Weddings

5 classic wedding traditions with interesting histories

©iStockphoto.com/kuzma Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/kuzma Author: Canadian Living

Weddings

5 classic wedding traditions with interesting histories

Most of us are familiar with the traditions that accompany weddings, but how much do you actually know about their origins? Everything from the colour of the bride's dress to the bouquet toss to the finger you wear your ring on has meaning.

However, in the chaos of planning a wedding, many don't think to find out more about the very traditions that will be part of their ceremony.

We spoke with a range of wedding experts to learn more about the history of five specific wedding traditions.

1. The bridal veil
Tracey Manailescu, the cofounder and vice-president of The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada and the owner of Tracey M Events, notes that, historically, wearing a veil served two main purposes.

The first purpose was practical, as the veil was a way of protecting the bride's face from the elements. The second, more metaphorical purpose of the veil was to serve as a symbol of purity and virtue.

"I prefer to think of the veil in modern times as a symbol of a fresh and new beginning for the happy couple," says Manailescu. "Most brides, though, are opting out of this tradition and are exchanging the veil for a fashionable headband or fascinator, if anything at all."

2. The wearing of wedding bands
According to Manailescu, the tradition of wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand began in Egypt. The ring was worn on the third finger because it was believed that this finger had a direct connection to the heart. After the Greeks invaded Egypt they too adopted the tradition, which eventually found its way to the rest of the Western world.

"The circle shape is a symbol of eternity and the open centre represents a doorway into the future," explains Manailescu. "I think the use of the wedding ring is symbolic and romantic by making a promise or commitment to each other forever."

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover the history behind the bouquet toss and the garter belt on page 2
3. The bouquet toss
Kim Choy, the owner of Morganley Weddings and Events and a certified local and destination wedding coordinator, explains that the tradition of the bouquet toss evolved from the ritual of single women ripping off bits of the bride's dress for good luck.

"Out of self-defence and not wanting to have their dresses torn, brides started to toss bouquets or pieces of their bouquets to single women," she explains.

Choy also notes that the bride's bouquet did not originally consist of just flowers: "Centuries ago brides carried aromatic bunches of fruit, garlic, blossoms and herbs to drive away evil spirits and symbolize prosperity," she says. Over the years, the tradition evolved into ornate bouquets of flowers representing happiness, fertility and love.

4. The garter belt
Oddly, the garter belt and the bouquet have similar backstories. "The tradition behind the introduction of wedding garters involved the belief that owning a piece of the bride's wedding dress would bring good luck and marriage prosperity," says Danielle Gallowitz, who is part of Manailescu's team at the Wedding Planner's Institute of Canada. The act of competing for a piece of the dress eventually got out of control and now guests -- specifically male guests -- settle for the garter. Much like the bouquet toss for the ladies, the garter is considered to be good luck for the male guest who catches it.

5. The white wedding dress
In the Victorian Era, the white colour of the bride's wedding dress symbolized her purity. However, Choy points out that prior to the Victorian Era, the colour white was not common and royal brides opted for vibrant hues in all kinds of rich fabrics. A common woman would most often wear a grey dress that could be worn again at church.

Today anything goes. "Brides are choosing to wear a variety of colours, fabrics and styles to incorporate their personal style and the evolution of fashion," says Gallowitz. "Although many continue to opt for traditional white fabrics, the emergence of ivory, off-white, eggshell and even coloured undertones contrast with traditional elements to make a dress that's a little more personal -- plus they also look great in photos."

Knowing the history behind some of the most common wedding traditions can make them a bit more special when you incorporate them into your big day. Thankfully, today's bride is no longer under the constraints of sticking to tradition, so feel free to make these classic customs your own. Talk to your wedding planner and see how you can tailor these traditions to fit your own personal style.

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Weddings

5 classic wedding traditions with interesting histories

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