Why does a bride wear a flowing, white gown with a matching veil? Why she is on the left and the groom stands to her right? Why the garter?

Each culture, ethnic group and nation has its own unique traditions surrounding marriage and wedding ceremony and all are as diverse and varied as the bride and groom.

May traditions have been handed down through the ages without question; many of them have little, if any, personal meaning to modern brides.

Many couples today are talking the contemporary route, leaving tradition by the wayside while opting to design their own ceremonies and writing their own vows.

Regardless of how “old fashioned” the traditional ceremonies are perceived, they are still the most popular today.

What does it mean?



The brie’s veil, which was yellow in ancient Greece and red in ancient Rome, covered her from head to foot and once denoted the subordination of woman to man. It also kept the groom from seeing her face during the ceremony. Not only could the groom not see in, but, the bride could not see out, requiring her father to escort her down the aisle and literally “give her away.”

  • In 860 AD, Pope Nicholas 1 decreed that an engagement ring become a required symbol of nuptial intent, insisting that it be made of gold, indicating a financial sacrifice of the prospective husband.
  • Medieval Italians believed that because the diamond was the hardest and most enduring substance in nature, it symbolized that ensuing marriage would last forever.
  • Gold was highly prized in ancient Rome, therefore, a gold band signified everlasting love and commitment. Earlier legend has it that husbands wrapped circles of braided grass around his bride’s wrists and ankles, believing it would keep her spirits from leaving her.
  • The bands later evolved into leather, carved stone, metal, then silver and gold and worn just on the finger.
  • Centuries ago, it was believed that the third finger on the left hand was connected by a vein running directly to the heart.
  • Many times, a father who didn’t approve of his daughter’s marriage, reused to provide a dowry for her, so her friends “showered” her with gifts, to show moral support.
  • The ages-old term “tie the knot” came from Rome, where brides wore girdles tied in many knots and it was the groom’s “duty” to untie them following the ceremony (in private chambers, of course.)
  • While some brides were kidnapped, marriage by purchase was preferred. The price for a bride could be land, social status, or cash.
  • The root word for “wedding” stems from the Anglo-Saxon language and literaly means “to wager or gamble.”
  • The color white has been a symbol of joyous celebration since early Rome and once stood for purity.
  • In ancient times, a groom “kidnapped” his bride and positioned her at his left side to protect her, which fed his right hand to draw his sword if suddenly attacked or ambushed by the bride’s father.
  • The wedding cake custom originated also in early Rome, where a loaf of bread was broken over a bride’s head to symbolize hope for a fertile and fulfilling life. Guests ate the crumbs, which were believed to bring them good luck.
  • In England, during the Middle Ages, guests brought small cakes to a wedding and put them in a pile, over which the bride and groom later stood while kissing. The idea emerged to pile all the cakes together and frost them, thus creating the idea of multi-tiered wedding cakes.
  • In Anglo-Saxon times, the groom’s friends helped him capture or kidnap his bride, while the bride’s friends helped her escape her over protective family or other suitors; thus, the need for attendants.
  • Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Old represented ties to a bride’s past; new, hope for the future; borrowed signified long lasting dependable friendships and blue represented faithfulness.
  • In the 14th century, it was customary for the bride to toss her garter to the men before they became drunk at the wedding pry and tried to remove it themselves. The custom emerged that the groom remove and toss the garter to unmarried males. The bride began tossing her flowers to unwed females. The one catching either was thought to be next to marry.
  • In ancient times, many marriages were by capture, not choice. A man often carried an unwilling woman to a secret place where her relatives couldn’t find them. While the moon went through all its phases, (about 30 days) they hid away and drank a brew made from honey. Hence, the word honeymoon.
  • Brides were once considered property of their fathers who arranged the marriage. Often, an unattractive woman was matched to a prospective groom from another town without either of them having seen each other. More than once, when the groom saw his future wife for the first time on the day of wedding, he left her standing at the altar. To prevent this from happening, it became “bad luck” for the groom to see his bride prior to the ceremony.
  • Fortunately, some of the more archaic traditions have fallen by the wayside, but we see how bits and pieces continue to be observed today.
  • Many modern brides choose to continue with frills and formalities, while others are choosing more contemporary ceremonies that liberate her from those customs.
  • Each bride must choose what suits her best as she plans for the most wonderful day of her life.
  • Whether she stands on the left or on the right, wears a veil or a cowboy hat doesn’t really matter. It’s her wedding, after all
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