Do you ever wonder about the history behind the wedding traditions we celebrate today? From the ancient history of bachelor parties to the real story behind the honeymoon, keep reading to learn the mysteries behind these old traditions we still celebrate today.

 

  1. The Bachelor/ Bachelorette Party

The bachelor party is ancient history, literally. Believe it or not, the celebrated “bachelor party” first began during the 5th century B.C. when Spartan soldiers mustered up a celebration for their friend’s last night as a single man. The evening included a dinner and toasts to honor the groom. How did strippers become a part of today’s traditional bachelor party, you may ask? Well, in 1896, a man known as Herbert Barnum Seeley held a bachelor party for his brother, and rumors spread like wildfire that a famed belly dancer would be performing nude at the party. Soon, other men wanted include exotic dancers in the bachelor party festivities. Before the late 19th century, the closest thing a woman had to a bachelor party was a bridal shower. During the times of 1960s, “the sexual revolution,” women across America started their own version of the pre-wedding partying. And so, the bachelorette party was conceived. ₁

 

 

  1. Wedding Rings and the Left Finger

The wedding ring, too, is a part of ancient history. It has been known, for as long as we know, a symbol of commitment to one’s partner. What many do not realize, however, is that it was not until the 1940s that it became customary for men to fashion the wedding ring. During this time, men at war began wearing the ring as a way of remembering their commitment to their wife. The wedding ring first began as an ancient tradition of the Ancient Egyptians (dating back as early as 3000 BC). These rings symbolized eternity, and they were made of interlaced hemp or reeds. The ring was placed by the husband onto his wife’s fourth finger of the left hand, which today, is known as the “ring finger.” Why that finger, you may wonder? Egyptians believed that a vein from that finger ran straight to the heart. The Greeks and Romans also believed in the hand to heart connection. They believed that the “Vena Amoris,” or “Vein of Love,” flowed between this finger and the heart. ₂

 

  1. Rain as Good Luck

Rain on a wedding day is said to be good luck, but why? It is a part of the Hindu tradition, which rain is considered a gift from gods. ₁₂ In the Hindu culture, rain is a symbol of fortune. This was particularly true during the times when the people greatly suffered a drought, and rain brought with it plentiful amounts of crops; therefore, the rain brought good fortune. The Hindu people believed that rain could predict a strong marriage. Their reasoning for this was because a wet knot is difficult to untie. ₁₂

  1. The Veil

Dated back to ancient Rome, when marriages were arranged, brides wore orange veils to conceal their faces. In these arranged marriages, they did not meet their spouse until the day of their wedding. ₁₀ To further preserve the mystery, women used these veils that completely concealed their faces. It is imagined to have created a lot of suspense and shock on the day of the wedding. We are guessing it also caused either a lot of relief, delight, or disappointment, as well.

 

  1. The White Dress

Before the 20th century, colorful wedding dresses were considered the “norm.” On her wedding day, a bride wore her best dress and the finest jewelry that she owned. While there are a few historic women known for sporting white gowns over the last hundred years (including Mary Queen of Scots, 1558), there is one woman who stands out as the wedding dress trend-setter. It was during the rule of Queen Victoria that the white gown became popularized. On the day of Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, her stunning white gown became something that all women wanted to emulate. Since then, it has become a common tradition for women to wear white on the day of their wedding. ₃

 

  1. The Wedding Cake

The history of the glorious wedding cake dates back to ancient Rome. This was a time when marriages were authenticated when the groom smashed a barley cake over his bride’s head. Guests who were not yet married sometimes took home a small piece of cake to tuck under their pillow for good luck. One of the earliest wedding cake recipes found is a British recipe for “Bride’s Pye.” This recipe called for ingredients including: lamb testicles, sweetbreads, oysters, and a variety of spices. ₄ It was yet again, the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 that really set the tone for today’s sweet wedding cakes. At this time, sugar was cheaper for the people to afford. Because of low sugar prices, it was easier for the working class to emulate the royal family. ₅ It is told that tiered cakes became a tradition in the late 18th century, when the apprentice of a London baker fell in love with his boss’s daughter. The story has it that he wanted to create an elaborate cake to impress her when he proposed. ₆

