Wedding traditions -- where do they come from? What do they mean? Wedding Traditions Reboot looks at the history behind these customs and offers inspiration for how to use old and even ancient traditions from the past as a springboard to plan your own wedding with unique twists that make them new -- that make them uniquely your own.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 toppings 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
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
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
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.
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. He was a guard of sorts and stood watch in case anyone decided to attack, and he
was also in place in the event that the bride decided she wanted to
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.