some history at a certain point, and one of the downsides of medieval times was the lack of personal hygiene…so, yes. The flowers and spices used at the time, were meant to mask odors on that special day. The tossing of the bouquet, that came out of necessity to run from the excited guests!
- The throwing of the confetti….
This tradition, which often leaves the bride and groom removing confetti from their clothes and hair throughout the day, is believed to originate in Roman times. The Romans used to throw grains and petals at the newlyweds as a symbol of fertility. The “grain” throwing evolved over time in Europe where guests would add money, rice, and candy to the mix. This custom is ultimately meant to wish the couple well, as well as to show the affection guests have for the newlyweds.
Nowadays concerns over environmental safety and cleaning have led certain cities and banquet halls to forbid this tradition, or at least replace the objects with more environmentally friendly options, like bird seeds, herbs, or larger easier to clean items like soap bubbles and balloons.
- Not seeing the bride before the wedding
Perhaps, considering its origin, this tradition may be the one that made most sense. How much does physical attractiveness count for you when meeting and eventually marrying someone? Would you risk a major business deal simply because two individuals do not like each other?
Historically, marriages were seen mainly as business transactions, uniting families for the sake of wealth. Marriages were usually arranged, and the couple did not meet before the wedding ritual for fear that one or the other would not find their future mate attractive and not want to marry.
Today, the custom has more to do with superstition, and the bride not wanting the groom to see her until she is ready to be walked down the aisle. Although marriages may still be arranged in some cultures, it is quite rare that the bride and groom not meet at all before the actual wedding ceremony.
Traditions last because they make people happy by tying them to their culture or to their family in a way other things may not. Although superstition may also enter the picture, the tradition of the wedding ceremony does not only hold the test of time, it is thanks to it that other traditions have stood their ground.
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