Wedding Traditions

Occidental selection

 

We have all thought about our wedding, how it would be, what we would wear, where we would do it… At least once in our lives, we stopped to think about that magical day. We say it’s every little girls’ dream. Well, even if I don’t think that’s true (many woman don’t want to get married), it was at least true in my case. No, I don’t have that typical “wedding book” somewhere in my house, waiting patiently for the day I’ll finally take it out, but I did always picture myself floating down the aisle wearing that beautiful long white dress, looking at my significant other in the eyes and saying “I Do”. And I’m sure I’m not the only one with a “wedding” file on Pinterest.

Well, like I said, I’m pretty sure we’ve all thought about it once or twice in our lives, and each one of us has a special personal idea of how their wedding is going to be. Maybe they dream of big weddings in amazing landscapes, of a small wedding with a few friends in a pretty garden, or even of eloping in a small church in Paris. There are all kinds of weddings in all kinds of places all around the world, and there is no right or wrong way to do them. That’s one of the reasons they’re so magical.

 

However, there are some traditions that go from generation to generation, and from wedding to wedding.

My personal favorites:

What is a wedding if not a moment of love? We’re not only talking about love between the bride and the groom (bride and bride, groom and groom). We’re talking all kinds of love. It’s a moment to share with your family, your closest friends, and to develop new bonds with your partner’s family and friends. My favorite traditions are the ones that show this love.

 

The father/Daughter Dance: It’s a beautiful tradition where the father and the daughter share a beautiful moment of happiness and affection while dancing to a song they chose, before the father “gives her away” to her husband, so they can have their first dance.

The first Dance: you may have guessed it, I love the dancing part. It’s because I think that dancing is a way of expressing feelings and emotions that are hard to express differently. We dance when we’re happy, or when we’re in love. And the first dance between the newlyweds is a way of starting their new life together in harmony, and share it with the people they love most.

The traditions we take for granted:

There have been so many weddings through the centuries that some things have fallen into the normality of what weddings should look like. We’re so used to them that we sometimes forget that they are traditions, which means they’re not necessarily present in every wedding.

 

The white dress: this is probably the first thing we think of when we imagine a wedding. A beautiful white dress for a beautiful white wedding. No matter the shape, the length or the design, white dresses are almost always present in this wedding image we have. However, before the queen Victoria decided to wear a white dress at her wedding in the 1840’s and start the tradition, women used to wear soft colored dresses to their weddings. But since the color white represents purity, light and innocence, it became the perfect wedding symbol.

The Veil: well, even though today the veil is a choice of beauty and appearance, having brides wear tiaras in its place, sometimes flowers, or nothing at all, a few decades ago it was a no brainer: every bride would wear a veil for her wedding ceremony. It was a symbol of virginity. The groom, or sometimes the bride’s father, would unveil the bride at the altar as a way of saying: “there you go, you have the right to not be a virgin anymore”. Crazy if we think about it in this way, right? However the veil became a beautiful and romantic tradition with a disappearing meaning, or at least in some cultures.

The Bouquet: A long, long time ago, when witches and knights still existed, brides would carry flowers because they were considered to be magical and they would protect the newlyweds of illness and evil spirits. Today, still magical in a way, the bouquet will bring happiness to the happy couple, and the ribbon that holds them together symbolizes the fellowship that will hold the marriage together.

Cutting the cake: While we don’t usually see this as a tradition but more of an integral part of the wedding, this simple action had a whole meaning when it started, creating this everlasting tradition. Cutting the cake together represents the very first activity that the couple’s going to do together as a married couple. However, originally, the bride would cut the cake alone as a symbol of, here again, losing her virginity! In French weddings, the cake in itself is a whole part of the wedding. There is the traditional French wedding cake, the “croquembouche” which gets higher and bigger the more guests there are. Lights go down, the crowd starts singing “le gateau” (the cake) and sometimes, there might even be small fireworks shooting from the cake. Only then can the French couple cut and feed the cake to each other.

The traditions that make a wedding so special:

There are so many wedding traditions. Some are not very common, some have been almost forgotten, and some are present in every occidental wedding, whether in Spanish, American or Parisian weddings. Here are a few of the most known and loved traditions:

 

Something Old, something New, something Borrowed and something Blue. It is said that you need these four good-luck objects to have a good and successful wedding and marriage.

The “something old” symbolizes continuity, the brides’ family bond and her life before her wedding. It can be anything really, from a family heirloom to the veil worn by the bride’s mother on her wedding day.

