Wedding Customs

Today just happens to be my wedding anniversary.  And it’s not just any old anniversary – it’s my 35th.  So in honor of that auspicious occasion, I thought I’d deviate from my usual western themed posts and instead discuss some fun/interesting notes on a few wedding customs.   And yes, the pictures posted are from my own wedding (Oh, and check out the gown – I made the dress myself and my sister made the train).

Also, because I believe there should ALWAYS be gifts to mark special milestones, I’m going to give three of today’s commenters their choice of any one of my backlist books.  So, on to the main post!

PICKING THE WEDDING DATE.

The most popular month for a wedding is still June.  But did you know how the practice originated?  There are several schools of thought on this. 
One line of thought – It is said that during the fifteenth century, May was the month set aside by the general population for the ‘annual bath’, which meant as a whole folks were still smelling relatively ‘fresh’ during June so it was a good time to hold a communal event.
Another theory is that the month of June was named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of hearth and home, so getting married then was considered to bring her blessings.

Of course not all couples chose June.  One of the things I discovered when I was doing my research for this post was a little poem that predicted how the marriage would go based on the month you marry.   It goes like this:

Married when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true;
When February birds do mate, you wed nor dread your fate;
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you’ll know;
Marry in April when you can, joy for Maiden and for Man;
Marry in the month of May, and you’ll surely rue the day;
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you will go;
Those who in July do wed, must labor for their daily bred;
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see;
Marry in September’s shrine, your living will be rich and fine;
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry;
If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember;
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.

As a November bride, this was right on point for me. 🙂

THE WEDDING GOWN

The color of choice for the modern bride is, of course, white.  But this wasn’t always true.  In medieval times, wearing brightly colored wedding garments symbolized happiness.  Rich colors and expensive fabrics also said something about the brides status and finances.  White didn’t gain the prominence it holds today until 1840.  That’s the year when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert.  Deciding to ignore the royal tradition of wearing a silver gown, the young queen instead chose to wear white and thus set a precedent that stands to this day.

Interesting bit of trivia – white was not always considered the color of purity.  At one point in history, it was thought blue symbolized that virtue – possibly through association with the garments of the Virgin Mary.  White was thought instead to symbolize joy.

I stumbled across an old poem that predicts how a woman’s marriage will go based on the color of her wedding gown (there seems to be a rhyme for everything).  It goes like this:

Married in white, you will have chosen all right.
Married in grey , you will go far away.
Married in black, you will wish yourself back.
Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead.
Married in blue, you will always be true.
Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl.
Married in green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow.
Married in brown, you’ll live out of town.
Married in pink, your spirits will sink.

 

THE WEDDING CAKE

I was surprised to discover that the wedding cake has been around for centuries.  In ancient times, the Romans baked a cake of barley or wheat and broke it over the head of the bride as a symbol of her fertility.  During the middle ages there was a popular custom which involved the guests bringing sticky buns to the reception and stacking them in front of the bride and groom.  If the happy couple was able to kiss over the top of it without toppling it, it signified they would enjoy a long and happy marriage and be blessed with many children. Toward the end of the sixteenth century the bride’s cake or pie came into vogue.  These were mostly mince pies in which a glass ring had been inserted.  It was believed that the person who received the piece that contained the ring would enjoy a full year of uninterrupted happiness.  The origins of our current tiered wedding cake came in the seventeenth century when French bakers stacked buns and covered them with frosting.

The traditional cake cutting also has a bit of symbolism associated with it.  Symbolically it is the first task the bride and groom shares as a married couple.  Afterward, the bride and groom feed each other from that first slice as a symbol of their mutual commitment to provide for one another.

So, enough of the history and general traditions.  Do you have any special wedding traditions handed down in your own families?  Any special memories of your own weddings? 

And remember, three people who comment on this post will be selected to receive a copy of one of my backlist books.

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.

47 thoughts on “Wedding Customs”

  1. Well, my family doesn’t have any traditions they pass down, but I do have a special memory of my own first wedding. My first husband was nervous, he was 19 and I was 18, so when the minister asked him to repeat his vows he promised to be a loving and hateful husband instead of faithful. The minister almost started laughing, it was a funny moment. I did remind him though that he lived up to it when we divorced.

