Why Do We Do That? | Every Day’s A School Day

We look at a number of wedding traditions and how they came to be.

Why does a bride stand on the left?…

…Hopefully the reason for this is unlikely to happen on your big day…. This stems from Anglo-Saxon times because of the risk of “marriage by capture”. Basically the Groom needed to leave his right hand (his fighting hand) free so he could draw his sword and defend his Bride from anyone else that may want to sweep her away at the last minute! (No, we don’t know how it would have worked if the Groom was left-handed either….)

Where does the tradition of having bridesmaids come from?…

…It wasn’t just to have a group of minions at your beck and call to help string bunting and help you use the loo on the big day (v. important dress consideration.) Again, it’s due to the risk of bridal kidnap (modern Brides really do have it easy…).

 Back during the Roman Empire, Brides would have 10 bridesmaids dressed exactly the same as them to act as decoys, to fool those pesky bride-nappers.

Right up until Victorian-times many bridesmaids were dressed identically to the Bride – something that is coming back in vogue now with the number of Brides choosing white/ivory dresses for their best girls.

 And the best man?…

…The best-man was the Grooms strongest friend – the friend who would be most likely to help should a sudden fight break out!

Why is it traditional for the bride to wear white?…

…Traditionally Brides would just wear the best dress they had –  and white was usually a “no-go” as keeping clean and dirt free was pretty hard back in the day.

It was Queen Victoria who brought about the trend for white. (Possibly the longest running trend-setter ever. Unless you count Kate Moss and Hunter wellies at Glastonbury! It was 2002 folks when she first rocked Hunters and hot pants…) We digress… Most people think she wore white because of the Victorians obsession with purity and innocence. Actually that didn’t come into fruition until about a decade after Vicky’s nuptials (too familiar?). She chose it, because she liked the colour. We respect her for that!

Emily Blunt in
Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria” in a replica of Queen Victoria’s wedding dress


Why do brides carry bouquets?…

…Because people used to stink back in the day. Shower gels and deodorants did not exist. And it wasn’t just the living that stunk. Thanks to the plague many 17th Century Brides had to walk past rotting corpses on their way to the wedding, so carrying scented herbs and flowers went some way to help. Plus early Brides were thrifty – sometimes the spices/flowers that were included in the bouquet, for example; dill and marigolds (edible) were served up at the wedding feast to promote lust!

 Why do we have wedding cakes?…

…Cakes have been part of the marriage ceremony ever since medieval times. Originally they were made of wheat; a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Sometimes to encourage fertility, these ‘cakes’ would be thrown at the Bride! In the 1700’s a popular dish for weddings became the Bride’s Pie. The pie was filled with sweet breads or meat with an added ‘ingredient’ of a glass ring. An old adage claimed that the lady who found the ring would be the next to be married (if she hadn’t of choked to death…) And the traditional white icing? Good ol’ Queen Victoria again. When she used white icing on her 1840 wedding cake it gained a whole new title – royal icing!

When did couples start to go on Honeymoons?…

…The earliest reference to “hony moone” was in 1546. It basically refered to the first time the newly wed couple would take a break to share some private and intimate moments *wink wink* .

The custom started to become mainstream in the early 19th century when Upper-class couples would take a “bridal tour”, sometimes accompanied by friends or family, to visit relatives who had not been able to attend the wedding.

Honeymoons in the modern sense became widespread during the early 1900’s (up to World War 1) however, they were often frowned upon due to the public attention drawn to what was assumed to be the wife’s sexual initiation….The most popular honeymoon destinations at the time were the French Riviera and Italy, particularly its seaside resorts and romantic cities such as Rome and Venice.

What do you think about the origins of these traditions? One thing we’ve learnt… The gory scenes of the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones may have been a regular occurrence at Anglo-Saxon weddings –Scary!!!!

 Whisper and Blush