Chances are, if you are planning your wedding, you are incorporating some traditional practices and customs. Certain wedding items are taken for granted, such as the wedding dress, the ring, the vows, and the bouquet toss. But where did all of these traditions originate? We will explore common wedding traditions and their sometimes surprising roots, so read on! How can you incorporate these traditions into your unique, Orange Beach wedding?
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Many new brides scramble at the last minute to make sure they have fulfilled something old, new, borrowed, and blue, and feel that their special day will get a boost of good luck from these things. This tradition comes from an Old English rhyme with the same name (adding in a “sixpence in your shoe”) and refers to good luck trinkets that ensure the bride will have a happy wedding. Even if you’re not superstitious, the meaning behind the various items is sweet. The “something old” is meant to remind the bride of her past and the strong ties with her family. The “something new” is for a new life, the “something borrowed” was traditionally from a happily married woman who could pass that luck onto the new bride, and the “something blue” stood for many things including faithfulness, loyalty, purity, and the Virgin Mary. Many new brides customize these traditions into meaningful items that they can keep to remind them of getting ready for their special day.
The Wedding Dress
Nowadays, a bride can spend a small fortune on a wedding dress, which is traditionally white and very formal. Thankfully, when you have a laid-back beach wedding, your dress can be as fancy or casual as you would like—read our blog on beach wedding dresses for some great ideas! But where did this idea of a fancy white dress come from? Traditionally, a bride would wear the nicest dress she owned, regardless of the color. To emphasize a bride’s worth, the family might add furs, silks, or velvet to assure the groom that she came from a wealthy family. It wasn’t until the mid 19th century and Queen Victoria that white wedding dresses became a standard. Queen Victoria wore a white dress with orange blossoms that started the craze for the bride wearing white. Before this time, blue was the more popular choice for wedding dresses. Wear whatever color you like the best—with the waves as your backdrop, everything will look beautiful!
The Bride’s Veil
The history of a bride being veiled might date back to ancient Rome when people believed that evil spirits would be attracted to a bride-to-be and obscured her face to confuse them. There is also the thought that the bride should be hidden from the groom until the moment of marriage, and the veil keeps her covered. Arranged marriages might have used the veil to obscure the bride’s features; the groom wasn’t allowed to back out if he wasn’t pleased with what he saw. Arranged marriages are also the root of the bride and groom not seeing each other on the wedding day; they used to have literally never seen each other’s faces! Today the veil is still a standard of wedding attire, but some brides choose to wear a smaller veil that doesn’t obscure the face, or no veil at all. Choose something you love, and if you love the tradition of the veil being lifted, keep it!
Forget the trendiest flowers, brides of old carried strong-smelling herbs to ward off evil spirits. Garlic, dill, or marigolds could be used, and were also great at masking pesky body odor. As far as tossing that bouquet into the crowd, brides were considered lucky, and having a part of the bride’s outfit good ensure you had a good luck talisman as well. Before the tradition of throwing the bouquet into the crowd, guests would sometimes tear off pieces of the bridal gown! The bouquet ensured the bride could keep her clothes on, and a lucky guest could get the prized item. This is also where the custom of throwing the garter comes from—guys wanted in on the good luck too! Today many brides aren’t worried about evil spirits, or relying on herbs to mask body odors, and carry flowers for their beauty. Choose whatever flowers you love—using fresh herbs is even making a comeback!
You are probably choosing bridesmaids based on good friends and family, but at one time bridesmaids were used to confuse those pesky evil spirits. Bridesmaids dressed like the bride to confuse the spirits, or even jealous ex-lovers. The similar dresses made it hard to identify the bride from her entourage and ensured her safety. Today bridesmaids serve as a great complement to the bride herself, and would never wear an identical outfit. Your bridesmaids will probably love the beachy style they get to have if you choose an Alabama gulf shores wedding!
Groomsmen served a similar purpose as bridesmaids in confusing the evil spirits, but it was the Best Man that had a crucial job: serving as guard against a runaway bride. The “best” referred to his skill with a sword, and the best man could help to kidnap a bride from her parents. The best man would keep guard, right next to the groom, throughout the wedding, and even stand guard outside the bedroom of the married couple for the whole first night. Thankfully, the best man today needs only to have the skill of friendship to earn his place, and he doesn’t need to stand watch at night!
How did exchanging rings become so integral to getting married? It seems that most sources credit ancient Egypt with the origination of this tradition, when the rushes and reeds along rivers were twisted into decorative rings and other adornments. Combined with the tradition of a bride’s father being paid in precious stones for their daughter’s hand, the modern wedding ring was born. Ancient Rome used rings made from iron, and the Romans believed that the vein on the fourth finger of the left hand went straight to the heart.
Whether this tradition started in ancient Egypt, or Medieval times, it has become a treasured custom to have someone (usually a young boy) carrying the ring on a small decorative pillow. Pillows were a sign of wealth and luxury in Medieval times, so carrying the ring on a small pillow gave it elevated importance. Rings were traditionally presented to the couple on the tips of swords, so the pillows made things a lot safer as well! Think of how you could customize the traditional pillow into something unique for your beach wedding—a ring on a seashell anyone?
Instead of flowers, brides in Roman times were preceded by girls carrying baskets of herbs and wheat, symbols of blessing and prosperity. In Medieval times, those pungent herbs like garlic were again used to discourage evil spirits, and would be scattered in front of the bride for protection. Garlic and wheat have been replaced with flower petals, and the flower girl has become a sweet tradition for a young family member to take part in the wedding party.
That sweet confection that you look forward to at the end of your wedding meal was once a loaf of barley bread, either broken or smashed over the bride’s head by the groom to seal the marriage. In Medieval times a pyramid of sweet buns would be piled in front of the bride and groom to kiss over, and successfully not knocking it over ensured being blessed with many children. This may be where the tiered wedding cakes of today have their origin, and it was in the 19th century that a sweet, decorated cake became the standard wedding fare. Sugar was once a rare commodity, and having a wedding cake that was made with sugar and frosting was an outward sign of wealth and opulence that all of the guests got to enjoy. When you choose a package with Beach Weddings Alabama, the cake is just one of the many things we take care of for you!
Rice was originally meant to symbolize fertility and abundance, and throwing it on the bride and groom was to ensure that they were blessed with many children. Wheat was also used in ancient Rome in place of rice, and both were thought to keep the evil spirits away (so many evil spirits!). Today, rice is not usually recommended because of the environmental impact, but bubbles (or sparklers at night) are a great replacement.
Getting Married on the Beach
Okay, okay, this isn’t a standard wedding tradition—at least not yet! Getting married on the beach is a fabulous way to have a unique, memorable wedding, and the gulf shores of Alabama provide the perfect backdrop! If you are looking for a wedding venue that is romantic and beautiful, Beach Weddings Alabama in Orange Beach has a wide selection of wedding packages that are sure to meet all of your ceremony and reception needs. Contact us today to start planning your beach wedding that incorporates your favorite traditions and makes wonderful new memories!