The “something new” represents the new step the couple is taking and the life they’re building. This “new” object gives them optimism for their future. It’s usually the wedding dress, but it can be the shoes, a necklace or even your new underwear bought especially for the occasion.

The “something borrowed” is usually borrowed from a happily married friend or a family member and it ensures that the happiness and luck this couple has will pass on to the newlyweds. You’re borrowing some luck from a person you love through a piece of jewelry or even a pair of socks.

The “something blue” symbolizes fidelity, love and purity, and it was originally meant to get rid of evil eye. This blue detail can be a pretty bow tie on your hair or a soft blue flower in your bouquet.

Rice Shower: This is a very old and beautiful tradition that brings everybody together. After the ceremony, the guests start throwing rice at the newlyweds, accompanying it with heartwarming wishes of happiness and love. This tradition goes way back and it’s said to bring fertility and prosperity while driving away the evil spirits. This tradition is really common in French weddings. Sadly, throwing rice is really bad for the birds that will want to eat it afterwards, so people are replacing it with petals or even soap bubbles. We’ll do anything to preserve our traditions!

The Bridesmaids: the tradition of bridesmaids started off as a way of confusing evil spirits. Apparently, they believed that by having bridesmaids dressed in the same colors as the bride, the evil spirit would get distracted and not be able to spoil the bride’s happiness.

The Wedding Garter: You won’t see this at every wedding party, but I think it’s a very fun and sexy tradition to keep. It’s based, like so many other traditions, in a superstition. Apparently, people believed that owning a piece of the wedding dress would grant them good luck. So, to prevent being attacked at the end of the ceremony by the guests who wanted to rip off the wedding dress, women started to wear a garter just to have something to give away. This lead to the removal of the garter tradition. The bride will sit down and the groom will take off her garter in front of everyone. Then, he will either toss it to the male guests or, like the Spanish like to do, the garter will be put to “auction” and sold to the highest bidder. The man who got the garter will sometimes have to put it on the woman who got the bouquet, and that’s a whole other fun and sexy game.

Bouquet Toss: At the end of the exquisite evening, after the feast and the dancing, comes the bouquet toss. It’s one of the traditions that are almost always present in wedding celebrations, whether they’re big or small weddings. It started off for the same reasons as the wedding garter tradition. Everyone wanted a piece of the bride, or at least touch her to take some good luck home, and single girls would hope that by touching her, they would soon be married too. To escape the crazy single ladies, the bride would often toss her bouquet and run away. And thus, the bouquet tossing tradition was created! Today, it became kind of a game where the bride turns her back to the single women at the party and tosses the bouquet. Supposedly, whoever gets it is going to be the next one to get married. If these traditions worked every time, the man with the garter and the woman with the bouquet should be able to start planning their wedding right away!

The traditions that not everyone knows about:

Put a sixpence in your shoe. Apparently, putting a sixpence in your shoe is going to help bring good wishes to your wealth. Personally, I had never heard of this tradition, but apparently it’s part of the good-luck objects’ list. According to the tradition, the father has to slip a sixpence into his daughter’s shoe right before the wedding as a way to wish her prosperity.

Getting married in June. I don’t believe many people know this, since nowadays any month is a good month to get married, but apparently the month June was named after Juno, the protector of women and the goddess of marriage, so it was the most popular month to get married on. Besides, the weather is always better in June, and for a nice wedding in Paris, June is the perfect month.

Writing a letter to your significant other the night before the Big Day. I think this tradition is very sweet and romantic and I’m definitely doing this on my wedding. Since you’re usually not supposed to see your spouse on the day before your wedding (because you’re out partying and celebrating your last day as a single person), writing this letter, and reading the one your partner sent you, lets you reflect on the reasons why you love them so much and why marrying them is the best decision of your life.

Freezing a slice of your wedding cake. Freezing the top layer of the wedding cake was originally done to celebrate their first child’s christening, but today, couples just freeze it to celebrate their first year’s anniversary!

Kidnapping the bride: in Germany, while the groom is too busy having fun, some of his friends are going to “kidnap” his bride. Without getting noticed, they will run away with her to a bar, any bar in the city, and start drinking until the husband finds them. He will, of course, have to pay for all the drinks his friends, and random people who already were in the bar, drank. Germans really do know how to have some fun!

 

These are just some wedding traditions from a very long list, some disappeared with time, and some will probably last forever. And these are only based on occidental weddings. Oriental weddings have some very different traditions that started centuries back and that I will love to share with you in the next article.

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