Did you ever wonder where wedding traditions came from and what they mean?
Take, for instance, the white dress. While it was thought that Anne of Brittany, upon her marriage to Louis XII of France in the late fifteenth century, was the first to wear a white once-in-a-lifetime gown, Queen Victoria popularized the custom.
The resurgence of red dresses had another resurgence: during the Revolutionary War when American brides demonstrated rebellion with their red wedding gowns.
When a bride accessorizes, she often is influenced by the rhyme Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue, And a lucky sixpence in the bride’s shoe.
The old and new concept symbolizes the need to create harmony, as the bride is transitioning from the old to the new. This will, it’s believed, lead to happiness for the new couple. The old can be represented by a piece of jewelry passed down in the family. The new can easily be the bridal outfit itself, unless that, too, is mom’s.
The thing borrowed should be from a happily married woman, in hopes that her luck will rub off on the new bride. Blue represented constancy, purity, and fidelity in Biblical times. The coin, of course, is to ensure wealth.
The veil supposedly comes from Colonial times, when an aide of President George Washington saw his bride to be behind a lace curtain and pronounced her beautiful.
When the best man stands to make his toast he’s following a custom that began in France when a piece of toast was put at the bottom of a wine goblet. The glass was passed around with everyone taking a sip, until it came to the last sip. That person got to eat the lucky toast.
The cake has lots of folklore to it. The grain (flour) it is made with symbolizes fertility. Cutting the cake together symbolizes their willingness to share the tasks of life together, as well as have a happy marriage and children. Saving the top of the cake to either eat on the first anniversary (brings luck), or at a couple’s christening of their first child are two old cake-related customs.
Regarding this fertility thing, yet another saying has it that each ribbon the bride breaks at her shower indicates the birth of a child, so be careful.
You probably don’t want to know about garter tossing. It’s bizarre. It all began in way olden days when “putting the bride and groom to bed” was de rigueur. The custom was for the guests to help the couple undress, at least to the extent of their hosiery, with the men helping the bride and the women helping the groom (Can you just imagine the bawdy comments). In the scramble the stockings were claimed; the lucky ones, presumably a man and a woman, then stood at the bottom of the couple’s bed and tossed the thing over their shoulder. If the bridesmaid hit the groom, she would be next to marry; the same for the groomsman, although he aimed for the bride in those days.
While many couples follow tradition at their wedding, some choose to blend the old and new. One example is the popularity of the bride walking down the aisle with both her father and mother; the groom is doing the same. Or new terminology, such as Friend (rather than Maid) of Honor, who nowadays as gender-specific roles break down can be a guy.
Minister Lisa Holeman says that in many of the services she presides at the couple want the congregation to participate, so it is becoming popular for the congregation to answer “We do!” when the minister asks “Who gives this bride to be married?”
Maybe some of these changes will gradually turn into traditions themselves in the years to come.
Much of the material used comes from the book “Something Old, Something New” by Becky Long, Meadowbook Press, 1997.
Bridal accessories are available at Cinderella’s in Grass Valley or from bridal consultant Kimberly Gonzales, (530) 273-6543.
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