Common Wedding Traditions and Where They Originated

What are some common wedding traditions?

From that first step down the aisle to the grand exit at the end of the night, weddings are steeped in tradition. If you have started planning your big day, you’ve probably already incorporated a few of them. But have you ever wondered where they came from? Or what they mean? Here is a little background on four of the most common wedding traditions we all know and love.


Buttercream Wedding Cake with Texture


Common Wedding Traditions and Where They Originated From

Why do weddings have cake?

When planning a wedding becomes stressful, thinking of the wedding cake can be a sweet reprieve. The cake is more than a beautiful display at the reception! Wedding cakes date back to ancient Rome where marriages were not official until the groom broke a barley cake over the bride’s head. In medieval England, unmarried wedding guests took home a tiny piece of cake and slept with it under their pillow in hopes of dreaming of their future partner.

Even in modern times, wedding cakes carry symbolism. The act of slicing into the cake together represents a couple’s first activity done together. A bride and groom feeding each other cake symbolizes a commitment to provide for one another. Early American weddings featured a groom’s cake to showcase his hobbies and personality.

Saving the top tier of the cake is a tradition dating back to 18th Century Great Britain. Couples would preserve the top of their wedding cake for the christening of their first child. Cakes were typically fruit cake or chocolate cake, which lasted longer.

Cakes continue to be a wedding staple. Now, though, they take many different forms. Some couples opt for non-traditional colors and shapes, icing styles, cupcakes, donuts, cookies, etc. Good news for your fiance: groom’s cakes are still around today! You’ll find them displayed off to the side, often with layers of frosting the same loud collegiate colors of their favorite football team. And instead of running the risk of freezer burn, some couples choose to order a replica of their wedding cake for the first anniversary instead of saving the top layer. 


Wedding Bouquet White and Green


Why do brides carry a bouquet?

Bouquets have been part of wedding celebrations for centuries, beginning in ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Brides in these cultures carried herbs and spices to ward off back luck. Both brides and grooms would wear garlands with small flowers in hopes of bringing happiness to the union.

In the Middle Ages, brides carried bouquets because the perfume from the flowers masked the smell of body odor. This was important because bathing was uncommon at that time. This is also the time period in which the bouquet toss began. Wedding guests would try to take a piece of the bride’s dress or bouquet for good fortune. Can you imagine?! Bouquet tosses are still around, as most wedding guests know. The woman who catches the bouquet is considered the next to get married. Watch for flying elbows!

Bouquets have also been reimagined in different ways. You may see a bouquet of wildflowers or just baby’s breath. Some brides opt for silk flowers so they can keep their bouquets long after the wedding day is over. Bouquets have also been made of family keepsakes, such as brooches for a sentimental, silvery take on the tradition. Tiny charms can also be affixed to the base of the bouquet as a private symbol for the bride, such as a memento for a family member who has passed.


Bridesmaids in Blush Pink Dresses


Why do brides have a bridal party?

The history of bridesmaids dates back to ancient times. (Are you noticing a theme here?) It was commonly believed that a bride was more vulnerable to attacks by demons or spirits wishing to spoil the young couple’s happy day. As a defense against these evil forces, bridesmaids were all originally dressed identical to the bride. This was in hopes of confusing the spirit, so it wouldn’t know which “bride” to attack first. It was also common for the bride to travel many miles to the groom’s town or village where the ceremony would take place, making bridesmaids travel companions to the bride – and to her dowry! Bridesmaids at this time took upon themselves the considerable risk of being robbed by bandits or highwaymen looking to steal the bride’s possessions. 

Talk about loyalty! How many of your friends would you be willing to fight demons and thieves for you while wearing heels and an uncomfortable dress? 

The bridesmaids dress

Bridesmaids’ dresses have changed almost as much as their duties over the years. In the 1840s, brides and their bridesmaids wore all white, a trend popularized by Queen Victoria after her marriage to Prince Albert. This trend stuck around until the end of the 19th century, when brides began selecting colors to contrast their own white gowns. Since that time, bridesmaids have donned a variety of hues and styles. From the Pepto-pink of the 60s, to the ruffles and puffs of the 80s, to the sleek silhouettes of the 90s and beyond. While new trends constantly evolve over the decades, many old trends enjoy periods of resurgence as well. Case in point. It is not uncommon today to see bridesmaids in traditional white dresses again!

While they are no longer required to act as demon-fighting decoys, one thing has never changed. Bridesmaids can always be counted on to have a bride’s back!  



What is the symbolism of wedding rings?

The ancient Romans once believed there was a vein running from the fourth finger of the left hand directly to the heart. They called this the Vena Amoris (or “Vein of Love”). Despite the myth being debunked by modern science and medicine, most couples in the Western world choose to sport their engagement and wedding rings on this same finger – most likely without ever wondering why! 

Wedding rings also have roots in Ancient Greek and Roman history.  They represented both the marital dowry and a promise of fidelity. Though we’ve (thankfully!) long outgrown the antiquated customs of dowries and ownership in marital unions, the timeless symbolism of enduring love and loyalty remains. 

Diamond’s are a girl’s best friend

While diamonds may seem an obvious choice for rings today, they did not become the predominant wedding stone in the United States until around the 1930s and 40s. With some clever advertising, diamonds became known as the “forever” gem. By the time Marilyn Monroe sang about diamonds being “a girl’s best friend” in the 1950s, the lyrics rang unquestionably true. Every bride-to-be hoped to have a diamond on her finger. And every future groom hoped to afford one! It’s really no wonder this diamond craze has overtaken us all for generations. With their endurance, strength, and radiance, diamonds seem to be the perfect symbol of every dream and wish we have for our marriages. 

Though diamond rings are still synonymous with all things wedding, many couples these days are reaching for something a little more unconventional. Stones such as rubies, pearls, sapphires, amethysts, emeralds, and morganite have all proven to be every bit as beautiful and timeless as a diamond. And more budget friendly, too! 

Ready to learn more about wedding traditions or how to plan your wedding?

The Hive Venue is a Pocatello Idaho wedding venue serving couples that want a blank white space to make their day uniquely theirs! We at the Hive love to provide our couples with advice, tips, and inspirational photos and weddings.

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