Something Old, Something New - Why We Do What We Do


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Whether you’re having a large traditional church wedding or a small intimate ceremony, chances are you are going to follow one or more wedding traditions that have been handed down through the ages. Have you ever wondered where these traditions originated and why we do what we do? Here are just a few examples of American wedding traditions:

  • One of the most popular wedding phrases is “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. " This comes from an Old English rhyme and is a superstition to ward off evil spirits. Today traditional brides feature one item from each category in their ensemble. The objects are essentially good-luck charms while each “something" has special significance.
  • Something Old - symbolizes the continuity of transition from two single people to a married couple.

    Something New - represents a transition to adulthood upon marriage.

    Something Borrowed - represents something that had been borrowed from a happily married couple, hoping that their good fortune would be shared.

    Something Blue - symbolizes purity, constancy and fidelity.

  • Traditionally, wedding ceremonies end with the couple exchanging wedding rings. The circular ring, with no beginning and no end, symbolizes everlasting love. Americans put the wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand because of the ancient Greek belief that a vein in this finger ran directly to the heart.
  • The traditional wedding kiss seals the couple’s union in front of friends and family. Since Roman times, a kiss has been used to bind a legal agreement or seal a betrothal. It was also believed in Medieval times that when two people kissed, a part of their souls were left inside the other during the exchange of breath, and that was also symbolic of the union of two people.
  • We call it a “toast" when we drink to someone because of an old French custom in which a piece of bread was put in the bottom of the wine cup for flavor. Partygoers would drink and pass the cup until it reached the person being toasted, then he would drain it-crouton and all.
  • The garter toss is thought to be an early English custom that evolved from “flinging the stocking. " Guests would follow the couple to their bedroom on their wedding night, steal their stockings while they were “distracted, " then fling them at the couple. It was thought that the first person to hit either the bride or the groom on the head would be the next to marry. Later, brides tossed a garter at the wedding reception, but then the custom changed to the groom removing the garter himself and tossing it to his male guests because brides were often forced to fight off drunken male guests who tried to remove the garter themselves! In some Midwestern states, garters are auctioned off rather than tossed.
  • Probably the most familiar religious wedding tradition is the lighting of the Unity Candle where two symbolic flames become one. When the Unity Candle is lit by the wedding couple, it symbolizes the merger of two lives into one. When the Unity Candle is lit by a member of the couple’s families (in many cases the mothers of the bride and groom), it symbolizes the forming of two families as well as the unity of the couple in marriage.
Whether you’re planning a large or small wedding, traditional or non-traditional, you’ll probably be affected by at least one of these traditions and now you’ll know why we do what we do!

Karen Gupton is the owner of Exquisite Bridal Accessories , a leading seller of wedding accessories, bridal jewelry, and printable invitations.


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