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Wedding Traditions: The New Old Thing

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I found this on the knot and thought it was interesting



It's your day right? Then why let so-called tradition dictate what you have to do? We can all agree that some time-honored customs bring a sense of history to the wedding events, but there are no "musts" for the day, unless you choose them yourself. We've pulled together the history behind common wedding traditions for you to decide which to keep, which to ditch, and which ones you want to customize for optimal performance.


Wedding Bands

Symbolizing never-ending love between a man and woman, the earliest wedding bands made of hemp or braided grass gave way to durable metals, until the 15th century when the diamond was introduced into the equation, representing a more valuable, stronger commitment -- a tradition most modern brides still choose to uphold. (Hey, we said you get to keep the ones you like, right?) Even though some couples may forego an ostentatious ring, or substitute a tattoo of a ring on that third finger, it is still customary for the man to ask the bride's family for their blessing before proposing. Old-fashioned as it may seem, the prospective groom is wise to maintain good relations with his in-laws-to-be; perhaps a lunch or golf outing with one or both of her parents is just the way for him to ease the family into the idea of their baby as a bride.


Wearing White

As a little girl envisioning your wedding, could you ever see yourself in anything but a white dress? Bridal gowns of ancient times were actually brightly colored to signify joy. Many accounts credit Queen Victoria with being the first to wear white as a sign of affluence. While most American brides still select a shade of white -- from ecru to eggshell to ivory -- for their gowns, feel free to spice up your wedding ensemble with subtle color. Accent the dress bodice with pink pearlescent beads or tie a blue ribbon through your hair to assert your individuality. In fact, many designers are showing dresses in blue, pink, and various shades of "champagne," so if you're not sure white is right for you, you've got new options to choose from.



Long ago the groom would cover his bride's head in capture or as protection from evil spirits, giving way to the bridal veil. While it's no longer necessary in most cultures to cover the bride with a veil until after she's married, if a veil completes the picture for you, go all out. Select a floor-length piece with lavish lace, or an elbow- or shoulder-length variation that incorporates elements of your gown. For those who seek a contemporary twist, a tiara, a headband, or even flowers in the hair might be just the right accessory to complete your headpiece.


Matching Bridesmaids

Since all eyes are on the bride, does it really matter what the bridesmaids wear? In the past, bridesmaids dressed like the bride to "confuse" evil spirits or deter potential kidnappers, but it's no longer necessary for everyone to look identical. The bride may select a dress style in different shades of a color for each bridesmaid, or specify a color and appropriate guidelines, and then permit each bridesmaid to choose her own dress.


Walking Down the Aisle

One tradition that has evolved with women's liberation is the father walking his daughter down the aisle as property to "give away" to the groom. No matter their faith, recent brides are electing to be accompanied by both parents, stepparents, a sibling, or another important figure in their lives. Still, clutching Dad's arm as you make your way to your groom is another one of those traditions that, while rooted in something chauvinistic, can also be perceived more as a gesture of love, rather than an exchange of property. The officiant's question, "Who gives this woman to this man?" is often revised to, "Who supports this man and woman in marriage?" to which the parents -- or sometimes all the guests -- respond, "We do." Other brides choose to stop on their way down the aisle at a few important people who each will give a single flower to complete a hand-held bridal bouquet, allowing more guests to partake in the ceremony. All of these variations of the trip down the aisle add a more personal, sentimental touch.


Tossing Rice

As the wedding list has mushroomed from the ten witnesses needed for a legal wedding in Roman times to include extended family and friends, guest participation has also changed. Today, guests shower the newlyweds with wishes for fertility, prosperity, and bounty by blowing bubbles, tossing rose petals or birdseed, and releasing doves or butterflies, rather than throwing rice, the original custom. If you think that bubbles will stain your gown fabric, birdseed is slippery, or butterflies are too temperamental, why not let guests throw dried rose petals given to you by your betrothed during your courtship? Just be sure to check with your ceremony manager beforehand, to make sure throwing anything of any kind is allowed.


Receiving Line

The receiving line has developed out of the belief that the couple shares their good fortune with everyone they touch. However, if you have a long guest list, then standing in a receiving line after the ceremony is not always the best and most efficient way to greet your guests. Instead, just-married couples may make the rounds during the cocktail hour where they have more of an opportunity to have a conversation, or travel around together table by table during dinner.


