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History of Wedding Traditions 

Have you ever wondered what the first wedding ceremony was like? And, do you know where the old saying, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" comes from? 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.

The First Marriage Rites

The earliest weddings were very different from our idea of marriage today. Our primitive ancestors came together for protection and survival rather than meaningful relationships. Since there was safety in numbers, primitive people formed tribes to which they were very loyal. Some historians believe that the first marriages may have actually been group weddings - marriage to the tribe.

It wasn't until much later that men and women came together in couples, and formed individual families. Even then, marriage wasn't always a happy event. Due to tribal rivalry, women and children were often captured or stolen. Since many tribes had rules forbidding intermarriage within a clan, women were kidnapped and forced to marry the strangers who captured them. Historians often refer to this period in time as the "marriage by capture" era.

The Bachelor Dinner

More commonly known today as the bachelor party, this celebration in the groom's honor was originally called the bachelor dinner, or stag party. Like many other wedding traditions, the custom has stood the test of time. It first came about in 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.? Despite the risqué entertainment that is associated with stag parties today, bachelor parties have not always entailed this controversial element. Although rowdy and boisterous, bachelor parties are traditionally organized to allow the jittery groom and his wedding attendants to release some anxieties before the big day.

The Wedding Party

During the "marriage by capture" era, close friends of the groom-to-be assisted him when he kidnapped the bride from her family. The first ushers and best men were more like a small army, fighting off the brides angry relatives as the groom rode away with her.

Bridesmaids and maids of honor became more common when weddings were planned. For several days before the marriage, a senior maid attended to the bride-to-be. This maid or matron of honor, as we know her today, ensured that the bridal wreath was made and helped the bride get dressed. All bridesmaids helped the bride decorate for the wedding feast.

For a long time, bridesmaids wore dresses much like the bride's gown, while ushers dressed in clothing that was similar to the groom's attire. This tradition began for protection against evil rather than for uniformity; if evil spirits or jealous suitors attempted to harm the newlyweds, they would be confused as to which two people were the bride and groom.

Wedding Flowers

Before the use of flowers in the bridal bouquet, women carried aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away as they walked down the aisle. Over time, these were replaced with flowers, symbolizing fertility and everlasting love. Specific flowers have special meanings in many cultures. In Hawaii, the bride and groom wear leis; newlyweds in India don floral headdresses.

The Bridal Gown

Wedding gowns have not always been elaborate, as many are today. In the eighteenth century, poor brides dressed in simple robes. This symbolized to her future husband that she brought nothing with her into the marriage and would therefore not burden him with any debt. It wasn't until the mid nineteenth century that the all-white wedding dress became fashionable. Up until then a bride simply wore her best dress, regardless of its color. In 1840, Queen Victoria's pure white gown started the trend that many women follow today.

The Bridal Veil

Veils were originally worn by unmarried women to show modesty. In early weddings, men bargained for wives with the woman's father. At the wedding ceremony, a bride wore the veil as a symbol of submissiveness and a promise to obey her new husband. Only after the ceremony was the veil lifted to reveal the bride's appearance to the groom. Sometime in the sixteenth century, headdresses with delicate veils became fashionable; lace veils became popular after Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840.

Wedding Rings

The wedding ring is the most ancient of all marriage traditions. Nearly every civilization since the Egyptians has used the wedding ring as a symbol of the marriage agreement. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the circle represents eternity, and the earliest rings were made of braided grass, hay, leather, bone and ivory. When metals were eventually discovered, the first metal rings were lumpy and awkward. Today, wedding rings can be anything from an inexpensive, plain band to an intricate setting studded with gems.

No matter where a person chooses to wear their wedding ring, the marriage bond is complete once vows are recited. The most common placement for wearing a wedding ring is on the fourth finger of the left hand. This custom began with the Egyptians, who believed that a vein on the left hand was directly connected to the heart. Today, a more practical explanation is that the left hand gets less use - and will be less likely to get damaged - since most people are right-handed.

