Wedding day traditions – where do they come from?

Wedding day traditions are very common. Couples follow traditions like wearing white or having lots of flowers but why? We got chatting to Hazel from Say I do on a budget during last week’s #weddinghour who explained where these traditions come from and why people follow them. It’s fascinating! Thank you so much Hazel.

Why does a bride where white and carry flowers? Historic wedding day traditions revealed.

Historic wedding day traditions by Hazel Gough

There can be quite a lot of controversy and heated debate when wedding traditions are discussed. A lot of the conflicting information can be down to how ‘tradition’ is defined. When you think about wedding tradition, what time frame comes to mind? Are you thinking about what has been typical of wedding customs in the past 100 years? Or are you thinking of what has been the norm for weddings in the past 30 years? Or maybe, like me you think further back than that?

In this post I will answer some of the questions surround wedding day traditions.

A Bride in white is traditional?

180 years ago, a then 20 year old Queen Victoria changed the future of wedding dresses. Before Queen Victoria got married it was the norm for Brides to wear, bright, colourful dresses. These could be worn for other occasions. Clothing was expensive, people had just a few outfits. Usually, one of two outfits for work, one for leisure wear, and their Sunday best. Therefore buying a dress purely for one day was just not an option. If a lady wanted to wear something she didn’t already own, or if she felt her Sunday best dress wasn’t good enough, it was common for them to borrow a dress from a female relative or friend.

Liz's Bridesmaids seeing her in her wedding dress for the first time. Veiled Productions - Pembroke Lodge Wedding-Liz And Luke | Bride in White wedding day traditions

On the rare occasion that women did wear white, it was an indicator of their wealth. It showed they could afford to have the dress cleaned. Also, interestingly, Queen Victoria did not choose white as a symbol of her virtue. Instead, white was chosen because she felt it was the best colour to show off the intricate lace used for her dress. We can thank Queen Victoria for creating what we see as tradition for a Bride to wear white.

Bridesmaids should not be in the same colour as the Bride?

It seems really odd now, but until the 20th century, the Bridesmaids would be dressed similarly to the Bride, even wearing a veil to cover their faces just like the Bride. The reason Bridesmaids would be dressed just like the Bride was so that they could fulfil their primary purpose, which was to confuse evil spirits long enough for the couple to say their vows.

Bridesmaids wearing pastel coloured dresses, different to the bride. Wedding day traditions.

Queen Victoria requested that no one else wear white to her wedding, bar her bridesmaids. They were dressed in identical white dresses, but their dresses were not the same as the Queens. Here are two more wedding customs we can thank Queen Victoria for, wedding guests not wearing white, and the Bridesmaids not dressing exactly the same as the Bride.

Why do Brides carry flowers?

In the middle ages, people stank. Harsh, but true. Really, up until the end of the 19th Century, and even into the 20th Century, people’s attitude and access to cleanliness was very different to now. Depending on the era in history the custom of carry a bouquet changes slightly, which means the history behind this wedding day tradition isn’t as clear cut as some of the others, however there is a continuity to the theme, which is that the bridal bouquets purpose was to mask odour.

Wedding day flowers bridal bouquet and corsage - wedding day traditions.

If you were to ask your parents or grandparents how often they used to wash when they were younger, it is quite likely they will tell you that they always had to wash their hands before dinner, but they only got a full body wash once a week. Go back a bit further, and people didn’t wash monthly let alone weekly! In the 15th century people took their annual bath in May. For this reason, weddings tended to happen in June. This is why late Spring to early Summer is the traditional time of year for getting married. Getting married the month after your annual bath, helped you to be smelling fresh on your wedding day. As an extra insurance to make sure the Groom thought the Bride smelt good, she would carry a posy of herbs and flowers.

The Groom carried the Bride over the threshold to assert dominance?

As with many wedding customs, the custom of the Groom carrying the Bride over the threshold (probably) comes from superstition. A threshold is a thick strip of wood or stone that would be positioned at the doorway to keep the loose flooring inside. Flooring inside homes was usually straw or hay. These would easily slip out of the home without the threshold to help keep it in. It was deemed bad luck for the future of the marriage if the Bride slipped on her way into the marital home after the wedding, therefore, to stop the chance of the Bride tripping, the Groom would carry her into the home. Other historical theorists believe that a Groom would carry his Bride into the marital home, to save her from the embarrassment of seeming too eager for her wedding night.

Matt and his groomsmen carrying Phillipa - wedding day traditions

“Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” is just a nice way of making sure the Bride is ready for her big day?

Historically speaking, when a woman got married she left her family and joined the husbands. Not just in name, but physically. It was often the practice that the lady may never see her family again after the big day. A Bride being given something old to wear on her wedding day was also to give her something to remember her family by. The full rhyme, goes “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence in her shoe”.

A honeymoon is time for the couple to relish their newly married happiness?

In our modern times a honeymoon is time spent on holiday after the wedding. It allows the Bride and Groom to be alone and relish in their newly married happiness. The term ‘honeymoon’ first appeared in writing in the 1500s as a term to warn newlyweds about waning love. The message was your love, like the full moon, will wane.

Historically speaking a honeymoon dates back to times by women would be captured and forced into marriage. Sometimes married without their families consent. On these occasions, once they were married, the Groom would take the Bride away to a secret location. Often he would keep her their until her family stopped looking for her, or until she became pregnant, which ever happened first. When the woman became pregnant it would then be deemed too late to try and nullify the marriage. It is believed some poorer men may have stolen women away to avoid having to be the dowry to the family.

The most beautiful sunset at the Old Hall Ely during Abbie and Bretts wedding. Photography by Ryan Jarvis. Videography by Veiled Productions - Old Hall Ely Wedding Videographer | wedding day traditions

Photo thanks to Ryan Jarvis Photography

Thank you so much Hazel. It has been really fascinating learning about wedding day traditions and where they have come from. The honeymoon one I didn’t know at all! Follow I do on a budget on Twitter for more brilliant insights.

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4 Comments

  1. 16th October 2018 / 4:09 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Hazel! I learned a lot! I love the reason why brides carry flowers: “In the middle ages, people stank.” LOL!

    • 22nd October 2018 / 8:36 pm

      I’m glad you liked it 😊 and found some of my wording funny 👍🏻
      I find it so fascinating to look back at weddings through the ages.

  2. 16th October 2018 / 9:42 pm

    What an interesting article!

  3. 22nd October 2018 / 12:01 pm

    All of the traditions came from necessity. The scary part is some it is creepy, like the honeymoon thing! Thankfully we have totally different reasons for carrying on the traditions.

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