BEST MAN TRADITION
Among the Germanic Goths of northern Europe in 200 A.D., a man usually married a woman from within his own community. However, when there were fewer women, the prospective bridegroom would capture his bride from a neighboring village. The bridegroom was accompanied by his strongest friend (or best friend), who helped him capture his bride.
This term has many origins from different cultures. In Anglo-Saxon times, the groom had the help of "bridesmen" or "bride knights" to help him capture and/or escort his bride. Later they would make sure that the bride got to the church and to the groom's home afterwards. The women who accompanied and assisted the bride were called "bridesmaids" or "brides women".
Bridal showers were meant to strengthen the ties between the bride and her friends, provide her moral support and help her prepare for her marriage. Gift giving at showers dates from the 1890's.
The tradition of bridesmaids dressing the same as each other and in similar style to the bride comes from ancient days when it was believed that evil spirits have a more difficult time distinguishing which one is the bride and putting a hex on her.
In the 1st century B.C. in Rome, the cake was thrown at the bride or broken over her head as one of the many fertility symbols which then were a part of the marriage ceremony. Cutting the wedding cake together, still a predominant ritual at weddings, symbolizes the couple's unity, their shared future, and their life together as one. The three tiered cake is believed to have been inspired by the spire of Saint Bride's Church in London, England.
CARRYING THE BRIDE OVER THE THRESHOLD
Traditionally, the bride had to enter her new home the first time through the front door. If she tripped or stumbled while entering it was considered to be very bad luck. Hence the tradition of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold.
DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING
The diamond engagement ring originated with King Maximillian who presented Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring in 1477 as a token of his love. The Venetians popularized the custom during the 15th century. Since the diamond was the hardest and most enduring substance in nature, it followed that the engagement and marriage would endure forever.
In 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas I decreed that an engagement ring become a required statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that engagement rings had to be made of gold which signified a financial sacrifice on the part of the prospective husband.
GARTER AND BRIDAL BOUQUET TOSS
In parts of Europe during the 14th century, having a piece of the bride's clothing was thought to bring good luck. Guests would literally destroy the brides dress by ripping off pieces of fabric. In order to prevent this, brides began throwing various items to the guests - the garter belt being one of the items. In order to avoid this problem, it became customary in the 14th century for the bride to toss her garter to the men. Sometimes the men would get drunk, become impatient, and try to remove the garter ahead of time. Therefore, the custom evolved for the groom to remove and toss the garter. With that change the bride started to toss the bridal bouquet to the unwed girls of marriageable age. Tradition says that whoever catches the bouquet shall be the next to marry. She keeps the bouquet to ensure this destiny. Sometimes if appropriate the single man that catches the garter and the single woman that catches the bouquet are asked to dance together. Note: This happened and that new introduction of two strangers and the dance of these two created a love and they were married in Rome, Italy, only one year later ! Who says these traditions do not work!!!
KISS THE BRIDE
The kiss dates back to the earliest days of civilization in the Middle East. A kiss was used as the formal seal to agreements, contracts, etc. In Ancient Rome a kiss was still being used as the legal bold to seal contracts. Hence the obvious use of the custom at the end of the wedding ceremony to "seal" the marriage vows.
MONTH TO MARRY
According to an old legend, the month in which you marry may have some bearing on the fate of the marriage: "Married when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind and true; When February birds do mate, you wed nor dread your fate; If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know; Marry in April when you can, joy for Maiden and for Man; Marry in the month of May, and you'll surely rue the day; Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you will go; Those who in July do wed, must labor for their daily bread; Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see; Marry in September's shrine, your living will be rich and fine; If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry; If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember; When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last".
Rice has been used as a symbol of fertility and as a wish for a "full pantry" in various parts of the world from ancient to modern times. In the past, rice was not the only thing thrown at the bride and groom as the left the wedding. Wheat, instead of rice, was thrown in France, figs and dates were thrown in Northern Africa, and a combination of coins, dried fruit, and candy was thrown in Italy. In some European countries eggs are thrown! Rice is not harmful to the birds that eat it, but an article in California professing this to be the case, has caused birdseed to replace rice at most weddings. Flower petals, and bird seeds are often used today instead of rice.
