Wedding Traditions 101

Featured Article, Home, Home & Family
on February 21, 2013

Wedding traditions vary among cultures. In the United States, many bridal couples incorporate several basic traditions that have almost become synonymous with the wedding event. Each of these traditions has its own origins and history.

Engagement rings and the exchange of rings. In 1215, Pope Innocent III established a mandatory waiting period between engagement and marriage. The wealthier population began the tradition of the engagement ring during this time. In addition, the pope also established a law that all weddings had to be held in church and an exchange of rings would symbolize the unity.

Rings worn on fourth finger. It was once thought that the vein located in the fourth finger on the left hand was a direct link to the heart. For this reason, both engagement and wedding rings were placed and worn on that finger.

The bridal veil. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed if the bride wore a wedding veil to obscure her face, she would be protected from evil spirits on her wedding day.

Something blue. For the bride, it is said she should wear or carry something old/something new/something borrowed/something blue. The something blue symbolizes fidelity, love and purity, reports the wedding experts at The Knot. The tradition originates from an Old English rhyme.

Breaking the glass. A tradition in Jewish weddings, the breaking of the glass traditionally symbolizes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the first century—an honoring of tradition, faith and history.

Jumping the broom. The tradition of jumping the broom traces its history to the African culture preserved by American slaves. This tradition may be performed during the wedding ceremony or at the reception. As they jump over the broom, the couple holds hands. Typically, it is used to symbolize the bride and groom jumping or leaping into their new life.

Wedding cake. According to The Knot, “The tradition of a wedding cake comes from ancient Rome, where revelers broke a loaf of bread over a bride’s head for fertility’s sake.”

Throwing rice. The ancient Egyptians, Hebrews and Assyrians often threw rice or grain at a newly married couple as a symbol of fertility. Food and grains also represented prosperity for the future of their marriage.

Carrying the bride across the threshold. Much like the veil, the tradition of the broom carrying his bride across their home’s threshold was in order to protect her from any evil spirits.

The honeymoon. Norse history reveals that it was a tradition for the bridal couple to enter into hiding for 30 days after their marriage. During this time, the couple would be brought cups of honey wine each day for 30 days or one cycle of the moon—translating to the tradition of a honeymoon.