From the engagement ring to the ceremony to the honeymoon, weddings are shaped by the traditions of our ancestors, colored by the beliefs of our culture, and spiced by our personal flavor. While wedding traditions vary widely across the globe, and have changed subtly or obviously over time, it’s still possible to trace some of the most common elements back to their origin.
As a designer of fine jewelry, Peter Stone has seen its fair share of weddings of all shapes and sizes, and we’re always entranced by the age old traditions and the overwhelming beauty of any ceremony. Whether you’re looking for wedding bands, handfasting rings, or the perfect gifts for your wedding attendants, Peter Stone wants to be a part of your wedding, too!
While you’re deciding which beautiful Peter Stone jewelry should be a part of your special day, take a few minutes to learn some surprising facts about the history of modern-day weddings. We dug around and found a wealth of history, legend, and belief associated with engagements, wedding ceremonies, and marriage traditions. We picked out the best—the funniest and the most intriguing—to share with you, and we know that you’ll be as amused and interested as we were.
Before the Ceremony
- Diamond Engagement Rings gained popularity because the clarity and brilliance of diamond reflected innocence and purity, while its strength represented the hope of an enduring union.
- Engagement Rings are always worn on the ring finger of the left hand because the vein in this finger was long believed to lead directly to the heart.
- The bridal shower originated in Holland, when a bride-to-be did not have her father’s approval. To make up for the dowry being withheld, her friends would “shower” her with gifts so the marriage could take place.
- Bachelor parties were held just prior to the wedding so that the groom would have one last chance to gamble and win money for his own personal use—before his new bride took over the finances.
- Ancient Spartan stag parties were feasts held the night before the wedding where the groom would swear continued allegiance to his comrades-in-arms, despite the upcoming domestication.
Dress for Success
- White didn’t catch on as a western wedding tradition until Anne of Brittany married Louis XII in 1499. White has always been worn by brides in China and Japan—the color of mourning, to symbolize the wife’s symbolic death as she leaves her birth family to join that of her husband.
- In some areas, couples were married by arrangement, and the bride and groom weren’t permitted to meet prior to the wedding. Only after the ceremony was the groom allowed to lift the veil and see the face of his new bride.
- In various areas, the bridesmaids and groomsmen were dressed to emulate the bride and groom, in an effort to confuse evil spirits that might want to curse or kidnap the happy couple.
- In Roman times, Bridesmaids also had the duty of distracting other suitors, leaving the bride free to marry the groom without complication, another reason for them to dress like the bride.
- “Something Old” represents a link to the bride’s family and to the past. “Something New” signals a bright future. “Something Borrowed” is a reminder that the bride’s friends will always be nearby to lend a hand. “Something Blue” represents fidelity and loyalty within the marriage.
- Bouquets were traditionally a mixture of flowers and herbs—and Dill was often included because it was believed to stimulate desire. The Dill from the bouquet was often eaten after the ceremony.
Stealing the Bride
- The “Best Man” originated in ancient times when men had to kidnap their bride from disapproving families— the groom took his best man along to help him fight the bride’s male relatives during the escape.
- Since the family might try to steal the bride back, the best man often stood alert and armed through the ceremony, and sometimes stood sentry at the newlywed’s home, as well.
- The threat of the bride’s family was real enough during the age of the Huns, Goths, and Vandals that churches often kept an arsenal of clubs, knives, and spears beneath the altar during the ceremony.
- Early Anglo-Saxon brides stood to the left of their groom, leaving his sword arm free so that he could defend his new bride from would-be kidnappers.
The Wedding Day
- Walking was thought to be the best way to get to church, to allow plenty of opportunities for seeing lucky omens, like a rainbow, a chimney sweep, or a black cat.
- Dividing the church seating into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sections stems from historical times when a chief would offer his daughter’s hand to a warring tribe as a peace offering. The attendees were kept on opposite sides of the church to allow the ceremony to proceed without bloodshed between the warring factions.
- Weddings are always sealed with a kiss… a holdover tradition from ancient Roman times when a kiss was considered a legally binding way to seal a contract.
- The binding of ankles and wrists evolved into the binding of hands and thence to the concept of the wedding ring. Early rings were made of hemp or rushes and had to be replaced often. For more on the history of wedding rings, check out our blog posts: The Unbroken Ring and What does your ring say about you?
- Early wedding cakes were thin loaves made of wheat and other grains that were broken over the brides head after the ceremony to promote fertility. The crumbs were collected by guests as good luck charms.
- According to legend, when the wedding couple drinks their toast, whomever finishes first will rule the family.
- It was believed that the bride could pass along her good fortune to others, so spectators would try to take pieces of the bride’s flowers and clothing—the throwing of the bouquet was a diversion so that the bride could leave the church in peace.
- In the 14th century it was a custom for the bride to toss her garter to the groomsmen—but sometimes the men got impatient and tried to take it from her ahead of time, so the custom eventually changed to include the groom as a buffer.
Happily Ever After
- As wedding couples leave the church, it is tradition to honk their horns in joyous announcement—and to scare away any evil spirits that might want to follow them home.
- Tradition holds that a bride must enter her new home via the main door, and a trip or a fall across the threshold will result in bad luck for the marriage. Men began to take their marital luck into their own hands by carrying their bride across the threshold.
- The term “honeymoon” has a variety of legendary origins, one of which is that the bride was supposed to drink honeyed mead for a month (a “moon”) after the wedding to encourage fertility and male children.
Obviously, these traditions have lost their significance and their necessity over the years, but we still honor many of the ancient customs without even knowing why we do it. Now that you’ve learned a few things about ancient tradition, you’ll never be able to look at a white wedding gown, a best man, or a chimney sweep the same way again!
Whether you celebrate your wedding with the vestiges of ancient tradition, more obscure cultural customs, or a modern individual theme, we hope your wedding measures up to your sweetest dreams—a day of love, celebration, and joy. And if you choose to include our beautiful Peter Stone jewelry in your ceremony, know that we’re honored to be a part of your special day, and we send our heartfelt wishes of happiness for your life together!