  2. Winnie,

    We have been married just about the same length of time. My husband and I celebrated our 35th on Oct. 16th. I have a memory from my wedding–not such a great one though. My mom was pressing my wedding dress just before the wedding and burnt an iron imprint in the sheer fabric. Fortunately, it was a full dress and the damage was right where my bouquet would rest when I was holding it. That was a rented dress, and I have to tell you, was i ever glad I got to go on my honeymoon and my mom had to return the gown. Yep, call me a chicken.

  3. Great post, and Happy Anniversary Winnie! We don’t have any family traditions that are passed down. I have been married for 26 years now and I can’t really think or anything that really happen during my wedding. Love Linda’s post just to funny.

  4. Thanks for a great post,I have 6 grown children,2 of which are boys,they both decieded to get married this year,one is 27 an the other 36,first marriages for both,2 weeks apart,1200 miles apart! oh my,that was the most stressfull 6 weeks of my life,yes it wasnt as bad as girls but it was still a really big wedding for both,nothing went wrong,only a few minor details,as I told the kids no one will know except us,so its okay

  5. My husband and I were married 33 years ago on July 16. I chose to have both of my parents walk me down the aisle. My daughter was married 3 years ago on June 30th. She also chose to have both parents walk her down the aisle. She wore my emerald necklace. She had her wedding in the city that I grew up in . She also had her reception in the same place that we had had our reception with it’s windows overlooking Lake Michigan. Her bridesmaids and mine all wore coral colored dresses. Maybe some of these family traditions will be continued when my 3 sons eventually marry.

    A side note on the color of a wedding dress. My husband’s parents came over from Hungary in 1951. They are of German descent. They wore black wedding dresses. Their traditional dancing costumes have white blouses with black vests,worn with colorful skirts with a lot of bright red, yellow and white embroidery.

    The groomsmen did write HE – LP on the bottom of my husband’s shoes. We heard a twitter going around the church when we first knelt down.

    We had a friend of my dad’s sing. His voice was so beautiful. People got tears in their eyes when he sang AVA MARIA.

    We had the worst polka band at our reception. Every song sounded the same. Polkas are supposed to be upbeat and lively…not these guys!

    Finally, my great aunt Anna died about 6 months before my wedding. I was very close to her. I wore her watch and felt her presence with me throughout the day.

  6. What lovely pictures, Winnie!

    I have been married 30 years. I always get teased about mouthing the vows to my now husband. But what we remember was the weather. 100 degrees. 100% humidity. NO AC! We have pictures of the groomsmen with sweat stains and the bridesmaids’ faces glistening.

    When my son was married in December a few years ago, the weather turned out to be unseasonably warm and the guys were sweating in their winter weight tuxes.

    I am hoping that isn’t a tradition starting but you never know.

    Thanks for a wonderful post and Blessed Anniversary!

    Peace, Julie

  7. Winnie, congrats on 35 years and what fond memories. Love you pictures and I’ve never heard the poems that predict, but they are fun. Turns out mine ended up being true. Bob and I celebrated 42 years on the 9th of November. When I met him (through his brother and SIL, who were friends of mine) he was sorta going with another girl. He’s just gotten back from Viet Nam and she was a lot younger. He said he did the old “I’m tired of going home alone” thing and she totally didn’t “get it” and called her mother and said he’d just asked her to marry him. So needless to say, he had just gotten out of a messy situation when we met. LOL You’d have to know my DH to understand how this could happen to a strong, independent man who had just returned home from some of the worst parts of the war. Anyway, when he decided to ask me to marry him he didn’t do the ol’ gushy thing. He just said, “I’m gettin’ married in November.” I stopped dead still, thinking “One heck of a way to dump me!!!!!” Then he added, “if you’ll marry me?” That’s my DH!!!!! We’ve been together 42 years and counting. Loved your post, Winnie.

  8. Just found this website through FamilyFiction. Love your post. i never married, but both Mom and i love romances. i found it interesting that the first ryhme is done in such a way that it would be mostly true for everyone (kind of like fortune cookies). Happy Anniversary!

