Somewhere along the way, brides and grooms started to doing the same thing over and over again. But why do brides wear white? Why can’t couples see one another before the ceremony? Why do brides toss a bouquet and grooms throw the garter? It's time to learn the origin of these wedding traditions, then, mix them up and make them your own.
This tradition originated as a Victorian-era rhyme first referenced in an 1871 issue of St. James Magazine in Lancashire, England. During the 1800s, people believed the “Evil Eye,” a spirit sent by jaded ex-lovers, would curse the soon-to-be bride’s fertility. Something old, new and blue was collected by the bride’s family, and something borrowed was often gifted by mothers, as good luck charms. Gathering these items would confuse the “Evil Eye,” making it believe the bride was already cursed and leave her be. (Source: Reader's Digest)
Arkansas Bride Says: We hope this tradition stays; and it's easy to personalize.
Twist on Tradition: “On your wedding day, each of your bridesmaids can gift you with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to incorporate into your wedding day look,” says Golda Grace, owner of Golda Grace Events. “Just don't forget the sixpence in your shoe!”
According to Carol Holiday’s 1919 book “Wedding Customs Then & Now,” these traditions have a rather…interesting beginning. Holiday sets the scene by describing that, when the night is over, and it’s time for the guests to leave the festivities, male attendees will try and secure the garter from the bride. He goes on to explain that the bride is then advised to wear the garter loosely in order to make sure the drunk guests don’t destroy her clothes as they try to grab her garter. Once the struggle is over, and the winner is deemed the next bachelor to get hitched, she is allowed to go in peace to her room.
Arkansas Bride Says: Instead, wear a garter during a sexy, pre-wedding boudoir photo session—a great wedding gift for your groom.
Twist on Tradition: “I always recommend my couples have a private moment together at some point on the wedding day,” Golda says. “I love the idea of adding the garter toss to this private time. It also would be the perfect opportunity for some fun or playful photos. You can still have the garter toss without an awkward moment in front of guests.”
The history of the bouquet toss is significantly less scary than the garter toss. The tradition started in England back in the 1800s and was used as a way to bestow luck upon guests. The bride does this to avoid single women from stealing pieces of her gown or garter in hopes of having her good luck rub off on them. (Source: brides.com)
Twist on Tradition: “I think posey bouquets on a beautiful display given to every woman as they leave is more inclusive than one winner,” says Kristen Lee of Tanarah Luxe Floral.
“Play a game instead, where the longest married couple at the wedding gets the bouquet at the end of the night,” says Anna Dickinson, wedding planner and owner of PERCEPTION by Anna Dickinson.
Arkansas Bride Says: We don’t love singling out, well, singles, so we love Kristen and Anna’s ideas.
Can’t See the Bride
Many couples question whether or not they should have a first look, and even more are wondering about the history behind not seeing their partner at all before the ceremony. This tradition stems from the concept of arranged marriages, where in extreme cases, the couple is not allowed to meet one another until the ceremony. This is also why brides tend to wear veils—to shield their faces from their partner. Fathers who arranged marriages feared the suitor would not find their bride attractive and back out of the marriage, so they would shield her face until the last possible moment. Ick. (Source: brides.com)
Arkansas Bride Says: Do a first look. Trust us. You’ll LOVE these photos and this private moment together. Couples always tell us how glad they were that they broke tradition and did a first look. Plus, you’ll have far less time for portraits after the ceremony than you think. If you’re still hell-bent on him not seeing your wedding dress before the ceremony, wear a second look to your first look, and save the main attraction for your walk down the aisle. Best of both worlds!
Twist on Tradition: “Get ready together!” says Brooke Baker, owner of White Sage Weddings & Events. “Spend the whole day with each other instead!”
Before the 1700s, most brides often wore red on their wedding day (Gasp! Talk about an “About Time” moment!). During this time in history, white was associated with mourning and grief, and brides didn't want to think about such things on such a special day. Mary Queen of Scots wore white to her wedding in 1558, but the trend wasn’t widely accepted by society until Queen Victoria married in 1840. According to Southern Living, she was determined to be seen as a prudent and sensible queen—therefore, she made a statement with her pure-white wedding gown.
While a majority of brides today still opt for white, we see a trend rising with brides wanting to break tradition and get married in whatever makes them feel more like…them! You'll see blue, pink, black and floral print, as well as suits and short dresses too. (Source: Southern Living)
Twist on Tradition: “[Have the bride wear] a colored dress and guests wear white,” says wedding planner Amanda Reed of Amanda Reed Weddings. This way, “the bride pops depending on her color choice.”
