Wedding Traditions Explained

Aug 10 2018

We have all seen a car with cans or just married signs either in real life or in the movies, watched as the bride throws her bouquet into the crowd, and are all aware that brides traditionally wear veils! But why? Does anyone know the meaning of all the 'normal' wedding traditions?

Why do we exchange rings? Why do we have a cake or a first dance? Why is the first meal shared called a wedding breakfast? A bride wears something new, something borrowed and something old.. but why?

There are quite a lot of odd happenings at a wedding, but we don't bat an eyelid as we are led to believe this is what should happen.

Chloe & Richard by Ten21 Photography
A Bride and Her Veil

Wearing a veil stems back to Roman times and is meant to show off a bride’s purity. The symbol has been lost as years have passed but the tradition still stands. The Roman veil covered the bride all the way to her toes and was kept for a burial sheet.

Something Old, New and Borrowed/Blue

This tradition dates back to the Victorian times and is based on superstition. The bride would be brought good luck with these different symbols. Wearing something old ties the bride to her current family, while something new represents her future with her new family. If someone you know had a great marriage, then you borrowed something from them to bring you success as a wife. Wearing something blue represents a modest bride.

The White Wedding Dress

A bride’s dress wasn’t always white, in fact it was traditionally blue to keep in with the purity theme. In 1840, Queen Victoria wore white and set the trend for the next 150 years plus. White is the new blue!

A First Kiss

Back in the day, it was assumed that the bride and groom had never shared a kiss. And so naturally, their first kiss on their wedding day really was their first kiss! The Romans thought of a kiss as a legal contract and hence started the tradition.

Helen & Richie by Photography by Ciara

We expect bridesmaids to take on a few duties for a bride such as planning their hen party or standing by their side during photographs. In the beginning, this tradition was much more serious. Bridesmaids duties included protecting their bride travelling to the groom’s village from suitors along the way. Bridesmaids used to dress just like their bride as to confuse evil spirits trying to attack the bride and groom on their wedding day.


Originally referred to as ‘bride-knights’, groomsmen would help their local community to capture brides. Men used to kidnap their brides and needed the help of their groomsmen. Fighting off a brides family and guarding the ceremony to protect their groom were part of their job. Alike the traditional bridesmaids, the bride-knights would dress as their groom to confuse the evil spirits.

Catching and Throwing the Bouquet

In history, women carried bunches of garlic, herbs and spices to scare off evil beings. It probably also helped the awful smell of the sewage covered streets. Flowers came along later and represented different meanings. Different coloured flowers meant special things such as orange flowers for happiness. In the 14th century, a brides dress was torn for good luck by guests. As time went on a dresses became a lot nicer (and expensive!) brides wanted to give away something else… que the bouquet. Now it is considered lucky for a women to catch the brides bouquet and it is thought she will be the next bride to throw her own bouquet!

Hayley by Gather & Tides Photography
Wedding Cakes and Keeping them to Eat One Year Later

In ancient times, wedding cakes were thrown over the bride for fertility and luck. It was probably better than eating it as apparently they didn’t taste very nice back then. Around 500 years ago, cakes started becoming sweet and yummy. Fruitcakes came along in the early 1900's and wedding cakes as you know them came around 40 years ago. It is tradition to keep a piece of your wedding cake up until one year after your wedding. This was because couples were meant to bring a piece of their wedding cake to their first child’s christening which originally would have been around one year after their wedding.

A Bride's Garter

Soooo... it turns out that people of the Dark Ages were a bit weird. Guests would accompany the bride and groom back to their bed and try to steal the garter from the bride for good luck. The bridesmaids would often try and throw the stolen piece at the groom and if one hit his nose then they would be next to marry him. Of course as time went on it was no longer appropriate to follow the couple back to their bed and so now tossing the garter occurs at the wedding reception. This is more common in America.

Wedding Rings

It was allegedly Egypt where the exchanging of rings first took place. The rings were not what we think of today – sparkles and diamonds. They were instead braided reeds and rushes found on the river bed. Medeval grooms would pay off the bride’s father with precious stones. A combination of traditional Roman iron rings and these precious stones make up the traditional wedding rings we see today. All wedding rings are placed on the left hand and fourth finger which were thought by the Romans to have a vein which led to your heart.

Rachel & James by Sharon Kee Photography
Fathers giving their Daughters Away

In the beginning, a father giving his daughter away represented a transfer of ownership over to the groom. This is now a sentimental act and a dad feels proud to walk his daughter down the isle to the man she loves.

Won't see Each Other before the Ceremony

Not seeing each other before the wedding stemmed from when marriages were arranged. It was to help ensure the groom wouldn’t leave his bride if he didn’t feel attracted to her. Nowadays it increases excitement on the day and couples now even opt to have a first look for some snaps before they say I do.