  9. Congrats on 35 years, Winnie! I’m about halfway there at 18 years.

    Two favorite wedding memories of mine – First, because my dad passed away when I was 16, I had both my granfathers walk me down the aisle. It made for a wonderful family memory. And my maternal grandma was nearly in tears because she’d never seen my grandpa in a tux. A mechanic by trade, he never dressed up. She insisted I was the only one who could have gotten him to do it.

    Second memory was the fact that my husband accidentally left my wedding band in Texas. (We were married in California.) Thanks to a last minute phone call to a groomsman who broke into Wes’s apparentment to retrieve it, but missed his flight and had to rent a car and speed all the way from LA to Lompoc, and had a police officer follow him into the church parking lot – we had the ring in time for the ceremony. I was blissfully ignorant, of course. And didn’t find out until afterward. I doubt I would have found it quite as humorous at the time. But it makes a great story now. 🙂

  10. Linda – LOL on your first husband’s slip of the tongue during the ceremony.

    Vickie – Oh my, what a stressful thing to have happen to a young bride. But good for you for not letting it throw you very much

    Quilt Lady – thanks for the anniversary wishes!

  11. Happy Anniversary!

    A tradition in our family for wedding cakes is a traditional (American ) cake and a Danish wedding cake which is really almond and marzipan pastries baked in rings and go from large to very small. The “cake” has about 15 or so rings. Then, it is drizzled with almond icing and little Danish flags are placed all around the cake. (My grandfather immigrated from Denmark.)

    I also had chocolate and carrot cakes. The carrot cake is my dad’s fave and must be others’ as well because we were out of it in no time.

    Two things in our wedding that were non-traditional were that I had a female usher and my husband’s sister was his best woman. (They both wore long black dresses and the black complimented the pink hues of my bridesmatrons’ dresses.)

  12. Minna – thanks for stopping by to leave a comment

    Vickie C. – ikes! I imagine that WAS stressful. Glad everything went smoothly

    Laurie G. – What wonderful family traditions! So nice that your daughter chose to honor you by following in your footsteps

  13. Julie – LOL about the weather ‘tradition’ And congrats on your own 30 years.

    Elizabeth – yep, that’s me and my very own Prince Charming in the pics.

    Lyn – Hi! As for the tux, I thought that powder blue just made him look soooooo handsome.

  14. Phyliss – What a wonderful proposal memory. And congrats on 42 years.

    Marianne – so glad you found us – thatnks for posting.

    Karen – How lovely of you to have asked both grandfathers to walk you down the aisle – must have been a very special feeling. And LOL about your ring – probably just as well you didn’t know until it was all said and done.

  15. 😀 I am having flashbacks to my parents’ wedding photos!!! I think my father was wearing a similar jacket! Happy Happy Anniversary!!!

  16. Enjoyed reading about the weddings.
    Congratulations on your anniversary.
    My wedding was about the same as most couples-beautiful dress, wonderful friends for support, and a lot of nervousness. However, there was a bee in my bouguet and it kept buzzing around in front of me. I was so scaird I just stood there. Finally, it moved on. Later on, the pastor told me my face was so white he hoped I was not about to faint. whew My husband thought I was just excited to be marryng him. He still teases me about that.

  17. Deb – Those wedding cake traditions sound like so much fun! And how great that you bucked the normal gender roles for participants – love the ‘best woman’ your groom chose – he and his sister must be close.

  18. Congrats on this special anniversary, Winnie. What a darling dress! I actually think it was my dad in a similar tux (the year before you two)…my hubby wore an off-white white shirt and jacket.

    Most of our wedding day has blurred a lot over the years, but I clearly remember my daddy walking me up the aisle to Bach’s Air on the G String. He died in a car crash three years later. Both my son and my daughter had this song in their processionals.

    One tradition is the hymn Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus. It has been sung or played at five generations of family weddings, including both our kids.

  19. Colleen – LOL on your father’s tux resembling that of my hubby’s

    Joye – Yikes on the bee in the bouquet! That would have totally freaked me out. So glad you were able to hold it together until the critter flew away.

