From rings to cake, traditions abound when you tie the knot. But before you decide what elements you want on your wedding, you might as well know why such traditions are significant on your big day. Here are explanations to the cultural roots to some traditions that have shaped weddings for centuries.
In medieval times, the groom would often pay for the bride's hand in marriage. Precious stones were often included in this payment as a symbol of his intent to marry. Gold, silver or iron rings were incorporated with gems, which were usually for the aristocracy but eventually found their way among middle class.
Diamond engagements rings originate from the medieval Italians who believed that diamonds were created in the Flames of Love. It’s believed that the first diamond engagement ring ever given was by Arch Duke Maximillian to Mary of Burgundy as a token of his love in 1477.
The Ring Finger
There are two popular theories of the origins of the ring finger. Ancient Romans believed that the fourth finger of the left hand includes a vein – “the vein of love” – that led directly to the heart. Another theory claims medieval grooms or the priest placed the ring on three of the bride's left hand fingers, symbolizing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The White Wedding Dress
Two different women popularized white wedding dresses. Some sources believe Anne of Brittany made the dress a trend in 1499. Others believe Queen Victoria popularized the tradition in the 1840s when she chose to wear white instead of the traditional royal silver wedding dress. Prior the traditional dress, a bride wore her best dress for the wedding day.
Before the use of flowers in the bridal bouquet, brides carried and decorated their hair with aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away as they walked down the aisle. Eventually, these were replaced with flowers, symbolizing fertility and everlasting love.
Traditionally, bridal flowers are meant to have a special meaning, but today most brides choose flowers for color and personal appeal.
The Wedding Cake
Ancient Romans would bake a cake made of wheat or barley and break it over the bride’s head as a symbol of fertility. It became traditional to stack several cakes atop one another, as tall as possible. The bride and groom were then to kiss over the tower. If they did so without knocking it down, a lifetime of good fortune was ensured. During the reign of King Charles II of England, cakes became edible when the baker added sugar icing.