Pittsburgh Wedding Traditions & Wedding Rituals Explained

Why do we do the things we do at weddings?

Have you ever wondered why a bride wears a veil? Why people throw rice at the bride & groom? Why it’s called a honeymoon, when neither you nor your fiancĂ© is named Honey? Virtually every part of a wedding, from the engagement to the honeymoon, has rich history. Cultural roots, ancestry, and religious beliefs have shaped marriages for thousands of years. The following descriptions will provide you with a brief history of various wedding elements. It’s a pretty good bet you’ll see some of them at your wedding. So read on to get the inside scoop on how they originated.


The Honeymoon

Wedding Rituals ExplainedThe bride and groom’s honeymoon hasn’t always been a post-wedding vacation. The word actually originated in northern Europe from a tradition involving wine made from mead and honey. In order to bring good luck, the newlywed couple drank the sweet wine, called Metheglen, for a month after the wedding. Since a month was known as a moon, this period of time acquired the name honeymoon.


Throwing Rice

The tradition of throwing rice, began in the orient. Rice (which symbolizes fertility) was thrown at the married couple in the hope that this would bring a marriage yielding many children.


The Bridal Shower

This custom is believed to have started in Holland. Legend has it that a disapproving father would not provide his daughter with a dowry, to discourage her from marrying a less-than-wealthy miller. Her friends provided her with the then-essential dowry by “showering” her with gifts.


The Ring Finger

The third finger on the left hand is considered the ring finger. All engagement and wedding rings are worn there because that finger was believed to be connected by a vein, directly to the heart.


The Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes originated in ancient Rome, where a loaf of wheat bread was broken over the brides head to symbolize hope for a fertile and fulfilling life. The guests ate the crumbs, believed to be good luck. The custom found it’s way to England in the Middle Ages. Guests brought small cakes to a wedding; the cakes were put in a pile, where the bride and groom later stood over and kissed. Apparently, someone came up with the idea of piling all the cakes together and frosting them, creating an early ancestor of the multi-tiered wedding cakes of today.


Bride & Groom Cut The Cake, Then Feed Each Other

Feeding each other the cake symbolizes how the couple will feed and nourish the relationship for the rest of their lives. Now, this was meant as a loving and caring symbol for each other. As for smashing cake into each other’s faces, no one knows how that started.


Diamond Engagement Ring

In medieval Italy, precious stones were seen as part of the groom’s payment for the bride. The groom would give a gift of such stones, which symbolized his intent to marry.


The Bachelor Party

Known today as the bachelor party, this celebration in the groom’s honor was originally called the bachelor dinner, or stag party. It first came about during the fifth century in Sparta, where military comrades would feast and toast one another on the eve of a friend’s wedding. Even today, a bachelor party customarily takes place quite close to the actual wedding date, as it has become known as the groom’s last taste of freedom.


Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The odds are pretty strong that you’ll be wearing all of the above on your wedding day, but do you know why? The old stands for a bride’s ties to her past; the new represents good fortune and success in the bride’s new life. The borrowed symbolizes the love and support of her family and friends; and the blue is for faithfulness and loyalty.


The Veil

Wedding Rituals ExplainedVeils were originally meant to symbolize the virgin brides innocence and modesty. These days, our society considers the veil a purely romantic custom. Although, in parts of the Middle East and Asia, the veil is still used to hide the brides face completely. The first lace veil is said to have been worn by a woman named Nelly Curtis, George Washington’s adopted daughter, who married one of his aides. Apparently, the first time the aide ever saw her, she was behind a lace curtain. He was mesmerized by her beauty. As the story goes, Nelly made herself a lace veil for the ceremony, in an effort to duplicate the effect.


The Wedding Ring

The idea of the wedding ring itself dates back to ancient times. At that time, a cave-man husband would wrap circles of braided grass around his bride’s wrists and ankles, believing it would keep her spirit from leaving her body. The bands evolved into leather, carved stone, metal, and later silver and gold.


Carrying The Bride Across The Threshold

This wedding custom originated in Rome. The bride had to be carried across the threshold because she was (or pretended to be) reluctant to enter the bridal chamber. In those days, it was considered ladylike to be hesitant at this point – or at least look hesitant. (Another legend has it that the bride was carried over the threshold to protect her from any evil spirits lingering there).


The Best Man And Ushers

Many years ago, a potential groom would take a group of his friends with him while in pursuit of the bride to help him capture her. Often as not, young brides were “kidnapped” from a protective family which typically included a few big brothers. Sometimes there would even be a battle between competing suitors. If a potential groom wanted to show that he meant business, he took along the “best man” for the job of helping him fight for his love.


The Maid Of Honor And Bridesmaids

These were the women who helped the bride get away from her overprotective family and other suitors, so that she could be captured by the groom she wanted. When such quaint methods of getting the bride and groom together faded in popularity, the honor roles survived.


Giving Away The Bride

Back when a daughter was considered her father’s possession, some formal transfer was necessary during the wedding ritual. Today, the custom symbolizes the parents acceptance of the brides passage from child to adult, and a sign of their blessing of her marriage to her chosen groom.


Tossing The Bouquet And Garter

This dignified custom began in the thirteen hundreds in France, where the guests used to chase the bride and tear off her garter because they believed it was good luck. To save herself, her leg, and her dress, the bride began removing it voluntarily and tossing it into the eager crowd. Later, the bouquet was added to this toss. The lucky recipient of the bouquet is now believed to be the next woman in the group to get married. The man who catches the garter is supposed to be the next groom.

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