Continuing on with our last two posts about wedding traditions from around the world, we’re back with a third round. Dare we say that we are starting to make a tradition of our own? Tradition is one of the biggest parts of a wedding, and is probably the part responsible for the most tears. Trying to explain to your mother why you’re not wearing white might be an uncomfortable situation, but maybe less so when you read about where some of the western wedding traditions came from. Without further ado, let’s start with white!
1). It Used to be the nicest dress, not the whitest dress.
Before the 1840 wedding of Queen Victoria, most women were just expected to wear the nicest dress they owned. Often this meant embellishments with borrowed furs and jewelry for poorer brides because you needed to look as rich as possible to reassure the groom’s family he wasn’t marrying the 19th Century equivalent of a gold digger. It was Queen V who popularized a white dress by wearing one at her wedding to her second cousin. Much the way we collectively gush over the royal baby these days, people went nuts for white.
2). There used to be more at stake for the Best Man.
Best man actually refers to a gentleman’s ability with a sabre. In noble weddings of old, a groom would pick his best swordsman to stand guard at the altar to forestall a kidnapping, or even a runaway bride. This is one tradition the guys should be thankful has been converted into “try to give the best speech possible after too many glasses of champagne.”
3). The Maid of Honor really is there to make the bride look better…sort of.
It’s long been a tongue in cheek suggestion that the only reason the bride picked that bridesmaid dress was to make you look worse and her look better. While it’s probably not true (she probably just thought it would look good on you, she is your best friend after all) the assumption does have roots in history. Back when couples had to journey from the home to the village “kirk” (church) to “speak the bans” (exchange vows) there was a fear of kidnapping either by demons or ex (human) lovers. The matching dress was meant to confuse said kidnappers and allow the wedding to proceed.
4). Yes, even the cake isn’t what it once was:
Once upon a time wedding cake was nothing but barley bread. And while it wasn’t shoved in each other’s faces for a photo op (and as a great way not to get your tux deposit back) it was broken over the wife’s head. Origins are dubious, but like many traditions around marriage it has to do with luck and with the hope of a healthy domestic life together. Today we hand out the slices of the cake that didn’t get turned into make-up to our guests, back then guest grabbed for crumbs off the floor for a share in the good luck. Yum.
So there you have it, a few origin stories on why we do the what we do here in the West. So when it comes time to explain to mom and dad why you’re bucking some of the traditions at least you will have a little ammo to go with it. Or, should you choose to celebrate in this way, revel in the fact that there traditions don’t carry near the social pressures they once did! What else is there? Any unique traditions you follow that we haven’t gotten to yet? Let us know in the comments!