The Significance and Symbolism Behind The Most Popular Wedding Traditions
“Tying the Knot” is more than just a metaphor for getting married. This phrase is actually deep in historical significance and superstition, with the knot symbolizing unbreakable and lasting unity in a variety of cultures . Even the word “wedding” has a long history behind it. The Old English meaning for "pledge” has to do with making a promise, joining the families, and combining their (literal and metaphorical) fortunes . It’s no surprise that as a part of contemporary wedding festivities comes from traditional Ancient Roman marriage practices, filtered through medieval European (especially English) superstition, and actually often has a lot of symbolic meaning as a result.
Keep reading to find out the symbolism and superstition behind the eight most common classic wedding traditions!
Bouquet & Garter Toss
Tossing the bouquet (and, later, the garter) originated hundreds of years ago in England as a way for brides to pass along their good fortune. It started as a way for a bride to pass it on without having to endure countless people trying to steal pieces of her gown . Before the bouquet and garter tosses, brides would be mobbed and disrobed by people wanting a piece of her good fortune !
In Ancient Rome, a wedding needed ten witnesses, all of whom would dress up as the bride and groom to confuse vengeful spirits, angry family members, or jealous suitors who might seek to ruin the big day or take the bride back . The best man was the best swordsman, responsible for defending the groom during nuptials, and also for standing guard on the wedding night .
Cutting The Cake
The wedding tradition of cutting the cake has changed significantly over time. The bride used to this alone to symbolize the loss of her purity, though over time it became a couple’s activity symbolizing their first act as man and wife . As tiered cakes came into fashion, it became fun to see if the bride and groom could still cut and kiss over the cake without knocking it down.
This set of wedding traditions comes from the time when arranged marriages were common, with the bride and groom forbidden to see each other before the wedding and the bride wore a veil during the ceremony. Both of these traditions are born out of a less-than romantic concern that the groom would see the bride, find her unattractive, and call the whole thing off! .
One of the wedding traditions more steeped in superstition, wearing something old on the wedding day was another way for a bride to ward off the ill-effects of the evil eye . In more contemporary weddings, something old tends to represent the couples’ past lives — the ones they are leaving behind . Consequently, wearing something old empowers the couple to honor and accept the ways their lives are changing.
Wearing something new carries with it a shorter history of superstition than other wedding traditions. Specifically, it is an action that symbolize optimism and contributes to good fortune in the marriage . Moreover, wearing something new on her wedding day helped a bride contribute to the good luck and positive outcome of her marriage, which was especially important when women weren’t allowed to contribute much financially to the relationship .
The bride wearing something borrowed is another wedding tradition tied to good luck. As the tradition evolved across cultures, many brides began to wear the borrowed undergarments of a friend/relative who has children to ensure good fortune in both the marriage and the childbearing-department (fertility superstitions were prominent) . These days, it has evolved to involve less superstition, with brides wearing borrowed items to honor relatives or loved ones .
Wearing (or carrying) something blue for her wedding day historically meant several things for a bride. Primarily, though, it meant the bride was safe from the evil eye (bad luck or infertility cast upon her by the envious gazes of her wedding guests) . Aside from this superstition, the color also came to symbolize purity, love, and fidelity — widely accepted as the three keys to a happy marriage .