7 Wedding Traditions With Beginnings That May Surprise You (PHOTOS)

Maressa Brown | May 13, 2013 Love & Sex

wedding dress hanging From the minute you get engaged to even several months into being a newlywed, you're exposed to wedding traditions galore. Some you may be familiar with (very, if you've been in/to a lot of weddings) and others that may have slipped your mind completely (because you were distracted by other important matters of business like designing an acceptable seating chart or negotiating with vendors).

Case in point: When my fiance (whoops!) husband and I were on our way back from the airport after getting hitched earlier this month, one of my brilliant colleagues said I had to make him carry me over the threshold when we got home. So funny. I hadn't even thought of that. And being the history geek that I am, I proceeded to Google it to find out where the seemingly sweet tradition came from. Let me  tell you -- I probably shouldn't have.

Here, that and six other wedding traditions' surprising origins that may make you see them in a whole new light ...

What wedding tradition were you most surprised to learn about? Did you skip a certain tradition because you weren't keen on its origin?


Image via Maressa Brown

  • Being Carried Over the Threshold


    Image via iStock

    Aww, look at those smiley newlyweds! Isn't it cute that he's carrying her over the threshold? Actually, not really when you consider that it originates from a time when weddings sometimes followed kidnappings. Wonderful! And carrying the bride over the threshold was symbolic of the groom stealing away with his bride, whisking her from her family and into a new life with him. Also, in medieval times, carrying a bride into her new home prevented her from seeming "too enthusiastic about losing her virginity." Ha, wow, huh?

  • Tossing the Garter


    Image via iStock

    This is one we skipped, because we felt like it could get really cheesy and ridiculous fast. Turns out, the origins is all sorts of creepy. Apparently, the tradition is derived from a practice in medieval England and France called "fingering the stocking." Guests would actually go into the wedding chamber and check the bride's stockings for a sign that the marriage had been consummated.  And in France, guests would run at the bride to snag a piece of her dress, which was considered a piece of good luck. And at some point, it evolved into a way to "pacify the mob" -- by tossing the garter. Wow.

  • Carrying a Bouquet


    Image via Jennifer Goldberg-Alweiss

    This one's hilarious. Back in the 15th century, most people got married in the month of June, because they took their yearly baths in May and didn't smell too bad a mere month later -- the time it took back then to plan a wedding. But just be on the safe side, brides would carry flowers to mask any body odor. Ha!

  • Choosing a Best Man


    Image via iStock

    We think having a maid of honor and best man is just a nice way to honor someone special in your life, right? Nope! The tradition of a groom choosing his best man began with the Germanic tribes. Apparently, the best man was employed to help carry off an unwilling bride-elect, if necessa­ry. The best man's position beside the groom during the ceremony was meant to make him a shield between the groom and angry members of the bride's family. Kinda funny if you think how that's sometimes necessary still to this day, huh? 

  • Wearing a Veil


    Image via iStock

    We now think of it as a bridal fashion must, but the veil wasn't always simply about style. Way back, brides were veiled because they were supposed to be hidden from evil spirits. Roman brides actually wore flame-colored veils to ward off the evil spirits. In some religious traditions, it was also a symbol of modesty and unapproachability.

  • Breaking the Glass


    Image via Jennifer Goldberg-Alweiss

    A tradition in Jewish weddings, the symbolism is actually kind of bittersweet: The chief connotation is that the breaking of the glass serves as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the most holy place in all of Jewish history, while a secondary one is that it's supposed to remind the couple of the fragility of the relationship and the need to preserve it. Mazel tov indeed!

  • The Wedding Cake


    Image via Jennifer Goldberg-Alweiss/Cake by Filled & Frosted Cakes

    Although we hear all about how our four-tier buttercream or fondant wedding cakes are supposed to symbolize the foundation of your relationship and good fortune as you cut into the bottom tier together, that wasn't always the case. This wedding tradition's predecessor involved the breaking of bread over the bride's head. A groom would eat barley bread, then hold up the remainder of the loaf above his bride's head and shower her with the crumbs. (Just in case she didn't already know her place by that point!) Guests would scramble for the crumbs, because they were supposed to be good luck. Sheesh.


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