Including a traditional wedding custom or two on your big day is extremely popular and for good reason! Traditions bring people together and connect generations. But where did all of these traditions come from? We’ll take a peek back in time and examine how these customs, from tossing the bouquet to incorporating something blue, came to be.
One such tradition is “tying the knot,” which to this day is commonly used to describe a wedding. The literal act of “tying the knot” is thought to have originated during the time of the Roman Empire when it was common to tie a piece of ribbon around the bride and groom’s hands during wedding ceremonies to symbolize their new connection as spouses. It is also thought that sailors would send their loved ones lengths of rope as a symbol of their proposal and if the rope was returned to them with a knot, then their proposal had been accepted.
Another common tradition is “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” a phrase that is derived from the Old English rhyme, “Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe.” These were believed to be objects of good luck (in addition to a sixpence coin which was meant to symbolize prosperity for the newlyweds.) Including “something old” was originally believed to ward off the Evil Eye, but has grown to become a way to connect the couple to their past as they move forward together. This is often represented by something sentimental to the family, such as an heirloom or keepsake. In contrast, “something new” was a symbol of hope and optimism for the coming marriage, while “something borrowed” was a token of good luck for the couple’s new life together. It was believed that the good fortune of those who lent the borrowed item would literally rub off on the newlyweds. Finally, “something blue” was originally intended to ward off the Evil Eye as well, but evolved to represent love, purity, and fidelity in Victorian times (although the original interpretation of the color blue dates back to early Christianity.)
The next tradition isn’t quite as common anymore, but it’s always added an element of fun to sending off the happily married couple. The tradition of tying cans to the bumper of your car and driving off into the sunset with your new partner originated from a French custom called, “charivari.” Traditionally, charivari was thrown for the couple by their wedding party the night before the wedding, when the group would go through town banging on pots and pans to ward off evil spirits and ensure a peaceful wedding day. Throughout time, the tradition evolved into tying cans to the bumper of a car to emulate a similar sound.
Finally, two of the most common wedding traditions, the bouquet and garter toss, also happen to be two of the oldest customs. Historically, the bride tossed the garter or pieces of her dress to the crowd (often as a symbol of the consummation of the wedding) until the 14th century, when the bouquet toss emerged as an alternative to the garter toss. Tossing the bouquet served as a way to give guests a souvenir of the wedding, a tradition that has grown to symbolize marriage for whoever catches it. The garter toss was passed on to the groom, and is now typically tossed to a group of single men to symbolize good luck, as well as the belief that whoever catches it will be the next one of the group to hear wedding bells.