Sunday, October 25, 2015

History of Flower Girls

Today, flower girls are a pretty standard (but precious) part of most wedding parties. Some brides choose to have one flower girl, while others may have several. They are an adorable wedding tradition, but have you ever wondered about the history of flower girls? Like many wedding traditions the origins are not 100 percent certain. Some sources say the origin of flower girls goes back centuries to Ancient Rome while others suggest the tradition got its start in Britain.

Ancient Rome Flower Girls Didn't Carry Flowers

The tie to ancient Rome goes back to young attendants who carried sheaves of wheat and herbs to ensure blessings of prosperity and fertility to the married couple. By the Medieval times, it was bouquets of garlic which were believed to ward off evil spirits.

Elizabethan Era Flower Girls

It was during the Elizabethan Era that the tradition of scattering flower petals came into practice.  At that time, brides followed a path of petals from their house to the church. To create this path, flower girls followed musicians in a wedding procession and carried a gold-plated rosemary branch and a silver cup adorned with ribbons and filled with flower petals and rosemary sprigs. This cup was known as the bride's cup, and the petals were considered a symbol of fertility and thought to give the couple good luck.

Victorian Era Flower Girls

In the Victorian era flower girl looked more like the flower girls of today. They were young and innocent and dressed in a simple white dress which was sometimes adorned with a colored sash made of satin or silk. She carried a gorgeously decorated basket filled fresh blooms or wore a floral hoop on her head. The circular shape of the hoop was symbolic of true love which has no end -- the same meaning bestowed on wedding rings.

In Western Europe, the tradition of including children as attendants in weddings also included a ring bearer and often included other attendants in the wedding party, too. Many royal and society weddings still follow this tradition today with two or more flower girls.

Friday, October 9, 2015

History of Wedding Cake Toppers

If I say wedding cake topper, what do you picture? It might be a miniature bride and groom, wedding bells or some other similar ornamentation with a wedding theme. While the history of wedding cakes dates back to the Roman Empire, it was nothing like wedding cakes as we know them today. Instead they were unsweetened loaves of bread which were crumbled over the bride for good luck. And wedding cake toppers as we know them haven't been around all that long either. They became a growing trend with middle class and affluent American families before the American Civil War. By the 1890s, they were quite common.

Those original wedding cake toppers weren't anything extravagant. Cakes were decorated with things like flowers, bells, or other small objects related to the bride and groom. Often these toppers were handmade by a family member or a professional wedding cake baker using frosting, icing, or non-edible materials like plaster of Paris.

Wedding Cake Toppers Popular After World War I

Decorative cake toppers grew more popular after World War I. It was in the Roaring 20s that High Society in the U.S. adopted the custom of using figurines of the bride and groom atop the wedding cake. Popularity of this tradition grew quickly after Emily Post, American etiquette expert, mentioned them in her 1922 best seller that said, "wedding cake is an essential of every wedding reception," and went on to comment on the placement of the bride and groom figurines in the description of a beautifully decorated cake. In the early 1900s wedding cake toppers were made from glass, paper, or wood until they started being commercially made.

First Commercially Made Wedding Cake Toppers

Along with this, American retailers like Sears & Roebuck started to market and sell cake toppers showcasing a bride and groom. By 1924 you could find an assortment of two-inch tall bride and groom toppers made from wax and featuring differences like groom without a hat or wearing a top hat. The bride could be purchased without a veil or wearing a cloth veil. By 1927, the Sears catalog had an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.

With their growing popularity, wedding cake toppers started to be mass produced commercially in the U.S., Europe and Asia. They were available in the usual bride and groom side-by-side pose along with a selection of alternative poses. And during or following the War, the groom was sometimes depicted wearing a military uniform. Along with this, groom figurines could also be purchased a wearing police or fireman uniform, too.

Aside from bride and groom figurines, today we have toppers like cupids, hearts, love birds and sometimes even a framed picture of the couple. The tradition of adding a decorative ornament topper to the wedding cake has been joined with the tradition of removing and saving the memento as well as freezing the top layer of the cake to be eaten by the bride and groom on their first anniversary.

Photo credits: Vintage Wedding Cake Topper, Fancy Flowers, futuremrsbeede

Friday, October 2, 2015

Historical Roles of Best Man and Bridesmaids

Most wedding traditions we practice today stem from unexpected origins. For instance, the wedding party of today is nothing like a couple hundred centuries ago when the original role of the "best man" wasn't to throw a bachelor party, hold on to the ring, give a speech or make the wedding toast. His duty was actually to serve as armed backup for the groom just in case he was forced to kidnap his intended bride from disapproving parents. Even the word "best" didn't necessarily mean best friend. It meant he was best with a sword in case it was needed.

Best man was chosen because he was "best" with a sword.

History of Best Man

Bride kidnapping
Origins of the best man tradition is thought to be Germanic Goth stemming from a time when men were expected to take a bride from within the community. With an inadequate supply of local women, eligible bachelors were forced to seek out and capture a bride from a neighboring community. This practice is linked to the reason the bride stands to the left of the groom during the wedding ceremony to this day. You see, the groom had to keep his right hand free for defense.

Original Duties of the Best Man

  • The best man stood guard beside the groom until the wedding vows were exchanged.
  • After the wedding, he stood outside the newlyweds' bed chamber door as a guard of sorts and stood watch in case anyone decided to attack.
  • He was also in place in the event that the bride decided she wanted to run.

History of Bridesmaids

As for bridesmaids, historically they wore dresses similar to that of the bride, so that as the group approached the church it would be difficult for any evil spirits or former beaus to spot the bride. Evil spirits were also the reason the bride wore a veil to hide from those spirits waiting to steal away her happiness. But having the bridesmaids dress similarly to the bride made it more difficult for possible kidnappers or those planning to throw rocks. 

Bridesmaids wore dresses similar to the bride.
The same held true for the men. They wore matching suits to save the groom from curses, rocks or kidnapping, too.

As for the Maid of Honor, she was responsible for making all the wedding decorations and putting them up herself.

Photo credits: wikimedia, wikimedia, wikimedia