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The History Behind 10 Wedding Traditions

Let's just say the bouquet toss is better than the wedding dress being torn to shreds.

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1. The Bouquet Toss


The Middle Ages had knights and ladies and a wedding dress shredding tradition. Since women at the time didn't expect to keep their dress and it was considered good luck for other women, it was tradition for single women to rip off a piece for themselves. Eventually the dress became a keepsake so women began to throw other items instead including the garter and the bouquet.

2. The Significance of the Flowers for the Bouquet


The Language of Flowers was published two hundred years ago and revolutionized the language of love. The use of flowers to communicate emotions became popular during the time of Queen Victoria's reign. She popularized the use of myrtle which is said to signify love and was also used in Kate's bouquet when she wed Prince William.

3. The Giving Away of the Bride

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Giving away the bride is an antiquated tradition from the days when women were their father's property until they got married and became their husband's property. The bride was literally given away in exchange for a bride price or dowry.

4. The Bridal Party


The bridal party began with an Anglo-Saxon tradition. The groom's friends were seen as the guardians of the bride who had to make sure she made it to the wedding (and the groom's home) safely. The best man also originally stood next to the bride to protect her. As for the bridesmaid, the matching dresses were meant to ward off evil spirits. The matron/maid of honor was known as the senior maid and she was meant to attend to the bride's needs... some things don't change.

5. The Tiered Cake


The origin of the tiered wedding cake also lies in Anglo-Saxon times. Guests would bring small cakes to the wedding and stack them on top of each other inspiring a French baker to design a stacked cake covered in frosting.

7. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue


This tradition comes from an Old English rhyme ("Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe").

According to lore, something old is meant to represent continuity for the family; something new offers optimism for what lies ahead; something borrowed should come from a happily married couple whose happiness and success in marriage could carry over to the bride; something blue symbolizes fidelity and was inspired by the proverb "Marry in blue, lover be true".

9. The Wedding Vows


The oldest traditional wedding vows (below) can be traced back to the Middle Ages to the ‘Book of Common Prayer,’ published in 1549. Originally women promised to "obey" but after protests the Episcopal church changed it in 1922 to "love, cherish and honor" like the groom's vows.

“I take thee to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and to worship/cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance.”

Traditionally, marriages were more likely to be arranged and mainly in the last century has it become more about love.


“In the modern industrialized Western world, where I come from, the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world. There is no choice more intensely personal after all, than whom you choose to marry; that choice tells us, to a large extent, who you are.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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