Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wedding Traditions - Keep 'Em or Toss 'Em?

After attending a couple of weddings in the spring, witnessing significant differences in the ceremonies, and hearing of a number of other weddings this summer, our family has been talking about what might, or possibly might not, be incorporated into any weddings we might be involved in in the future. We've been considering the origins of some of the practices implemented in typical wedding ceremonies, and while we recognize that over time meanings change, that what was once done for one reason may be done today for entirely different reasons, some of what we've learned has been interesting and possibly worth re-considering when planning a wedding.
Below are just a few practices we've been taking a bit of a look at.   We haven't decided one way or the other about any or all of those mentioned below, necessarily, but thought we'd invite you into the discussion.  So much more could be said about each, this is just a quick synopsis of a few of our thoughts.  

Bride Given By Father

We see this as biblical, though most references to it today refer to it as something negative which, in times past, it may have been to some degree - particularly when marriages were arranged for convenience, established in order to gain property and other wealth.  A godly father physically giving his daughter in marriage to a godly young man, in essence transferring her safekeeping to him, is so beautiful, and the biblical picture of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, coming for His Bride, the Church, might also be incorporated into the wedding ceremony somehow.

Best Man/Groomsmen

Given the original reason for a so-called best man and the groomsmen, which was to help the groom kidnap a young woman from, say, a neighbouring village by fighting off those trying to prevent it, their role is something worth considering.  Obviously, there's no such nefarious implication today, rather the roles are  typically filled by good friends and/or brothers, willing to stand with the groom, to support him as he embarks upon this new season in his life, and to exhort him to live biblically with his bride. 

Maid/Matron of Honour & Bride's Maids

In times of old, these young ladies dressed like the bride in order to fool evil spirits so they couldn't do her harm - sort of a bait and switch scenario. Needless to say, today this role is to mirror that of the best man and the groomsmen, to be a help and support to the bride.  Nevertheless, the origins of the role does give one pause for thought.

Bride's Family on Left/Groom's Family on Right

Originally instituted to keep the two families apart as they often didn't like each other, apparently.   

Bridal Bouquet

Bouquets were originally instituted in wedding ceremonies to ward off evil spirits, and later as symbols of fertility.  The first bouquets were made of garlic and herbs.

Throwing The Bouquet (and Garter)

  Instituted because guests used to rip pieces of clothing off the bride, or snatch a flower from her bouquet, in order to make away with a bit of good luck.  To prevent this, the bride began to toss the bouquet as a distraction so she could make her get-away relatively unscathed. Today, of course, the silly implication remains - that if a single young woman catches the bouquet she may be "lucky" enough to snag a man.  Likewise with a single young man catching the garter, a practice, we readily admit, which makes us cringe significantly. There's just something wholly inappropriate, we think, of having a young woman's undergarments removed and tossed to a crowd of men!

White Wedding Dress

 This tradition first came into fashion when Queen Victoria got married, as she wore white.  Prior to that most brides just wore their best dress, some had one made, but it wasn't typically white.  That said, the symbolism behind a white dress is not lost on the Christian who's been washed as white as snow by the blood of the Lamb, clothed in His righteousness, a symbol of purity - so to speak - of the spotless Bride of Christ. 


 When considering the veil, we were reminded of the "fast one" pulled on Jacob in the Bible when he discovered Leah was his bride, and not whom he expected, Rachel.  It implies that Leah was heavily veiled.  The use of the veil also hearkens back to when grooms kidnapped their brides.  According to one bit of wedding lore we've read, they'd keep the young lady's face obscured under a cloth in order to keep her identity hidden.  Once married there was nothing the bride's family could do about it, and the veil was removed.


The longer the train, the higher one's social standing. 

Bride on the Groom's Left

 This was so that the groom would have his right arm free in order to do battle with his sword as he made off with the girl. 

Wedding Ring on Left Ring Finger

 The Romans believed the vein in that finger ran directly to the heart.  The never-ending circle represents unbroken love.  A wedding ring is something with merit regardless of it's origins, we think, as it quickly identifies the wearer as being married.

Tiered Wedding Cake

 In times of old, guests brought small, tasteless cakes made of wheat and symbolizing fertility to be thrown at the bride.  Leftover cakes were piled into a heap, the higher the heap, the more "blessed" their fertility.  A french baker eventually came up with the idea of stacking the cakes and decorating them as one big cake - again, the higher the cake, the more blessed, superstitiously thinking, the couple.

Throwing Rice

 Again, a symbol of fertility - it eventually replaced tossing the little cakes.  And then, of course, confetti replaced rice, and bubbles have, in many instances, replaced confetti.


