Where Do Wedding Traditions Come From?

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The world is on lockdown and events of all kinds are getting canceled or postponed. One group people that are particularly sad about life grinding to a halt are brides- and grooms-to-be. While most vendors are being kind enough to offer refunds, couples still have to deal with the disappointment of not getting to have their big day. However, this could be a good time for them to reflect about what they believe is actually important to them. So many facets of a wedding are antiquated and arbitrary. For some couples, that’s just fine. Others might be shocked to learn why society seems to insist on honoring certain traditions or superstitions. Just so you have the information to make your own decision, let’s look at where several popular wedding traditions come from.


Ever look at a group of bridesmaids and wonder where the custom of dressing multiple women in the exact same dress originated? Well, like a lot of wedding traditions (as we’ll discuss), this was part of warding off evil spirits or n’er do wells that might wish the bride harm. The bridesmaids used to dress the same way as the bride so that no one, spirit or human, would know exactly which woman was getting hitched. 

The Bridal Veil

Wearing a veil certainly looks pretty on brides. But did you know there’s a not-so-pretty reason behind it? First, we have the standard “ward off evil spirits” purpose that is going to apply to most things on this list. But, in some cultures, especially those with arranged marriages, the veil was used to conceal how attractive the bride may or may not be. Presumably, if the groom could see her and thought she wasn’t pretty enough, he’d call off the wedding. 

The Best Man

In modern times, the best man generally holds the wedding rings during the ceremony and seems to head up the debauchery that leads up to the wedding day. But when the tradition started, it had some really unpleasant reasons. The best man’s purpose was to make sure the bride didn’t run off during the ceremony. He may even be responsible for kidnapping her to bring her to the wedding. At that time, the best man was often not the groom’s best bro, but the biggest guy in the village who could fight off anyone trying to disrupt the ceremony. This is one tradition I am glad has evolved!

The Bouquet and Garter Toss

Many people dislike the bouquet and garter toss at the end of the reception. It often seems like an opportunity to single out single people. Ever been the lone single adult in a sea of kids waiting to catch a bunch of wilted flowers? Not fun. In that context, the origins of tossing these items seem even more inappropriate. Brides and grooms used to be expected to consummate their marriage IMMEDIATELY after the ceremony. Brides tossed their bouquet to “distract” people from what was about to happen. Don’t worry, Cheryl, that’s not something I want to see, I PROMISE. Similarly, grooms would toss the garter as “proof” that he’d bedded his new wife. Ew. Thanks for that visual, Steve.

These are just a handful of wedding traditions that generally appear in western culture. Do you have any more that you’ve heard about? Are any of these in this list something you absolutely must or must not have as part of your wedding? I admit that I generally don’t hold most wedding traditions in high regard. I think the people getting married should get to decide what is important to them. Whether you and your betrothed include them or not, at least you have an idea of where these wedding traditions come from. You can choose how to do your “I do”. 

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