Where Do Wedding Traditions Come From?
Weddings are a sacred, beautiful ceremony couples participate in to solidify their love for one another, right? Not exactly. Unfortunately, many of the traditions we know and love come from either outdated gender roles or advertising executives. But, does that mean we should stop having weddings altogether? Of course not. Weddings are, for the most part, about the love between two people, but it’s crucial to acknowledge the strange nature of some of our customs.
Common Wedding Traditions
Where do wedding traditions come from? What are the wedding traditions for the bride? Why do we wear engagement rings?
If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. Some wedding traditions are strange, while others are downright creepy if you think about them too much. Some have roots in ancient cultures, going back hundreds of years, while others originate from the 20th century as a result of a massive marketing campaign. But all of them have come together to form the traditions we use to symbolize our love.
At most modern weddings, white is everywhere. Between the white dress, the white flowers and the white cake, most people assume having a white wedding is an age-old tradition. However, the custom started in 1840 when Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, wearing a white satin gown with lace and a white veil.
Publications all over the world featured articles and illustrations of the dress, and it soon became a symbol of social status and wealth, especially since the difficulty of cleaning a white dress made it unlikely the owner would be able to wear it more than once. In those days, most women couldn’t afford to purchase a single-use dress.
Queen Victoria also had white icing on her wedding cake as another symbol of her status. At the time, the ingredients needed to make a wedding cake, especially the sugar for the white icing, were incredibly expensive and only attainable by the upper classes.
Years later, as much of the world recovered from the economic impact of World War I, most women still couldn’t afford to wear white at their wedding. Then, in the 1930s, garment manufacturers and bridal magazines started a full-scale marketing campaign, declaring wearing white was the modern standard. The trend stuck, and the bridal market soon grew into the $70 billion industry it is today.
For heterosexual couples, the man presents the woman with an engagement ring when they decide to get married. Traditionally, the woman wears it on her left ring finger. But, have you ever wondered why we do this? Like many wedding traditions in America, it began with advertising.
While historians have pinpointed several instances of diamond engagement rings throughout the centuries, the modern version didn’t become popular until the 1940s, when De Beers Group acquired 99% of the planet’s diamonds and invented the diamond engagement ring as we know it today. The corporation spread the narrative that the only way to show your love was with a De Beers diamond.
They hired advertising firm N.W. Ayer to target the younger generation and the creative team eventually came up with the now-iconic slogan: “A Diamond Is Forever.” Together, De Beers and N.W. Ayer created a marketing campaign that changed the industry forever.
However, despite their demand and high price tag, diamonds aren’t as valuable or rare as you think. The Gemological Institute of America estimates that from antiquity to 2005, diamond miners have extracted 4.5 billion carats of the gems worldwide. Also, since De Beers has a virtual monopoly on the diamond market, they can charge whatever they want for them. The De Beers chairman once said, “Diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for the deep psychological need they fill.”
But why do we wear engagement rings on our ring fingers? The wedding tradition originates from a belief that the ring finger contains a vein linked directly to the heart. However, we now know this is a myth.
Walking Down the Aisle
Why does a father give away the bride? Why do they walk down an aisle in the first place? The wedding ceremony tradition began years ago when arranged marriages were commonplace. Often, the bride wouldn’t meet her future husband until the big day. The act of walking down the aisle likely stems from the father’s need to physically give his daughter away to the man she’s marrying — almost as if she were property.
The tradition of wearing a veil down the aisle originates from ancient Rome. According to legend, the veil protects the bride from evil spirits and malicious intents.
The Wedding Party
There are several wedding ceremony traditions to follow when it comes to the wedding party. Have you ever wondered why bridesmaids wear the same outfits? According to Roman legend, the friends of the bride wore not only the same dresses as each other, but also as the bride. The idea was to prevent evil spirits or jealous suitors from finding the bride.
The tradition of having groomsmen originates from a time when “marriage by capture” was common. The close friends of the groom would assist him with sneaking into the bride’s home and stealing her away from her family. The groomsmen were there to help fight off any angry relatives as they made their escape.
Something Old, Something New
The saying, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue,” has a fifth part most people leave out: “and a sixpence in your shoe.” These five things supposedly bring good luck to the bride on her wedding day. In the Victorian-era rhyme, the blue and old items protect the bride against infertility.
The borrowed item was traditionally an undergarment from a woman who had already given birth to children. The purpose of this custom was to confuse the “evil eye” and make it think the bride was already fertile. The new item was to bring good luck to the couple’s future.
Celebrate Your Wedding at the Glidden House!
The history of wedding traditions has no shortage of outdated practices and greedy marketing campaigns. However, these odd origins shouldn’t stop you from having the wedding you want. Whether or not you choose to include these wedding traditions, the Glidden House will help make your wedding day perfect.
The Glidden House is a historic boutique hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, that once stood as a stunning mansion. The French Gothic design offers the perfect atmosphere for a romantic and elegant wedding. From our luxury guest suites to our 2,600-square-foot Juniper Room, you’ll find everything you need for your big day.
Book the Glidden House for your wedding today!