American Wedding Traditions: How They Originated



BY BRITTANY M. ORIE LEAK

PHOTO BY TOUJOURS

Weddings meet such a unique standard and have evolved throughout the centuries. Today, we take a look at how traditions such as a white bridal gown, a bouquet, a colossal wedding cake and wedding rings became the norm.

White Bridal Gown 

Many people believe that a white bridal gown emphasizes purity and virtue. While that may be true about the color white, the tradition itself began as a strong fashion statement. Back in the 1840s, Queen Victoria of England chose to wear an unprecedented, large, white gown to her wedding with Prince Albert. Her reason for choosing that specific color had nothing to do with purity. She simply just wanted to show off the fine detailing of a British lace industry that was flourishing at the time. Because she was so popular, her revolutionary look became widely spread across newspapers and magazines and, ultimately, became a fast tradition which prevails to this day!

Wedding Cake

The wedding cake tradition began in ancient Rome when the groom breaks a loaf of barley bread over the bride’s head. This superstition will ensure fertility over the newlywed couple. Another ancient superstition claimed that if a couple shares their wedding cake with every guest, they will have increased prosperity and be fruitful (perhaps this is why wedding cakes are traditionally huge and tiered).

Wedding Bands

Ancient Rome is the birthplace of this tradition. Even then, the man will present his future wife with a wedding band, asking her to be with him forever. The material wedding bands are made of is meant to symbolize a durable marriage filled with strength and permanence. The rings are in the shape of a circle, representing “eternity,” a “never-ending” love between the man and woman.

But, why are wedding bands worn on the left hand? This tradition dates back to ancient Rome (again!) where they strongly believed that the vein in the ring finger on the left hand connects directly to the heart. So, the blood in that vein (called “vena amoris,” the vein of love) runs to the heart. According to this ancient belief, this is the perfect way to symbolize the love between you and your spouse!

Father & Daughter

Why does the father walk his daughter down the aisle? This ancient tradition began during an era where arranged marriages were the norm. The young bride-to-be was either to have a marriage arranged by her parents or was to be purchased by their future groom. Back at this time, a wedding consisted of the groom pledging and vowing to marry his woman with a trade agreement between the groom and the bride’s father.

So, the tradition of “giving away” the bride still continues today as the father, who has “owned” the bride and is giving her away to another man who will take care of her. The father is putting his trust into the groom’s hands.

Bridal Veil

There are many reasons surrounding the sporting of a bridal veil. In arranged marriages, the bride will wear a veil to hide her face from her husband. So, when her husband unveiled his bride, he will see her for the first time. Centuries ago, the bridal veil also denoted purity; a bride “untouched” by human hands with her groom being the first to unveil and touch her. And, again, Queen Victoria also wore a floor-length cathedral veil at her wedding, setting a standard for many brides today.

Jumping the Broom

“A leap into a new life!” is what this tradition stands for. Jumping the broom is popular among African cultures. North American slaves from Africa would do this as a special part in their wedding ceremony close to the end. Most people believe this tradition has its roots back in slavery, but it doesn’t. It was brought to America because of the transatlantic Slave Trade. In certain African cultures, the broom represented the wife’s commitment to clean her new home she and her husband just joined. During the slavery regime in America, marriage was illegal among slaves. So, jumping the broom was a secret way to wed and show commitment.

Remember the meaning behind traditions while you plan your wedding, or create your own!


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