Wedding Traditions & Their Meanings

Below is a compilation of the history and symbologies of wedding traditions made during the reception.

Cake Cutting

Ancient Romans would bake a cake made of wheat or barley and break it over the bride’s head as a symbol of her fertility. (Whether this meant cracking the cake above the bride’s head or actually bonking her on the noggin with it is rather unclear. We’re not sure we want to know…)

In its earliest origins, the unmarried young women attending the wedding were expected to scramble for the grains to ensure their own betrothals, much as they do today for the bridal bouquet.

Over time, it became traditional to stack several cakes atop one another, as tall as possible. The bride and groom would then be charged to kiss over this tower without knocking it over. If they were successful, a lifetime of good fortune was certain for the new couple. Finally, during the reign of King Charles II of England, it became customary for cake to be a palatable palace iced with sugar.

The Garter

The garter from the bride comes from the ancient custom of witnesses at the marriage bed (to make sure the couple consummated the marriage); the witnesses would bring it forth as a sign of the witnessing. It became such a violation of privacy that eventually the bride would have the groom throw it to prove consummation. This is one of the oldest customs surviving wedding rituals.

The Bouquet

At its inception, the bouquet formed part of the wreaths and garlands worn by both the bride and groom. It was considered a symbol of happiness. Originally bridal wreaths and bouquets were made of herbs which had magical and meaningful definitions for the couple’s future life.

Traditional Celtic bouquets included ivy, thistle and heather. Ancient uses included herbs, not flowers, in bouquets because they felt herbs — especially garlic — had the power to cast off evil spirits (can you imagine walking up the aisle holding a clump of garlic!?). If a bride carried sage (the herb of wisdom) she became wise; if she carried dill (the herb of lust) she became lusty. Flower girls carried sheaves of wheat, a symbol of growth, fertility, and renewal. Later, flowers replaced herbs and took on meanings all their own. Orange blossoms, for example, mean happiness and fertility. Ivy means fidelity; lilies mean purity.

Garter/Bouquet Toss

In the 14th century, it was customary for the bride to toss her garter to the men, but sometimes the men got too drunk, and would become impatient and try to take the garter off her ahead of time. (Eventually the groom got into the act and saved his bride from the unruly mob…we hope). All the same, it got to less trouble for her to toss her bridal bouquet instead.

Wine/Champagne Toast

Throughout the ages, wine has been used for celebration. Often and among many people, wine has signified life, vitality, love, and a life of plenty. Often and among many people, drinking wine from a common cup has been the intimate mark of deep sharing. “Entwined as the Vine. . . .” It is also in remembrance of Jesus turning the water into Wine as his first miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. It can be celebrated intimately during the Ceremony between the bride & groom or it can be at the Reception or both.

The feeding of the wedding cake and the wine toast is a derivation of the Wedding Eucharist nuptial wherein a part of a ceremony is their giving each other a sup from the Cup of Love and to eat from the Bread of Life and Health.

We call it a “toast” when we drink to someone because of an old French custom in which a piece of bread was put in the bottom of the wine cup (for flavor).

Dove Release

For century’s wedding couples have been releasing dove as symbols of their eternal love for each other.  The white color of the Doves symbolizes purity – that both Bride and Groom are pure to each other – they are honest and open, beginning their lives as one “from this day forward.” Doves choose one partner and mate for life.  The Doves flying home together, symbolizes the couple starting off on their journey to start a home of their own. Some cultures believe if a Bride and Groom see a White Dove on their wedding day it is a symbol of good luck and good fortune that will last throughout their marriage.

Quite interesting, right?



4 thoughts on “Wedding Traditions & Their Meanings

  1. Hi Micah…I was just reading one of ur blogs last year..and now I’m getting married! I will definitely copy-paste this Wedidng Traiditions chena bangs and include it in my reception flow for my host’s reference. Very helpful!

      1. Hi Micah, thanks for this information a great help for me coz they get me to host a wedding an this is my reference. God Bless

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