Unveiling American Wedding Ceremony Traditions

The tradition of the wedding dates back to as early as prehistoric times.  Back when a groom need only carry a woman away to claim her as his bride.  Today, most of our traditions have developed as a result of changing values, beliefs, and the overall status quo.  No longer is it acceptable for a man to enter a town, throw a woman over his shoulder, and carry her away as his.

While the actual traditions of American wedding ceremonies continue to change and evolve with the times, the overall practice of certain wedding traditions has stuck with brides and grooms throughout the years.

Tradition of wedding veils - While the wedding veil has held different meanings for different cultures, one common belief is that wedding veils protected the purity of the bride from evil spirits.  Another source attests that the opaque wedding veils were used to prevent the groom from seeing the bride’s face until after the ceremony was over.  This of course is why brides had to be literally escorted down the aisle by their fathers and given away to their groom.  Wedding veils today are used more as a fashion statement that that of necessity.  From short blusher veils to long cathedral veils, the styles of veils change with each passing year and are based a lot on the personality of the bride and the style of her wedding gown.

Tradition of the aisle runner - It has been a superstition among many cultures that demons lurked underneath the ground and it was bad luck for the bride to come in contact with the ground before the ceremony.  Thus aisle runners acted as a barrier between the ground and those evil spirits.  Traditionally, a white aisle runner has symbolized a pathway of purity.  More so today, the aisle runner is not only used for decoration but as a clean surface for the bride to walk down in her wedding gown.  Bride’s today are breaking the mold on traditional aisle runners opting for personalized runners or alternatives like rose petals or burlap.

Tradition of the flower girl  -  Children have long been associated with weddings and were thought to bring luck and fertility to a wedding.  In Greek times, young girls were used to throw grain and herbs in the bride’s path as a symbol of fruitfulness.  This tradition has not changed much today evolving only through the years into a more romantic nature with traditional flower girls now throwing flower petals from flower girl baskets instead of wheat.  For modern fall brides looking for a unique twist on flower petals, they may be interested in opting for this traditional medium of wheat.

Tradition of the ring bearer - Originally it was tradition for a small boy (or page boy) to carry the bride’s wedding train for the bride. But as wedding gown styles changed, the need for a page boy dwindled and the ring bearer was born. Now typically an American tradition, a young relative of the bride or groom is given the duty of carrying the wedding rings down the aisle on a small ring pillow to present to the bride and groom.

Why a groom’s side and a bride’s side?  In years past, fathers were known to offer their daughters up as a peace offering to resolve a war between tribes.  To eliminate any conflict during the ceremony, the two families would sit on opposite sides of the room.  Today you will still see the bride’s family and groom’s family sitting on opposite sides with the bride’s family typically sitting on the left side of the altar where the bride stands during the ceremony.  Just as noteworthy, brides began to stand to the left of the groom back in Ancient times so that the groom’s fighting hand would be free to ward off anyone who wished his bride harm.

Whichever traditions you decide to incorporate into your wedding day is up to you. Your wedding will show your personality and your hopes and dreams for the future. There really is no right or wrong with today’s weddings.  What do you think of today’s traditions compared to some of these ones of the past? Will you be holding true to superstition and tradition for your own wedding?

“A History of the American Wedding.” Random History. May 8, 2007. Web.  Jan 17, 2013.
Hudson, Sandie. “A History of the Wedding Ceremony.” Writing Historical Romance. Sandie Hudson. Oct 23, 2010. Web. Jan 17, 2013.
Stewart, Arlene Hamilton. A Bride’s Book of Wedding Traditions. New York: Hearst Books, 1995. Print.
“Wedding Traditions: The Aisle Runner.” Majestic Gardens. 2013. Web. Jan 18, 2013.

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