Bouquet/Garter Toss

Why did a bride, once upon a time, decide to toss her bouquet at her single friends, and allow her garter to be ripped out from beneath her dress and then nabbed by a bachelor or auctioned off to the highest bidder? These traditions actually have roots in England when guests -- or even just spectators of the wedding -- would tear at the bride's clothing and flowers to share in her happiness. While fleeing from her attackers, the bride would toss her bouquet into the mob to placate them. It is now believed that the catcher of the bouquet will be the next woman to marry, as will be the man who catches the garter. This practice has outgrown its once practical purposes -- there's something rather pathetic about a group of unwed women scrambling to catch a bouquet in hopes of being the next bride. An idea we like better is to give your bouquet to your grandmother in honor of her 55-year marriage, or to your favorite cousin who will be married in the next year, or to your sister who helped you with the planning of every aspect of the day's events. And if your maids are scratching for a little competition, have them sign the bottom of your shoes. The last name to rub off wins the distinction as the next one to marry. As for the garter, maybe you should just keep it on until after the wedding.


Cutting the Cake

Traditionally many wheat cakes were broken over the bride's head to bring good luck and fertility. During the reign of King Charles II of England, a baker stacked these cakes and frosted them, creating the tiered wedding cake popular today. Folklore proclaims that the top tier represents the couple -- and will be preserved in the freezer for the couple to share on their first anniversary. The bride and groom are to kiss over their tall cake for luck and then cut the first piece together. Somewhere along the way, the bride and groom decided to feed cake to each other as a symbol of how they would always trust and provide for each other, and feed and nourish their relationship. At some weddings, this "feeding" turns into smashing the cake in each other's face, and we can only hope that the future of this practice may dissolve just as mysteriously as it developed.


First Kiss

Oh, those passionate Italians! In ancient Rome, an engagement was null and void without the kiss, for that sweet smooch was a legal bond that sealed all contracts. The kiss at the end of the ceremony marks the couple's new status as husband and wife, and part of each soul is left behind in the other when their breath is exchanged. Later, at the reception, guests are thrilled to see the new couple share their happiness in a kiss, but the obnoxious clinking of the glasses with a dinner fork hardly seems like a way to ignite romance. Be crafty instead, and give your guests new assignments if they want to see you lip-locked. Designate areas where guests can place donations to a particular charity; every time a donation is made, a bell is rung and you peck your partner. Or make guests go up to a microphone and sing lines of a song with the word "love" in it, or have them correctly answer questions about the bride and groom before agreeing to engage in serious PDAs.


First Dance

As awkward as it is for the bride and groom to begin the first dance alone on the dance floor, it is truly a crowd pleaser. So get over the stage fright, grab your honey, and show off some fancy footwork. Even if you two are not Fred and Ginger, your guests will hardly notice. They just want to get a glimpse of you two lovebirds in action. The father-daughter and mother-groom dance are other favorite traditions, so that the couple may extend their gratitude to the parents who have loved and supported them.



Back when a bride married by capture and not by choice, the groom would take her away following the wedding, and keep her in hiding for a full cycle of the moon (28 days). During this time, they would drink a fermented honey beverage called mead to ease inhibitions, in the hope that by the time the bride's family found her, she would be pregnant. And thus, the term honeymoon was coined. Another belief was that if the couple were to drink mead for a moon's cycle, they would be blessed with a male heir within a year. More often now, the honeymoon does not follow directly after the wedding. Because more couples are paying for their weddings, they end up tapped-out when it comes to a splashy vacation. Instead, newlyweds are waiting a few months after the wedding to gather their resources and energy, or until their one-year anniversary, for the long-overdue vacation.


Over the Threshold

Carrying the bride over the threshold stems from the age-old legend of the groom literally dragging her away. The groom would also lift her up to elude the family demons or evil spirits that were said to follow the bride and wait at the threshold. The Romans thought it bad luck if the bride should trip on her way into her new home, so her groom had to carry her in -- if you're the klutzy type, your husband-to-be best be working out those biceps, so he may lift you up, up, and away and carry you into your new lives together. Even if you're a do-it-yourself kind of gal, take him up on this ancient ritual if he's willing -- just watch the doorjamb. Like many wedding traditions we love, however old-fashioned or archaic, this one has evolved out of the original oppressive nature to be taken as a symbol of romance and a gesture of love.


-- Danine Alati

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Very cool! We are so not traditional, we've already opted out of the long speeches and bouquet toss/garter throw. People keep saying "but you have to" but we aren't budging on that. I'm not a prude at all, but there is something weird to me about pulling up my dress and having my groom playfully take off my garter in front of my dad and brother. He may as well rip off my panties and get to work smile120.gif

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