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Old Wedding Ceremony Traditions – How they have transitioned into the 21st century
Traditions at a wedding are very important to couples and their families because if you don't follow the traditions.... did you really just get married? The answer is yes, but to some people it can feel like you didn't do it properly if you don't include them. Here we look at some of the more popular wedding traditions and how they've morphed into a 21st century friendly version. As these are very old traditions - please forgive the lack of equality in them. Hopefully the way in which these traditions have transitioned will help to encompass all couples who wish to marry...
You may kiss the bride...
In ancient times, the kiss was as important as the signing of the marriage certificate, as it was the moment when the bride and groom legally became husband and wife.
Today, some people still want to hear those 5 little words, but we are slowly morphing into using inclusive language in our marriage ceremonies and we need to ask ourselves - Why is it the groom that gets to kiss the bride? Why can't they kiss each other? What happens when there is no bride?
The bride is on the left...
In ancient times the bride stood to the left of the groom - and walked down the aisle on her father's left arm, as the groom apparently needed to keep his right arm free in case he had to quickly draw his sword for combat, when there was high chance of an enemy invasion. The bride's family and friends typically were seated on the left-hand side and the groom's on the right.
Today there is no right or wrong side for anybody to sit or stand. We take into consideration the hairstyles and outfits of the women involved in the ceremony and whether they need to stand downwind or with a certain hair piece facing the guests for better photos. You can still choose to have your guests sit on the same side as the person they know or are related to, as a large percentage of couples getting married have already lived together, you find that the guests and families generally know each other and don't mind sitting together.
Why the bride is late... (Groom Always First)
Why was the groom left to sweat it out at the wedding ceremony awaiting the "fashionably late" arrival of his bride - apparently an average of 8 minutes late? The tradition behind the groom being there first stems from the idea it was his duty to literally lead the bride into her new life of love and happiness. The groom would say his vows first - a convention which began as a nod to his position of responsibility within the union.
Today, it doesn't matter who says their vows first, the way that couples are arriving to the ceremony is changing and the 'tradition' that the bride should be fashionably late is not a tradition at all and thankfully today's couples are a lot more savy when it comes to starting on time and are more aware that their guests are sitting out in the summer sun, the photographer, the celebrant, the caterer, the reception venue, etc..... are all waiting for them.
Giving the bride away...
Weddings used to be a way to join two families together in business or politics. It was tradition for the father of the bride to walk his daughter down the aisle and give her away to the groom. By doing this, the father was giving his utmost blessing to the marriage, and felt confident in handing over the responsibilities of taking care of his daughter to his future son-in-law. The celebrant would ask ~ "Who gives this woman to be married to this man? The father of the bride would reply, "Her mother and I."
It is still a very common sight to see to a father, or in some cases, a mother walk the bride down the aisle while the groom waits the groom can also be escorted down the aisle as well by a parent - or sometimes both parents together. However nowadays there is no right way to walk into a marriage ceremony. A couple can walk in with a loved one - one at a time, making an entrance; they can walk in together, or even start off together already standing in front of their guests.
Today's wedding bouquets are usually chosen for their colour, to suit the wedding theme or just because they're the couple's favourite blooms. Of course that wasn't always the case. The original concept behind the bouquet was to carry a collection of herbs, flowers and spices which all had symbolic meaning. The herbs and spices represented fertility and new life - and warded off evil spirits and family demons; while flowers signified purity and innocence.... there was also the little issue of people not showering very often, so they hoped that the flowers would mask the smell.
Some couples still choose flowers for their original meaning, however there are some new trends appearing like - bouquets made out of shells or buttons, holding a purse or the newest one - puppies! I'm not sure where this trend has come from and I don't know what they would do with the puppies after the photo shoot - hopefully adopt them.
The wedding ring...
Although nobody knows exactly when the first wedding rings appeared, we do know ancient Egyptian brides were buried with rings and ancient Greeks and Romans made iron wedding rings for their future wives. The idea of wearing the ring on the third finger of the left hand is believed to stem from the vein there which has a direct link to the heart.
Today the wedding ring is given as a symbol of commitment, love and respect, with the circular shape representing unity and eternal love. Often couples choose to not give each other rings because they prefer not to wear jewellery or are unable to do so because of their work. Some couples choose to exchange other gifts, like a watch or a pendant and some even go as far as to get a tattoo on the wedding ring finger, as a permanent symbol of the marriage - this can be done afterward or as part of the marriage ceremony.
Veils were originally worn to ward off evil and hide the bride's beautiful face. The original idea behind the lifting of the bridal veil was to symbolise her crossing from her family's home to that of her husband. In ancient times, if the groom lifted the veil to kiss his bride, it was a sign that he dominated the relationship. It is also said that the bride's face was covered until the end of the ceremony just before the kiss so that the groom wasn't able to run if he decided he didn't like the look of her. As time has gone on, it more and more uncommon in western culture to not know your partner before marrying them, so eventually, more and more women chose to lift their own veil, symbolising equality in the marriage.
Today many women still opt to cover their faces for the sake of tradition, or because they feel it completes the bridal ensemble. Other fashions include wearing a tiara or a crown of flowers.
Where did the idea of bridal attendants come from? Apparently they were originally there as some kind of bodyguard, dressed in similar gear to the bride and groom to confuse evil spirits as to who was who so that no spells could be cast on the newlyweds.
Today, couples love to have their dearest friends rally around them on their special day to support them and help with the organisaiton of the day. On the other hand, It is not uncommon for couples to not have any attendants, making their ceremony more simple and cost effective.
White wedding dress...
Originally, back in the day, bridal gowns were made in bold colours, or brides would simply wear their best dress on their wedding day. Long white gowns became popular after Queen Victoria controversially had her wedding gown made in white - very expensive and out of reach financially for the the every day royal subject, but the fashion trend stuck! It was meant to be seen as a symbol of virginal purity.
Today couples can wear whatever they want, although the majority of women still choose to wear white. Some weddings have a colour and theme and guests are often invited to join in. There are more and more couples choosing to wear different colours for their outfits, more so if it is a second marriage.
If you would like to speak to a Celebrant about which traditions you'd like to keep and which ones you'd like to ditch for your marriage ceremony - find a TCN Celebrant in your area today.