 

  1. Bridesmaids Dresses

The history of bridesmaids wearing the same color dress dates back to the ancient times as well. It is an old tradition that comes from a time when bridesmaids wore the same color dresses as the bride. Yes, it is true that the bride and bridesmaids all wore a similar dress of the same color. The purpose for this was to confuse evil spirits or those who wished to harm the bride. During ancient Rome and China, some brides had to travel miles to her groom’s town. This made the bride vulnerable to attack by outsiders. With a swarm of bridesmaids all dressed similarly to the bride, it was difficult to target the bride on the road or during her ceremony. ₇

 

  1. Garter and Bouquet

The tradition of the garter got its start during the Middle Ages, when a honeymoon was not a private event. Immediately following the wedding ceremony, the newly married couple would consummate the marriage in the bedroom. The guests from the wedding would follow them to watch and made sure that the couple followed through. If guests watching was not creepy enough, there is more. In addition to the guests watching the newlywed couple do the deed, guests would reach out to grab at the bride’s dress. The guests wanted to take a piece of her dress to keep for good luck. Later on, this tradition stopped when married couples wanted more privacy. So, instead, the groom would toss his wife’s garter to guests waiting outside the bedroom. ₈

As with touching and receiving pieces of the bride’s dress, it was good luck to catch any remnants of the bride’s belongings—including flowers. To prevent guests from attacking the bride, it became a tradition for brides to throw their bouquet. Guests that were unmarried were thrilled to catch the bride’s flowers, because it was believed to bring good luck. ₉

 

  1. Giving Away the Bride

A man walking his daughter down the aisle today is seen as a sweet gesture by many. Its origin, however, did not have the same, sweet connotation. A father walking his daughter down the aisle is from the days when daughters were nothing but property to their fathers. The fathers would trade their daughters for goods or currency.  ₁₁

 

  1. The Honeymoon

The “honeymoon” originated during the time of the Babylonians. This was a period of time when people spoke of the moon cycles when referring to time. At the couple’s wedding, they were gifted one moon (about one month) worth of mead, an alcoholic honey wine. The married couple was expected to drink the honey wine for the duration of the moon cycle, a time when they were also expected to be intimate. The expectation was that the couple would become pregnant with their first child. ₁₃

In ancient Mesopotamia, the bride was expected to become pregnant shortly after the marriage. If the bride did not become pregnant or it was discovered that the bride was not a virgin, the marriage could be canceled, and the groom could return the bride to her family. ₁₄

These are just 10 of the historical wedding traditions from long ago that we still celebrate today. Did any of these facts surprise you? Comment below!

 

 

 

Sources:

1)     TIME, http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1904885,00.html

2)     Ancient Origins, https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-ancient-traditions/why-do-couples-exchange-rings-vows-elusive-ancient-origins-wedding-rings-020559

3)     TIME, http://time.com/3698249/white-weddings/

4)     Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-strange-history-of-the-wedding-cake-1-63011094/

5)     Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8461212/The-history-of-the-wedding-cake.html

6)     Reader’s Digest, https://www.rd.com/food/fun/history-of-wedding-cakes/

7)     Reader’s Digest, https://www.rd.com/culture/history-of-bridesmaids-weddings/

8)     Reader’s Digest, https://www.rd.com/culture/wedding-garter-tradition/

9)     Reader’s Digest, https://www.rd.com/culture/bouquet-toss-tradition/

10) PBS, https://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/weddings.html

11) TIME, http://time.com/5280037/meghan-markle-prince-harry-walking-down-aisle-history/

12) Hindu Website, https://www.hinduwebsite.com/symbolism/symbols/rain.asp

13) Times of India,https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Why-is-a-honeymoon-called-so/articleshow/8502866.cms

14)  Ancient History Encyclopedia, https://www.ancient.eu/article/688/love-sex-and-marriage-in-ancient-mesopotamia/

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