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Weddings

Here Are The Real, Truly Weird Origins Behind Wedding Traditions

Here's a hint: Our ancestors were VERY afraid of evil and VERY into kidnapping.

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Hi. My name's Sarah, and I just got engaged.

I dove headfirst into wedding planning only to find myself painfully unprepared. But to be fair, I've never hosted an event for 150 people before.

I was behind my peers in other ways. I didn't have a Pinterest board with my dream wedding details. I had no idea what I actually wanted. My parents were laissez-faire about the ceremony, so I knew I had free rein to do what I wanted. But what did I want? What traditions and rituals should I include?

So I decided to do a little research.

Where did all of these wedding traditions come from? When did they start? Why did they start?

Oh my, how little did I know.

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Why Do Weddings Have So Many Traditions?

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1. The Origins of Bridesmaids

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Bridesmaids are just your best girlfriends, there to support you on your big day, right?

Wrong.

Bridesmaids were originally told to dress similarly to the bride in order to confuse exes or evil spirits. That’s the one good thing about evil spirits — they’re easily tricked.

Which one is the bride? If you can't tell, neither can Satan.

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In the Roman Empire, bridesmaids would accompany a bride if she had to travel to another town or village where the groom lived. This larger party was thought to keep the bride safe from attacks by robbers or kidnappers.

2. The Origin of the Best Man

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In some cultures, men would “kidnap” or “steal” their brides (potentially if the family did not approve).

Originally, the “best” in “best man” was supposedly a reference to his strength and skills in fighting, as he was asked to help the groom combat anyone who opposed the bride being kidnapped.

The best man would then stand next to the groom to ensure that the bride did not try to run away during the wedding ceremony. What a swell guy!

3. The Origin of the White Dress

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Women wear white to symbolize purity, right? Actually the white wedding dress is a relatively modern invention. Prior to the mid-1800s, brides traditionally wore red (and they still do around the rest of the world).

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So why the white dress? Enter Queen Victoria.

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Victoria decided to wear a white dress to her wedding to Prince Albert simply because she liked the color.

At first, people were shocked. But within 20 years, a white dress was all the rage. The wealthy wore white dresses to be ostentatious and to show off wealth. In the 18th and 19th centuries, washing was done painstakingly by hand so to have an immaculate white dress that was only worn once was very lavish and only for the wealthy.

So really, you can wear what you like. Victoria did it, and she started a fad that’s lasted 180 years.

4. The Origin of the Bridal Bouquet

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Ancient Greek brides would wear wreaths of mint and marigold that were meant to serve as an aphrodisiac. They would also use clusters of herbs to ward off evil. People back then were super afraid of evil.

5. The Origin of the Bridal Veil

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Our ancestors' obsession with evil spirits also gave rise to the bridal veil.

Originally brides wore veils to protect them from jealous spirits and to help the brides remain modest.

Brides were said to be protected from the “evil eye” and confused the devil when they wore veils. In Greece the veil was typically yellow, and in Rome it was usually red. Both colors were meant to represent fire to fend off evil spirits.

In some cultures, the veil was meant to hide the identity of the bride from the groom in arranged marriages.

6. The Origin of the Honeymoon

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Some say it dates back to when marriages were created by kidnapping. The husband would have to hide for about a month after her kidnapping to prevent the woman’s tribe from rescuing her.

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7. The Origin of Wedding Rings

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Wedding rings have a slightly less creepy origin.

The significance of the fourth finger may be because it was believed to have a particular vein that led to the heart. In Latin it was called “vena amoris,” which means the vein of love.

Historically, the bride’s ring was also meant to signify ownership.

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It is thought that in early Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures, rings were a way to pay the father of the bride and signify payment or collateral.

The development of the bride and groom exchanging rings may be a result of advancement in women’s rights.

8. The Origin of the Father Walking The Bride Down the Aisle

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This tradition originated when a woman was thought of as a male’s property.

The father “giving away” the bride symbolized the transfer of ownership and of the bride’s property from her father (or other male relative) to her new husband.

9. The Origin of the First Look

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If you follow the tradition to not have the bride and groom see each other before their wedding ceremony, you’re following a tradition started from arranged marriages, when it was thought that if a bride and groom saw each other before the big day, they would have enough time to cancel the wedding.

10. The Origin Of Carrying the Bride Across the Threshold

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Allegedly, the bride needed to display that she was not pleased having to leave her father’s home, and the groom had to force her over the threshold.

It may also be that the bride was carried to prevent evil spirits from entering her body through the soles of her feet.

11. The Origin of the First Kiss

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It was once custom for a priest, after performing a marriage ceremony, to give a holy “kiss of peace” to the groom, who would then pass the kiss on to the bride. The clergyman would kiss all the bridesmaids and bridegrooms. Making everyone kiss at my wedding? Something I might do.

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