White weddings, 'tying the knot', bridal bouquets and engagement rings — ever wondered where all these wedding day traditions came from?
Many wedding traditions that we take for granted have their roots in ancient history while others are relatively modern developments. We take a quick look at some of the notable examples of wedding day facts.
- White wedding dresses only became routine in Victorian times after Queen Victoria wore an ivory white dress to marry Prince Albert in 1843.
- White wedding dresses are shunned in many Eastern cultures as white is the traditional colour of mourning.
- At the turn of the century, only the wealthy wore white wedding dresses as white was so difficult to keep clean.
- The former film star Grace Kelly helped restore white wedding outfits in the 1950s when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco and helped end the austerity of the post-war years.
- The bridal bouquet dates from Roman times when herbs like rosemary and garlic were carried to symbolise fertility and to ward off evil spirits.
- Ancient Egyptians believed the 'vein of love' ran from the third finger of the left hand direct to the heart and so it became the finger for the wedding ring.
- Wedding rings were once banned by Puritans as 'frivolous jewellery'.
- Many cultures shower the wedding couple with food as a symbol of fertility. In the UK it is rice, in France, they throw wheat while the Romans and Greeks threw nuts.
- The wedding cake has been a symbol of fertility and good luck since Roman times, although then it was a small bun broken over the bride's head.
- Engagement rings came in around 1200 when Pope Innocent III ruled that a period should be observed between betrothal and marriage.
- The first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy by King Maximilian of Germany when he proposed in 1477.
- Carrying the bride over the threshold is said to protect her from evil spirits.
In the modern-day wedding industry, it can sometimes be hard to tell real tradition from a marketing sales pitch. What at first may appear to be a tradition dating back hundreds of years turns out to be much more modern than you think. The high-priced 'tradition' of a diamond engagement ring, for example, started life after the First World War.
Many modern traditions are variations on old themes, many more wedded to superstition than serving practical ends. Still, it's nice to dream and where better than on your wedding day when dreams almost do become reality.