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Decoding the traditions

July 27, 2011

One of the first things I did after getting engaged was research wedding traditions. If I was going to incorporate these elements into my wedding, I wasn’t going to do it blindly. I wanted to know what they meant and why they were included. Tradition is, in my opinion, a wonderful thing. But the wonderfulness {I may have just made that word up} is in the symbolism–the meaning behind the act or practice. If you’re doing something just to do it, or because it’s what everyone else does, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Your wedding day should be infused with meaning. It’s the day that represents who you are, who your partner is, and ultimately, who you are becoming, and will become, together. With that in mind, let’s decode some traditions, shall we?

Something Blue via Style Me Pretty

Something Old, Something Blue

Something Old provides continuity from generation to generation and a connection to love’s past. Traditionally, the bride carries something from her mother’s family, linking her to the women that have gone before her.

Something New symbolizes optimism, hope, and success for the bride’s new life ahead.

Something Borrowed is meant to convey borrowed happiness. As the bride borrows an item from {as tradition suggests} a happily married woman, she borrows some of her happiness as well and carries it with her into her new marriage. Borrowing also reminds the bride that she can–and should!–lean on her friends and family in times of need.

Something Blue symbolizes a number of things: loyalty, constancy, fidelity, love, and good fortune are a few.

And the fifth, a Sixpence in Her Shoe, is meant to bring wealth or financial security to the new couple when placed under the bride’s left foot {the lucky one apparently}. If you can’t find a sixpence, a shiny new penny will do–or so I’m told. By the way, is there any way to stuff a whole bunch of pennies in there for extra financial security? Just checkin.

Bouquets & Boutonierres

Traditionally, carrying {or wearing} flowers during the ceremony was meant to ward off evil spirits. In fact, bouquets and boutonierres were made of herbs and spices to achieve this goal {apparently evil spirits don’t like spices}. Of course, other traditions state that the type and color of flower symbolize various values for the bride and groom. For example, the bride’s all white bouquet symbolizes purity {duh} and fidelity.

Additionally, in the medieval times, the groom wore his lady’s colors in flowers to symbolize his devotion to her. And maybe for a little extra scent–I hear they didn’t get to bathe all that often back then. Ick.

Dressed in white via Style Me Pretty


In early Roman times, the bride’s maids escorted the bride to the groom’s village and were meant to shield and protect her {you know, from angry suitors or thieves attempting to steal her dowry}. Later Roman law stated that the bride and groom must have ten witnesses present to ward off evil spirits. These attendants dressed identical to the bride and groom in order to confuse the spirits. Those clever Romans! {By the way, The Dessy Group has an awesome Bride’s Guide to Bridesmaids.}

Flower Girl & Ring Bearer

The flower girl and ring bearer announce the bride’s entrance and prepare the way for her. Royal weddings include a whole group of attendants {cue the image of Pippa walking down the aisle surrounded by wee ones}. The flower girl herself serves as a sentimental reminder of childhood and youthful innocence and is the reason why she often wears white or mimics the bride’s dress.

The Rings

The round shape of the ring symbolizes eternity–makes sense, right? We wear it on our third finger because the Egyptians believed the “vein of love” ran from the ring finger directly to the heart. Ok, I kinda like this one.

You May Kiss the Bride

The Romans believed that the ceremonial kiss joined the souls of the bride and groom thereby sealing their commitment to one another for eternity. Think about that one for a moment. I think it’s a beautiful picture. Maybe a little creepy but beautiful nonetheless.

Who wants to eat such a pretty cake? Via Ruffled

Cutting the Cake

Cutting the cake is the first official task the bride and groom accomplish together and therefore marks the beginning of many joint tasks they will take on as husband and wife. The gesture of feeding cake to one another {I said feeding, not smashing} and eating together was believed to create a bond between the couple. The cake itself served as a symbol of fertility. Let the baby makin’ begin!

The First Dance

The dance between bride and groom follows the tradition of the old-fashioned ball whereby the guests of honor opened the ball with a first dance. In a way, you’re saying to your guests–let’s PARTY!


O mi gosh, I could go ON and ON. Wedding traditions ABOUND. Which isn’t surprising if you consider how long the tradition of marriage is {it’s LONG, people}. But you know, I think that’s my most favorite tradition of all–marriage itself. Some say marriage is on its way out–I think it’s simply evolving and in need of a little positive reframe {that’s the therapy term we use for changing perspective}. And truthfully, I don’t think it will ever cease to be–because it’s ultimately more than just a tradition. It’s a choice, a yearning, and an age-old subversion. Don’t believe me? Read up on the history of marriage. Or better yet, hold your horses and wait for me to post about it. 🙂


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