Despite longstanding traditions, however, wedding rings are not always worn on the left hand. For a time, wealthy Elizabethans wore huge, elaborate wedding rings on their thumbs. In the eighteenth century, Roman Catholics wore them on the right hand. Even today, many European women still follow this tradition.

There are also many superstitions about wedding rings. For example, it is unlucky for the bride-to-be to go shopping for a ring on a Friday due to the bad luck associated with that day. It is equally important that neither the future bride nor groom wear their rings before the wedding ceremony since that would be presumptuous.

The Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes have been a part of marriage ceremonies since medieval times. In Rome, the first wedding cakes were actually loaves of wheat bread. During the ceremony, the bread was broken over the bride's head as a blessing for long life and many children. Guests often ate the crumbs as a sign of good luck.

Over time, a variant of this custom evolved into the forerunner of the contemporary tiered cake that is widely used today. In medieval England, wedding guests brought small cakes to the ceremony as a gift for the newlyweds. The cakes were stacked in a pile, as high as possible, to make it difficult for the newlyweds to kiss one another over the top. If the bride and groom were able to kiss over the tall stack, it was thought to symbolize a lifetime of prosperity. Eventually, the idea of stacking them neatly and frosting them together was adopted as a more convenient option.

Although wedding cakes were once white inside and out, there are few rules about how they look today. Contemporary cakes can be any color, flavor or shape. Even if a couple prefers a traditional layered wedding cake, there are countless options for decoration.

Saving a portion of the wedding cake is an old tradition that some couples still practice. As a sign of posterity, couples freeze the top portion of their wedding cake, thawing it out on their first anniversary to share with one another. If you want to freeze your top tier you can go to our Freezing Directions page to see how to freeze the cake and still have it taste almost as good as it did on your wedding day.

The Groom's Cake

In the past, the groom's cake was actually called the wedding cake, and what we now think of as the wedding cake was referred to as the bride's cake. Over time, the terminology was reversed, but superstition surrounding the groom's cake was not lost. According to an old myth, if a single woman sleeps with a piece of the groom's cake under her pillow, she will dream of the man that she will marry.

The first groom's cakes were reserved for guests to take home as a memento of the wedding. For this reason, they were usually made of dark, heavy fruitcake since it is durable and keeps for a long period of time. Contemporary groom's cakes, however, are not bound by old traditions. In fact, the groom's cake is a perfect opportunity to express creativity. Many grooms like to have the cake decorated or shaped into something that reflects one of their hobbies, or something the couple enjoys doing together.

The Honeymoon

The bride and groom's honeymoon hasn't always been a post-wedding vacation together, as we know it today. 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.

Wedding Infare

Many people may have never heard of the term infare, yet are quite familiar with the tradition. In the 1880s, it was an American custom for the bridegroom's parents to host an infare, or a feast, on the day following the wedding. Today, this custom has evolved into a Sunday brunch intended to give out-of-town guests more opportunity to visit with family, friends and other wedding guests before returning home.

Something Old, Something New...

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue...(and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.) This good-luck saying originated in the Victorian era. Brides today often incorporate special items into their wedding attire according to the rhyme.

"Something Old" symbolizes a link to the bride's family and the past. A family heirloom, such as a piece of antique jewelry or a family member's wedding dress can represent the old object. Or, a bride can sew lace or ribbon into the hem of her dress. "Something New" represents good fortune and success in the bride's new life. A bride may wear a new string of pearls, or use her wedding gown as the new item. "Something Borrowed" symbolizes the love and support of family and friends in times of need. A borrowed object can be a token from a happily married friend, such as a lace handkerchief. "Something Blue" is an object that symbolizes faithfulness and loyalty. Brides commonly choose a blue garter or ribbon. "A Silver Sixpence In Her Shoe," is a blessing for wealth. Since sixpences are difficult to find, any silver coin makes a sufficient substitute

Ruthie's Cakes & Desserts
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Columbus, Ohio 43231
(614) 475-4032

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