Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

August 25, 2017
Editor: Amanda Wu
Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

Sarah Burton (R) and her boyfriend [hereinuk at WeChat]


A U.S. bride-to-be who was preparing for her own wedding ceremony found out that many marriage customs had unexpected origins.

Sarah Burton, a journalist at online company Buzzfeed, recently got engaged with her boyfriend. Feeling curious, she shared some of the results of her research.


Nowadays, the bridesmaids are usually good friends of the bride. Clad in beautiful dresses, they just help out the main woman at the wedding.

However, the maids of honor originally shouldered a heavy task. According to a legend, in fear that evil spirits would curse the bride, people asked the bridesmaids to dress up in something similar to the bride so that the evil spirits would fail to distinguish them.

During the Roman Empire, bridesmaids needed to accompany the bride to the place where the groom lived. With so many ladies dressed alike, the practice also helped protect the bride from getting kidnapped or attacked.

The Best Man

A long time ago, the best man was the physically-strongest friend of the groom's, because kidnapping the bride could happen in some wedding ceremonies, especially if the marriage failed to gain her family's approval.

He usually stood beside the groom to guard against assailants as well as a possible runaway bride.

The White Wedding Dress

Before the mid-1800s, the bride wore a red wedding dress. However, British Queen Victoria had a white dress at her wedding ceremony with Prince Albert in 1840 because she liked the color.

At the very beginning, her choice shocked people, but within 20 years, white bridal dresses had come into vogue.

The Bridal Bouquet

In ancient Greece, the bride wore a wreath of mint and marigold as a kind of aphrodisiac. She also held a cluster of herbs to drive away evil. Ancient people were often afraid of ghosts.

The Bridal Veil

It was said that a long time ago, the bride wore a veil to guard against attacks from evil sprits. In Greece, the veil was yellow, while in Rome it was red. Both colors were meant to represent fire, so evil spirits would stay away.

In addition, the earliest arranged marriages adopted the veil to hide the identity of the bride from the groom.

The Honeymoon

Some people say the honeymoon dates back to the period of kidnapping the bride. In order to prevent the woman's tribe from rescuing her, the groom would take her to hide for about a month.

The Wedding Ring

The wedding ring used to stand for a man's ownership of a woman. Meanwhile, in early Roman, Greek and Jewish cultures, the ring was given to the bride's father to signify payment or collateral.

The fourth finger for the ring was said to have a particular vein which led to the heart. In Latin, it was called "vena amoris", meaning the vein of love.

The exchange of rings might be attributed to the progress of women's rights.

Father Taking Daughter to Groom

Women used to be regarded as men's property. When a father gave his daughter's hand to the groom, it meant the transfer of ownership, namely, the bride's property from her father to her new husband.

The First Look

In some places, the bride and groom are forbidden to see each other before the wedding ceremony, until the lady changes into her wedding dress. Some grooms are thrilled and even moved to tears at the first look.

The custom originated from arranged marriages, when people thought that if a bride and groom saw each other before their big day, they might cancel the wedding.

Carrying the Bride Across the Threshold

The tradition has two origins. For the first one, the bride was supposed to show her unwillingness of parting with her biological family and thus the groom would have to carry her away.

The other origin involved evil spirits. The practice was said to prevent evil spirits from getting into the bride's body from her feet on the ground.

The First Kiss

This custom is said to have originated from a priest. After performing a wedding ceremony, the priest gave a kiss of peace to the groom who would then pass the kiss on to the bride. In the end, the church pastor would kiss all the bridesmaids and groomsmen.


Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

A bride and her maids of honor [hereinuk at WeChat]

Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

The newlywed and groomsmen [hereinuk at WeChat]

Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

A painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert [hereinuk at WeChat]

Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

A bride holds a bunch of flowers. [hereinuk at WeChat]

Strange Origins of Western Wedding Customs

A bride wears a yellow veil. [hereinuk at WeChat]


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