Vows: The Veil of Traditions

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Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction, towards the future.

Perhaps it’s our imperfects that make us so perfect for one another.

Weddings are important because they celebrate life and possibility.


We have likely attended a wedding or two and have seen all of the traditions, but have we ever wondered where these customs orginated? Why does the bride require something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue? Why does the groom toss the garter into a crowd of men, and why is a wedding cake so important? Nearly every aspect of a wedding has some sort of significance. VOWS plumbs the depths.

The dress

White is often associated with purity, which is why it’s thought of as a traditional colour for virgin brides. But did you know that before the mid-1800s, brides actually wore red? They didn’t start wearing white until around 1840 when Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert. Victoria went against the grain and opted for a white, lacy dress, a colour that, at the time, represented wealth as opposed to purity. Clearly, the trend caught on, as many brides today still covet the classic white gown.

The wedding veil

Originally, brides wore veils to be protected from evil, jealous spirits, and to also preserve their modesty. Bridal veils were worn, particularly in Ancient Greece and Rome, to confuse the devil and to protect the bride from the “evil eye”.

However, in some cultures, it was employed by dear old dad to trick the groom into marrying his daughter who, let’s just say, was beautiful — on the inside. The dainty headwear was also used in arranged marriages to hide the identity of the bride until the unveiling at the ceremony.

We have likely attended a wedding or two and have seen all of the traditions, but have we ever wondered where these customs orginated? Why does the bride require something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue? Why does the groom toss the garter into a crowd of men, and why is a wedding cake so important? Nearly every aspect of a wedding has some sort of significance. VOWS plumbs the depths.

The dress

White is often associated with purity, which is why it’s thought of as a traditional colour for virgin brides. But did you know that before the mid-1800s, brides actually wore red? They didn’t start wearing white until around 1840 when Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert. Victoria went against the grain and opted for a white, lacy dress, a colour that, at the time, represented wealth as opposed to purity. Clearly, the trend caught on, as many brides today still covet the classic white gown.

The wedding veil

Originally, brides wore veils to be protected from evil, jealous spirits, and to also preserve their modesty. Bridal veils were worn, particularly in Ancient Greece and Rome, to confuse the devil and to protect the bride from the “evil eye”.

However, in some cultures, it was employed by dear old dad to trick the groom into marrying his daughter who, let’s just say, was beautiful — on the inside. The dainty headwear was also used in arranged marriages to hide the identity of the bride until the unveiling at the ceremony.

Nowadays, the veil has come to signify the bride’s virtue.

The bouquet

Ancient Greek brides would carry clusters of herbs and spices — not flowers — to ward off evil spirits. That tiny bundle was thought to have magical powers. Thankfully, we’ve graduated from aromatic, herb-filled bouquets and brides now choose a flower arrangement that she likes or matches her wedding theme.

The bridesmaids

The history of the bridesmaid varies across cultures, religions and time periods. In early Roman times, bridesmaids formed a kind of bridal troop, who marched alongside the bride to the groom’s village. This ‘protective shield’ of similarly outfitted bridesmaids was supposed to intervene if any wayward thugs or vengeful suitors tried to hurt the bride or steal her dowry. Well, today, bridesmaids are only responsible for smiling while carrying a bouquet ahead of the bride.

The best man

The “best” in best man once referred to the quality of a man’s swordsmanship. When weddings were used as a business transaction rather than a union of love, the groom needed a good swordsman to help either retrieve a runaway bride or fend off a bride’s angry family that may not approve of the union. Oh, and the best man wasn’t just picked because he was the groom’s best friend or brother. No, the term “best” was added to the title because that person had to be the strongest and most capable since his duties include planning a stag do for the groom, giving the best man’s speech and holding on to the rings on the wedding day.

Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue

This tradition dates all the way back to the Victorian era, where these old, new, borrowed, and blue items were procured to bring good fortune to the bride, especially when they were all worn together during the ceremony.

Something old: represents the ties to the bride’s family and her past.

Something new: represents a life to come with her husband.

Something borrowed: must be an item from someone who is in a successful marriage to pass on the “good luck.”

Something blue: stands for faithfulness, loyalty and purity.

The ring bearer and his pillow

The ring bearer’s pillow symbolises the promises of the dreams you have while sleeping, coming true. A small child is typically asked to carry the pillow which symbolises innocence, the future and new beginnings.

The wedding cake

The wedding cake has been a component of weddings since medieval times. Originally cakes were made of wheat which was a symbol of fertility and prosperity. As a relic of once-performed fertility rites, these wedding cakes would have been thrown at the bride.

The once-simple wedding cake has evolved into a multi-tiered extravaganza. The colour of the cake is typically white, again symbolising purity. The joint task of the bride and groom cutting the cake was meant to symbolise their first joint task in married life. The gesture of feeding cake to each other is a symbol of the commitment the bride and groom are making.

The cutting of the cake is one of the most cherished memories of any wedding.

Throwing rice

Tossing rice at the end of the ceremony was meant to symbolise rain, which is said to be a sign of prosperity, fertility and good fortune. More recently, wedding meddlers have cautioned against throwing rice because it was rumoured to harm unsuspecting birds that swoop down and eat it once the crowd has left. It is more common to see different items in the sendoff such as bubbles or sparklers. Being showered with love and well wishes after the ceremony is a fantastic lead-in to the reception!

Bouquet and garter toss

Tossing the bouquet is a standard tradition seen at most weddings, although the garter toss is slowly losing its relevancy among modern-day brides. While the toss is probably the most annoying part of the reception for the singles club, you’d be surprised to learn why the bride and groom used to throw the two at their guests.

In the past, couples didn’t wait until the honeymoon to consummate their marriage. They would often do the deed right after saying “I do,” which came as no surprise to their family members. The bouquet toss was used as a distraction, so the bride and the groom could…um…handle their business, while all the single ladies fought for the floral bunches. Tossing the garter also symbolised that the groom had made things official, as eager guests waited outside of the bedchamber for proof.

Father walking the bride down the aisle

The tradition dates back to a time of arranged marriages, where the “giving away” of the bride represented transfer of ownership. Back then, young women were used as collateral to settle debts or disagreements with neighbouring tribes, as well as for the father to elevate his status by marrying his daughter off to a wealthy family. Today, though, many brides look forward to having their father walk them up the aisle simply to honour him.

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