The Wedding Party
The history behind this tradition is on Liam Neeson’s “Taken”-level. Throughout history, bridesmaids would wear the same color as the bride to protect the bride from being kidnapped or to confuse evil spirits. There is evidence of this tradition in ancient Rome and China, where brides might have been required to travel outside of their own village or town to marry their suitor. This makes the bride susceptible to kidnapping. Traveling together, all dressed alike, made the bride a more difficult target (talk about putting your life on the line for your bestie!). And guess what the groomsmen were meant to do? Yep, it gets worse. They were to capture and/or keep the bride captive (they were kidnappers) so she wouldn’t flee the groom.
On a more pleasant note: The “maid of honor” originates from the United Kingdom, when a worthy female was assigned to attend to the queen on her wedding day. (Source: Reader's Digest, finehomesandliving.com, mentalfloss.com)
Arkansas Bride Says: Here are some hot takes—buckle up. If you do choose to have bridesmaids, do not ask them to assemble things, decorate your reception or help clean up. Hire professionals. Let your friends enjoy the wedding too. And while we’re at it, do not demand that they plan expensive trips and events for you. If they do it on their own, fabulous! Otherwise, please respect the unique financial situation of each person in your wedding party.
Twist on Tradition: We love seeing the new ways modern brides are remixing this tradition, including asking the grandmothers to be your flower girls, and asking your wedding party to take a seat during the ceremony.
“As much as I love a bridal party, there are no rules,” Brooke says. “If you’re a couple who has a more limited social capacity, no wedding party could be better for you. Sometimes large families make it hard to choose party members. Realistically, all guests should feel very special and honored to attend your day.”
“[Try] alternating bridesmaids and groomsmen on each side, instead of all the bridesmaids on the bride's side and all groomsmen on the groom's side,” Amanda says. “Looks really pleasing in photos and is a super unique twist.”
Similar to the origin of bridesmaids, this tradition dates all the way back to ancient Rome. The Gemological Institute of America reports that Roman women wore bone, copper, iron and other materials to signify the ownership of the suitor. Gold rings are reported to date all the way back to Pompeii. In 850, Pope Nichalas declared engagement rings to be the “proper way.”
The first diamond engagement ring did not appear until 1477, but did not gain popularity as we see it today until the 1940s.
In recent years, couples are mixing it up. From Prince William proposing to Kate Middleton with his mother’s iconic sapphire engagement ring to Jennifer Lopez’s stunning emerald three-stone engagement ring from Ben Affleck, more people are doing whatever they want—but rings remain the gift of choice when proposing. (Source: brides.com)
Arkansas Bride Says: This tradition is a keeper. Give us all the diamonds and gemstones. Our favorite trending ring style: Double-stone rings with fancy-shaped diamonds.
Twist on Tradition: “Tattoo fingers,” Anna says.
From Princess Diana’s 5-foot tall marzipan cake to Julianne Hough’s simple and elegant three-tier cake, is it really a wedding celebration without a delicious sugary dessert to smash into one another’s faces? Well, the history behind this yummy tradition stems all the way back to the mid-16th century when sugar was becoming more plentiful in England, and the more refined the sugary was, the whiter it appeared. The pure-white icing on cakes symbolized status and wealth. Later in history, the number of tiers on a cake began to symbolize affluence too. When former Queen Elizabeth II wed Prince Philip, the cake weighed 500 pounds. How's that for a show of wealth? (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)
Twist on Tradition: “If the bride and groom aren't into cake, then choose something special to them,” Amanda says. “Twists: large cookie stack for a cake, donuts stacked up as a cake or an ice cream truck.”
“I recommend having each layer of cake be different, that way guests can get all the best flavors in one slice,” Golda says. “Have your best man and maid of honor pick a flavor too. Who doesn't want to go to a cake tasting?”
THIS or THAT: Wedding Customs Edition
► Instead of a cake cutting… Pop open a bottle of champagne and give a toast together thanking your guests.
► Instead of flower girls… Ask your brother or brother-in-law to be a flower guy.
► Instead of a first dance… Have a last dance.
► Instead of a bouquet toss… Preserve your florals and display them in your home.
► Instead of wearing your wedding dress all night… Get a comfy, dance-approved second look!
► Instead of wearing white… Wear a dreamy blue dress or a floral-print frock.
► Instead of a ring bearer… Have your dog be in the wedding party.
► Instead of beer and wine only… Serve two or three creative signature cocktails.
► Instead of a normal guest book… Ask your guests to leave a message at the tone.
► Instead of a showy getaway… Invite your guests to stay out late and party!.
► Instead of a toast… Do a champagne tower.