When you stop to think about some of the modern wedding traditions we use today, a lot of them really just don’t make much sense. Why does the bride wear white? What’s the deal with the best man and maid of honor? And who came up with throwing rice at the bridal procession? As you might expect, there’s an origin to most of those stories, and I’m willing to bet it’s not what you might think.
Tossing the Bouquet and Garter
This is one of the most common wedding traditions in the Western world. After the vows are said and the deal is sealed, the bride tosses her bouquet out to all the single ladies at the wedding, and the groom throws out the bride’s garter to a mob of eligible bachelors. Seems innocent enough. Back in the day though, the bride and groom were supposed to “make it official” immediately in a room in the church. To make sure they actually did the deed, there were witnesses, as if it wasn’t already awkward enough with your parents waiting outside. Some guests would even grab at the bride’s clothing to hopefully get some of her good luck.
Over time this changed to the groom simply throwing out the garter from the consummation room while the bride chucked the bouquet as a distraction so they could get away, and eventually, we ended up with the more innocent tradition we have today.
In olden times, a newlywed couple would be given a gift of grains and oats, along with vegetables, on the day of their wedding to represent fertility and prosperity. Eventually this became more of a symbolic gesture than one that provided edible food, and people began showering the wedding couple with these things. At some point the tradition changed entirely to rice, but even now this one tradition is starting to die out.
Wedding Cake in the Face
Every time someone rolls out a wedding cake, the crowd holds its collective breath in anticipation as they wait to see whether the groom will take the plunge and smash a piece into his new wife’s face. How did that get started?? It turns out that originally the baked good in question was a loaf of bread, and instead of smashing it in her face the groom would take a bite and then crumble the rest on top of her head. The crumbs were, as usual considered good luck.
White Wedding Dress
Before the 1800’s wedding dresses could and did come in all the colors of the rainbow. In 1840 Queen Victoria wore a white dress for her royal wedding, and the idea just seemed to stick after that.
The Best Man
This one hasn’t changed too much originally, the best man was around to help the groom kidnap the bride if she tried to run away, and to protect the groom in case an army tried to kill them. Okay, maybe it has changed a lot, but the basic idea is still the same moral support, with or without swords. The best man was actually called as such because he was the best with a sword among the groom’s friends.
If it wasn’t invading armies those old timey lovers had to worry about, it was evil spirits, which were apparently pretty common those days. The bridesmaids all wore a dress that was similar to the bride’s because evil spirits wouldn’t be able to figure out which one was the actual bride, and therefore wouldn’t be able to curse her with bad luck.