We’ve become so used to wedding rituals and traditions that we often don’t think twice about them. You might not even realize that some of today’s most mainstream traditions were initially meant to ward off plagues and evil spirits! Below we explain the history behind a few of the most popular Western wedding customs.
This Roman tradition dates back to a time where brides were covered from head to toe with a red veil called flammeum. This long veil was meant to give the illusion of fire that would protect the bride from evil spirits.
Wondering why the veil was so long? It was to keep the bride from running away! Brides running away from the wedding was a concern at the time, since the bride and groom were meeting for the first time on their wedding day. Not all brides were over the moon by their nuptials to a complete stranger and would run away from their grooms!
Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.
This popular tradition is inspired by an Old English rhyme which dates back to the Victorian era. Each verse of this poem signifies an item that will bring good luck to the bride, and the superstition dictates that the bride should gather these five items, from friends or family, and wear them on her wedding day.
Something Old represents continuity, and Something New represents optimism and hope for the future. Something Borrowed is an item borrowed from a happily married family member or friend that will bring good fortune to the newly married. Something Blue represents love, fidelity and purity, and Sixpence in your shoe is a British custom that represents good fortune and prosperity.
Wonder why we wear engagement rings and wedding rings on the fourth finger of our left hands? Well, Ancient Romans believed that the vein in this finger leads directly to the heart.
“Sealed with a Kiss”
Originally, the bride and groom would share their first kiss on their wedding day. For ancient Romans, a kiss was seen as a legal bond, a seal to a contract. It is also said that the kiss would ward off evil spirits.
Bouquets of Flowers
You might be surprised to know that bouquets of flowers originated from bouquets of used dill and garlic. We know, super weird!
This tradition is said to have begun in Europe during the Black Death pandemic, when people would carry garlic and other herbs to protect themselves from illness. Brides at the time would carry garlic and dill on their wedding days too, and over the years, flowers were added to bridal bouquets to enhance the scent.
The ancient Germanic peoples are the ones who began the practice of the honeymoon. In those days, weddings were only held under a full moon, and following the wedding the newlyweds would drink honey wine for thirty days (or a full moon cycle). Those thirty days became known as the “honey moon.”