Wedding Traditions and Folklore

Wedding Traditions and Folklore

According to various sources, some early marriages were literally carried out by the groom and his bride’s men or bride’s knights, who would kidnap a woman from another tribe (the origin of “carrying a bride over the threshold”). The groom and his fellow conspirators would then fight off the female’s family and tribesmen with swords held in their right hand while the groom held the captured bride in his left hand (the origin of the bride standing on the left side of the groom at a wedding).

AFTER A SUCCESSFUL CAPTURE, the groom would hide his new bride for one month for mating purposes. It is said that the word “honeymoon” was created to describe this one-month cycle of the moon, during which they would drink mead, a honey-sweetened alcoholic brew.

BOUQUETS were originally made of strongly scented herbs to frighten away evil spirits. Early brides and bridesmaids wore similar dresses to confuse evil spirits.

BEFORE the fifth century, the ring finger was the index finger. Later it became popular to wear the wedding ring on the third finger, said to contain the “vein of love,” which led directly to the heart.

FOR LUCK, before the ceremony the bride should leave her home by the front door, crossing the threshold with her right foot first. Rainbows and snow on the wedding day are also lucky, but a windy day forebodes a turbulent marriage, and a rainy day a sad one.

TRADITIONAL WHITE WEDDING dresses are of recent invention -- up until Victorian times brides decked themselves out in their best finery; they did not rush out to buy something new for the occasion. The ostentatiously impractical white dress was popularized by the Victorian upperclasses in the 1840s, with one of the main attractions being the dresses’ main problem: only the rich could afford such extravagant clothing to be worn only once. The custom of grooms wearing a tuxedo was made popular by President Teddy Roosevelt.

White has become the norm for wedding dresses, but silver, blue, pink, and gold are also considered lucky colors. Blue has a long history in weddings, because it is used to symbolize constancy, a fact immortalized in the traditional wedding rhyme as “something blue.”

“SOMETHING OLD, something new, something borrowed, something blue. A lucky sixpence in her shoe.” Something old represented a sense of community. Something new represented the transition to adulthood. Something borrowed from a happily married couple brought good fortune to the newlyweds. The lucky sixpence was a coin the bride put in her shoe for good luck.

WEDDING FAVORS of five sugar-coated almonds represent health, wealth, long life, fertility and happiness. Favors also often come in the color blue. In the past, when bride and groom went to the church together, the groom would sometimes give a gift of money or food tot the first person the wedding party met on their way to the church, for good fortune in the marriage. On the return trip, that duty fell to the bride.

SOMETIME AROUND 3000 B.C., Egyptians originated the phrase “without beginning, without end” in describing the significance of the wedding ring. Romans originally fashioned rings from iron. Gold is now used as a symbol of all that is pure. Diamonds were first used by Italians, who believed that they were created from the flames of love.

CAKES HAVE PLAYED a role in wedding ceremonies since the age of the Roman Empire. The confection, which symbolizes fertility and good luck, should be made from the best ingredients available. A well-made cake foretells a well-matched marriage, and a cake that falls apart or splits can be a sign of doom for the newlyweds.

By no means should the bride bake her own cake, or she will doom herself to a life of drudgery. But if she doesn’t cut the first slice for her new husband, the married pair will never bear children.


* Sisters should never marry on the same day, or even during the same year, lest they both suffer through unhappy marriages.

* A woman must not be married in the same church in which she was christened.

* Brides must not read the whole wedding ceremony before getting hitched. Such an act could mean the wedding will not happen.

* A prudent bride will feed her cat before leaving for the church, ensuring her happiness; and the sneeze from a cat on the wedding day foretells a happy marriage.

* Bridal tears during the ceremony are considered lucky, but crying any other time on the wedding day will foreshadow a marriage full of tears.

* It’s unlucky to have a widow at the wedding ceremony.