The White Dress
Western and European culture has adopted the white dress tradition, which has nothing to do with purity, as some might believe. In fact, it became the popular choice in 1840 after Queen Victoria decided to wear a white dress on her wedding day.
Eastern cultures, including Pakistan and China, typically wear red dresses to promote good luck!
And to combine them both - Japanese typically wear a white kimono to symbolize purity, and then change into red to promote good luck.
This one is fairly interesting! I've found a few different explanations, one being that the purpose of the veil was to obscure the brides face from the groom during an arranged marriage. The veil was not to be lifted until after the ceremony was completed, in order to prevent the groom from backing out based on the bride's appearance. (Yikes!!)
Another, relating to multiple forms of religion, the veil symbolizes virginity. The tradition is that the father of the bride covers the brides face with a veil, while part also extends over her hair in the back. The veil is to remain over the face for the duration of the ceremony, until the end, which at this point either the father lifts the veil and turns his daughter over to the groom, or the groom unveils his bride himself. The purpose, and representation, is that of unveiling what is now property of the groom, and represents the consummation that is to be entered into later. (Double yikes!) When the veil is not a sign of virginity, it is custom to have it hang down the bride's back, or fixed just to the crown of her head, not covering her face.
Personally, I think long, decorative veils are gorgeous and make for beautiful photographs!
The Wedding Party
There are a few rumors around the rumor mill surrounding this part of the wedding day. Traditionally, the bridesmaids all wore white - and there are two reasons I read about. One, is to confuse evil spirits from trying to ruin the bride's day, and another was that in China, there was a time when a bride was susceptible to being kidnapped, so all bridesmaids wore white in an attempt to prevent that from happening.
There was also a time, when it depended on your socioeconomic status, or family size, which determined the number of bridesmaids you would have.
I couldn't find anything regarding a specific number, so have at it! Pick as many, or as little, as you want!
As far as the roles - the maid of honor (unmarried) or matron of honor (married) - has the responsibility of providing emotional support for the bride on her wedding day. She may also be called upon to assist with addressing invitations, and other wedding day preparations. It was typical for a bride's family to pay for all expenses related to the bridal party, as well as any events leading up to the wedding day that the bride may want to have. (Showers, etc.). Etiquette has changed over the years, and it is now considered acceptable for a person to ask a bride what the expected financial obligation to being a bridesmaid is before accepting the position. (Yeesh! That might offend some...). The rest of the bridesmaids have no other 'official' expectation, other than to attend the wedding.
The history of groomsmen has been related to actually kidnapping a bride back in the 'marriage by capture' days (Oh, how we have evolved!), or warding off a brides family in case they don't approve of the groom. As a whole, the men have a little more responsibility than the women in the wedding party. Traditionally, they were (or are) expected to greet guests as they arrive, usher them to their seats, ensure all guests enjoy the festivities - by making conversation, dancing with unaccompanied guests or bridesmaids, and decorating the newlyweds car.
The best man is also charged with a lot of responsibility. Including offering support to the groom, carrying the rings, and giving a speech at some point during the reception.
Typically, both the best man and maid of honor also act as witnesses by signing the marriage license.
The Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes used to be made with ingredients that were known to promote prosperity and fertility. So it was intended to be good luck for the couple as well as the guests, and the bread of the cake was actually broken over top of the bride. (No thanks!)
There was also a tradition where ribbons were inside the cake, attached to a gem or ring. All the bridesmaids would pull a ribbon, and the one who got the ring, was the next to be married. Now, I LIKE this tradition! Can we bring it back please? How fun is that!
The cutting of the cake is tied to a couple traditions. One being that originally the bride was the only to cut and deliver the cake to the guests, ensuring her fertility. As the number of guests grew, as did the cake, the groom began helping. This started the tradition of them cutting it together, thus symbolizing their first joint task as a married couple. Feeding each other, represents their promise to always provide for each other.
So, what I gather here - is that you can basically have any type of dessert you want! Cake, pie, cupcakes, cake pops (YES PLEASE). And if you'd like to incorporate a tradition in there - go for it.
The Garter & Bouquet Toss
Here is a tradition that is quickly disappearing. And rightfully so! This originates in England, where guests used to tear at a bride's dress to get a piece of it, as it was considered good luck, and will help them find a husband as well. Where male guests would rush at the bride to get her garter (a symbol of virtue which when removed by the groom symbolizes 'deflowering') as a prize. Both brides and grooms began tossing the bouquet and garters at guests to keep them from trying to basically rip apart the bride. How terrifying is that?? Thank goodness for online dating now - these vultures can go about finding their own spouses in a less barbaric way.
This goes way back, to Ancient Egypt. The basic representation is eternity - an endless circle. Rings were forged of precious metals to ensure it's longevity, and represent the permanence of marriage. Egyptians believed that there was a vein in the 4th finger that led straight to the heart, and named it the 'vein of love'.
Diamonds were used as early as the mid 1400's as part of an engagement ring. Through to the 1800's and beyond, they were only used by the upper class and elite. Otherwise, most used a simple band as a promise to marry. In the United States, after the great depression, the value of the diamond collapsed, and most younger people weren't interested in having a diamond engagement ring anyway. That was until the diamond giant, DeBeers came up with their genius slogan "A Diamond is Forever" and changed the way the western world valued diamonds forever.
I also learned an interesting tidbit of information. According to Wikipedia, the property of the diamond engagement ring becomes that of the woman, only after marriage occurs. If the relationship happens to dissolve prior to marriage, there are statutes that state she must return it to the man. There have been some cases where it was considered a 'gift' and remained the property of the woman despite marriage never occurring, because it was given to her on Valentines day or Christmas.
Dad giving daughter away…
The origin of this tradition dates back to the day of arranged marriages. It ties into the veil and the idea that a bride & groom should not see each other before the ceremony.
The main reason? The wedding itself was more of a business transaction. Brides were considered property of their fathers, and sold, or given away to men for a dowry, if the father deemed him to be appropriate. So, quite literally, the father would walk his daughter right to the pulpit and hand his daughter over to the groom. And the veil and no 'first look' were in place to prevent the groom from running away in case he didn't like the bride's appearance.
Now, brides ask close family members or even friends, who have been a strong constant and supporter in their lives to do the honor of walking them down the aisle to their grooms. I've even seem them do it alone.
What I'd love to see? A groom walking his bride down the aisle. Because, why not? They're entering this marriage together, why not enter the ceremony together too?
Receptions, Bachelor Parties & Showers
Bachelor parties were held by the groom with the help of his best man, as a one last time to host & entertain his friends. Because the wedding reception was the bride's first opportunity to be hostess, and would then be responsible for hosting & entertaining any parties going forward. The wedding reception itself is seen as a sign of hospitality and thanks for the guests who supported and attending the wedding ceremony. Originally it consisted of a receiving line & light refreshments, but later evolved to simulate a ball - for those marrying later in the day.
Showers originated back in the day of a dowry. It was hosted to help raise money to ensure a wedding would actually take place. In most cultures it's considered rude and greedy to have a shower asking for gifts prior to the wedding itself. It's typically an event held in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It actually was never intended to be held to collect gifts the couple would use in their new home - which was later deemed to be something that socialized women into the gender role of cook and housekeeper, receiving gifts that pertained mostly to the kitchen and bedroom.
So if you're having a bridal shower? MONEY ONLY PLEASE. Muahahahahaha!