How Wedding Traditions are Born

I'm sure you may have wondered one time or another about the creation of certain wedding customs! Why do women buy a white dress and only wear it once? Why do we throw birdseed, rice ...

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I'm sure you may have wondered one time or another about the creation of certain wedding customs! Why do women buy a white dress and only wear it once? Why do we throw birdseed, rice or anything at all? Why is it expected that the brides parents foot the bill? If you've never given these customs a second thought, then it might be said that you have taken these customs for granted!

Many of our traditions have been passed down from our ancestors. Although times have changed many of the traditions remain the same, even if they seem silly. But sometimes when you know where the custom has originated and why the tradition becomes more meaningful.

Why do we give engagement rings and wedding bands?
In Ancient times, rings were used as a business transactions, as tokens of a promise or to seal a bargain, instead using a written contract as we do today. The exchange of rings between lovers promising to marry began in medieval times. The Austrian Archduke Maximillian was the first to present a gemstone in the ring to his fiancee. Gold began to be used in rings for utilitarian purposes: it doesn't tarnish, it's easy to work with and it is symbolically indestructible.

Why do we use Diamonds in our Wedding Rings?
You will be disappointed to know that Diamonds are synonymous with romance because of a corporate marketing campaign for the DeBeers company. Until the mid-fifteenth century, diamonds symbolized royal power, not love. Until the late 1800's, they were worn as a sign of social standing because only wealthy people could afford them. The use of diamonds in engagement and wedding rings didn't popularize until the late nineteenth century, when massive
amounts of diamonds were discovered in South Africa. The DeBeers family, which mined and controlled 95% of the diamond industry, launched a campaign to link diamonds and love, hence came the slogan "Diamonds are Forever." Diamonds are indestructible and have the ability to capture light and shine with an internal brilliance. Therefore, diamonds represent the imperishable fires of love. Just as in the Victorian days people are still trying to impress one another and prove their social standing with the size of their diamonds.

Why do we Wear Rings on the Third Finger of the Left Hand?
The Ancient Greeks had an anatomical theory believing this finger was connected to the heart by a special vein and so it was the appropriate finger to bear the mark of romantic promise.

Why Can't The Groom See The Bride Before The Ceremony On The Wedding Day?
This tradition stems from many cultures, in which brides are secluded for long periods of time before the ceremony. In some cultures it was a way of giving brides and grooms a period of transition from their old ways to their new life. There is always anxiety about transition, the seclusion helps lessons the anxiety and lessons the chance that they will change their minds!

Why Do We Have Wedding Attendants?
The tradition of having wedding attendants probably started in Rome, when an advocati would stand with the bride and groom to attest to their character and the validity of the marriage. There was a time when the bridesmaids were supposed to help the bride with moving into and setting up her new home. During the Victorian error, when evil spirits were suspected to be lurking everywhere, the attendants dressed identically to the bride and groom and stood with them at the altar. This was done to confuse the evil spirits.

Why Do Brides Wear White?
The color white has long been associated with purity and virginity, well it was not always so. Ancient Roman brides wore white because it symbolized joy, and they wore a bright orange veil because it symbolized passion. The modern white wedding dress and its one-time use is a fairly recent tradition. This also dates back to the ostentatious Victorian era. In those days, most brides wore their finest clothes of any color, (remember there were no dry cleaners). The brides at that time wore the clothes again because it was not practical or affordable to buy clothes for one occasion, even if it was your wedding. Wealthy families could afford to buy their brides a dress that would be worn on only one day, and to prove it they bought the impractical color of white.

Where did "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue" Come From?
The old and new items are symbolizing from the old life into the new. The borrowed item symbolizes that the bride and groom are socializing the ceremony, that there is community participation and approval of the wedding. The blue is a stumper. One theory is that it derives from an old Hebrew tradition in which brides wore a ribbon of blue on their wedding garments because it symbolized love, purity and fidelity.

Information in this article is taken from articles written in the Wedding Guide to the Outer Banks.

About the Expert: Fran Koltun is the owner of Cordially Yours, a full service wedding coordinator and party planner dedicated to providing clients with exceptional service no matter how big or small the event.