Anyone planning a wedding knows that there are a lot of traditions to consider. Figuring out what you’ll include and what you’ll nix is all part of the wedding planning process…but where did all these traditions come from, anyway? Believe it or not, a lot of commonplace wedding traditions originated from the country of England. Here is a list of five British wedding traditions and how they came about to help you know more about what you’re including on your special day.
1. Exchanging Wedding Rings
A global sign in our culture today that indicates someone’s marital status is the ring they wear around their finger. We might not think much of them now, but wedding rings have a lot of history. The first recorded diamond wedding ring, however, dates back as far as the early 1400s when an English widow left one in her will. There is a poem that speaks of “Two wills, two hearts, two passions are bonded in one marriage by a diamond.”
That being said, wedding rings can be traced back to ancient Rome and Greece where rings were included in the marital dowry, and then later used as a promise of fidelity. The ceremony of exchanging rings comes from European customs back in the Middle Ages of Christendom.
2. “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue”
You’ve likely heard of this tradition told in an old rhyme. It goes, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Many brides attempt to fulfill every detail of the rhyme on their person during a wedding. Perhaps they include some old jewelry inherited from a family member, a new dress, borrowed hair accessories, and a hint of blue somewhere on their person.
But the rhyme—which originated from an unknown English poet—doesn’t mean you have to add in all these things. The “old” represents the past while the “new” represents the future. “Something borrowed” refers to happiness given to the bride from her new husband, and the sixpence is a reference to wealth. As for “something blue”—that was believed to ward off evil.
3. The Bride Wears a White Dress
Wearing the best clothes in their possession used to be the norm for brides. Their clothes could be any color—even black if that was the best in their wardrobe! Then, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 while she was wearing an ivory white gown. It quickly became the fashionable wedding dress color and still stands today as the tradition for brides, making Queen Victoria an incredible, centuries-long trendsetter.
4. Giving Away the Bride
It’s customary for fathers to walk their daughters down the aisle and “give them away” to the groom during the wedding ceremony. It’s something a lot of daughters look forward to, and it can create a beautiful moment between father and daughter. Unfortunately, the history of this tradition isn’t very pleasant. It dates all the way back to the Middle Ages when British daughters were considered property, owned by their father. “Giving away the bride” was quite literally a transaction where the father sold the daughter to the groom.
5. Tossing the Bouquet
Back in 15th century Britain when a lot of things were quite barbaric, there were many strange wedding traditions. One of these was a bizarre, ruthless custom of trying to rip off bits and pieces of the bride’s dress, flower bouquet, and hair. It was believed at the time that if you could grab a piece of the bride’s adornments, you would get some of her good luck. Eventually, it became normal for the bride to simply toss her bouquet into the rowdy crowd and then run for her life. Now as time has passed and people have (hopefully) become more reasonable, the bouquet toss is an organized wedding activity.
Learning more about wedding traditions can help you determine what you want to include at your celebration and what you’d like to skip. Don’t feel like you have to include something just because everyone else does. Feel free to make your wedding unique, authentic, and everything you want it to be.