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  • Morgan Weinmeister

The history behind common Western wedding traditions


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With wedding season right around the corner, I began to ask myself where some common wedding traditions came from. Some, I might have been able to guess before doing more research, but some were of complete surprise to me. Take a look at some of the history behind Western wedding traditions, and let us know in the comments which ones surprised you most.


The Bouquet

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The carrying of a bridal bouquet, dating back to the Roman period, did not originally include flowers at all. Traditional bouquets consisted of strong-smelling herbs, and spices to ward off evil spirits. It was believed that the strong odor of the bouquet was enough to banish troubled spirits and ensure a life of happiness and peace for the newlywed couple. Grains added to the bouquet mix were seen as a symbol of fortune, fertility, and prosperity.


Bridesmaids


Although the tradition has evolved into a group of women who tend to the bride on her big day, traditionally bridesmaids bore a far deeper burden at the altar. You’ll likely notice that evil spirits were a big concern in early Western weddings. It was believed that evil spirits would stop at nothing to prey upon weddings and brides. As such, bridesmaids wore similar attire to the bride to confuse any such spirits and steer them away from the newlywed.


Being given away


This tradition dates to when daughters were considered property of their fathers. You can probably imagine that the custom has become rather outdated and old-fashioned. Across history, the bride being given away by her father, her mother, or another important person in her life has become a symbolic moment of transition, and unification of two families in modern weddings.


The best man


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Who was traditionally considered the “best” man, might today be considered the exact opposite. Dating back to the 16th century, the best man was historically appointed with the task of kidnapping the bride in circumstances where the marriage was opposed by her family. The best man was said to be the strongest and most skilled in battle.


Wearing white


Prior to the Victorian era, women were actually married in a variety of colors. The popularity of any given color was particularly dependent on geography and culture. In 1840, Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg and chose a white wedding gown – a rather unconventional choice of the time. Due to the high-profile nature of the wedding, and its mass publication, white gained popularity due to its association with the Queen.


Garter toss


Traditionally, couples saved themselves for marriage until the union was inevitably consummated on the eve of their wedding. Guests would eagerly await outside the chambers of the newlyweds for proof that the unspoken deed had officially been done.


Bouquet toss


Both the bouquet and the bride’s dress were said to be symbols of luck and fortune. The bouquet, which remember was made up of grains, herbs, and spices, was tossed upon guests to bless good luck upon them.

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The veil


Once again based on purity, this tradition dates back to when a woman was presented on her wedding day fully shrouded in a white veil from head to toe, symbolizing a pure, prudent, and un-touched bride.


If you're married, what wedding traditions did you include at your wedding? if you're planning on getting married, what traditions might be a thing of the past? WIN wants to know! Comment down below.