Wedding Traditions: Notes on Popular Wedding Customs

We observe customs to remind ourselves of who we are. Tradition still touches on any wedding no matter how modern couples may be, and these traditions go back to generations and across cultures. There will always be something there to remind us of weddings that were previously celebrated in our families. Here are some popular wedding customs we love that we still practice today.

The Bridal Shower

The bridal shower is one of the most anticipated pre-wedding event not only by the bride but also by her female friends and family. (In some cases, they may even be more excited than her.) It is an intimate gathering where the bride receives many well wishes as well as presents. But how did this custom begin?

This ritual is actually based on a Holland folklore where a father did not approve of his daughter’s engagement to a poor but kind miller, and so he refused to give her the dowry. The townsfolk, learning about this, decided to help the young girl by offering her their resources. They each gave her whatever they can offer to help her start her new home. In the end, the miller and the girl had more than what her father can offer. This heartwarming story supposedly brought about today’s bridal shower.


Father Walking the Bride

This ritual goes back to the days of arranged marriages when daughters were considered a property of their fathers. Back then, it was the father who decides which man he will give his daughter to, as well as the price of this exchange.

These days, the meaning of this custom has changed. Now, the father walks his daughter down the aisle and presents her to the groom at the altar as a way of showing his approval and blessing of their union. There are brides today who ask both their parents to walk her down the aisle, and some brides who marry at a late age even prefer to walk down the aisle on their own for various reasons.


The Bearing of the Ring

The rings – including the engagement ring and the wedding bands – are the richest symbols of the wedding and marriage as a whole. But do you know why these rings are worn on the left fourth finger? It’s because of an old belief by the Ancient Romans and Egyptians that the vein in this finger connects directly to the heart.


But why is the ring carried by a young boy and placed on a pillow when presented at the altar? The child’s youth and innocence represent the new beginnings of the couple. The boy holds the ring on a pillow to symbolize the fulfillment of your dreams as a ceremonial pillow holds an item that represents a significant change – the kind that you dream of when you lay your head down to sleep. Other symbolic items that a ceremonial pillow holds are the crown for the king’s coronation, the sword for knighting, and, in fairytale, Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Seal the Deal with a Toast

In Ancient Rome, couples were spared from all the paperwork of making their marriage official. It was simply their matrimonial kiss that served as a contractual agreement. (It was more of a deal sealer than a romantic gesture.) In England, gin was the popular wedding drink and it used to be too oily that a piece of toast was placed on top of the gin to absorb the oil from its surface. And as they drank to the newly wed, they would raise their drinks with the toast – thus the phrase “raise a toast to you” – as they honor the couple by literally raising a piece of toasted bread.


These traditions are not an exact copy from one wedding to another. They can still be observed in weddings along with their variations, depending on the bride or the couple. But no matter how different and modern a wedding is, it is still a practice that is rooted to tradition that has been existing for centuries.

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