Wedding traditions explained
Weddings are often surrounded by all kinds of traditions that are full of symbolism that can date back centuries. Many brides take on these traditions without fully understanding their meaning, so here are a few of the most common traditions and the charming reasons behind them.
The wedding veil was introduced many centuries ago to help ward off evil spirits. Brides would wear their finest dress to get married and carry flowers, again to add protection and to add to the overall effect of beauty and innocence. Queen Victoria started the trend to wear white when she married Prince Albert in 1840. White was her favourite colour for lace and it quickly became associated with purity. Plus, it was another symbol of wealth, as only the richest ladies could wear it and keep it pristine at the time.
Defending the bride
Traditionally, the groom stood to the left of his bride in order to have his sword hand free to defend her from attempted kidnapping, should it occur. Although the likelihood of such an event is pretty rare these days, the tradition still continues. Likewise, the presence of a best man and groomsmen previously fulfilled a similar role – helping the groom protect his bride. Even the bridesmaids helped offer her protection. They were dressed the same as the bride in times past to act as decoys to confuse any evil spirits trying to harm her.
With this ring
The custom of placing the wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand began in ancient Greece, when scholars believed that a vein led directly from the third finger to the heart. Although medical knowledge has moved on vastly since then, the charming custom remains.
Let them eat cake
Besides the obvious bonus that a beautifully decorated cake is a delicious way to round off the wedding breakfast, its presence at weddings goes back to Medieval times. Guests brought small cakes to the celebration and the happy couple were urged to kiss over them to ensure future prosperity. The multi-tiered cake that we see today is said to have originated from the wedding of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany in 1882.
Grace and favours
In the 16th Century, cubes of sugar, a very expensive and rare delicacy, were handed out to wedding guests to thank them for attending and to display the wealth of the two host families. Gradually, the sugar cubes were replaced by five sugared almonds, representing five wishes for health, wealth, happiness, fertility and a long life. In Victorian times, they were handed to each guest by the couple, instead of being placed on the tables as they are today.
Confetti was the name of an Italian sugared almond, thrown in the air at celebrations. In pre-Victorian Britain, wedding guests originally threw rice over the couple (uncooked, we hope) to symbolise fertility. The Victorians introduced the idea of replacing the rice with colourful pieces of shredded paper, which look especially charming during a summer wedding with the sunshine glinting off the falling confetti.
All photos copyright Heni Fourie Photography