Fascinating history of American wedding customs!

I sometimes like to go on a historical adventure and think back and question; how did our American wedding customs originate?

So, off I went and this is what I found out!

The white wedding dress:
The most popular of the American wedding customs!

Prior to the nineteenth century, it was tradition that a woman wore her best dress for her wedding. This means that it could even be black because it doubled for a dress worn to a funeral.

In the early nineteenth century (1840), when Queen Victoria of Great Britain married Prince Albert; she chose to wear an elaborate white satin dress. Many women continued to wed in different color gowns, but white definitely became the popular choice after this event.

In Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1849, this statement was printed: “Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”

Even in today’s society many woman choose to where a dress that is not white. I found an old poem that may interest you:

“Married in white, you will have chosen all right. Married in grey, you will go far away. Married in black, you will wish yourself back. Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead. Married in blue, you will always be true. Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl. Married in green, ashamed to be seen, Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow. Married in brown, you’ll live out of town. Married in pink, your spirits will sink.”

The veil:
One the American wedding customs that seems to be fading (in my opinion)!

There are several theories to the purpose of the veil. Some say that it was used back when arranged marriages were done and it was to hide the face of the bride until after the ceremony. This was so that the man wouldn't be tempted to back out of the deal if he didn't like her features.

Some say that back in ancient Rome it was worn to ward off evil spirits. Some say it was worn to represent purity, chastity and modesty.

In today's society, some women chose to not wear one at all, wear one but not cover the face...or some still choose to go with custom and where it over the face. There really is no right or wrong choice today.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue:
One of the American wedding customs that I think we all try to hold true to because who can turn down a chance at good luck!?

This is a saying that has become to represent a custom for good luck. These items were given to the bride as gifts from either her parents or wedding party as symbols of good luck.

A bride should wear:
• Something old from her family to continue the history of the bride’s family
• Something new in representation of the future
• Something borrowed from a happily married family member or friend to carry their good fortune on to the new couple
• Something blue since prior to mid nineteenth century, blue was a popular color for wedding dresses

There is actually a fifth element to this saying...a sixpence in her shoe. This is widely a British custom today. If you want to incorporate this as well, you can actually by a sixpence online or use some other coin of value.

Wedding professionals (or vendors as known today):
The people that bring our American wedding customs to life!

Prior to the nineteenth century, it was tradition weddings took place in the home of either the bride's or the groom's parent's house. Since homes were not large, this meant that not many people where there...only close family and friends. Everything would have been done right at the home like baking the cake,floral arrangements and the food preparation and serving.

Late in the nineteenth century, weddings started becoming more like what we know today. Larger venues like a church allowed more people to be invited, which meant more need to hire help with baking of a cake, floral arrangements and people to cook and serve food. This was the birth of the wedding industry.

The wedding rings:
Definitely one of the American wedding customs that is still practiced today for sure! Exchanging of the rings!

The history of wedding rings goes back almost 5,000 years. It was thought to be a symbol of eternal love as a circle has no end. It is believe this started with the Egyptians when they used plant materials to weave rings.

Prior to WWII, it was not common for a man to wear a wedding ring. During WWII, the exchanging of wedding rings between both man and woman increased to more than 50%.

Why is it worn on the left hand? There are a few different theories of why the ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand:
• Egyptians thought that there was a particular vein that was connected directly to the heart, a very romantic thought!
• Christian ceremony was the priest would touch 3 fingers and place the band on the fourth, a religious take on the tradition.

For woman, the wedding band goes on first and then the engagement ring is placed on second. The symbolism that goes with this is that the wedding band is worn closest to the heart.

Tossing of the bouquet and garter:
This is one of my favorite American wedding customs!

Back in England around the fourteenth century, it was thought to be good luck to have a piece of the bride’s wedding dress, so it actually would get torn!

So, the two customs emerged...

• They started to use the garter as the piece that could be shared. Men would actually start getting too rowdy and start trying to take it off themselves, so it became custom for the husband to remove it and throw it the single men.
• The bride would toss her bouquet to the single girls.

It is thought that the single man that catches the garter and the single girl that catches the bouquet are the next in line to be married.

I hope you enjoyed these interesting and entertaining takes on how American wedding customs came to be!

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Useful books to help you with your wedding plans:

Wedding planning guide
Planning a theme wedding Wedding speeches
Marriage and wedding vows

Budget Busters:

Guide to wedding savings
Create your own wedding flower arrangements
Cake decorating