The Origin of Popular Wedding Traditions

Have you ever wondered how all those wedding traditions started? Why the bride traditionally wears white, why "something old, something new..." and why the bride gives prezzies to the guests?

Getting married is both one of the most wonderful and one of the most stressful times of your life. From the moment you say 'yes' life becomes a whirlwind of planning – in fact, planning IS your life! Let's see.... Evenings and weekends, formally filled with Netflix and Chill, are now devoted to:

  • poring over wedding magazines and websites

  • touring bridal exhibitions and potential venues

  • printing save-the-dates, invites, and chasing RSVPs

  • choosing a theme (really?)

  • finding 'THE' dress

  • choosing bridesmaids and their dresses

  • approving (and amending) hubby-to-be's choice of groomsmen

  • meeting with cake makers, florists, celebrants, and dressmakers

  • organising cars, caterers and entertainment

  • wrangling the mother-in-law and the dreaded seating plan

  • writing vows

... and that's nothing compared to making sure you've included every last one of the current wedding day trends: the lolly buffet, photo booth, cute little signs, the most in-vogue favours and so on. Exhausted yet?

Surely it hasn't always been this way?

Of course not! Over the last couple of hundred years marketing campaigns have undoubtedly realised the commercial value of an emotional sell, and there are few sells more emotional than a wedding! After all, doesn't every bride want the perfect day? New 'traditions' are constantly created as brides feel obliged to compete with celebrity ceremonies, and it seems that following celebrity trends is nothing new!

Let's wind it back a bit with a look at how some of these popular wedding traditions started.

~ Why do brides wear white? ~

Traditionally they didn't; they simply wore their best outfit! It's Queen Victoria we can thank for starting the tradition of brides wearing white when it was her colour of choice for her wedding back in 1840.

Queen Victoria was the ultimate celebrity during her reign with thousands of young women following her every fashionable move – just like the dedicated followers of fashion today. While some brides are bucking the trend and opting for bright colours, sophisticated black and soft tones of pink and ivory, white, in all its variations, still remains the most popular colour for wedding dresses today. Age of tradition: Over 177 years ~ Here Comes The Bride ~

This is another tradition we can attribute to royalty, this time to Queen Victoria's eldest daughter.

"The Bridal Chorus", otherwise known as "Here Comes The Bride" is a song from Richard Wagner's 1850 opera Lohengrin. In the opera the song is actually meant to be quite bawdy – the wedding guests sing it whilst escorting the bride to the marriage chamber! That didn't stop Princess Victoria deciding it was classy enough to be played when she walked up the aisle in January 1858, and who are we common folk to argue?

Age of tradition: Almost 160 years

~ The Wedding March ~

Those Victorians certainly were trendsetters! Here's another we can attribute to Victorian royalty... Mendelssohn's Wedding March was written in 1842, inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and first played as a wedding recessional in 1847. Again it was Princess Victoria who lead the way to it becoming the wedding recessional of choice when she chose it for her wedding in 1858. Nowadays The Bridal Chorus and The Wedding March are frequently replaced by modern popular music choices in many civil ceremonies, but they still remain a firm favourite in formal church weddings. Age of tradition: Almost 160 years

~ Something Old, Something New ~ OK, let's just say the Victorians are responsible for EVERY wedding tradition! The traditional superstition rhyme of "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe" originated in Lancashire, UK, during Queen Victoria's reign. It was first referenced in 1871 in an issue of St James Magazine where the author was complaining about the necessity of such measures for a happy marriage! What does it signify? The something old ensures a link with the past, something new signals hope for the future, something borrowed is luck from a happily married woman, and something blue signifies love and fidelity. The silver sixpence is to ensure good financial fortune for the bride in her marriage. Age of tradition: Around 150 years

~ Confetti ~ At least this one isn't entirely Victorian!

The tradition of throwing things over the bride and groom is centuries old, and meant to bestow the happy couple with fertility and prosperity. Traditionally rice or other grains were thrown in the hope that the couple would be as fertile as the seeds themselves. Sometimes the couple were showered with coins, flowers or small fruits and nuts. Not surprisingly these could cause a few injuries, and at the very least they'd sting, so in the late Victorian era the traditional 'confetti' was gradually replaced with little pieces of coloured paper. Did you know ... ? Confetti is an Italian word, and refers to confectionery, in particular sugared almonds. Age of tradition: At least seven centuries! ~ Wedding Favours and Bonbonniere ~ There are a number of opinions as to when and where this tradition started, but all seem to agree it was in somewhere in Europe (most likely France) around 400-600 years ago. At that time sugar was very expensive, but wealthy hosts would give their guests a small decorated trinket box filled with sugared bonbons – confectionery – to show off their riches and social status. Over time sugar become more affordable and the middle classes took up the practice, as did everyone else as sugar become an everyday commodity. The bonbons most frequently chosen were sugared almonds – that's right, confetti! – as it was thought the bitterness of the almonds and the sweetness of the sugar represented the bitter-sweetness of married life, and each bonbonniere contained five sugared almonds symbolising Health, Wealth, Happiness, Fertility and Long Life. Nowadays brides and grooms are much more creative in their wedding favours with picture frames, engraved glasses and potted succulents all being popular choices. Age of tradition: At least 300 years.

We hope you've enjoyed this little wedding day insights. We'll bring you more soon! Next week: "A Further Ten Fascinating Jewellery Trivia Facts". Lost and found engagement rings, popping gems to cure ailments, and a little bit of extra-terrestrial activity ...

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