Rice throwing, cake layering, bouquet proffering and garter tossing; these and many other traditions may seem commonplace to most of us, but their origins are delightfully strange and unusual. We take you through eight of the most popular wedding traditions and reveal where they actually came from and what they’re designed to achieve. Some of them might even surprise you…
1) Floral bouquets
Pretty, lovely flowers; surely there can’t be anything unusual in this tradition? Think again. It is said that brides originally carried bunches of pungent herbs, like thyme and garlic, in the hope that the stench would ward off malevolent spirits. The smelly herb bouquet also doubled as a handy way to block the smell of unwashed guests—a common occurrence in those days!
2) The best man
Back in the days of elopements and getting parental permission before tying the knot, the groom relied heavily on his best man. It was the best man’s job to be skilled enough with a sword to serve as armed back-up for the groom, should the situation call for a bridal kidnapping. And you thought giving a speech was bad.
3) Throwing the garter and the bouquet
This hilariously kooky tradition stems from guests being encouraged to tear bits off the bride’s dress in the belief that the fabric scraps would bring them luck. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern bride willing to let friends and family tear her dress apart, so instead, the bouquet (thankfully no longer made of garlic) and garter are thrown to determine the next to wed. Much nicer, we think you’ll agree.
4) Tiered wedding cakes
We’ve all watched those couture cake shows and salivated over the towering creations whipped up at the behest of an ostentatious bride, but where did the idea originally come from? Rumour has it that the fashion for layered wedding cakes evolved from a game the bride and groom used to play, involving kissing over a stack of cakes which was piled higher and higher. The sentiment of this tradition remains the same; the more cake, the better.
5) The rings
Nowadays we don’t question that the engagement and wedding rings go on the fourth finger of the left hand, but there is actually a rather sweet reason behind it. The ancient Romans believed that this finger contained a vein that ran all the way to the heart: the Vena Amoris, roughly translated to ‘the vein of love’. Awwwww!
6) Wearing white
This tradition is born entirely out of aspiration for the ‘it’ couple of the day: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. When they tied the knot in 1840, Queen Victoria decided that she would wear white to communicate her virginal purity. The trend caught on, and 174 years later, we’re all still bonkers for it. Can Kim and Kanye really say the same?
7) Throwing rice
Not just picturesque for the wedding photographer, the throwing of rice actually has slightly more painful origins. Turns out that before we had easy access to rice, guests contented themselves by throwing uncooked, starchy vegetables at the bride and groom in hopes of bringing them prosperity, fertility and good fortune. We can’t see how getting a potato in the eye is ever a good thing.
8) Favours for the guests
Giving guests a small gift for attending the wedding has been a time honoured tradition for many years. As sweets became readily available and incredibly popular, tradition became to give a guest five sugared almonds to symbolise health, wealth, fertility, happiness and long-life. Think about that next time you chow down on a rock hard almond.