American Wedding Traditions Explained

American Wedding Traditions Explained

Expensive outfits. Lots of food. Everyone smiling. That’s what we imagine when we hear the word ‘wedding.’ However, each culture has different wedding traditions.

If you are a newcomer to the U.S., you might not be familiar with the wedding traditions in the country. Here, we discuss wedding traditions and their origins.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue

“. . . And a silver sixpence in your shoe.’

That’s the Victorian rhyme that describes this tradition. The bride must wear or carry items that fit each of the aforementioned categories. Americans believe the tradition brings good luck.   

Something old signifies the bride’s ties with her family or her past. The item can be anything from a vintage car to an old photo tucked into a locket. Something new translates to a happy future. A wedding ring, the wedding gown, a hairpiece — everything counts as long as it is new.

Furthermore, the bride needs to borrow an item from a happily married woman. An earring from her grandmother, a necklace from her mom, and a veil from a friend top the list of items she can borrow.

Something blue refers to love, purity, and fidelity. Furthermore, Americans believe blue wards off the evil eye. The bride can wear shoes or jewelry with a pop of blue. She can ask to include the color in flowers or decor as well.                       

The silver sixpence offers prosperity to the couple, as per popular belief. The coin is no longer in circulation. However, brides can find one online or in antique shops.

Choosing the best man

Your new best friend in the U.S. chose you as his best man. Now you are worried about what to do if you forget to bring the wedding ring. Allow us to say it — you have it easy. Here is why.

The tradition began in the 16th century. Back then, the groom chose the strongest man among his friends as the best man, because the families fixed the marriage against the bride’s wish. Thus, the brides sometimes ran away. The best man-made sure she could not.

Furthermore, if the bride’s parents did not approve of the wedding, the best man helped kidnap the bride. The best man needed to be good at fighting with weapons to tackle enemies or the bride’s enraged family members.

Now, the groom chooses the best man based upon his relationship with him. Thus, if you don’t know sword fighting, it is okay.

Bridesmaids’ identical outfits

You go to a wedding and you see the five bridesmaids wearing identical outfits.

As per tradition, bridesmaids acted as diversions from evil spirits and a vengeful enemy. The matching outfits confused the evil spirits about who the bride was, so the spirits cannot curse the bride.

When the bride walked down to the groom’s village, the bridesmaids formed a protective shield around her. Thus, if an enemy arrived to kidnap her, the identical outfits would confuse them.  

Don’t you feel relieved that your only job as a bridesmaid is to smile while holding a bouquet?

Tossing the bridal bouquet

The bouquet toss symbolizes good luck. People believe if you catch the bouquet, you will be the next one to get married. The bride tosses the bridal bouquet after the cake-cutting ceremony. 

Flowers symbolize fidelity, fertility, and new beginnings. In the Middle Ages, people used strong-smelling spices and herbs to make the bouquet as well. They believed the strong smell warded off evil spirits and bad luck.                  

The white wedding dress

Before the Victorian era, brides wore red wedding dresses. The tradition changed when Queen Victoria wore a white wedding dress for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. The trend took off and brides have dressed in white ever since.

The engagement ring

The ring once represented ownership of the groom over the bride. The circular shape of the ring symbolized never-ending love. Furthermore, a diamond on the engagement ring stood for a sign of fiery love.

People believed the ring finger has a vein that is connected to the heart as well. However, physiologists have debunked that statement. 

The ring bearer’s pillow

The pillow symbolizes the promise of a dream coming true for the couple. A child carries the pillow, and represents new beginnings and innocence. 

In the Medieval era, the pillows symbolized the wealth of a family, because pillows were rare.

The tradition dates back to ancient Egypt.

Toss the garter

As per the tradition, you receive good luck if you take home a piece of the bride’s clothing. Now imagine the horror of a newlywed bride when friends and family (or even strangers) try to rip off her clothing.

That’s why brides chose to remove ribbon garters from their stockings and throw them at the guests. If an unmarried man or woman caught the garter, they were believed to marry next.

Carry the bride

In medieval Europe, the tradition meant that the bride did not want to leave her house, as she loved her parents. So, the groom carried her across the threshold of the house.

In addition, people believed if a bride trips while walking across the threshold, it will bring bad luck to the marriage. They also believed that evil spirits could hide in the soles of the bride’s feet and enter the groom’s house. Afterward, the evil spirits would curse the house. Thus, grooms carried their brides to prevent curses and bad luck.

The wedding cake

The bride and groom preserve the top tier of the wedding cake. The couple eats the portion on their first wedding anniversary.

Both traditions began in the Victorian days.

Let’s go on a honeymoon

The bride and groom left the party early. You wonder why they would leave a party they paid for.

In the past, honeymoons served as a hideaway for couples who got married against their family’s will. After the wedding was over, the groom would drive the bride away so her family wouldn’t find her. The honeymoon would go on for a month. 

Even though no one needs to hide for a month now, weddings without honeymoons feel incomplete. 

Why the veil?

In the past, people believed the veil warded off evil spirits. The veil also symbolized purity.

Furthermore, people believed the groom should not see the bride before the wedding ceremony.

The reason was simple. If the groom does not like how the bride looks, he could call the wedding off. The tradition saved everyone from embarrassment in the long run.

Traditions change with time

Many of the aforementioned traditions now hold no significance for the bride and groom. The couple simply does them for fun.  If you’re invited to a wedding, enjoying and participating in these traditions can help make the bride and groom’s wedding day that much more special.

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