 We see so many instances of wedding feasts in the Bible that it seems this aspect of celebration is a good one.  Of course, feasting may mean one thing to one family and something else to another.  Surely most would agree, however, that breaking the bank to provide expensive "per plate" dinners seems excessive, perhaps more simple faire would do just as well, rather than placing undue burden upon the families of the young man and woman.


  In Roman times, there was a very real fear of being poisoned by your host when invited to dinner/feast, so the host would pour wine from a single decanter and take the first sip, showing his guests that the wine was safe.  The actual term "toast" came about because guests dipped toasted bread into their wine in order to reduce the acidity.

Clinking Glasses

It was thought that evil spirits didn't like noise, so the clinking of glasses was implemented to ward them off. 

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold

 In the days when men from neighbouring villages kidnapped brides, the bride had to be carried into the bedchamber, no doubt fighting tooth and nail all the way.  In later times, this practice was supposed to represent the bride's reluctance to give herself to her groom, as it wouldn't be "ladylike" for her to desire him.


 In medieval times, in some people groups, weddings only took place under a full moon and the bride and groom drank honey wine for one full moon cycle, hence the name "honeymoon".  Of course, many a young Christian man would gladly point to Deuteronomy 24:5 and happily heed its admonition!

Given the beautiful picture in Scripture of Christ, the Bridegroom, coming for His spotless Bride, the Church, we can't help but believe that the wedding ceremony of believers should point primarily to Christ.  That so many of today's traditions have their origin in superstition or unsavory practices, should be cause to, at the very least, re-examine what we do and why we do it. While we don't fault others for planning or engaging in "traditional" wedding practices, we hope some of what we've shared will serve as a catalyst for deeper thought, for good discussion amongst our readers' families, just as it has in ours.

If you have any thoughts about anything we've written, do please share them with us, we'd love to know what you think!

Edited to add:  This post was actually written by Mom, though Bethany's name appears at the bottom.  Mom forgot to log in under her own name and we don't know how to change it.  That said, it was somewhat of a joint effort, because we've been thinking and talking of these things for some time as a family. 


  1. It is too late at night, after a long week for me to respond to it all, but the Feast section immediately reminded me of Paul's and Debbie's desire to have a covered dish dinner after their own wedding.

    Hannah has always said she wants a lunch served and would like it to be covered dish, only now, she wants it healthy and sugar free. :)

    Whatever we do when our young adults marry, pointing to Christ first and truly rejoicing and celebrating should be key to the wedding and the reception.

    One thing you didn't mention was the cake and punch and we believe these point to the covenant. They are a symbol of communion and it is sad to us that this is rarely taught or announced at receptions.

    God bless you all,

  2. Ladonna, which cake? I did refer to the wedding cake, but you southerners do things differently, so maybe you meant another cake? We don't typically serve cake and punch, other than the wedding cake, except for maybe having punch out to tide folk over while pictures are being taken, or something like that. Do southerners have a different cake and punch tradition, one that you referred to as being symbolic of the Lord's Supper?

    And we so agree with you regarding the wedding pointing to Christ first and foremost, and it also being cause for great celebration!!

    Tell Hannah she'll have to get a lot of people eating your way if she's going to have a covered dish meal. I'm afraid a great many of us wouldn't know what to make and she'd end up with a lot of green salad!

    God Bless You Too, Dear Friend!!!

  3. What a neat post, Debbie! Many people do certain things just because others have always done them, and I think it is good to avoid meaningless traditions like those.

    Almost any wedding element, prayerfully and carefully chosen, and that is accompanied by an explanation, will be inspirational and instructive and a blessing to all in attendance.

    It's in the families' jurisdiction to design the ceremony, so they should try to really 'own' it and make it as meaningful as they can. They should be trying to bless the guests, not to impress them.

  4. I had no idea of the origins of some of those traditions! Some things I guess I don't think about "having to think about!" Thank you so much for researching and writing about this! It is a good reminder to me to question everything I do to make sure it lines up with Scripture! I'm going to tuck these things away for future use. It will help as our children get ready to be married. It'll come sooner than I will believe!
    God bless!

  5. Hi Debbie,

    We threw the bouquet but there was no way I was having a garter. I refused to wear one. Often the garter is the way brides get "something blue".

    Another tradition I don't like is hitting the glasses with a piece of cutlery to get the bride and groom to kiss. No one did it at our wedding - we'd planned just to ignore it if it did happen!

  6. I don't know about all this. Christians celebrate Christmas which started out as an evil celebration. So evil that the pilgrim forefathers made it illegal to even bake Christmas cake during the "Christmas Season".