Rings were used as currency in the Middle East prior to the advent of coinage and were a sign of a persons wealth. In ancient times the wedding ring was thought to protected the bride from "evil spirits". Ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron. In early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped hands. Very early rings had a carved key through which a woman was thought to be able to open her husband's heart.
In 3rd. century Greece the ring finger was the index finger. In India it was the thumb. The western tradition began with the Greeks who believed that the third finger was connected directly to the heart by a route that was called "the vein of love."
SHOES TO THE CAR
This tradition originated in England during the Tudor period. At that time, guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom as they left in their carriage. It was considered good luck if their carriage was hit. Today, more often than not, it is beverage cans that are tied to a couples car instead of shoes. It should also be noted that the English consider it good luck if it rains on their wedding day!
In Sparta, during the height of Greek civilization, soldiers were the first to hold stag parties. The groom would have a party for his friends the night before he was to marry. He would bid farewell to his bachelorhood and pledge his continued allegiance to his comrades.
SOMETHING "OLD", "NEW", "BORROWED", AND "BLUE"
The tradition of carrying one or more items that are "old", "new", "borrowed" and "blue" also comes from English. There is an old English rhyme describing the practice which also mentions a sixpence in the brides shoe. Something old, signifying continuity, could be a piece of lace, jewelry, or a grandmother's handkerchief. Something new, signifying optimism in the future, could be an article of clothing or the wedding rings. Something borrowed, signifying future happiness, could be handkerchief from a happily married relative or friend. Something blue, signifying modesty, fidelity and love, comes from early Jewish history. In early Biblical times, blue not white symbolized purity. Both the bride and groom usually wore a band of blue material around the bottom of their wedding attire, hence the tradition of "something blue". Originally the sixpence was presented to the bride by her future husband as a token of his love. Today, very often, it is the bride's father who places a coin in the brides shoe prior to leaving home for the church.
"TO TIE THE KNOT"
The term "tie the knot" also goes back Roman times. The bride would wear a girdle that was tied in many knots which the groom had the "duty" of untying.
The term originates from the sixteenth century. At that time a small piece of bread would be placed in a goblet of wine. The goblet would be passed from guest to guest until it reached the person being honored who would drain the goblet and eat the morsel of bread in the bottom. This tradition is practiced at weddings today - usually in the form of one or more champagne "toasts". The best man has the honor of giving the first toast. Usually the bride and groom remain seated for the toasts while all the guests are usually standing to honor them. The couple may then make a few remarks thanking their families, wedding party members, and guests. They may also "toast" each other or share a "toast" together. Often special glass or silver goblets are used by the bride and groom.
The tradition of tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed's vehicle originated long ago when items which would produce noise were tied to the back of the couple's carriage to scare away evil spirits.
Brightly colored veils were worn in ancient times in many parts of the world and were considered a protection against evil spirits Greek and Roman brides for yellow or red veils (representing fire) to ward off evil spirits and demons. At one time, Roman brides were completely covered with a red veil for protection. In early European history, with the advent of arranged marriages veils served another purpose - to prevent the groom from seeing the brides' face till after the ceremony was over. Brides began to wear opaque yellow veils. Not only could the groom not see in, the bride could not see out! Therefore, the father of the bride had to escort her down the aisle and literally give the bride to the groom.
WEARING A WEDDING RING
The reason that the engagement ring and wedding band is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand is because the ancient Egyptians thought that the "vein of love' ran from this finger directly to the heart.
WHITE WEDDING DRESS AS TRADITION
The tradition for the bride to wear a white wedding dress began in the 16th century and is still commonly followed today. This is a symbol of the bride's purity and her worthiness of her groom. The tradition became solidified during the time of Queen Victoria who rebelled against the royal tradition for Royal brides to wear silver. Instead, the queen preferred the symbolism, which is expressed by wearing white. The brides of the time quickly emulated the queen, and the tradition has continued in full force to this day.
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS TO THE GROOMS LEFT
After the bridegroom captured his bride, he placed her on his left to protect her, thus freeing his right hand or sword hand against sudden attack.
WHY IT BECAME "BAD LUCK" FOR THE GROOM TO SEE BRIDE BEFORE THE CEREMONY
Until relatively recently, brides were considered the property of their father. Their futures and husbands were arranged without their consent. The marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom saw his future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the day of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar. To prevent this from happening, it became "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.