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11 Wedding Traditions with Shocking Origins

While today’s couples are working hard on creating weddings that are unique, fact remains that every wedding comes with a few long-running traditions. The bride will almost certainly be wearing white, carrying flowers, and expecting a ring. There will be music, vows, and the customary kiss to seal the deal. But where did these traditions start, and why? The truth might give you a giggle. Check it out.

people at a wedding clinking wine glasses together

1. Bridesmaids

This army of women is tasked with helping primp the bride for her walk down the aisle. More often than not they’re in horrid dresses (that every bride promises she will be able to wear again.) But did you know that, originally, bridesmaids wore dresses like the bride herself? The thought was that it would confuse ex-lovers and evil spirits about which woman was getting married. Originally, the bride tasked bridesmaids with forming a literal wall in front of the bride as she walked into a groom’s hometown to serve as a shield against vengeful exes or thief’s seeking to steal her dowry.

2. The Best Man

Today the best man is often the groom’s best friend or brother. But back in the day, the groom gave the job to the “best man” for the job. What’s the job, you ask? Kidnapping. Today we’d call it a felony, back then it was often a part of marrying your dream girl when her father didn’t approve. Once at the ceremony, the best man’s job was to ensure the (sometimes kidnapped) bride didn’t escape during the ceremony and yield weapons to beat down anyone who tried to save her.

3. The Honeymoon

We’re not ready to move past that whole kidnapped bride thing just yet. “Wouldn’t her father or her tribe seek her out, once they realized someone had kidnapped her?” you ask? Well, of course, they would. Enter the honeymoon. The time when a man would “escape” to a hideaway with his new bride for a month or so to wait out the hunt for the missing maiden who was now his wife. Thankfully, today it’s generally the bride who plans the when and where of the after the marital retreat.

4. Cake in the Face

If you think this tradition is wacky, wait till you hear what preceded it! Back in the day, grooms would CRUMBLE the cake into the bride’s HAIR for good luck, falling to the ground to try and snag some of the crumbs for his own good fortune. Later, brides served small bits of cake through her ring to the guests, who would then take the cake home and put it under their pillow, again, hoping for good luck.

5. Keeping the Cake

Plenty of couples keep the top tier of their wedding cake with the goal of consuming it on their first anniversary. What today is done without much pomp, used to be the subtle sign that something big was happening in the marriage. In fact, many couples ate the cake well before 12 months had passed. Traditionally, the couple ate the top tier as an announcement and celebration of the bride’s first pregnancy.

6. The Bouquet

What today is an accessory made of the bride’s favored florals once had a very practical use. Ancient Greeks started the tradition by having a woman carry spices and herbs (not flowers) to ward off evil spirits. In other cultures, the bride carried a bouquet of scents thought to detour bugs from biting her as she walked into a groom’s village, else she arrives with a bug bitten face.

7. Boquet & Garter Toss

Today we say it’s about “luck” but back in the day, it was about getting lucky. You see, couples used to consummate the marriage immediately following proclamation (I-Do). The couple threw bouquet at the start of the act as a distraction for guests, and threw the garter to indicate that they had completed the deed.

8. The White Dress

It wasn’t always a thing. What we tie today to purity has only been around since Queen Victoria broke all social norms by choosing a white lace gown for her own wedding. Before that, brides wore red.

9. The Veil

While brides today are moving away from having their made-up faces covered, this used to be very commonplace. Brides used the veil both to trick evil spirits into leaving her alone, and it kept her hidden, sly fathers used it to trick suitors into marrying the less attractive of his daughters.

10. Father of the Bride

We all know that the bride’s dad walks her down the aisle to “give her away.” But did you know that this phrase is quite literal? A long time ago, fathers would give away their daughters for “free” to settle their debts, a feud, or raise their own social status. As such, many women weren’t too happy over the wedding, and hand to be walked, sometimes strong-armed, by dad down that aisle.

11. Carrying a Bridge over the Threshold

Today it’s romantic, but it’s always been customary. If you weren’t one of those brides whose father gave her away unwillingly, people expected you to make a show of not wanting to leave your father’s home. Hence, your groom needed to carry you over the threshold into his home.

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