  20. I’m from a family of eight kids. I’m third, with two older sisters and we’re all one year apart.

    The three of us wore the same dress.

    My oldest sister made it. Six months later I wore it. A year and a half later, the second sister wore it. It wasn’t some lovely tradition so much as we were all poor. But I’m coming up on my 34th anniversary so I guess it didn’t hold a CURSE or anything. 🙂

  21. Margaret – Thanks. And yes, I get teary-eyed at weddings too.

    Mary – How neat that you and your sisters got to share a dress. I’m sentimental (sometimes I think overly so) so I think these family touches make the events special.

  22. LOL Mary on the colorful seventies – my kids still roll their eyes at some of our choices. I should have poste pictures of my bridesmaids. They picked out the pattern for their dresses – very Holly Hobbyish, right down to the bonnets!

  23. Winnie, congratulations on your long marriage. I hope you and your husband do something really special to celebrate.

    My first husband and I eloped. We drove over into Oklahoma and got married by a preacher. Our parents nearly had a coniption when they found out. But we were both of age and didn’t need their signatures. His parents forgave us long before mine did. I was married in a purple and white suit and my husband wore jeans and a shirt. My second marriage was before a justice of the peace but I wore a white outfit. My inlaws were there that time but again my parents weren’t. My second marriage lasted twenty five years until my husband passed away. Sometimes I wish I had the memories of a large wedding and feel like I missed out on something special.

  24. Great post, unfortunately I haven’t been married just yet.
    I have done reasearch on costume and fashion and I just wanted to say, unless, you knew that, then great. the use of colour and bridesmaid was to mix the devil up so the bride and groom would be save from his attack on that day. if the devil didn’t know who was getting married, then the newly wed would have a safe marriage. I thought that was nice to learn.

  25. Congratulations!!! I was married in beige. That is not on your list. We celebrated our 48th on September 5.

  26. Ah, Winnie! What a beautiful bride you were!

    I have been married twice. Big wedding (my mother’s choice) the first time–lasted 21 1/2 years.

    Small, but happy the second time, with lots of kids, friends and family. Just celebrated 24 years with My Hero. Still happy.

    Congratulations on a 35 year achievement.

  27. Linda – thanks for the well wishes. And I’ve always thought elopements sounded sooooo romantic.

    Alexandra – Research is such fun and that was a cool bit of wedding trivia you dug up

  28. Enjoyed the blog today. Congrats on your anniversary. I love looking at wedding photos. Sometimes what the groom and attendants wore gives away the year they married. What fun. I’ve sewn lots of bridesmaids dresses and when my daughter got married I told her “Make sure the dress design fits the girl’s size shape!” whew…she had them pick their own long dress that they liked and they were all the same color and looked perfectly fine. And the dresses fit their shapes and personalities.

  29. Tracy and Tabitha – You are probably the exception to the rule 🙂

    Jackie – what a wonderful bit of advice to give your daughter. And I’ll bet her bridesmaids appreciated it as well.

  30. Honey and I married in April and will celebrate
    our 50th anny in 2011. Son #2 & bride married in April, Daughter #1 & groom married in November.
    Both couples have been married 20 years. Longe-
    vity seems to be the tradition passed along in
    our family.

    Enjoyed the photographs from your wedding!

    Pat Cochran

  31. I’ve been married 41 years and my oldest daughter for the past two – thank goodness we both wore white lol. As to the month I married in June and never lived overseas but we did have some nice vacations and we were both clean lol. My daughter married in July and they both are working and probably always will so that fits.

  32. Pat – wow 50 years! That’s quite a milestone. Hope you’re planning a major celebration.

    Catslady – congrats on the 41 years. And isn’t it fun trying to make the little poem fit our own situation 🙂

  33. We do the wedding “money dance” but unlike most other couples that do it and keep the money, in my family we give the money to my mother. It’s just a way of saying thank you to her for everything (especially the stress of planning and organizing a wedding).

  34. Karen – glad you enjoyed the post and the pix.

    Catherine – Thanks! And right back atcha!

    Dani – what a wonderful family custom! It speaks well of where your heart is.

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