Historical Wedding Traditions

Updated With Contemporary Style

Many modern day wedding customs have roots that are centuries old, some dating back to Roman times. For example, the phrase “tie the knot” comes from a groom untying the bride’s girdle knots on their wedding night. Even though the girdles are long gone, the phrase remains, although signifying a different meaning altogether. Other traditions have been updated as well, such as using customized decorative Wedding Toasting Flutes, in lieu of bulky Elizabethan metal goblets. Even the traditional white wedding dress, which originated with Queen Victoria (1840), remains although many brides today choose pastels instead. Where once wedding stationary was only used by the upper classes, it too has become far more commonly used in the 21st century.

Customs beyond wedding toasting flutes and wedding stationery may be of interest, with some having been updated, depending on style preferences and family traditions. Several historical customs that remain today in one form or another are detailed below:

The Bridal Veil

Many modern brides still opt for the traditional wedding veil, while others forgo it. Its roots are unclear although, as a symbol, it represents respect, modesty and virginity, similar to the white wedding gown. Some historians believe the veil even predates the wedding dress by centuries, with a groom throwing a blanket of a woman’s head to represent his choice for a bride. Others believe a veil was used to cover a woman’s face when arranging a marriage so the groom couldn’t back out of the deal if he discovered his bride-to-be was unattractive. Regardless, the veil still remains very popular for many in modern society.

The Bridal Bouquet

In the days when bathing was far from regular, bridal bouquets hid poor body odor. During the Victorian era, they were even used to send ‘messages’ between the bride and groom, a far more romantic notion than that of masking personal hygiene. Far earlier, ancient cultures believed strong smelling floral herbs and spices drove away evil spirits and superstitiously thought flowers prevented bad luck or poor health. Carrying the bridal bouquet remains one of the most common customs that remains today, regardless of its origins, with almost all brides carrying a bouquet of some kind.

The Wedding Cake

Another tradition dating back to ancient times, the Romans made cakes of barley and wheat that was crumbled over the bride’s head so she would be fertile and bear many children. Later, the tradition evolved into the bride and groom placing cakes on top of one another as a symbol for a ‘fruitful union’ as they kissed. It wasn’t until England’s King Charles II, that cake became part of the wedding feast itself, when frosting was added. Interestingly, both cultural symbols remain with modern couples having a wedding cake they ‘share’ with one another, evoking a symbol for a ‘fruitful union,’ as well as sharing it with guests at the wedding ‘feast’ itself.